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« Congress Urged to Consider Economic Impact of Outdoor Recreation | Main | Stocking Isn't Always the Answer »

Future of Fishing Threatened by Compromise

Dr. Seuss editorial cartoon warned of the danger of appeasement shortly before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Both the theme and the setting make it appropriate here.

To compromise with environmental groups on access issues is a fatal mistake.

Yet that was precisely the message delivered at the recent saltwater summit, sponsored by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. Jim Martin, conservation director for Berkley, began the summit with a forceful endorsement of compromise.

Unfortunately, he did not provide specific examples of the compromise that he seeks.

I also inferred that some of the industry leaders in attendance, as well as outdoor media members, agree with him. I was the only one on a four-member media panel who mentioned a growing anti-fishing sentiment as a concern.

My hope is that Martin really meant “cooperation” instead of compromise. We can cooperate with these groups on issues of mutual concern, including restoring the Everglades, protecting Louisiana wetlands, and stopping a proposed mine in Alaska that could destroy salmon fisheries.

But we cannot compromise on access. “Compromise,” by definition, is each opposing side conceding a little to the benefit of both.

How, exactly, do we compromise with people who want to force us off the water via marine protected areas, Catch Shares, a National Ocean Council, and other schemes? When we give up access, no matter how small the hit this time, what do we get in return?

What we get is a prolonged death instead of a quick one. We become the lobster in a pot of water, which is slowly warmed until suddenly it is boiling and the lobster is dead.

Here’s how compromise has worked for us so far: The National Park Service ignored the recommendations of a majority of stakeholders and closed a vast area of the North Carolina’s Cape Hatteras National Seashore. It’s about to do the same thing at Biscayne National Park in Florida. Out in California, meanwhile, environmental groups with deep pockets and political influence have used the Marine Life Protection Act to force anglers off the water, counter to both science and popular opinion.

And they have plenty of like-minded people in the current administration, starting with Jane Lubchenco at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Here’s what a Florida charter captain recently told me:

“I am a former member of the MPA (marine protected areas) advisory panel for the SAFMC (South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council) . . . As a member of the SAFMC advisory panel, I learned that every committee, panel, and group in fishery management is dominated by enviros, so every action has a predetermined outcome in their favor . . .

“Sadly we are badly outnumbered and underfunded in our efforts to preserve our fishing rights and heritage.”

So . . . my question to those who push us for compromise is this: Do you mean cooperation on some issues or do you mean that we should surrender our fisheries a little bit at a time instead of all at once?

If the answer is the latter, then you should call it what it is: Appeasement on the road to capitulation, not compromise.

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