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Close Canal to Stop Carp from Invading Great Lakes

Canal connection between Mississippi River basin and Lake Michigan. Photo by Gary Porter.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper agrees with me that the manmade connection between the Mississippi River basin and the Great Lakes should be closed.

In an editorial headlined “Let science prevail in Fight over Chicago canal,” it says the following:

“The Army Corps of Engineers is looking more like a guy who can smell smoke but won't admit there's a fire because he can't see flames. The smoke is rising from the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal in the form of DNA evidence that the Asian carp is close to entering Lake Michigan, if it already hasn't done so.

“But with only two actual dead carp found - one on either side of an electrical barrier in the canal designed to stop the fish - Army Corps Maj. Gen. John Peabody isn't ready to do the obvious: close the canal that destroyed the natural barrier between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins when it was built in the 19th century.”

We must close that connection not only to keep Asian Carp out of the Great Lakes. We must close it because the canal is an open door for other invasions. For example, zebra and quagga mussels used that route --- as well as hitchhiking --- to spread into the Mississippi River and, from there, all across the country.

Read the editorial here


Dam Hypocrisy Revealed 

Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite National Park. Associated Press photo.

I was stunned speechless recently when I read this at the Outdoor Hub:

“Environmentalists and Republican lawmakers want the dam removed and the valley restored . . . Democratic San Franciscans, led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, want the dam to remain in place. . .”

As everyone knows, Democrats are compassionate environmentalists, while Republicans are cold and heartless corporate types for whom the bottom line is everything.

What then, in the name of John Muir, is going on in San Francisco, with Democrats favoring protection of a dam in Yosemite National Park and Republicans siding with environmentalists against it?

In fairness, I haven’t yet been able to confirm that “Republican lawmakers” want to take out the dam. But Donald Hodel, Secretary of Interior under President Ronald Regan --- a Republican --- said this:

"Eventually, it will be broadly understood what an abomination a reservoir in a valley like Yosemite Valley really is. I think it will be hard to quell this idea (of restoration). It is like ideas of freedom in a totalitarian regime. Once planted, they are impossible to repress forever."

And there’s no question that the Democrats in the United States’ most liberal city have been caught with their hypocrisy showing.

This fall, San Franciscans will be asked to vote on Proposition F. Its passage would require the city to develop a plan for improving its water system and possibly could be the first step in removing a dam built about 90 years ago to supply the city with water, while flooding scenic Hetch Hetchy Valley in the national park.

As a result of that sweetheart political deal decades ago, San Francisco is the only city in the country operating a utility inside a national park.

Mike Marshall, campaign director for the Yosemite Restoration Campaign, says this:

“But Proposition F is opposed by virtually every member of San Francisco's elected leadership. It's a classic case of politicians ‘talking the talk’ but refusing to ‘walk the walk’ in America's most liberal city.”

How to explain it?

Simple: Democrats are compassionate environmentalists only when they are not inconvenienced by being so.

Prevent completion of an oil pipeline? Of course! It would be bad for the environment.

Blow out a dam to restore a river to its natural state? Of course! It would be good for the environment. But, oh wait, not if it would anger some of my constituents and possibly cost me some votes in the next election. 

Where do I stand on whether this dam should be removed? I don't know.

I certainly oppose destruction of Rodman Reservoir in Florida, where a thriving "manmade" ecosystem has evolved, despite man's ignorance for building a dam in the first place.  Environmentalists have been pushing for "restoration" there for decades, simply for the sake of "restoration."

What I do know is that kind of argument isn't enough for me. Dams are a critical part of our infrastructure, providing for water supply, hydropower, flood control, irrigation, and commercial navigation. Additionally, they have been a boon for outdoor recreation, especially sport fishing.

On the other hand, some dams have become liabilities over time, either because they have grown unsafe with age or because they have had unforseen and harmful consequences, such as blocking salmon runs.

Is the Hetch Hetchy dam more of a benefit or a liability? I don't know that either. But I do have a problem with the citizens of one city (and those around it) exlusively benefitting from a public resource in a national park.


Fishing for Sport Viewed as Cruel by Growing Number of People

Mutualists are more likely to view fish and wildlife in human terms, with human personalities and characteristics.

(Author's note: This is the third and final part of my investigative report about the anti-fishing movement. Scroll down to read the first two parts. This package was published originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)


Recreational fishing as we know it no longer exists in portions of Western Europe.

Even more disturbing, the seeds of its destruction are well established here.

Don’t be misled by the fact that 9 out of 10 Americans approve of legal fishing and support using fish for food.

When people are asked whether they approve of recreational fishing for sport, answers change dramatically. Twenty-five to 30 percent view angling for sport as cruel in more urbanized states such as Colorado and Arizona,  while about 20 percent feel the same way in more rural states, including Alaska and the Dakotas.

Those disturbing revelations come from researchers in Germany, Switzerland, and the United States, who recently compiled their findings in a report entitled, “A Primer on Anti-Angling Philosophy and Its Relevance for Recreational Fisheries in Urbanized Societies.”

Such attitudes, the authors say, raise the possibility “that extremist positions (or elements thereof) influenced by animal liberation or animal rights arguments might find their way into nongovernmental organizations, science, politics, and ultimately legislation.

“Such a development is particularly challenging for recreational fishers when it occurs where they have little political support. Without sufficient support, radical claims portraying anglers as cruel sadists who play with fish for no good reason can be rhetorically effective.”

Why is this happening?

Basically, the answer is that attitudes change regarding fish and wildlife as people move away from nature and into more urban settings. Their beliefs become guided more by what they see on television and in the movies than what they personally experience.

Anglers and hunters view fish and wildlife as resources to be used, while being managed wisely and treated with respect. Traditionally, most Americans have agreed with that “utilitarian” philosophy.

But as people become more urbanized (and often more affluent), some begin to favor a “mutualism wildlife value orientation, viewing wildlife as capable of relationships of trust with humans, as if part of an extended family, and as deserving of rights and caring.”

Mutualists, the authors say, “are more likely to view fish and wildlife in human terms, with human personalities and characteristics.”

What’s coming down the road in the United States if mutualism prevails?

The Swiss Animal Welfare Act of 2008 highlights the nightmarish possibilities. The legislation makes catch-and-release illegal because “it is in conflict with the dignity of the fish and its presumed ability to suffer and feel pain.”

A similar rule has been in place since the 1980s in Germany, where anglers also must take a course in fish handing before they can obtain a license.

“The argument runs that it is legally acceptable to go fishing only if one has the intention to catch fish for food,” the study says.

“Wider economic benefits created by angling are usually not considered a sufficient justification --- it all boils down to the individual benefits experienced by the angler, and here food provision is currently the only acceptable reason.” 

In other words, recreational fishing as millions of Americans now enjoy it is not allowed.

What would imposition of such a system in the United States mean?

 It would mean that a majority of the nation’s more than licensed 30 million anglers would stop fishing.

It would mean an end to family outings and buddy tournaments, and depressurizing for a few hours after work at a local lake or pond.

It would mean the collapse of economies for coastal communities and cities along the Great Lakes, as well as hundreds of towns near popular inland lakes and reservoirs.

In the United States, more people fish than play golf and tennis combined, and, in doing so, they support more than one million jobs.

Through license fees and excise taxes, recreational anglers contribute $1.2 billion annually “to preserve, protect, and enhance not just their sport, but also the environment that makes such sportfishing possible,” the American Sportfishing Association says. “Across much of the country, angler dollars are the primary source for improving fish habitat, public access, and environmental education.”

All that could be gone if we allow a minority who believe fishing is cruel to dominate the conversation and dictate policy.

“Powerful intervention is needed to counterbalance such tendencies in a society where hunting and fishing are becoming less prominent and where an increasing percentage of the public has lost contact with wildlife and nature,” say the authors of the study.

What do we do about this? We go fishing, of course, and, at every opportunity, we introduce someone new to the sport. We practice good stewardship through individual actions, as well as club activities --- and we publicize accomplishments. Also, we make certain that decision makers at every level of government know about both the calculable and incalculable value of recreational fishing to individuals, families, and society.



Florida Makes Piranha Bust

A Florida woman has been charged with three misdemeanors for selling three red-bellied piranhas to an undercover wildlife officer in West Palm Beach.

I say that she should do prison time. People who threaten a public resource this way should be severely punished, both to deter them in the future and to serve as an example for others. This is not the same as robbing one person or vandalizing one home; this is endangering and possibly causing irreparable harm to something that belongs to us all.

Florida already has about 30 species of exotic fish established in its waters, while Burmese pythons and iguanas lead the parade of invaders on land. Only when we make selling illegal species a crime with severe penalties will we begin to address the problem in an effective manner.

This woman knew that she was breaking the law but showed little or no fear of doing so.

Evan D’Alessandro at the University of Miami explained the threat that piranhas pose to Florida fisheries:

"It's not because of their danger to humans; it's because of their danger to the environment. They are apex predators. They're at the top of the food chain. Our network of canals and freshwater retention ponds and the Everglades is very similar to their native habitat, and they could easily get a foothold."

Read more here.



Anti-Fishing Agendas Revealed: Part 2

(Author's note: This is Part 2 of my feature on the anti-fishing movement. Part 1 was posted on Aug. 31. Read it below. An abbreviated version of this piece was published originally in B.A.S.S. Times. Tomorrow, I'll post a related opinion piece that reveals how and why the anti-fishing movement has succeeded in Europe and why that same thing might happen here.)


Government agencies and environmental groups, meanwhile, present larger and more dangerous challenges.

For example, the National Park Service has limited angler access at Cape Hatteras National Seashore and seems intent on doing much the same at Florida’s Biscayne Bay. It cites the need to protect species and habitat for its actions.

“The National Park Service likes people who drive through on paved roads, get out to look, and then drive on,” said ASA’s Robertson. “It doesn’t like people who require a higher degree of attention, like anglers and snowmobilers.”

Sandlin added, “The National Park Service and some others seem solely and exclusively focuses on preserving. They have little experience with hunting and fishing and they don’t understand that people in those sports support conservation.

“They don’t implement a broad enough mission. It’s not just about preserving a pristine area, it’s about enjoying and interacting with nature.”

Preservation also is what drives many environmental groups and charitable foundations, including those that worked with the current administration to develop a National Ocean Policy, designed to zone uses of our waters.  First and foremost on their agendas are implementation of marine protected areas and preserves, where recreational fishing and other sustainable uses are not allowed.

Their ranks include Oceana, World Wildlife Fund, Environmental Defense Fund, and Natural Resources Defense Council, as well as PEW Oceans Conservancy, Packard Foundation, Hewlett Foundation, and Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

Their actions don’t suggest any appreciation for the value of recreational angling to society, economies, and conservation. But are they anti-fishing per se?

Shimano’s Morlock thinks that at least some in their ranks might be.

“After years of various fishing organizations pointing out these negative impacts (caused by closures) to key members of the environmental community, one could ask how it is that they continue to fail to consider the negative impacts of their efforts on recreational fishing,” he said.

“It would be reasonable to draw the conclusion at some point that these actions and initiatives by Big Green groups translate from incidental to intentional.”

Considering that preservationists believe that we should live apart from nature --- to protect it --- instead of as a part of nature, that’s a logical assumption. Like animal rights groups, preservationists embrace an ideology based more on emotions than facts, and they’re finding an increasingly receptive audience in today’s urbanized society.

In fact, it’s entirely reasonable to suspect that preservation is driving most of the threats, from lead ban attempts to NPS actions and the National Ocean Policy.

“With urbanization, you see a detachment from the outdoors,” said ASA’s Robertson. “That lends to a lesser understanding of recreational fishing and management.

“Fishing still enjoys a high approval rating in survey after survey, but the drift from country to urban is a challenge.”

What to do about it?

No matter how popular recreational fishing remains in surveys, it cannot survive without aggressive support from individual anglers, fishing groups, and elected officials --- educated elected officials.

“Too often we see a knee-jerk reaction (among government officials) to any sort of information presented about a declining population or some other perceived environmental problem,” Max Sandlin said.

“Many attempts to address these issues are well intentioned, but often are reactionary and lack a basis in sound science. It is critical that issues such as economic benefit, access to public lands, recreational opportunities, and similar matters be considered as vital elements of proposed solutions to an perceived problems --- problems which, after further inspection, often don’t exist.”

The education process begins with the individuals and groups, extolling the “collateral benefits” that recreational angling provides, according to Tom Sadler. They include clean water and healthy fisheries, as well as economic benefits.

“We have to look for ways to better get that message out to the American people, especially people who see fishing as a recreation easily replaced.

“We have to do more to support and empower groups like Recycled Fish, the Izaak Walton League, Trout Unlimited, B.A.S.S., and the Federation of Fly Fishers. These struggle for support, energy, and resources.

“And we have to do what we can to talk to people other than the choir. Social media create that opportunity.”

Chris Horton added that anglers must pay attention to issues and communicate with both their state and federal representatives regarding those issues.

“Through the network of state sportsmen’s caucuses, as well as the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus, we have legislators who are willing to protect and advance our angling heritage,” he said.

“There’s a great opportunity to make a difference today. Right now, the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act passed the House and is currently in the Senate. We encourage all anglers to contact their senators and express support for a strong pro-sportsmen’s legislative package.

“With 60 million anglers in this country, we have the ability to significantly impact legislative and administrative decisions regarding recreational angling --- but your elected officials must hear from you.”