When it comes to conservation, we're all in this together, and bass fishermen have decided it’s time to start acting that way.
That’s why B.A.S.S. is joining with other industry and angler groups to form a coalition to fight for and defend saltwater access and conservation.
Bass Anglers for Saltwater Conservation (BASC) was created because professional anglers noticed the need to get more involved in policy discussions and speak up for recreational fishing.
“My theory is that all water flows downstream, and it eventually reaches the ocean,” said Jared Miller, Elite Series pro. “The laws that are damaging recreational saltwater fishing could also eventually affect the freshwater part of the equation.
“It’s so important for us all to work together to protection our national fisheries and our rights to fish. Bass Anglers for Saltwater Conservation gives us the chance to do just that.”
BASC will center around a website by the same name. In addition to alerting anglers to issues involving access, conservation, economics, and safety, it will provide them with contact information for their members of Congress and even pre-written letters that they can sign and send. The site also will send “action alerts” from the pros so anglers will know when and how to speak out on an issue, and Dean Rojas likely will be one of those spokesmen.
“As recreational anglers, we need to make it our business to be aware of the laws and regulations that govern our fisheries,” said the Elite Series pro who has competed in 13 Bassmaster Classics. “All of us have a responsibility to push for sensible regulations that look out for recreational anglers, as well manage the commercial aspects of fishing.
But one of the biggest challenges for recreational fishermen is to come together as one voice, added Jeff Kriet, also an Elite Series competitor.“Bass Anglers for Saltwater Conservation gives all anglers the opportunity to represent their interests and protect their rights to fish.
“We need to protect it, we need to make our voices heard, and now is the time. If we don’t advocate now, we will begin to lose the sport we all love.”
Gene Gilliland, national conservation director for B.A.S.S., echoed that sentiment and added that marine fisheries management is at a critical crossroads right now, as Congress debates reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (M-S).
“Recreational interests have long taken a back seat to commercial fisheries so now is the time for anglers to speak up and make their voices heard,” he said.
“The Bass Anglers for Saltwater Conservation website makes it easy (for anglers) to keep up with the issues and take action when the call comes to contact your representatives in Congress.”
Consequently, one of the first battles for BASC will be to improve M-S. To do that, anglers must convince lawmakers of the importance of marine recreational fisheries, both in terms of popularity and economic benefits. Already the red snapper season has been reduced to just a few days a year, even though many believe that the stock is the healthiest that it has been in decades.
“The current structure of recreational offshore fishing is really limiting and one-sided,” said Bobby Lane, Elite Series pro. “What was once a great family sport has become an activity fewer and fewer anglers are choosing because they are not allowed to catch fish that are obviously abundant.”
If fresh and saltwater anglers don’t stand together, he added, “The outdated regulations that limit saltwater fishing will eventually bleed over into freshwater fishing.”
Fortunately, recreational fishing leaders already have put together a blueprint for improving M-S, entitled “A Vision for Managing America’s Saltwater Recreational Fisheries.” Its recommendations include establishing a national policy for recreational fishing, allocating marine fisheries for the greatest benefit of the nation, and adopting a revised approach for saltwater recreational fisheries management.”
Under current regulations (for some species), said Elite Series pro Terry Scroggins, “It’s not even worth it to take a trip out to try and catch fish. If recreational anglers decide not to fish, it hurts boat sales, tackle sales, fuel sales . . . and the list goes on. It’s time for us to speak up and keep offshore recreational fishing alive.”
Along with B.A.S.S., American Sport Fishing Association, Coastal Conservation Association, Recreational Fishing Alliance, and Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, these already fishermen have signed on in support of BASC: Cliff Crochet, Kelly Jordon, Jeff Kriet, Mike Iaconelli, Bobby Lane, Jared Miller, Brandon Palaniuk, Dean Rojas, Marty Robinson, and Terry Scroggins.
(A variation of this article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)