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Entries in National Ocean Council (55)

Sunday
Dec222013

Anglers Win Access Battle in Australia

Good news for anglers everywhere: Our brothers and sisters in Australia won a huge victory for public access.

And there’s an important message here for U.S. fishermen: Get involved in the political process. Aussie anglers wouldn’t have won if they had just gone fishing instead of fighting back.

Here’s an excerpt from the report in Fishing World, and please note the mention of Pew:

“We are pleased the Coalition Government has listened to Australia’s recreational fishers and are conducting a scientific review of the proposal, which will give a sensible balance for Australia’s unique marine environment,” said Allan Hansard of the Australian Recreational Fishing Foundation.

“It was clear that the decisions to ‘lock’ recreational fishers out of vast areas of our seas by the previous government was not scientifically based and was done to meet a political agenda.”

The Government’s marine parks announcement marks an historic win by the recreational fishing sector against powerful international environment groups, including the US-based Pew organisation which spent millions of dollars in its failed attempt to ban fishing across huge swathes of Australian territorial waters.

Meanwhile, here’s things are not going so well in the United States. President Obama’s National Ocean Council is moving ahead with plants to “zone” uses of our oceans, telling us where we can and cannot fish. And in Maine, officials are considering a proposal by anti-fishing advocates who want to ban plastic baits.

Down in Georgia, a fishing editor said this:

Fishing is a way of life for millions of Americans. It’s a pastime all can enjoy, as well as a multi-billion-dollar industry through the sale of boats and motors, fishing tackle and even live bait.

The state of Maine, though, seems hell-bent on becoming the nation’s first anti-fishing state, according to a news release from Keep America Fishing.

Not long ago, the state legislature voted to impose restrictions and downright bans on the use of lead-headed jigs and lead sinkers, claiming the loon population was being adversely affected by ingesting that tackle while diving for bait fish.

Earlier this year, Maine’s Joint Standing Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife called for a study to determine the effects of soft plastic lures on fish. Maine’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Department is using online research, ice angling reports and litter assessments to determine if there are adverse effects on fish . . . 

Legislation introduced during early 2013 legislative sessions called for the outright ban of soft plastic lures.

The state study also includes the impact of hooks! What a waste of time! If soft baits are banned, what’s next?

I’m glad I live where I live!

Friday
Sep272013

Help Keep America Fishing

Surf anglers at Cape Hatteras. Photo from Outer Banks Preservation Association.

As a kid, I didn’t just love to fish.

I lived to fish.

Over the years --- and usually fishing --- I’ve met many who felt the same way about their childhood.

Reading comments on Facebook and in fishing forums, I can see that many adults never outgrow that feeling. That’s good.

In fact, the world would be a better place if more people felt that way.

I’m not talking about forsaking a family, giving up a job, and throwing away responsibility to go fishing 24/7. I’m talking about recognizing the value of fishing for relaxation, enjoyment of nature, and as a dangling carrot to get you from Monday to Friday. I’m talking about time spent with children and grandchildren that allows you to share knowledge and experience, as well as pass on the passion for a wholesome activity that has brought you so much happiness.

Sadly, many who do not fish are rising to power in all levels of government. They come from a background that says preservation --- look but don’t touch --- is better than conservation --- sustainable use of a resource through good stewardship. Some are adamantly anti-fishing, with close ties to extreme environmental groups. Others simply give no thought or value to recreational fishing and would consider its demise an acceptable loss for implementation of their agendas.

What can be we about this? Well, we could take them fishing. That really is the best solution. But we might have to abduct some of them to get them out of their cubicles, and that could get complicated and messy and charges might be filed.

The alternative is to organize and stand strong for recreational fishing. I know, I know: Fishing is your escape from things like organizing and standing strong. It takes you back to childhood, when living to fish was pure and uncomplicated.

I understand and respect that feeling. But I also know that neglecting to defend what you love against an overzealous enemy is the surest way to lose it.

The irony is that those of us who fish --- about 40 million annually --- far outnumber those who would take it away. But the latter are committed to a preservationist agenda, while we who fish are committed to fishing more than we are protecting our right to fish.

Or at least that’s the way that it has been.

“We’re the biggest recreational sporting group in the country, but we’ve hardly been organized enough to tie our shoes,” said Bob Eakes, owner of Red Drum Tackle in Buxton, N.C.

Eakes and his business were among the first casualties in this war against recreational fishing, where many of the early volleys are being fired at saltwater anglers. Under the guise of protecting birds and turtles, the National Park Service (NPS) elected to side with three environmental groups and shut down access to nearly half of the world-famous surf fishery at Cape Hatteras National Seashore. The battle to reclaim that fishery is still going on, but there’s no doubt that the NPS is no friend to recreational fishermen.

“Twenty-one national parks are waiting to see how this plays out,” Eakes explained. “And we’re starting to see issues in freshwater as well.”

On inland fisheries thus far, recreational fishing is being attacked mostly by groups who want to ban lead fishing tackle and associations and municipalities who use concerns about the spread of invasive species to shut down access.

But more is on the way. By executive order, the new federal National Ocean Council can decide where you can and cannot fish on oceans, coastal waters, and the Great Lakes, and it has the authority to extend its reach inland to rivers and lakes.

That’s why your support for the Keep America Fishing  campaign is so vitally needed. “No one has been trumpeting the message that the public’s right to fish is at stake. But with Keep America Fishing (KAF), we now have a way to do that,” said Eakes.

Garnering more than 43,000 messages of opposition from anglers, KAF helped defeat an attempt to impose a national ban on lead fishing tackle in 2010.

Go there to learn about the issues, get involved, and make a donation. Also, buy KAF’s “FISH!” stickers from your favorite retailers.

“Keep America Fishing is helping keep anglers informed about what matters to us all,” said Phil Morlock, director of environmental affairs for Shimano.

“Ninety-four percent of Americans approve of fishing, but some folks want to stop it,” said Gordon Robertson of the American Sportfishing Association.

“We have to fight to protect recreational fishing and Keep America Fishing gives anglers a way to help do that.”

(A variation of this article was published previously in B.A.S.S. Times.)

Thursday
Sep192013

In Defense of Fishing

 

Photo by Robert Montgomery

At the bank the other day, the teller told me that I had shortchanged myself a thousand dollars on my deposit slip.

I know why it happened. Each of the checks that I was depositing included a fraction of a dollar. I was so concerned about getting the pennies correct that I neglected to devote sufficient attention to the dollars.

In other words, I focused too much on minor details and completely missed the big picture.

That’s an easy thing to do. Most of us have done it at one time or another, and, fortunately, consequences usually aren’t catastrophic. We have spouses, friends, and friendly tellers to set us straight.

But too many of us are missing the big picture right now regarding the future of recreational fishing, and consequences could be catastrophic.

As the administration leads the country in a direction that the majority of Americans oppose, those who dislike recreational fishing or, at best, are indifferent to it, are using their White House alliances to push for massive federal control of public waters. And here’s the dangerous part:

As conservationists, anglers believe in sustainable use of fisheries, while protecting habitat, opposing pollution, and preserving the resource for future generations to enjoy.         

By contrast those pushing an anti-fishing agenda are preservationists who believe in “look but don’t touch.” They assert that humans exist apart from nature, rather than as a part of it. They think that we act immorally when we manage or alter it in any way.

Consequently, the big picture is that a concerted effort is underway to deny us access to a public resource, and, in so doing, to deny and destroy a significant portion of our history, culture, and economy --- not to mention our right to enjoy a day on the water with friends and family.

Granted, the movement is only now gaining momentum. Chances are, if you live inland, you might not see any closures in your life time. But the snowball has begun to roll downhill.

Arguably, it began when environmentalists convinced President George W. Bush to designate two remote areas in the Pacific as marine reserves. It has strengthened with the recently created National Ocean Council, which has been given authority to zone uses of our oceans, coastal waters, and Great Lakes, as well as the option to move inland to rivers, lakes, and reservoirs.

Also, it’s taking shape via the Magnuson-Stevens Conservation Act and  a “catch shares” management strategy in which recreational participation would be capped.

And as preservationists seek to “protect” oceans from anglers, lake associations want to do the same on inland waters. Knowing a good excuse when they see one, they insist that closures of public access areas are needed to prevent spread of invasive species.

Inland access might seem unrelated to the ocean management. But they are two fronts of the same battle.

You need only look to California to see what is coming our way. Fisheries are falling one after the other, like dominoes, as emotion trumps science-based fisheries management.

Mostly the closures are coming under the auspices of the state Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA).        But they’re also occurring through local regulations. Four out of five members of the Laguna Beach City Council supported a five-year moratorium on recreational fishing along its 7 miles of coast.

“There’s no such thing as a five-year moratorium,” said dissenter Kelly Boyd. “You turn something over to the state and you’ll never get it back.”

Dave Connell, an angry angler, added, “We’re fighting a fad, an environmental extremist wacko fad about closing the ocean. I do not know what their agenda is, but it is not to save the fish. It is not to keep the ocean clean.”

For our side, the fishing industry is spearheading a Keep America Fishing campaign. In particular, member Shimano deserves recognition. Along with donating $100,000 a year and considerable staff time annually to the cause, it has been one of the most outspoken critics of the way in which the MLPA has been implemented.

As a consequence, it has been the target of the Natural Resources Defense Council and other environmental groups, who have deep pockets with which to voice their zealotry. Filled with invective and inaccuracy, the Shame on Shimano website is but one example.

"The 'Shame on Shimano' campaign by NRDC is an outrageous misrepresentation of the facts about a company who has led the outdoor industry in supporting scientific research, habitat improvement, youth programs and fishery conservation efforts across North America for twenty years," said Jeff Crane, president of the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation (CSF).

Starting to see the big picture yet?

Tuesday
Jul092013

Keep America Fishing Strengthens Its Angler Advocacy Program

As Keep America Fishing supporters exceed 1 million, the angler advocacy program is introducing a new membership option and a new website.

“These are exciting milestones for Keep America Fishing. Our new membership program and website will help us reach the next million anglers and increase angler influence on policy issues affecting sportfishing,” said Gordon Robertson, vice president of the American Sportfishing Association.

Kathryn Powers, director of Keep America Fishing noted, “We are looking forward to providing our members and advocates with useful policy tools and benefits that will create a fun experience and inspire them to take action on policy issues. Launching the Membership program and new website is just a first step. Look for great things to come.”

Go here to learn more.

And get involved. Now, more than ever, anglers must be activists, if our sport is to endure. We face unprecedented threats at every level, from federal to local, from the National Ocean Council and the Asian carp invasion to lake associations that want to deny public access and anti-fishing groups that demand unwarranted bans on lead fishing tackle.

Thursday
Jun272013

Anglers Forsake Angling to Support N.H. Lead Ban

In New Hampshire, passage of a bill to ban lead jigs and sinkers of one ounce or less is disappointing, but not surprising. The loonies did a bang up job of making lead synonymous with “toxic” and loons synonymous with “threatened.” Facts and common sense were irrelevant to the debate, as was opposition to the bill by New Hampshire Fish and Game.

The legislation is largely toothless, meaning anglers will just buy more of their jigs and sinkers online and most violators will not be ticketed.

Still, this triumph of emotion over science in the management of fish and wildlife is an ominous sign for anglers and hunters. It’s one more victory for the feel-good, animal rights, preservationist crowd. And one more defeat for conservation and the North American model of fish and wildlife management based on science, which has served us so well.

Even more troubling, though, is the fact that an angler organization--- New Hampshire Trout Unlimited--- supported the ban. The decision did not sit well with Brian Emerson, a licensed guide in the state. In a blistering letter to the organization he said, among other things:

I am ashamed, as a trout fisherman, to think that anglers placed their trust in you to oversee their interests only to be sold down the river. I will do everything in my power to let as many sportsmen as possible know what you have done and urge them to no longer support your organization.”

And B.A.S.S. Conservation Director Noreen Clough noted a disturbing parallel. “Clearly all of the angling ‘elitists’ are no longer in the Pacific Northwest, but demonstrated that they are alive and well and willing to split freshwater anglers into factions in New Hampshire,” she said.

“They do so at their own peril.”

In the Northwest, preservationists and native-species advocates have waged war against non-native bass for decades, blaming the popular sport fish for the demise of salmon and trout. Of course, the reality is that dams damaged native species, while creating prime conditions for bass. Likewise, lakeshore development in New England has caused the most harm to loon populations, not lead fishing tackle.

But anglers are easy targets. While loonies and other preservationists organize, raise funds, and storm state capitals, we’ve shown a remarkable resistance to uniting on behalf of the sport we profess to love. Instead, we make excuses for not getting involved, and, even worse, fragment, making it even easier for anti-fishing zealots to roll over us.

For example, trout anglers in New Hampshire now have alienated bass anglers. What’s going to happen when the loonies decide that they also want to ban lead-weighted flies, flies with lead eyes and lead-core line? Who will stand with the trout fishermen?

The need for angler unity and activism is not just in the Northwest and New England either. In Minnesota, fisheries managers decided to sacrifice the Mille Lacs smallmouth fishery through liberal harvest as a way to rebuild the walleye population. In doing so, they largely ignored investigation into how netting by Native Tribes is impacting the latter.

Writing for the Star-Tribune newspaper, Dennis Anderson said, “When the bizarre becomes routine, people accept it as normal. Which might explain the quiet acquiescence among Mille Lacs anglers since the Department of Natural Resources recently announced its two-fish walleye limits for the lake beginning May 11.”

And he closed with this: “Fundamentally, what bedevils the lake and its walleyes hides in plain sight every spring, and will reveal itself again soon--- routine now as ice-out, but nonetheless bizarre.  It’s the nets.”

But the 500-pound gorilla in the room for anglers everywhere is the threat to access. Right now, the focus mainly is on salt water, as typified by the National Park Service’s recent proposal to set up non-combustion zones in 1/3 of Florida Bay, a part of Everglades National Park. In effect, many popular fishing areas would become virtually inaccessible.

Previously, the NPS went far beyond what was necessary to protect threatened bird species, denying access to massive areas of shoreline for surf anglers at Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

And the National Ocean Council will prove to be just as fervently anti-fishing, as it “zones” how our waters will be used. Yes, it will start with blue water and coastal areas. But it won’t stop there.

“It’s only a matter of time before they restrict access to fishing in freshwater,” said Clough.

It doesn’t have to happen. But if freshwater anglers follow the example of trout fishermen in New Hampshire, it surely will.

(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)