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Entries in National Ocean Council (62)

Wednesday
Dec302015

Our Right to Fish Is at Risk

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 President Obama's 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 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. In 2010, four out of five members of the Laguna Beach City Council supported a five-year moratorium on recreational fishing along its seven 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.”

Starting to see the big picture yet?

Saturday
Dec262015

KAF Needs Your Support to Protect Fishing

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. (And that passion is what inspired me to write Why We Fish.)

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 --- more than 40 million --- 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 are 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.

“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. And if you live in Florida, or fish there, you also should check out Keep Florida Fishing. The list of initiatives to ban or severely restrict fishing there is growing every day. Both these sites can educate you about the threats to fishing and what you can do about them.

“No one has been trumpeting the message that the public’s right to fish is at stake. But with Keep America Fishing, we now have a way to do that,” said Eakes.

Wednesday
Sep162015

Marine Monuments Could Include Ban on Recreational Fishing

Does anyone remember  President Obama's National Ocean Council (NOC), formed early in his first term to "zone" uses of our oceans, coastal waters, and even inland. In other words, its intent is to tell us what we can do where, and, while it may start in blue water that few ever venture out to, that's not where it will stop. The inevitable result will be restrictions on where we can fish--- unless we fight back.

If you don't remember the NOC, check out this earlier post National Ocean Council Is an Executive Power Grab of Our Fisheries.

A more recent move to impose "fully protected" marine monuments is part of that same effort. It may not be Obama's intention to restrict or ban recreational fishing, but it certainly is the intent of many of those with whom he allies himself.

Keep America Fishing reports that some anti-fishing organizations are pressing for these bans off the New England Coast.

"The federal government is currently exploring this issue," it says. "There is the potential for all recreational fishing to be banned, even though there’s no evidence to suggest we pose a threat to the habitat or fish populations in these areas.

"It's time to make your voice heard above our opponents --- send a letter today.

Go here to learn more and send a letter.

Wednesday
Oct292014

Council 'Shafts' Recreational Anglers as It Creates Sector Separation

As the Fishing Rights Alliance (FRA) so eloquently put it, recreational anglers “just got the shaft.”

That’s because the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council ignored the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) and massive opposition from the public to pass Amendment 40, which creates “sector separation” for the red snapper fishery.

The recreational quota for red snapper in federal waters now will be divided between “for-hire” and private anglers. And guess who’s getting the lion’s share of that quota?

“While the council's vote created the two new components, the recreational sector's 5.39 million-pounds share of the 11 million-pounds Gulfwide red snapper quota will not be split right down the middle,” says Al.com

“Preliminary estimates suggest the for-hire component will be allocated about 40 percent of the total, based on 50 percent of their landings between 1986 and 2013 and 50 percent between 2006 and 2013.”

In other words, if you are an angler with your own boat, you might as well forget about fishing for red snapper in the Gulf for at least the next three years.

"It's very disappointing that you have this level of opposition from anglers, elected officials, state fishery managers and even within the charter industry itself and it still wasn't enough to prevent this flawed management plan from moving forward," says Ted Venker, Conservation Director of the Coastal Conservation Association.

But not at all surprising, coming from an administration that wants to regulate every aspect of our lives, including when and where we can fish. That was evident early on when President Obama created the National Ocean Council, with the intent to “zone” uses of our waters, including inland. And when NOAA began pushing Catch Shares as a management strategy for our fisheries.

Catch Shares basically privatizes a public resource, and “segment separation” is a tactic that the feds used to divide and conquer the recreational sector, as some charter captains bought into the idea. (Catch Shares, though, isn't yet being used to manage red snapper.)

The FRA, however, says, “This ain’t over until we say it’s over,” and vows to fight the amendment. Go here to join the fight.

Here’s an excerpt of the CSC’s letter to the Council:

The suddenly accelerated speed at which the Council seeks to subdivide the recreational red snapper fishery into two individual components or “sectors” is unacceptable for an action that will likely have far reaching impacts on local communities, the economy, state-based conservation funding, thousands of recreational anglers, and ultimately the charter/for-hire industry for which it is meant to help.

A decision of this magnitude requires careful deliberation and calculated safeguards to ensure that the best interest of the American public is first and foremost. Furthermore, there are several concerns regarding

potential statutory violations that must be fully explored and resolved before moving forward with any such fundamental change to the interpretation of the Magnuson-Stevens Act and the way we manage marine recreational fisheries in the United States.

We fear thorough analysis of these concerns has not been sufficiently undertaken by NOAA Fisheries or the Council relative to Amendment 40.

It is difficult to understand why red snapper management is so unique that it requires such a radical departure from methods that have successfully managed the vast majority of our fish and terrestrial wildlife resources. Indications are that the red snapper stock is recovering well ahead of schedule, which suggests that the current problems with red snapper are not biological, but rather man-made.

It appears that some failure of our federal fisheries policy is producing a system in which access to a healthy fishery resource is being funneled through fewer and fewer entities. Unnecessarily restricting public access to a sustainable resource is an undesirable and untenable result for any wildlife resource management system, and one that should be avoided at all costs.

 

Thursday
Jul102014

Feds Slash Season for Red Snapper

“Environmental organizations, who have infiltrated our federal government -- they are hell-bent on reducing the fleet of fishermen.” --- Capt. Bob Zales

Back in 2009,  I started warning the nation’s anglers about the dangers posed to the future of fishing by the Obama Administration. Many of those threats center around the National Ocean Council and Catch Shares. But anti-fishing sentiment pervades this administration in general, as Zales, a Florida charter captain, points out in the aftermath of the feds reducing the red snapper season from 40 days to 9.

Zales made the comments in a Fox News article about the closure.

"I already had the boats sold out for the season and then I had to cancel those trips because I couldn't provide the service," added  Capt. Mark Hubbard.

From Fox: “Hubbard and other fishermen point out that the number of red snapper this year is the highest in decades, and say the regulation is purely bureaucratic and not really about protecting fish. The recreational fishing industry employs an estimated 150,000 people along the Gulf and pumps some $7 billion into the local economies, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA. In 2012, more than 3.1 million recreational anglers took 23 million fishing trips in the Gulf of Mexico region.”

Here’s what I wrote in February 2010 for ESPN Outdoors:

Environmental groups enthusiastically support federal management of our fisheries, starting with the oceans, coastal waters, and Great Lakes. They now are pressuring President Barack Obama to by-pass Congressional oversight and public discussion and instead issue an Executive Order, endorsing the recommendations of his Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force and creation of a massive federal bureaucracy.

This should come as no surprise, since members in many of these organizations favor creation of “marine protected areas,” where all uses --- including recreational angling --- are banned. Almost certainly they envision these being an integral part of the “spatial planning” strategy created by the task force and to be enforced by a National Ocean Council.

What might come as a surprise, though, is that these same groups produced a “wish list” document, Transition to Green, shortly after Obama’s election. And what has happened since, starting with the President’s creation of the task force, suggests that this special interest group --- with little to no public input --- is controlling public policy on a staggering scale.

Who wrote that document and who is determining the future of fishing in federal waters these days? Here’s the list:

AMERICAN RIVERS - CENTER FOR INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL LAW

CLEAN WATER ACTION- DEFENDERS OF WILDLIFE - EARTHJUSTICE -

ENVIRONMENT AMERICA - ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENSE FUND - FRIENDS OF THE EARTH

GREENPEACE - IZAAK WALTON LEAGUE - LEAGUE OF CONSERVATION VOTERS

NATIONAL AUDUBON SOCIETY - NATIONAL PARKS CONSERVATION ASSOCIATION

NATIONAL TRIBAL ENVIRONMENTAL COUNCIL - NATIONAL WILDLIFE FEDERATION

NATIVE AMERICAN RIGHTS FUND - NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL - OCEANA

OCEAN CONSERVANCY - PEW ENVIRONMENT GROUP

PHYSICIANS FOR SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY - POPULATION CONNECTION

POPULATION ACTION INTERNATIONAL

RAILS-TO-TRAILS CONSERVANCY - SIERRA CLUB - THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY

THE TRUST FOR PUBLIC LAND - UNION OF CONCERNED SCIENTISTS

WORLD WILDLIFE FUND