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Entries in preservation (10)


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?


Anti-Angling Bias in D.C. Remains a Threat

As they quietly go about their business behind closed doors in Washington, D.C., politicians and bureaucrats within the Obama Administration pose a significant threat to the future of fishing. It’s not easy to keep up with what they’re doing, but fortunately the Activist Angler has a trusted source for information about the anti-fishing movement.  

He has just provided me with a disturbing reminder that those who want to tell us where we can and cannot fish in public waters remain colossally ignorant and/or colossally disdainful of recreational angling.

They remain so despite attempts at educating them about the importance and value of recreational fishing by the American Sportfishing Association, Center for Coastal ConservationCongressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, and other organizations.

What’s the latest evidence?

It resides within the National Marine Protected Areas Center website maintained by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which has been pushing a preservationist, anti-fishing agenda for four years. Much of that agenda focuses on zoning uses of our oceans and the waters that connect to them, courtesy of a National Ocean Policy created by Executive Order.

In categorizing those uses, anonymous bureaucrats have come up with four general categories: Recreation & Culture; Fishing, Hunting & Gathering; Energy; and Other Maritime Activities.

Now, “recreational fishing” is called that for a reason. It’s a form of recreation, with minimal harvest and minimal impact on fisheries stocks. Additionally, nearly 60 million Americans call themselves anglers, and they spend hundreds of millions dollars annually pursuing their pastime, with much of that money benefiting fisheries conservation.

Fisheries advocates have been hammering this message to the administration since President Obama took office. But blindly following their preservationist ideology, the bureaucrats pay lip service to the distinction and then go on about their business of ignoring it.

In other words, recreational angling is not listed in the Recreation & Culture category. Instead, it is paired with commercial fishing in the Fishing, Hunting & Gathering category.

“Only NOAA could lump fishing with a rod and reel into the same category as dredging and trawling – and to think we pay for this!” says my source.

And we’re going to pay additionally for it with reduced access unless we unite in advocacy through Keep America Fishing and other groups and unless we make sure that our members of Congress are educated and stepping up to protect our rights.


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.”



Administration Ignores Congress, Pushes Ahead with Plan to 'Zone' Public Waters

A final version of the National Ocean Policy (NOP) Implementation Plan likely will be released sometime soon, even as the Obama Administration continues to ignore requests from Congress to provide documents and information before finalization.

The NOP’s stated intent is “marine spatial planning.” In other words, unelected bureaucrats will “zone” uses of our waters, telling us where we can and cannot fish. It will commence with oceans and the Great Lakes, but wording in previous documents clearly shows that the NOP’s reach will extend far inland to rivers, reservoirs, and lakes.

Of course, the best way to stop this Big Government freight train that will restrict public access to public waters is to vote out the Obama Administration in November.

Until then, many in Congress continue to demand accountability regarding the NOP and its implementation.

In an Aug. 15 letter to NOP bureaucrats, Rep. Doc Hastings, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, says this:

“More than two years have passed since President Obama unilaterally issued a new National Ocean Policy that created an expansive federal bureaucracy to manage ocean activities and resources without any specific Congressional approval, and more than eight months have passed since a draft plan was released containing more than 50 proposed actions for implementing the National Ocean Policy and mandatory zoning of the ocean and coastal areas.

“Despite this passage of time, Congress and the American public are still left questioning the legal justification, regulatory burdens, funding sources, and economic impacts of the National Ocean Policy.

“Since last year, a number of specific questions and requests for information have gone unanswered. Based on the lack of specificity in earlier responses and the failure to provide all of the requested information and documentation, it seems apparent the Administration is intent on avoiding scrutiny of its plans to establish this new federal bureaucracy to manage economic and recreational activities affecting the oceans, including those occurring far inland.

 “It is imperative that the National Ocean Council provide the long-requested information before the draft implementation plan is finalized.

“In response to an October 2011 request for a summary of the legal  authorities to support the National Ocean Policy's proposed ocean zoning initiative, Chairwoman Sutley responded with only vague generalities that the President's actions were in  line with the Constitution and numerous environmental laws. 

“However, in none of the laws cited did Congress authorize the President to establish this new federal bureaucracy to manage ocean activities or recourses or to create new regulations and policies that could close off parts of the ocean and stifle American job creation.”

In documenting the Administration’s failure to cooperative with Congress, Hastings also said this:

 “It is troubling that your agencies have to  date refused to provide the requested information or comply with the document production instructions attached to the original February 23  letter, notwithstanding President Obama's stated commitment to create ‘an unprecedented level of openness in Government.’

“The previously requested information is necessary for Congress to understand the activities and funding of the National Ocean Council, and whether certain ocean advocacy organizations have had undue influence over the development and implementation of the National Ocean Policy at the expense of commercial and recreational ocean users whose livelihoods is at stake.”

While I admire Hastings and others in Congress for continuing to confront this issue on behalf of the American people, it is obvious that the Obama Administration is following the agenda of non-government environmental groups that believe in preservation instead of conservation.

And if this President is re-elected, he will implement the NOP through executive fiat, as he continues to thumb his nose at Congress and the Constitution.

Please think about that when you go to the polls in November.


National Park Service Disregards Importance of Access

National Park Service (NPS) policies provide some of the most glaring examples of this administration’s disregard for recreational angling and its embrace of preservation as opposed to conservation.

Here is what the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation has to say:

“The sport fishing and boating community has been subjected to a recent disturbing trend within the National Park Service of disregarding the importance of providing access to sportsmen and women on our nation's public lands.

“The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Subcommittee on National Parks highlighted one such example, in Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreation Area, N.C., during a hearing held on Wednesday, June 27.

“Among the bills included at the hearing was "Preserving Public Access to Cape Hatteras Beaches Act" (S. 2372), which would address the severe restrictions on public access to one of the East Coast's most popular surf fishing areas in Cape Hatteras.

If passed, S. 2372 - a companion bill to H.R. 4094 - would reinstate the 2007 Interim Management Strategy governing off-road vehicle use in the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area which allows for a more balanced approach to fish and wildlife management concerns and provides for adequate recreational fishing access.

“The Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation signed on to a support letter on S. 2372 which the recreational fishing community circulated to Senators prior to the hearing.”

Florida’s Biscayne National Park is another target for NPS’s look-but-don’t-touch policies. It wants to create large marine reserves --- no-fishing zones --- that would close more than 20 percent of the park’s public waters to fishing, boating, and other recreational activities.

 Go to this CSF page to express your concerns to your senators and representatives about the access threats to these public resources.