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Entries in recreational fishing (78)

Thursday
Jan282016

Gulf States Should Manage Gulf Red Snapper Fishery

Under this administration, recreational fishing for red snapper in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico has been diminished to a fraction of what it once was, as the feds have turned over more and more of it to a few commercial operations.

It's time for a change. The Gulf states have better data regarding the health of the fishery and are for more likely to manage based on science than politics. That's why HR 3094, the Gulf States Red Snapper Management Authority Act, needs to be passed by Congress. Here's what its sponsor, U.S. Rep. Garret Graves of Louisiana, has to say:   

As Ben Raines’ weekend article in the Times Picayune and AL.com illuminated, the federal government has hand-picked dozens of multi-millionaire “Sea Lords” by allowing them to control the red snapper fishery in the Gulf of Mexico. While these select few “Sea Lords” are making millions from our fish, the season for recreational anglers – who used to be able to fish for red snapper all year long – has been absurdly diminished. In 2015, the recreational red snapper season was 10 days.

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As it stands today, the right to catch 77 percent of the annual red snapper harvest is controlled by just 55 people, according to an AL.com analysis of hundreds of pages of federal documents, reports and websites--- AL.com

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The agency charged with managing our national fishery, the National Marine Fisheries Service, conducted a study on the health of red snapper fish stocks in the Gulf of Mexico. You’ll be shocked to learn that federal government’s methodology and results were grossly inadequate.

Their analysis failed to include reef areas – the actual habitat of red snapper, a reef fish. Think about that. It’s like looking for polar bears in Louisiana, finding none, and declaring the population to be at risk of extinction.

Let me be clear, the sustainability of our fisheries is paramount. It is critical that we employ the best science to responsibly manage them and to support their long-term viability.  It’s no secret that Louisiana is home to some of the nation's top restaurants that rely on the supply of fresh, wild seafood to meet demand. Some argue that expanding recreational access would lead to overfishing and threaten commercial interests.

This mentality has bred the current system of a government sanctioned oligarchy that monopolizes a public resource. And it has punished tens of thousands of families across the Gulf Coast that enjoy fishing in Sportsman’s Paradise. Luckily, there is another way.

In July of last year, I introduced HR 3094, the Gulf States Red Snapper Management Authority Act in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill simply gives the five Gulf states’ wildlife departments the authority to manage the red snapper that live offshore their coast. This approach favors local control and would transfer management decisions to the professionals who are closest to the fishery.

In Louisiana for example, our Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has demonstrated a commitment to using the best science to sustainably manage our fisheries through efforts like the agency's LA Creel program, which helps to provide an accurate count of red snapper fish stocks in our coastal waters. Today, HR 3094 has nearly 30 bipartisan sponsors from across the nation.

The fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico are public property and should be enjoyed by all - not managed like a long-abandoned "sharecropper" model that enriches a select few.  Sometimes all it takes is a little sunshine on bad policy to fix things.  To quote Herbert Hoover, “all men are equal before fish.”  Let's enact HR 3094 so we can ALL enjoy the Gulf's bounty.

 

Wednesday
Dec302015

Speed Trap . . . Slow Down

 

This blind worship at the altar of speed bleeds into every aspect of our lives, especially for our children. Because we’ve learned we don’t have to wait, we dart recklessly in and out of traffic, cutting in front of other cars so we can launch from a stoplight one second before they do. We have no patience for waiting in lines, common courtesy, or even listening.

That’s why the attention span of students grows progressively shorter. That’s why movies must contain explosions, car chases, and gun battles if they expect to succeed at the box office. That’s why print media are on the decline, and that’s also why participation in fishing flattened in some states and declined in others during the first decade of the 21st century.

Actually “wait” for a fish to bite? No thank you!

Tournament angling has helped keep the sport vital, through its emphasis on faster boats and the need to cover as much water as possible during the hours of competition. Anglers “burn” spinnerbaits. Tackle innovators create reels with higher and higher gear ratios to speed retrieves even more. ESPN and other cable networks glamorize fishing events with helicopter coverage and heart-pounding music.

Am I a tournament angler? No, I am not. Competitors must put their fish in the boat as quickly and efficiently as possible. I like to play with mine, to watch them jump and tail-walk and, yes, sometimes throw the bait. If anything, I am the un-tournament angler.

I certainly do recognize the many contributions tournament fishermen have made to the sport, ranging from boat and tackle innovations to creation of a vocal constituency that finances and promotes conservation of our natural resources. I am an ardent supporter of fishing tournaments and happy to share the water with them.

Still, I believe faster is not always the best way in fishing, and from that I’ve learned it isn’t always the best way in life either. Those who don’t see that miss out on the many pleasures of the journey, as they focus single-mindedly on the destination. We each have only a limited amount of time in this life. Why rush it?

Excerpt from the essay "Speed Trap . . . Slow Down" in Why We Fish: Reel Wisdom From Real Fishermen.

Wednesday
Nov182015

Anti-Fishing Movement on the Rise

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, especially in the anti-hunting movement,  as you can see by the "photo" above.  Of course, anyone who hunts and fishes knows that the photo was staged and that the comments are a lie. No state allows hunting during the spring, when fawns are that size. And if a poacher illegally shot the doe, he wouldn't leave it there for an animal rights activist to photograph it. Likely, the doe was killed on the highway. But truth means nothing to these zealots. For them, the end--- banning fishing and hunting--- justifies the use of any means, including dishonesty.

And don’t be misled by the fact that 9 out of 10 Americans still 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.”

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How ignorant are many of those who oppose hunting and fishing? Awhile back, some of these mental giants viciously attacked Steven Spielberg after Jay Branscomb posted a photo with this caption on his Facebook page:

“Disgraceful photo of recreational hunter happily posing next to a Triceratops he just slaughtered. Please share so the world can name and shame this despicable man.”

By the way, triceratops, along with all other dinosaurs, have been extinct for about 65 million years. And Branscomb was having a little fun in the wake of the outrage expressed by these same people after Kendall Jones posted photos of African big game that she had shot.

But the obvious obviously wasn’t so obvious for the true believers. Here are some of the comments:

 “Steven Spielberg has absolutely no respect for animals. Posing infront [sic] of this poor dead animal like that. Barbaric.”

 “if these animals are so rare they should be moved to a reservation where it’s illegal to kill them.”

 “He’s a disgusting inhumane [bleep] Id love to see these hunters be stopped…I think zoos are the best way to keep animals safe…[bleep]holes like this piece of [bleep] are going into these beautiful animals HOME and killing them… its no different than someone coming into your home and murdering you…” 

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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.

Sunday
Nov082015

NOAA Continues to Ignore Economic Value of Recreational Fishing

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration continues to ignore the economic value of recreational fishing, and, as a consequence of that, it likely will continue to ignore/undervalue it in its management decisions for species such as Gulf of Mexico red snapper. And that  will translate into allocations that unfairly restrict recreational fishing.The following is a commentary from Jeff Angers at the Center for Coastal Conservation about that federal favoritism for commercial fishing:

"The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued its annual “Fisheries of the United States” report this week — but once again, when it comes to the economic value of recreational fishing, NOAA entirely missed the boat (excuse the pun).

"That’s because NOAA’s report overlooks the economic impact of recreational fishing entirely — just like last year (and for two years before).

"According to NOAA, commercial fishing generated $5.4 billion in revenues last year. That’s great for our economy and for the commercial fishing sector — as far as it goes.

"But what about the economic contribution of recreational fishing?

"Nada, zero, zip. At least according to the bureaucrats at NOAA.

"It’s as if recreational fishing doesn’t even happen.

"The last time NOAA even looked at the value of recreational fishing, back in 2011, it estimated the economic value at $23.4 billion. For the arithmetically challenged, that’s more than four times the contribution of the commercial sector — and that’s based on 2011 numbers.

"NOAA’s fisheries report is emblematic of the bigger problem in Washington, DC: a tendency to underplay and under-appreciate the much greater economic impact of recreational fishing.

"When Congress reauthorizes the Magnuson-Stevens Act, let’s make sure the real story gets told: just taking into account the agency’s 2011 estimates, the $23.4 billion annual economic contribution of recreational fishing dwarfs the $5.4 billion now being touted by NOAA as the value of the commercial sector.

"Federal fisheries policy ought to reflect that fact — not ignore it."

Friday
Nov062015

Who Fishes and Why?

The overall number of fishing participants remains quite stable from year to year, at around 33 million, but not because most anglers are avid. Rather it’s because about the same number of people joins and leaves the angling population each year.

Younger, female, urban dwellers are more likely to be among the ranks of newly recruited anglers compared to retained anglers, who are much more likely to be male, rural residents, and over 35 years of age. Yet over the long term, there has been limited shift in the overall angler population towards those newcomer demographics due to the higher churn rates among them.

More than 80 percent of recruited anglers reported having fished previously in their lives, typically when they were quite young. They are frequently prompted to fish by family and friends, who also serve as their most common source of fishing information and instruction.

These and other findings related to motivational factors tend to reassert previous research from the American Sportfishing Association and Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation. However, this report reveals significant differences between new anglers’ intentions and their actions; while the vast majority think they will fish every year, only a small proportion actually do.

Other highlights include:  

Women make up one-third of new anglers. When it comes to recruited anglers, 65 percent are male and 35 percent are female. However, only 18 percent of retained anglers are female.  

Newcomers are younger. More than one-half of recruited anglers are under age 35, compared to 28 percent of retained anglers. Conversely, only 12 percent of recruited anglers are between the ages of 55 and 64, compared to 22 percent of retained anglers.  

Recruited anglers tend to live in more populous communities. The largest portion of recruited anglers, about 47 percent, lives in suburban neighborhoods. However, the proportion of recruited anglers between the ages of 18-24 years is greatest in rural areas while the proportion of recruited anglers between the ages of 25-34 years is greatest in urban areas.  

Recreational togetherness is a strong appeal. The top three reasons people fish are to spend time with family and friends, to relax, and for the sport or recreation. For new recruits, the opportunity for relaxation is a strong driver while avid anglers tend to be in it for the excitement.  

Age of introduction matters. More than 80 percent of recruited anglers in the survey year reported it was not the first year they’d ever fished. Among those, more than a third tried the sport when they were five years old or younger. In fact, more than half of anglers who fish year after year say they first started fishing when they were five years old or younger.