[I try not to get on too much of a rant in these posts, but fear I might have failed with this one. Sorry in advance]
I was scanning the updates on my blog list and saw the title of Lizzy's new post at "From The Fisherbabe" - click on her site on my Blog List to read. I went to her site and read it, and I encourage everyone else to do the same. It is a well written and well researched piece. There is some background info that is not available in her post, so I'll try to fill you in on my understanding of some of the history involved.
The Task Force that Lizzy explains is absolutely stated correctly. The President is going to have the Task Force's recommendations for Ocean, Coastal, and Great Lakes Management in the next 30 - 60 days. The part we all need to be concerned about is : How much will the task force include the interests of the sportfishing and boating communities into the National Policy Plan?
To us, it seems simple - a no-brainer, if you will. We all pay for our licenses, have the taxes on our purchases earmarked for continued well-being of our resources (Wallop- Breaux funds), and many of us actively seek to improve the environment itself, through donations, education, ... Pretty simple, huh?
There are contingents of people out there who envision ANY use of a natural resource as "too much". In the past few years, a number of Saltwater MPA's were established. MPA is a Marine Protection Area, and NO fishing is allowed. The rhetoric says these areas are overfished and need to be protected. If we could ever take the governments word as the truth, many of us would agree that, under those circumstances, the designated MPA's should be protected. The problem is that sport fishing is not separated from the commercial fishing interests. So, the sport fisherman who releases some of his catch, and is governed by ever tighter catch limits, is grouped in with the people who operate longlines, kill their by-catch, and historically rape an area of its fish until it is devoid of life before the set off to find a new area to kill. Areas off Hawaii, the FLA Keys, and California now have off-limits MPAs.
The cynical person thinks "Hmm - they already got through some MPA's in other areas - will they try in this new Task Force recommendation?" Color me cynical, because I don't believe that the sport fisherman's best interest is being taking into account. I believe the government reacts to the lobbyists with the deepest pockets, and the deepest pockets in this match are clearly those of the commercial fishing interests, followed closely by the tree-hugger types who think no one should ever fish.
Without seperating the sport fisherman from the commercial fishing operation, you clearly have an "apples - to - oranges" comparison. Every viable piece of scientific research has shown that the sport fishery has NEVER had a noticeable impact on a species survival. Where sportfishing has had impacts, the sportsman have embraced the actions needed to rectify the situation. I would point to the almost universal catch-and-release regulations imposed on many lakes in the far north country as prime examples. these areas have very short growing seasons, and any fish that reaches trophy size is a truly old, magnificent specimen that needs to be returned to the water. Whether the rules are decreed by the lodge, province, or self imposed by the fisherman, very few trophy sized fish are killed anymore in northern Canada. It has kept the trophy populations high, and people have shown they are willing to pay top dollar for the experience of the trip without having to kill the fish. It seems that none of this type of behavior is taken into account when the government creates a new rule that resticts sport fishing.
Recreational fishermen actually have a history of spearheading the imposition of limits on themselves, and their favorite species, as is evidenced by the striped bass laws that allowed the stripers to rebound from historic lows. (Do yourself a favor and read "Striper Wars" by Dick Russell. OUTSTANDING book about the striper situation.) We will do what needs to be done to protect our beloved ecosystems and resources.
The voice of the US Recreational Fishing Industry in Washington DC is the ASA - the American Sportfishing Association. they have provided the link that follows to allow you to email your congressmen, senators, and the President. Please take a moment to do so and make sure our collective voices are heard. The 3/9 update will link you to the appropriate page.
[I'm having trouble with the hyperlink - please paste the address below into the url]
Thanks for your help