Sunday, June 5, 2016
FISHERIES POLITICS, WITH AN ASSIST FROM GEORGE ORWELL
You remember George Orwell.
He was a mid-20th Century Englishman, with a penchant for writing dystopian novels.
It’s a pretty good bet that at some point in your life, probably when you were in your early teens, some teacher, in some classroom, told you to read his best-known work, Nineteen Eighty-Four.
That novel, as you likely recall, was set in a reimagined England, renamed “Airstrip One,” which had become a part of the totalitarian super-state of Oceania, an entity that existed for no other purpose than to perpetuate itself and maintain its power. The leaders of Oceania were in perpetual fear of independent thought that might threaten their construct. They insisted that the citizens not only do what they are told, but speak only politically correct slogans and think only politically correct thoughts.
In order to accomplish that goal, they created “Newspeak,” an idiom that not only sought to limit vocabulary in order to avoid subversive words and ideas, but to actually make it impossible to construct a sentence that criticized or threatened Oceania’s leadership.
As a subset of Newspeak, government ministries were named in a manner that was contradictory to their actual purpose. Thus, propaganda was created by the Ministry of Truth, interrogations and torture conducted by the Ministry of Love, a perpetual war managed by the Ministry of Peace, etc.
I was reminded of that the other day when I say a news item in the boating industry publication, Trade Only Today, which was entitled “Conservation group honors Utah congressman”.
The article begins by announcing
“The Center for Coastal Conservation said it named U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) conservationist of the year for championing policies promoting healthy fish and wildlife populations and access to the country’s land and waters.”
So what, exactly, did Rep. Bishop do to earn such an award?
Well, for one thing, he cosponsored and actively supported H.R. 1335, the so-called “Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act”, which would weaken the conservation and stock rebuilding provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.
He also gave strong support to Rep. Lee Zeldin’s (R-New York) H.R. 3070, the “EEZ Transit Zone Clarification and Access Act,” which is intended to remove some federal protections that currently prohibiting the recreational harvest of striped bass in the EEZ off eastern New York and Rhode Island. Except for a handful of party and charter boat operators who believe that they can profit from such a move. Striped bass fishermen in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and elsewhere are generally opposed to such legislation, believing that it will cause harm to the striped bass stock and upset the current striped bass management program.
On shore, he has introduced H.R. 4739, the “Greater Sage Grouse Protection and Recovery Act of 2016”, which would effectively prevent the federal government from devising management plans to reverse the sharp decline in greater sage grouse populations, and prevent any listing of the species under the Endangered Species Act until at least 2026.
He opposes Administration efforts to slow the pace of climate change, in part because such efforts would “change the course of energy production in this country,” supports giving the states, and not the federal government, should control the extraction and development of “all forms of energy on federal lands located within their borders,” and believes, more broadly that “The federal government was never meant to own and control the vast amount of land that it does today,” and so is actively working to oppose additional federal land acquisitions and to transfer current federally owned-land—land that gives many Americans their only opportunity to experience quality hunting and fishing—over to the states.
So how, exactly, does that sort of record qualify Rep. Bishop to be “Conservationist of the Year”?
To understand that, you probably need to take a good look at the Center for Coastal Conservation.
“a coalition of the leading advocates for marine recreational fishing and boating. It is dedicated to promoting sound conservation and use of ocean resources by supporting federal legislators who support its goals.”
Those “leading advocates” include the National Marine Manufacturers’ Association, the American Sportfishing Association (the trade association for the fishing tackle industry) and some other recreational fishing and anglers’ rights groups.
It declares that
“The Center for Coastal Conservation’s goal is to affect public policy related to the conservation of marine resources with broad ability to pursue political solutions. The organization is non-partisan and focuses on having an impact in the national political arena, principally Congress and national regulatory agencies.”
Just like Rep. Bishop, the Center desires to weaken current federal law mandating the conservation and rebuilding of marine fish stocks, so is also a supporter of H.R. 1335.
Then, in a position reminiscent of Rep. Bishop’s views on energy development, the Center supports taking away federal authority to manage Gulf of Mexico red snapper and hand such authority over to the states, in part because state managers allegedly “are more aware of a fishery’s importance to recreational anglers and their state’s economy” and not because such state managers are better at or more inclined to support conserving and promptly rebuilding red snapper stocks.
And like Rep. Bishop’s support of legislation providing that states, not the federal government, should regulate energy development on federal land, the Center supports legislation that would allow the states, rather than federal agencies, to regulate salt water fishing even in national parks, a move calculated to prevent the National Parks Service from closing areas to angling in order to protect critical habitat, such as fragile coral reefs.
You can look through pages of the Center’s so-called “Media Room,” and not find one press release about efforts to rebuild fish stocks through the implementation of, well, conservation, and they seem downright hostile to such concept if it's anglers who might have to conserve.
Which makes you wonder how they can call themselves a center for “coastal conservation.”
But then again, the last paragraph in the Trade Only Today piece probably explains the whole thing. Jeff Angers, the Center’s President, observes
“Congressman Bishop fully appreciates that saltwater recreational fishing generates over $61 billion in annual sales and has a major economic impact that expands beyond our nation’s coastal communities. Almost 500,000 jobs across America—particularly in the manufacturing and retail sectors—are tied to our industry. These jobs are in jeopardy unless we fix our nation’s broken federal marine fisheries management system.”
So really, as so often is the case, it’s all about the money, despite the Center's lip service to conservation. And if it’s necessary to dismantle a good, pro-conservation law to get the money flowing, that’s the way it will have to be.
Orwell called that sort of thing “blackwhite,”
“a loyal willingness to say that black is white if when [industry] discipline demands.”
It is a form of “doublethink,” the ability to hold two mutually contradictory beliefs at the same time,
“the ability to believe that black is white, and more, to know that black is white, and to forget that one has ever believed to the contrary.[emphasis added]”
Tragically, this seems to be a characteristic of those trying to influence federal fishery policy today.
It dates back at least to the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s report (which, not as a coincidence, was largely based on information contributed by the Center for Coastal Conservation and its component organizations), A Vision for Managing America’s Salt Water Recreational Fisheries, that on one hand uses the word “conservation” fourteen times in its first four pages, and states that
“we know that future of recreational fishing directly depends on the health of fish populations and their habitat,”
but later on recommends that federal law be changed to abolish current deadlines “for ending overfishing and rebuilding fisheries” with some sort of ambiguous measures
“that would allow fish stocks to recover gradually while reducing socioeconomic impacts.”
In fact, if anyone ever undertook to update and rewrite Orwell’s opus, and give it a marine twist, the Center for Coastal Conservation could easily take its place right beside the Ministry of Truth…
Fortunately, we still have an “ownlife,” and speak the marvelously expressive and nuanced English language. We are still very well able to think for ourselves.
And so it becomes pretty obvious that Rep. Bishop isn’t, in any real-world sense, the Conservationist of the Year—or of the month, the day or the last quarter-hour.
It is also abundantly clear that anyone who would give him such an award is promoting an agenda completely divorced from true conservation.