Thursday, September 22, 2016
LET AMERICA OVERFISH
Earlier this month, a group of tackle industry, boatbuilding industry and anglers’ rights groups, which have banded together under the banner of the Center for Coastal Conservation, announced their latest plan for gutting the conservation and stock rebuilding provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.
They call it “Let America Fish.”
Details remain a little sketchy, but given that the Center supported and praised H.R. 1335, the “Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act” introduced by Congressman Don Young (R-Alaska), which would have emasculated key provisions of Magnuson-Stevens, it’s safe assume that if the Center is behind something, it’s probably not anything good.
“a communications campaign focused on adjustments to the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA) that benefit recreational fishing. The campaign highlights the impact of the recreational fishing and boating industries on the U.S. economy, speaks to the conservation efforts put forth by recreational anglers, and sheds light on the fact that the current laws are unbalanced thereby severely limiting access for recreational anglers”.
Put in plain language, Let America Fish is a propaganda campaign aimed at weakening the conservation provisions of Magnuson-Stevens, so that some businesses can make more money and some fishermen can kill more fish until overfishing and declining abundance brings the Center’s efforts to their crashing and inevitable conclusion.
There’s nothing particularly new here. There have always been businesses eager to profit at the expense of healthy fish stocks, and there has always been an irresponsible element within the recreational fishing community that was willing to abet their efforts.
The last big manifestation came in early 2012, when the so-called “Keep Fishermen Fishing” rally was held outside the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.
That event was spearheaded by a group operating under the banner of FishUnited.com, which sponsored a similar “United We Fish” rally two years before. At the time, FishUnited issued this mission statement:
“’Keep Fishermen Fishing’ states its mission as ‘to pass federal legislation to amend the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.’
“Coalition partners will educate and inform legislators and the general public on the onerous and devastating effect the current law is having on angler access and the angling experience, the systematic destruction of both recreational and commercial fishing communities and businesses by attempting to rebuild our Nation’s fisheries at the expense of our fishermen instead of for the benefit of them and the nation as a whole…”
In other words, FishUnited, like the Center, wanted to weaken Magnuson-Stevens so that businesses could make more money and anglers could kill more fish until the stocks come crashing down.
The Gloucester Daily Times, a paper generally sympathetic to the plight of the New England fishermen who caused the collapse of the northeastern cod stocks, described the Keep Fishermen Fishing rally this way:
“…those who took in the ‘Keep America Fishing’ event were stronger in passion, volume and anger. There was little backpatting, laughter, or any kids-in-the-park-on-a-nice-day feeling.
“They wore shirts that compared the national fisheries management to Nazis.
“They bore signs that said, ‘How high up is the corruption?’; ‘Give it back, thief’; and ‘Jesus was a fisherman, why can’t we be?’”
Let America Fish is clearly designed to stir up the same sort of sentiments. Jeff Angers, the Center’s President, even uses language that sounds much like that used by Fishing United.
“Through the ‘Let America Fish’ campaign, we hope to help lawmakers and the general public understand why current federal fisheries law is unfair to the recreational angling community. Revising federal law and agency guidance will insure fair and reasonable access to America’s fisheries and improve fisheries management to guide the future of recreational fishing and boating,”
In fact, Angers’ language is so close to that of FishingUnited that it’s fair to wonder whether Keep Fishermen Fishing was the model for Let America Fish.
However, the efforts differ in one important aspect. While Keep Fishermen Fishing and United We Fish were broad-based demonstrations that, as the latter name suggests, were intended to bring commercial and recreational fishermen together in common cause, Let America Fish is much more narrowly-focused. It is designed to bring more money into the coffers of the recreational fishing and boatbuilding industries by allowing anglers to kill too many fish.
Such focus is clear in the Center’s statement that
“As a group, recreational anglers provide a greater economic impact than industrial commercial fishermen. America’s 11 million recreational saltwater anglers make a combined economic contribution of $70 billion annually, spend $26.5 billion each year, and create 455,000 American jobs.”
Let America Fish differs in another aspect as well; it communicates a far more hypocritical message than did Keep Fishermen Fishing and United We Fish.
The latter efforts did not try to conceal their goals. They argued that Magnuson-Stevens was hurting fishermen’s bottom lines, to the extent that some were forced to go out of business, and called for the law to be revised to fishermen them kill more fish. There was none of the simpering language employed by the Center, saying that Magnuson-Stevens needed “adjustments”, or that the goal was merely “revising” and “fixing” the statute.
Keep America Fishing and United We Fish also didn’t insult the public’s intelligence by saying on one hand that
“recreational anglers have led the way to maintain sustainable fish populations”
“Our goal is to sustain healthy fish stocks”
while, on the other hand, working to cripple the conservation and stock rebuilding provisions created by the Sustainable Fisheries Act of 1996, which are the very provisions that ensure that American fisheries and fish stocks will remain healthy and sustainable.
Still, United We Fish, Keep Fishermen Fishing and Let America Fish are, at heart, all variations on the same theme.
All are efforts to weaken Magnuson-Stevens, the most successful fisheries management law in the world.
And all deserve to fail.