In early 2000, President Clinton signed an executive order directing the departments of Commerce and Interior to develop science-based Marine Protected Areas known as M.P.A.’s. While the order did not establish specific funding, it did call for citizen input. As is the case, the ever-vigilant environmental watchdogs immediately took the meaning of citizen input as giving them full authority and immediately began pushing for closure of all recreational and commercial fishing in key areas around the country.
Knowing how fast certain issues become law, we must understand how political and environmental groups often band together to accomplish self-interest agendas. For example, in 2001 California’s Department of Game & Fish effectively disregarded the public comment process, aggressively pushed for, and closed vast areas thereby banning all sport fishing. Protest and lobbying by recreational anglers and fishing organizations voiced their united disapproval both during and after the closure process. Because of the continued public outcry, in January 2002 the California Fish & Game began reformulating their closure maps allowing for broader definitions by opening the public process. Recently, now governor Schwarzenegger rescinded the order.
Although MPA’s currently affect only marine waters, freshwater anglers are not home free. It does not require much stretch of the imagination to see the concept of fishing bans applied to troubled freshwater fisheries.
Marine Protection Area plans are in discussion for several states including Florida and can unfavorably affect the lives of millions of recreational anglers and the economy. Taking the monetary impact or lack thereof by an estimated 44 million anglers, one can easily see the adverse and economic impact. For example, the estimated 12 million saltwater anglers spend annually an estimated $20 Billion dollars on fishing. That is right $20 BILLION… If the politicians we send to Washington are not aware of the tremendous united voice recreational angler embody, they should be. It is every anglers, responsibility to be heard when it comes to protecting our rights and the rights of generations to come. Before you vote, make certain your politician has your interest at hand or ask them why not.
The majority of anglers agree and advocate scientifically based management of our resources. Further, agreeing that protecting our fish and environment are important to providing healthy fish, fisheries and clean water. However, it should come as no surprise to anyone that it should not come at the expense of restricting public access to engage in the sport of fishing. Advocates of no fishing zones often overlook the major difference between a family fishing on holiday and commercial fleets hauling millions of tons daily from our oceans.
Recreational anglers are required to follow strict rules and regulations, which for the most part have proven effective in protecting fish. There are always those with selfish intentions who disregard the rules. Consequently, it becomes our responsibility to police ourselves reporting those individuals to the proper authorities. On the other hand, arbitrarily restricting recreational fishing without scientific proof… indicating recreational sportsmen are causing the problem is ludicrous. Anglers normally support and respect scientifically based closures involving seasons or specified time rames. However, they will not stand for capricious closures especially when less drastic and equally effective options exist.
Since 2003, Freedom to Fish bills emerged throughout the U.S. in collaborative nationwide campaigns supported by American Sportfishing Association, Recreational Fishing Alliance, and national, state and local fishing organizations. The bills maintain that legislative enactment, protecting our rights to fish are necessary to ensure that both the interests of the fishing public and the interests of the marine environment receive adequate protection. The language acts to prohibit states from closing waters to fishing unless there is a clear indication that recreational fishing is causing specific conservation problems.
Perhaps it is time to take our freedoms seriously speaking up for what we consider important. Hunters took up arms…in a manner of speaking and fought the gun lobbyist for their right to hunt and bear arms. While not blatantly the foremost topic receiving major headlines many anti-fishing groups work silently behind the scenes preparing to spring without warning. We must not become blinded by good intentions, remaining vigilant with regard to the future of MPA’s in Florida.
I personally, will never willingly surrender my firearms. Furthermore I certainly do not intend on giving up my rods and reels because someone without hard scientific data thinks recreational anglers are the problem facing diminishing fish populations. MPA’s seem somewhat redundant when the National Marine Fisheries Service reports only 8 percent of marine fish stocks are actively over fished and most other species are on the road to recovery. According to recent studies, commercial fishing is responsible for 97 percent of all marine fish landed while recreational anglers land 3 percent.
If you do not think, it is coming… look around. Since Nine/Eleven they closed the Mac Dill Air Force Base flats, restricted access waters around many long time fishing locations like Tampa Electric, Florida Power, ports and various other locations. I am all for security, however some common sense goes along way in determining whether someone is fishing or planning to attack a military installation.
When I served in the military, it was called guard duty that protected many governmental installations and security areas. Perhaps the port and power plant could spend some of our money on extra security thereby enabling us to fish the many locations we fished for centuries.
Get involved and protect our “Rights to Fish”.
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