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September 13, 2010

Attack on Shimano = An Attack on Us All

Is Shimano waging an all-out campaign to destroy our oceans? Find out here!

You probably know Shimano as a manufacturer of high-quality fishing rods and reels.

What you don't know about Shimano is that - even though its fishing division needs abundant marine resources to prosper - the company is actively engaged in an all-out war to destroy our oceans!

No doubt you're as shocked as I was to learn that. But it's all there, on the website of a group called Shame on Shimano (www.shameonshimano.com).

That campaign, which got its start earlier this summer on the website of the well-heeled National Resources Defense Council, wants bicyclists around the country to boycott Shimano, a major manufacturer of bicycle parts. Why? Because their purchases of bikes with Shimano parts "unknowingly boost Shimano's profits that, in turn, feed anti-ocean protection efforts."

The Shame on Shimano campaign rails against Shimano's "War On the California Coast." Actually understanding exactly how the company is ruining the Pacific Ocean takes a good bit of digging and wading through all the vitriol. Turns out that an obscure ex-state assemblyman who seems to be spearheading the campaign doesn't like the fact that Shimano and recreational-fishing groups happen to have some ideas about implementing the state's Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) that differ from his and some other environmental interests. Therefore, the campaign has determined, Shimano wants to destroy the oceans.

Nevermind that Shimano is just one of many recreational-fishing interests (including other sport-fishing clubs, tackle manufacturers, charter operations and bait/tackle shops) concerned with problems it sees in the MLPA, and that a great many have helped in the effort to oppose not the act itself, but an implementation some groups want to steamroll over insufficient scientific data.

Nevermind that Shimano, as one of those many interests, contributed a pittance - particularly when compared to the huge budgets to push through the MLPA from the seemingly infinite pockets of organizations like the NRDC - to a coalition of anglers and angling interests striving for balance and science in the implementation of the MLPA.

Nevermind that Shimano (like all tackle manufacturers) pays many millions of dollars annually in excise taxes specifically designated for fish restoration in this country (or that the company has always supported that tax over the years when it has come up for reauthorization). Nor that Shimano has provided resources to programs promoting the healthy release of fish and fish-habitat improvement over the years.

Nevermind that when the campaign cites Shimano's claim that no evidence shows "any adverse habitat impact of consequence from traditional, regulated recreational fishing practices," Shame on Shimano throws out a huge red herring: "Shimano lies" because "overfishing is one of the causes of the decline of fish." It no doubt assumes the general public won't notice the shift from "recreational fishing" to "overfishing" in general; that of course includes all commercial fishing (speaking of lies and deceptions).

Why Shimano, since it's but one player in a larger coalition with shared goals? Because it has a bicycle division to go after. That makes it a convenient whipping boy.

And the Shame on Shimano interests are doing their best to whip up a frenzy against the company. The accusations and claims in their literature are maliciously shrill, treacherously misleading and truly bizarre.

For example, the campaign tells us "how far Shimano executives will go to distort the truth." Yet it refutes claims that the state's major coastal fish populations are generally in good shape by pointing to white abalone being on the verge of extinction and claiming that 75 percent of the state's kelp forests have disappeared. Apparently, more areas need protection from anglers who must be filling their boats with abalone and kelp.

One of the few reasonable claims that I did find while wading through this cesspool of invective was that "Our oceans are under attack." Indeed they are, but not from Shimano. If a group like this truly wanted to help the oceans, instead of piddling away large amounts of cash from organizations with unlimited funds, it would focus not on invented villains, but on real ones - commercial industrial overfishing and illegal fishing, a woeful lack of scientific data for properly managing (especially sport) fisheries, habitat degradation, pollution and so on.

Instead Shame on Shimano is going after one company with the bad fortune to manufacture rods, reels and bike parts.

And that's the real shame. Make no mistake. This is an attack not only on Shimano, but on all businesses that make and sell tackle, and in fact on all men, women and children in this country who enjoy the chance to spend time on the water hoping to catch a few fish.

That's why what at first glance seems just plain goofy is no laughing matter. Yes, the Shame on Shimano campaign represents a fringe among otherwise responsible environmental groups, but an ostensibly sizeable and growing fringe that's decidedly and openly anti-recreational fishing.

That makes an outfit like Shame on Shimano a very real threat. It threatens $82 billion that saltwater anglers contribute to the national economy and the $2.2 billion to the California economy annually; it threatens the half a million jobs that the sport generates in the country each year; it represents a mindset threatening to deprive 13 million saltwater anglers and, ultimately, 40 to 60 million anglers across the nation of the chance to enjoy their sport.

Should this boycott of Shimano bike parts succeed, it would have accomplished absolutely nothing to help the oceans while managing to punish our economy. If campaigns like Shame on Shimano flourish, they would succeed only in compromising a traditional and important American pastime and one of the country's primary outdoor family activities today. Their boycott would also serve to further alienate two conservation-minded groups - recreational anglers and green groups - that should be working together for the good of the resource.

I can't imagine a better reason for anyone who loves to fish and/or is in any way involved in the sport to visit www.keepamericafishing.org. A coalition of nearly all major sport-fishing interests formed this effort recently to "keep our nation's public resources open to recreational fishing through sound policy, science and conservation." As a poster child proving why such an effort has never been more timely, Shame on Shimano does an admirable job.

So - Shame on Shimano? Hardly.

Shame on anyone associated with that misguided, irresponsible and needlessly destructive campaign.

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