Several years ago, I wrote an editorial the title of which, if memory serves, was: "Gramps is Not a Factory Trawler." It made a simple point - the willy-nilly push by many environmental NGO's (non-governmental organizations) to simply shut down large areas of the ocean to ALL fishing failed to recognize vast differences between weekend anglers and big commercial fishing operations. That is, all fishing is not created equal.
Earlier this month, it appeared that the concern of closing off even tightly regulated recreational angling along with industrial-level commercial fishing might finally be put to rest thanks to an executive memo from the White House and order stating that recreational fishing should be preserved in marine protected areas.
That's a very reasonable judgment since in most cases, sport fishing often has a relatively minimal impact on marine-fish stocks and, in any case, has generally proven very manageable via science-based regulation.
But some environmental groups aren't getting the message and probably never will. (BTW, Don't fall into the trap of stereotyping every single "green" group as anti-recreational fishing and the "enemy"; some, at least, do get it - but not enough.) They are back, banging at the White House doors and clamoring once again to ban recreational fishing from large areas of the Pacific Ocean. Those areas are currently under consideration for designation as marine protected areas.
If recreational fishing is closed, despite the President's order, the precedent could presage many more closures and much closer to home. There are limited areas where banning all fishing and other consumptive behavior can be justified. The concern here is that closing a big chunk of central Pacific Waters would start a trend that could be disastrous as it spread to more and more regions.
Groups that represent our sport and its interests, such as the American Sportfishing Association (www.asafishing.org) and The Billfish Foundation (www.billfish.org), are pleading with us, as angling enthusiasts, to remind the federal government right away that recreational fishing is generally not part of the problem - and accordingly shouldn't be penalized - but is a major economic force in coastal economies nationally and internationally.
I join those groups in urging all who read this blog to take one minute (I timed myself) of their time right now to help make sure the White House knows that as a group, sport fishermen are a huge force, united and concerned. My inclination is to be moderate in most issues; there are too many shrill voices out there that end up doing little good for anyone. But in this case, I think it's an appropriate time to make our voices heard. I hope you'll join me by simply clicking here and being one of those voices.