The Pew Environment Group, a subset of The Pew Charitable Trusts, has launched the Pacific Fish Conservation Campaign, calling for concerted management of unregulated forage species such as queenfish, lanternfish, Pacific saury, smelt, white croaker, and certain pelagic squid species.
As part of the campaign, Pew is reaching out to recreational fishermen along the Pacific Coast, asking them to sign a petition to federal Pacific Fisheries Management Council.
At first blush, this sounds like a good idea. Astute West Coast anglers certainly recognize the importance of a strong forage base to sustaining healthy populations of game species such as bonito, kelp bass, California yellowtail, halibut, Pacific barracuda, salmon, thresher shark, tuna and white sea bass. Plus, forage species such as anchovies, market (opalescent) squid and Pacific sardines are already regulated, and that seems to have worked out pretty well for anglers, as well as game fish.
So why not get behind the Pew’s forage fish campaign? Well, as commercial interests look to new marine protein sources for aquaculture and captive bluefin tuna, bringing unregulated forage species under the control of the PFMC actually sounds like something I would support.
Trouble is, many anglers have a hard time trusting the organization behind all of this – The Pew Charitable Trusts. Here’s why: Money provided by Pew funded the appalling implementation of California’s Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA), in which the voices of the recreational fishing community were summarily dismissed.
While anglers were led to believe that their involvement mattered in the MLPA implementation, it was all just window dressing. The process steam-rolled over their concerns, and has led to massive fishing closures along the state’s coast and offshore islands.
Even representatives of Pew have admitted to me that anglers received the short end of the stick in the recommendations of the Pew-funded MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force recommendations. The same Pew representatives are quick to point out that Pew was not directly involved in the implementation process.
However, that’s a cop out. I call B.S. The money came from Pew’s infinite coffers, and so Pew cannot legitimately point the finger elsewhere. In the word’s President Obama, they need to own it.
So, since Pew threw West Coast anglers under the bus, why should we jump on board with them now? Who’s to say that Pew won’t find some way to cast aside recreational fishing interests somewhere down the road in this campaign?
While I have heard from Pew’s minions that they regret support of the MLPA implementation process, I want to hear it from the top, from Joshua S. Reichert, managing director for the Pew Environmental Group.
Mr. Reichert, please tell us how you really feel about the MLPA process and why we should risk throwing in with Pew and its Pacific forage fish campaign. Your response might go a long way toward establishing new trust among anglers in The Pew Charitable Trusts.
Editor’s Note: Anglers: If you would like to contact Mr. Reichart, you can reach him at [email protected]; phone 202-552-2180.