"Just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get me." — David Pimm
For years now we've been warning that the ultimate goal is to shut down saltwater fishing. Over and over again groups like the Environmental Defense Fund and Oceana and, of course, the Pew Charitable Trusts, have tried to paint fishermen as paranoid, self-centered, greedy and short-sighted, interested only in making a buck and taking whatever they want with no regard for the future of the ocean.
Well, if you doubted Pew's intentions before, you might want to take a moment and read the article published by Maritime Executive in late March, titled, “Call to Protect 30 Percent Of Oceans.” It's available online; type http://maritime-executive.com/article/call-to-protect-30-percent-of-oceans into your web browser.
The article is about a Pew-funded study that reviewed “more than 100 studies” and came to the conclusion that the best way to protect the oceans and what's in them is to create marine protected areas covering 30 percent of the world's oceans.
That's right. They studied studies to tell us we should close down 30 percent of the ocean. That's a lot of ocean. And make no mistake, Pew isn't talking about the part of the ocean that's far out to shore, where no one fishes. Who needs to protect fish that are 500 or 1,000 miles away? No one.
(For what it's worth, the last time Pew funded a study of studies, it resulted in the now famous "the oceans will be empty of fish by 2042" proclamation that was debunked as quickly as it was made.)
Pew is talking about expanding marine protected areas – and that means closing off the ocean closest to our shores.
Of course, it's suggested under the guise of not only protecting wildlife but “supporting fisheries.”
But how can you claim to be supporting fisheries if you're banning fishings? That is how marine protected areas work, by the way: fishing is generally banned in those areas, on the principle that it is harmful to the population of fish.
That has been the case for fishermen up and down the California coastline; many areas are completely shut down to fishing because they are part of an MPA.
“Wildlife and habitats evolved in the absence of human industrial exploitation so it is only to be expected that intensively exploiting a large fraction of the oceans is not a viable option in the long term,” Dr. Bethan O’Leary, one of the scientists involved in the study, was quoted as saying. “The natural world needs substantial space free from significant human impact to thrive. The fact that we currently exploit far too much of the sea is one of the root causes of recent fisheries decline and environmental degradation.”
If most of the fishing – and other human activities, for that matter – goes on within 100 miles of shore, where exactly do you think they're talking about protecting? Certainly not out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, or the areas surrounding Antarctica.
That 30 percent would have to come from the coastlines of many countries … and will result in shutting down fishing altogether.
Don't believe me? Think about it logically for a moment. How many anglers do you know who go more than 100 miles from the shoreline to fish? How many dare to go 200 miles? Not many.
Take a look at the MPAs already established. They surround land masses – the largest one in the South Pacific, around the Pitcairn Islands, covers 322,000 square miles of ocean.
That's 322,000 square miles of ocean where no fishing, “except for traditional fishing around the island of Pitcairn by the local population,” is allowed.
Off the coast of California, there are 124 separate MPAs. The Ocean Conservancy bills these as “underwater parks,” which of course goes along with the old tired argument that MPAs are no different that our national parks, where people can go and enjoy recreation.
It's no mistake that the Ocean Conservancy website shows a fishing boat with fishing lines hanging down in the water and few fish next to an “underwater park” that it shows teeming with life.
MPAs are continually billed as being similar to national parks, that they protect the animals within them and help the populations rebound. But that claim conveniently ignores the fact that fish populations are not static. They move around; they are subject to predation and factors that have nothing to do with fishing – yet fishing continues to get the bulk of the blame, even with more than 30 years of regulations controlling what fishermen can take.
The pressure to take away more fishing is incessant; a recent proposal in New Jersey would turn Sandy Hook Bay, Raritan Bay, the Shrewsbury and Navesink rivers and their tributaries – one of the most popular fishing areas along the state's coast – into a national marine sanctuary.
If that proposal succeeds, it's just a matter of time before those santuaries march down the coastline.
The worst part is that fishing is under constant pressure on another front: the threat of fishing closures. The Recreational Fishing Alliance just recently asked anglers to get involved and write their congressional delegations regarding the impending closure of cobia fishing based on scant data, just the latest in a series of shutdowns.
There have been some victories. The day before the article urging protection of 30 percent of the world's oceans came out, there was word from New England that a plan to incorporate Cashes Ledge, a favored fishing ground off Massachusetts and New Hampshire, into a Marine National Monument has been scrapped.
We're often criticized as not caring about whether there will be fish for our children or grandchildren (or even great-grandchildren) to catch. That's a falsehood, just as much as the one that we are greedy killers. If we don't keep fighting the multiple attempts by Pew to shut down fishing, there will be fish … but our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be standing on the shore just looking … and will know nothing about the power of a marlin jumping, or the fury of tuna slashing through cloud of squid, or the beauty of a sunrise in the canyons.
A BRIEF TRIBUTE
I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge a man who really did get involved and did as much as he could to help fight for our rights as anglers. I got to know Jim Winn through my association with the RFA several years ago. Jim always greeted me with a smile and a hug and spoke to me as though we'd known each other forever. He was a gentle guy but at the same time passionate about fighting for the rights of fishermen. He was a fixture at fishing and boating shows in the New Jersey-New York-Pennsylvania area, trying to encourage others to join the RFA and to help fight for our rights. Jim also devoted a lot of time to children's programs, trying to get kids involved in fishing. Sadly, he passed away March 29 after a battle with cancer. I'll miss his cheery hello. My condolences – and those of the Big Game Fishing Journal family – go out to his family and his friends.
The best tribute I can think of to Jim is to keep fighting for our rights. I hope others will do that, too.
Karen Wall Subscribe