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SILENCE IS NOT GOLDEN

Editorial

    There are a lot of folks out there breathing a sigh of relief now that the 2016 election is over. With Donald Trump being elected as president, there's a belief that his administration will change the approach to our fisheries — that all the policies of catch shares and strangulation of the fishing industry will just disaappear.
    DO NOT BET ON IT.
    Yes, Trump is likely to bring changes to policy at the highest levels, but people forget one thing: between the president and the people there are many, many bureaucrats who simply do not change course that quickly, if at all.
    And right now, there are serious challenges to the very livelihood of both recreational and commercial fishermen, starting with the ongoing talk of turning the Hudson, Wilmington and Baltimore and Norfolk canyons into a marine sanctuary. According to an October 14, 2016 article in the Virginian-Pilot, the effort to include the Norfolk in consideration is being led by scientists at the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center.
    And then there's the Mid-Atlantic Regional Ocean Action Plan. Finalized in December, the 134-page plan sets two primary goals for "managing" the ocean off the Mid-Atlantic coast, from New York to Virginia. While the claim is that the plan will improve how all sorts of diverse uses work together, in reality it is just more bureaucracy.
    The plan statesthat one of its "two primary goals is to n and provide for existing and emerging ocean uses in a sustainable manner that minimizes conflict, improves effectiveness and regulatory predictability and supports economic growth."
    "The Sustainable Ocean Uses goal focuses on fostering coordination, transparency, and use of quality information to support accommodation of existing, new, and future ocean uses in a manner that minimizes conflict, enhances compatibility, improves effectiveness, enables regulatory predictability and supports economic growth."
    The use of quality information, hmmm, where have we heard that before? Oh yes: "Best available science." Same shirt, different color.
    The portion of that Sustainable Ocean Uses goal that focuses on fishing talks about improving the sharing of information and ideas and actively engaging the stakeholders and seeking "ways to make fishermen's knowledge available for planning."
    In short, they want to meet more, talk more, and do ... nothing. Because the fishermen's knowledge has been right at the bureaucrats' fingertips for decades and it has been soundly and repeatedly rejected as "anecdotal." That attitude toward fishermen has been in place for decades and it will continue because the bureaucrats running these programs will continue to do things the way they have always done them.
    Proof of that is in the fact that a decade (10 YEARS) after NOAA was ordered to replace the failed Marine Recreational Fishery Statistics Survey with something that more accurately captured recreational fishing effort, we still don't have a functional system.
    The product that replaced MRFSS, the Marine Recreational Information Program, still isn't getting an accurate picture of effort. The massive effort to create a saltwater angler registry — sold on the promise that it would give surveyors a more accurate way to reach people who actually fish (instead of the old program where phone numbers in coastal communities were actually dialed) — has hardly been utilized. I don't think I've heard of anyone who actually was called and surveyed by NOAA for MRIP.
    Trip reports from party and charter captains — which are mandatory for those captains to file — still sit unused, the data ignored. And there's no good explanation for it.
    MRIP is in the midst of a NOAA-requested review by the National Academies of Science. But after watching the process for the last 12 years, it is nothing more than a stalling tactic if you ask me.
    The only thing that has helped fishermen have any leverage, any input, is actively contacting legislators. That is why you need to contact them and tell them that planning to make the Hudson, Washington, Baltimore and Norfolk canyons santuaries is wrong. It is a step toward closing access in an area that 99 percent of the American population will NEVER GO.
    The restrictive changes that turned the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act into a cudgel to kill fishing came into being under George W. Bush, and one of the key changes — the 10-year fishery rebuilding timetable — was authored by New Jersey Rep. H. James Saxton. Saxton, a Republican, had been seen as a champion of fishermen for decades until that move, which came as the anti-fishing forces ramped up their attacks to push their agenda.
    Those environmental businesses — led by the Pew Foundation — have gotten more sophisticated in their method of attack. While they still have groups like the Sierra Club continually beating the overfishing drum, they push their agenda through other, less antagonistic methods and approaches.
    "You want to protect the ecosystem too, don't you?" That's kind of like the old question of "when did you stop beating your wife?" — no matter how you answer, you're in trouble.
    Having a Republican in the Oval Office is no guarantee of anything for fishermen, because we are at a crisis point with fisheries. There need to be changes now and those have to be legislative: Congress got us into this mess and it's going to take Congress to get us out. Executive orders only go so far in fixing what's wrong.
    You can't sit back and wait for something to happen, because the bureaucrats at NOAA — who outlast every change in the Oval Office — will continue to do what they want unless and until Congress tells them differently. That's why Congress needs to act. And that's why you have to be active. The environmental businesses have slowly strangled fishermen because they are louder and more active.
    Speak up. Get involved. Before the only thing you're left with is a big boat ride.




Karen Wall

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