The news in early June that the House of Representatives has taken the first
steps to reforming the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservaton and Management Act was welcome and long-overdue.
Nearly 10 years after the last reauthorization of Magnuson, there is real change for fishermen in the works, thanks to the Strengthening Fishing, Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act.
Of course, getting the bill through the House is just half the battle. The vote, 225-152 with 55 not voting, was primarily along party lines, with some Democrats choosing party instead of the constituents they have supposedly long supported (I'm looking at you, Frank Pallone of New Jersey).
Predictably, the nongovernmental organizations that make it their business to tear down fishing and fishermen have begun flooding the media with their opposition.
In less than two weeks, no fewer than three opinion pieces — from Oceana CEO Andrew Sharpless ("We Can Save the Oceans And Feed the World"); National Resources Defense Council senior attorney Brad Sewell ("We Already Have a Magic Wand to Protect Fish — Let's Use It"), and from Amanda Leland, senior vice president for Oceans at the Environmental Defense Fund ("Redefining "Sustainability" as More, More and, Well, More") — have appeared on the Huffington Post, pushing the "successes" achieved over the last 10 years.
Sewell's piece takes direct aim at the bill, calling it an "attack by a handful of short-sighted interests" while at the same time claiming that the past 10 years have "resulted in tangible benefits for both local fishing communities and our national economy ..."
The "handful of short-sighted organizations" that support H.R. 1335, the Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act? The organizations that have endorsed it include not only the National Marine Manufacturers Association, the American Sportfishing Association and the Recreational Fishing Alliance, but groups that are hardly considered "industry" organizations: The Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation. The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. The Coastal Conservation Association. The IGFA and The Billfish Foundation, and the Center for Coastal Conservation.
I doubt seriously that anyone has ever called Guy Harvey shortsighted when it comes to fisheries issues. And the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership has hardly been accused of being reckless in its approach to environmental issues.
And the claim that fishing communities have seen "tangible benefits" is simply laughable. Ask the Eble family of Barnegat Light, N.J., about the tangible benefits it has seen from the piss-poor excuse that passes for "best available science" on black sea bass, that has finally convinced a stalwart family to tie up to the dock permanently.
Ask the charter fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico about the "tangible benefits" of a red snapper fishery that is, for all intents and purposes, closed to them despite a population level not seen in decades.
Sewell claims H.R. 1335 attacks the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, as well as the National Marine Sanctuaries Act. Of course, he fails to say how these laws are undermined. In the case of NEPA, the change to Magnuson would merely require fisheries managers to give equal consideration to the part of that law that requires consideration of the economic impact of rules — a part of NEPA that the EDF, Oceana, the NRDC, as well as their deep-pocketed backer, the Pew Foundation, have fought to minimize for years.
The National Marine Sanctuaries Act has been nothing but a cudgel used to bludgeon fishermen by closing vast areas of the ocean to any recreational activity — and there have been attempts to use the Endangered Species Act in the same way. Attempts years ago to get an ESA listing for white marlin, which would have spelled the end of offshore fishing, because it would have made it nearly impossible to fish for other pelagics due to the language that prohibits any activity that would harass a species that is under an ESA listing.
The bill still has a ways to go. It must get through the Senate, and then it may face a veto by the Obama administration, which would then require a vote to overturn the veto.
But perhaps the fact that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is suggesting changes that would ease fisheries regulations will signal to the administration that the Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act is exactly what it needs to be to protect jobs and the heritage of fishing communities that have been a critical part of our nation's economy going back to colonial days.
Be sure you let your senators know how important the bill is.
The Recreational Fishing Alliance and the National Marine Manufacturers Association are urging boaters to submit their comments speaking out against a plan by the Environmental Protection Agency to increase the level of ethanol in gasoline.
Gasoline currently includes up to 10 percent ethanol. It has been shown to damage fuel lines, fiberglass fuel tanks and dramatically shorten the life of gasoline-powered engines because the solvent qualities of ethanol scour the gunk that builds up and causes that gunk to clog them up.
The federal government has banned the use of 15 percent ethanol in small engines and in automobile engines built before 2007.
But the NMMA and the RFA say the EPA is trying to force the issue of increasing the ethanol content anyway.
Speak out — you have until July 27 to do so. The RFA and the NMMA have created an initiative called Boating United, which they are using to collect comment and ensure it reaches the proper ears and email inboxes.
Type the following web address in your browser and speak out. https://www.votervoice.net/NMMA/Campaigns/41081/Respond
Keep fighting to protect your recreational opportunities.
Karen Wall Subscribe