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Editorial May/June 2012

Commercial/Recreational Bipartisanship &

Solidarity Defeating A Common Enemy

   On March 21, 2012, the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA), in a show of solidarity and bipartisanship with the nation’s commercial fishermen, marched on Washington for the second time in two years. Please read Jim Hutchinson’s report on the rally in his Political Angler column in this issue. I attended the rally and had the privilege to speak to the many commercial and recreational fishermen that gave of their time and effort to attend the function. Many commercial fishermen attended that day. The reason they were there was not to “..... remove all catch restrictions from all species of fish and let nature take its course,” like Bonnier’s editor Olander and the Pew Environmental Group would have you believe. They attended the rally because of their concern about their jobs, their families, the future of their profession, the need for better science to base sound fishery management decisions on, to protest the privatization of the marine resource, and fix the rigid time limits in Magnuson.
   The nation’s commercial fishermen are being removed off the ocean by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), and the environmental foundations by their scheme to privatize and sell off our marine resource for their profit and control. If the enviro’s plan to privatize the marine resource, buy up the quotas, and lease them back to the commercial fishermen succeeds, the recreational fishermen will be next. We will be lined up at Walmart purchasing fish tags so we can keep a fish.
   The recreational fishermen along with the industry they support that came to Washington to fight for their fishing rights on that day did not have the numbers present that I would have expected from a group that was having their passion, their way of life, and their businesses threatened.
   I enjoy keeping in touch with the nation’s fishermen through the many fishing blogs on the internet. Recreational fishermen around the country can be found voicing their opinion on fishing topics at The Bass Barn, The Hull Truth, Sportfishermen.com, The 100 Fathom Fishing Club, CapMel.com, Florida Sportsmen Forum, and Texas 2CoolFishing, just to name a few. Most contributors to these forums provide exceptional information on the environmental “business” communities’ attempted hijacking of their right to fish in their area. But the forums also provide a platform for the few disingenuous and selfish individuals to spew their enviro monetary benefactor’s ideology. Fortunately, most contributors on these forums have learned the difference between the truly concerned about our fishery and our rights, and the truly concerned about themselves and their pocketbooks.
   In surfing these web sites I have found that anglers in certain areas of the country are more tuned-in to the looming disaster that awaits the recreational fishermen if we continue on this path the enviros and NOAA are leading us down.
   Both commercial and recreational fishermen, along with charter and head boat operators in the Gulf of Mexico have seen the light of day, and understand how real this enviro threat to our unalienable right to fish truly is. Their fishery management council has been blatantly under the control of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) for years. A few EDF sponsored charter and commercial groups, looking for a larger piece of the pie, continue to spew enviro ideology to further their benefactors catch shares profit and control scheme. Anglers are seeing gamefish after gamefish, no matter what their abundance, being systematically restricted more and more every season or completely shutdown. The awareness to the enviro threat continues to grow in Florida waters and is moving north into the Carolinas and beyond.
   If you doubt a threat does exist, If you believe your fishing rights are secure and protected, if you believe we are over reacting to this potential disaster of our right to fish, reach out to a California or Gulf of Mexico recreational fisherman or charter and head boat operator. I’m sure they will be glad to explain how very real this threat from the environmental community truly is.
   In the blogs I have also noticed several recreational fishermen refusing to come to Washington, support the demand to fix Magnuson, and show solidarity with the commercial fishermen because of the problems recreational and commercial fishermen have had in the past. If you are a long-time subscriber to The Journal you should be aware of the years and years I have fought hard against certain commercial operations. I have never been anti-commercial fishing. We need responsible commercial fishermen to supply this nation’s craving for fresh seafood. My beef was, and will always be, with unselective gear type—longlining, pair trawling, and purse seining operations. Today we have the fight of our recreational fishing life with a very powerful, very wealthy, very methodical, and very politically connected adversary. We can not win this fight alone. This nation’s commercial fishermen have the exact same fight with the exact same people as we do.
   As I see it, we have three options. Should we continue to remain divided and fight this war on two fronts? Should we join together, pool our resources to defeat this common superior enemy, and while doing so, establish a rapport with the commercial fishermen that can be used to correct future conflict? Or should we just sit back, refuse to do anything because of past difficulties or laziness, whine, and complain, and wait until the end comes to our recreational fishing as we know it today then blame everyone else but ourselves.
   As I left the rally that Wednesday, I was standing on a corner in front of Union Station waiting for a red light. I felt these arms wrap around me from behind. I turned and realized I was being hugged by a guy I had never seen before. He said, ”God bless you Len for fighting for my right to fish and make a living. I’m a North Carolina commercial fishermen. Thank you for helping get us get back to work.” That surely doesn’t sound like a “Catch as catch can” fisherman that believes “Catch limits are against the laws of God and nature,” does it Doug?

   Captain Len Belcaro