Feds to anglers: Kiss off!

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I try not to get political with Dealer Outlook, but this Administration is starting to scare me. It appears the only speed they know is breakneck … no facts, just speed.
In June, the White House created an Interagency Oceans Policy Task Force. The directive: Develop a comprehensive federal policy for all coastal, ocean and Great Lakes waters … in a 90-day fire drill process!

If that’s not fast enough, now, in the second phase of the Task Force, the direction is more mind-boggling: Develop “zoning” under the pretext of “protecting” these areas, and do that by Dec. 9. What we should all fear is that “zoning” will justify the permanent closure of vast areas of fishing waters nationwide. Can you say, California-style restrictions on steroids?

Check it out: In the first phase, extensive submissions were presented by the recreational fishing community to the Task Force. But, as reported by Dave Pfeiffer, President of Shimano American Corp.: “They [the Task Force] failed to include any mention of the over 1 million jobs or the 60 million anglers which may be affected by the new policies coast to coast. Input from the environmental groups who want to put us off the water was adopted into the report verbatim — the key points we submitted as an industry were ignored,” he added.

If that doesn’t rile you, try this one. On Oct. 5, the National Marine Fisheries Service abruptly shut down the recreational black sea bass fishery for the next six months from Maine to North Carolina, based on survey data described by the National Academy of Sciences as “fatally flawed.” This has so angered the Recreational Fishing Alliance that it’s taking its program to protect the rights of anglers to a new level — litigation. RFA and allies plan to sue to reopen the sea bass fishery.

According to the scientists' own data, black sea bass is a healthy stock. They are not overfished, and the most recent stock assessment places the spawning stock at 103 percent of their target. In fact, the stock has been at or above this level for the past decade. Still, the NMFS used the “fatally flawed” information from a Marine Recreational Fishing Statistical Survey.

To the point, the MRFSS data from last March and April indicates the private fishing fleet actually outfished the for-hire sector. But that’s a near impossibility considering that black sea bass are still offshore at that time — some 30 to 50 miles from any inlet — and most recreational boats haven’t even been launched for the season at that time.

We in the boating industry strongly support sustainable fisheries. But what now appears to be at stake is the very future of recreational fishing, threatened by misguided policies based on haste and ignorance. The direction of the White House is toward increased federal jurisdiction with the creation of a new National Ocean Council comprising more than 20 federal agencies at Cabinet Secretary or Deputy Secretary levels. Good grief!

It is critical that we ensure, 1) Congressional oversight, and 2) continued state jurisdiction and management, neither of which is contemplated by the Task Force. Accordingly, a special Web site at www.KeepAmericaFishing.org has been set up to generate e-mail to the Administration and members of Congress. Go to it.

Moreover, give the RFA your support. Its decision to sue is a bold but necessary undertaking, a declaration on behalf of all anglers that enough is enough Go to www.joinrfa.org and get involved. We can either hand over fishing’s future to Washington or hold the future of fishing in our hands.

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Click here to read a position paper/treatise by RFA managing director Jim Hutchinson Jr. about faulty science and arbitrary rebuilding deadlines required under federal law — a recipe for disaster, he says, that is denying anglers access to America’s No. 1 outdoor pastime while leading to a financial collapse within coastal communities nationwide.

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