Eye on the Donut GLENN LAW


Saltwater Sportsman - - Table Of Contents / Departments - By Glenn Law Glenn Law Ed­i­tor-in-chief glenn.law@bon­nier­corp.com

The Mod­ern­iz­ing Recre­ational Fish­eries Man­age­ment Act of 2017, known as the Modern Fish Act, which presents amend­ments to the Mag­nu­son-stevens Act that rep­re­sent an­glers’ in­ter­ests, passed the Se­nate Com­mit­tee in Fe­bru­ary with bi­par­ti­san sup­port.

The act in­cor­po­rates many of the rec­om­men­da­tions by the Mor­ris-deal Com­mis­sion, which we’ve dis­cussed here over the past cou­ple of years, and while there’s still a ways to go to fi­nal pas­sage, this lat­est move was sig­nif­i­cant.

It’s been a long bat­tle, and the Modern Fish Act is still get­ting its share of crit­i­cism, some from our own ranks, among an­glers.

Much of the main­stream me­dia presents the is­sue as an­glers’ right to fish ver­sus the en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists’ right to healthy re­sources, which is mis­guided and lacks sub­tlety, though it does feed into the na­tional at­mos­phere of con­tention and dogma.

The la­bels are con­ve­nient, if in­ac­cu­rate. Pit­ting en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists against an­glers leaves out those of us who con­sider our­selves both.

True, an en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist is not nec­es­sar­ily an an­gler. But the con­verse fails to hold true. When fish­ing is im­por­tant to you, so are the en­vi­rons in which it takes place. I don’t know any fish­er­men who’d be sat­is­fied to pur­sue hatch­ery fish in an ur­ban sewer.

The la­bels of­fer con­ve­nience, but re­ac­tiv­ity moves faster than the speed of thought and only plays into the na­tional im­passe, when ac­tu­ally our goals are the same.

There’s some dis­cus­sion that el­e­ments of the Act are present al­ready in Mag­nu­son-stevens, which begs the ques­tion, then why haven’t they worked for us?

An­other ob­jec­tion seems to be the aban­don­ment of science-based man­age­ment. But no one seems to be able to iden­tify just ex­actly what science is be­ing aban­doned. Maybe the pop­u­la­tion sur­veys that are left over from the last cen­tury? Or the red snap­per cen­sus that took place over bar­ren sand bot­tom rather than where those fish live?

One of the more ob­tuse ob­jec­tions is that recre­ational in­ter­ests are fo­cus­ing on their eco­nomic con­tri­bu­tion to the na­tional econ­omy. Re­ally?

It took decades for an­glers to rec­og­nize that, in deal­ing with the Depart­ment of Com­merce, pre­sent­ing our­selves as a vi­tal com­mer­cial ben­e­fit car­ries more weight go­ing into bat­tle than a heart­felt love song to the out­door ex­pe­ri­ence. While the aes­thet­ics of the out­doors is one rea­son we fish, we’re mak­ing our case here with the Depart­ment of Com­merce, not the Na­tional En­dow­ment for the Arts.

It wasn’t un­til we pre­sented our eco­nomics case that any­thing sub­stan­tial hap­pened.

Once we de­fined our eco­nomic ben­e­fit to the na­tion, NOAA Fish­eries is­sued the first Na­tional Salt­wa­ter Recre­ational Fish­eries Pol­icy in 2015. The first ever. That water­shed event es­tab­lished a re­vised play­ing field.

Granted, the Modern Fish Act may be im­per­fect, but it rep­re­sents a big step for­ward to­ward a more sane man­age­ment phi­los­o­phy. As we know, there’s peril in let­ting the per­fect be the en­emy of the good. Start­ing over from scratch is a dead end.

We’re not go­ing to solve any of our prob­lems by mov­ing back­ward. You might as well be­moan the overly tech­ni­cal fish­ing boat and ditch your chart plot­ter and fish finder as a so­lu­tion, to re­turn to a sim­pler time and sim­pler way of fish­ing. Good luck with that.

We can look to the past for lessons, but not for mod­els.


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