Wind­ing Up

An­other year passes, an es­pe­cially long, hot sum­mer fades in the rearview mir­ror, and the hol­i­days lie ahead or loom, de­pend­ing on your point of view.

Saltwater Sportsman - - Contents - GLENN LAW

EE That rear view also re­veals some progress, some vic­to­ries on be­half of our fish.

Sword­fish were un­der at­tack once again, when com­mer­cial in­ter­ests ap­plied to re­open a sec­tion of the At­lantic to longlin­ing. That clo­sure, which has proven re­mark­ably suc­cess­ful in re­build­ing sword­fish stocks, was up­held when NOAA shut down the whole at­tempt to ran­sack it.

Ad­di­tion­ally, a tech­ni­cal amend­ment to the Billfish Con­ser­va­tion Act was signed into law, clos­ing a loop­hole in the 2012 law that pro­hib­ited the im­por­ta­tion of billfish for sale. That loop­hole, which set up Hawaii as a pass-through to the con­ti­nen­tal U.S. for billfish sales, was elim­i­nated.

We’ve seen progress on the Mod­ern Fish Act. Af­ter four years of con­cen­trated ef­fort, it’s now within spit­ting dis­tance of fi­nal pas­sage.

This act, at last, cod­i­fies the par­tic­u­lar needs of recre­ational fish­ing along­side com­mer­cial and promises to give an­glers a seat at the ta­ble when fish­eries man­agers make their de­ci­sions.

It’s been a heavy lift, and it’s not over. The bill, hav­ing cleared the House, must pass through the Se­nate by the end of the year, or else we’ll have to start over with a new congress.

But mo­men­tum is with us, de­spite hav­ing to some­times bat­tle con­tin­gents of our own tribe on the is­sues. Mis­in­for­ma­tion is ram­pant, and so are un­rea­son­able expectations.

I’ve heard — from an­glers — the act will elim­i­nate any con­straint on recre­ational catch and doom our fish pop­u­la­tions. Play­ing the Chicken Lit­tle card cer­tainly gar­ners at­ten­tion but hardly moves us ahead. Surely, if the sky re­ally were fall­ing, the same an­glers who’ve worked hard on the Mod­ern Fish Act would them­selves be call­ing foul.

Chris Hor­ton, fish­eries pro­gram di­rec­tor for the Con­gres­sional Sports­men’s Foun­da­tion, pub­lished a straight­for­ward fact check on the ram­pant mis­in­for­ma­tion on that or­ga­ni­za­tion’s web­site( con­gres­sion­al­sports­men.org). It’s worth read­ing, if you doubt the value of the Mod­ern Fish Act or the snip­ing con­cerns you.

I’ve spo­ken with recre­ational fish­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions who op­pose the act be­cause, among other rea­sons, it doesn’t ad­dress habi­tat and cli­mate change. Those are crit­i­cal is­sues too, but they have their own place and de­mand their own bat­tles. At­tempts to scut­tle our progress on the Mod­ern Fish Act for those rea­sons at this point is akin to fi­nally earn­ing the right to sit down at the ta­ble, then scat­ter­ing the dishes be­cause truf­fles aren’t on the menu.

Cli­mate and habi­tat cer­tainly need at­ten­tion, but fo­cused on the proper im­ple­men­ta­tion mech­a­nisms. Suit­able ex­am­ples are not hard to find.

Coastal waters of Florida took an­other hit this year, from toxic dis­charges from Lake Okee­chobee, with dev­as­tat­ing re­sults for the east coast’s wa­ter qual­ity. In com­bi­na­tion with an es­pe­cially ag­gres­sive red tide on the west coast, a whole lot of ma­rine life turned up dead on the beaches.

The mon­u­men­tal dev­as­ta­tion prompted Florida au­thor­i­ties to de­clare snook and red­fish catch-and-re­leaseonly fish­eries through May 10 of next year, from Tampa Bay to Naples.

As the red tide be­gan to di­min­ish, Hur­ri­cane Florence hit the Caroli­nas, which was bad enough, but the mon­strous rain­fall that ac­com­pa­nied it, still flood­ing as I write this, washed vol­umes of coal ash and hog ex­cre­ment into coastal waters. The ef­fects on sea life re­main to be seen, but they cer­tainly could have been fore­seen. Was it that hard to imag­ine that hold­ing la­goons built on flood­plains might at some point be in­un­dated? Th­ese prob­lems are pre­ventable and need fix­ing.

The up­com­ing midterm elec­tions hold prom­ise of shak­ing up the sta­tus quo to­ward that end.

Recre­ational in­ter­ests, of which we are part, carry a lot of un­ex­er­cised clout — for in­stance, the $347 bil­lion we gen­er­ate in the econ­omy by govern­ment ac­count­ing, likely twice that much by pri­vate anal­y­sis. We wield that power through the bal­lot box.

Elec­tions do have con­se­quences, and your vote, wisely cast with an eye to the crit­i­cal is­sues, makes a dif­fer­ence. So get out and vote — then get out on the wa­ter and en­joy the hol­i­days.

GLENN LAW Ed­i­tor-in-chief [email protected]­nier­corp.com

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