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.
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