|Recreational Fishing Hits Snag?|
The Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force, created by the president in June of 2009, is charged with “developing a recommendation for a national policy that ensures protection, maintenance, and restoration of oceans, our coasts and the Great Lakes. It will also recommend a framework for improved stewardship, and effective coastal and marine spatial planning.” The task force has released a preliminary report (whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ceq/initiatives/oceans) that could change the national policy on fishing, and it has some troubling comments. The purpose is a good one, but the process and implementation is of great concern to recreational and professional fishermen.
For example, throughout the report mention is made of “impacts of human use,” “geographical limits” and “geographical limits on fishing.” This is of concern because there is no distinction between commercial and recreational fishing. There are too many generalizations to assume those responsible for this report have thought this through. To my knowledge, recreational anglers and boaters were given no voice on this task force yet they may be significantly affected by it.
Anglers in metropolitan areas are already suffering from a lack of available recreational opportunities. We cannot afford to lose more access to the water we currently have available to us. Based on the wording of the report, this is a possibility.
Recreational fishermen and boaters are not part of the problem that the task force was created to address. By the government’s own statistics, recreational fishing generates more than one million jobs and more than $5 billion in tax revenue. The more than 60 million recreational anglers in this country generate more than $125 billion for local economies. License fees go directly toward state conservation efforts including fish stocking, habitat protection, law enforcement and more. The federal government should be very careful when adopting policies that can affect how states manage their natural resources.
Recreational fishermen are the best stewards of the environment and are passionate about maintaining the environment, as seems to be the purpose of this task force. They organize cleanups, raise funds for special projects, volunteer to sit on committees and more. They are the front line when it comes to reporting environmental damage and criminal behavior. Their knowledge of land and marine resources could be a very valuable contribution to this task force.
Since we seem to have a common interest in protecting our marine (and land) resources, the task force should include anglers in their process. We are the largest user group and 60 million votes is a lot.