It’s a puzzlement of sorts, but two of our very favorite words recently flowed right out of the White House.

Gamefish Status.

None less than the President himself called for putting the no-sale label in federal waters on two of the most sought-after coastal fish, red drum and striped bass.

In an executive order that seemed to come out of the blue, President Bush ordered the Commerce Department, through its National Marine Fisheries Service, to:

“…revise current regulations, as appropriate, to include prohibiting the sale of striped bass and red drum caught within the Exclusive Economic Zone of the United States off the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.”

This would appear to short-circuit research reports and hearing procedures that normally go into drafting new management plans for various species. But presumably NMFS could smooth over those wrinkles. A quasi-puzzler is that those two fisheries, redfish and stripers, already are closed to commercial fishing in the U.S. zone.

Thus, the executive order changes nothing on today’s fishing scene. It will, however, make it more difficult for commercial interests to get market netting for spawning reds reopened in the Gulf. (It’s well known that purse seiners are champing at the bit to take tons of the reds again.)

At any rate, you may read the actual executive order at

Aside from the procedural questions, the executive order is music to the ears for those of us who have fought for decades to have pressured wild animals protected from profit exploitation. Rather than buy and sell wild animals, it is often far better to spread a limited no-sale take among all citizens, equally. But maybe you’ve heard that often enough from this corner.

Bush’s order urges states to consider the same gamefish status for reds and stripers in their own waters. In one sense, this is the most important part of the presidential directive.

Striped bass are still subject to profit exploitation in inshore waters in a number of northeastern states. And in some cases, stripers are caught illegally in federal waters and then taken inshore and sold with claims that the fish came from within state boundaries.

The short of it all is that more regulatory actions will be necessary. Still, those two words coming out of the White House windows should be mighty helpful.

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