Once again we step into a bizarre scenario where the guy in the next boat may catch a fish to sell it, but you can’t catch that same fish for the family.

Profit fishing, yes. Personal-use fishing, no.

Not so many years ago, I would have said such a situation would be unthinkable. No longer.

Just days ago came another example of the warped world of saltwater allocation, where it’s considered sacred to allow commercial exploitation of wild swimming animals.

In this new case, recreational fishing for amberjack in the Gulf of Mexico was closed tight, even as large commercial takes continue.

The National Marine Fisheries Service ordered the family-level fishing for AJ’s halted because its estimated quota was reached, while a commercial quota was not at that point.

Now you may buy the old argument that these fish must be served to the public, even to the extent of closing out personal fishing.

We think that’s nonsense.

Far better management, as we’ve fostered for four decades, is to share a catch equally among all citizens, year-around. Then, and only then, would a commercial market based on large-scale catches be allowed.

Instead, our well-lobbied federal managers remain determined to treat “user groups,” not individuals, equally.

Never mind that socio-economic studies prove that non-commercial fishing provides more jobs, economic benefits and life quality factors than does selling the slabs of meat.

The commercial bias is embedded in the federal management structure, once aptly called the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries.

And now, “traditional” uses, whether the best use or not, get high priority.

These market forces once controlled the inland waters and woods in the same unfortunate way. But people were able shake free of the profit exploitation. They saw the relentless depletion of deer, bass and ducks, at close range. They outlawed it.

Not that it was a simple matter then, either. The commercial takers had fought back hard, sometimes violently. But good sense prevailed. Price tags were taken off all the major species, and thus they flourish.

It didn’t take strange “catch shares” programs or ill-conceived no-fishing zones.

All that was needed was to dedicate wild animals for use in sustainable quantities by every citizen, equally.

Let’s do the same on the marine scene.

–Florida Sportsman

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