May 16, 2011
It should be as simple as you know what. ABC.
For two decades now I've been knocking around thoughts about how we could put a name on effective management of fish and wildlife under distinct levels of protection for particular animals.
Forget the term “user groups” (ugh) that is often accorded subsets of people and their various lobbyists.
Start with the wildlife itself.
When the Florida Marine Fisheries Commission was established in 1983, Editor Vic Dunaway and I sat down with new commissioners for a philosophical powwow, as did commercial fishermen on another day.
“There are different levels of protection,” Vic pointed out. “The most protection you can give an animal is to prohibit any taking. The next level down is to allow a very limited catch that's equal for everyone and with no sale of the fish. Then if there's a surplus you can allow larger takes commercially.”
Seemed logical enough.
But most commissioners didn't get it. Many authorities still don't.
Instead of thinking of protection levels for the animals, most management, especially on the federal level nowadays, finds itself obsessed with groups of people and “traditional” methods. This results in overfishing whereby a tiny percentage of persons take tons at a time. Let's be fair, say managers, often swayed by high-volume takers.
The marine reserves gang falls into the same errant thinking with its all-or-nothing agenda to ban all levels of fishing.
The ABC Protection Levels would focus on three strategies. The underlying goal is sustainability, taking no more than what allows a population to reproduce and achieve a desired level, and providing the most benefits for the most citizens.
Zero takings, as with eagles, songbirds, manatees, sea turtles and many others. This includes closures which may or may not be permanent, such as for goliath and Nassau groupers.
This is the next level down under which certain animals may be taken under carefully crafted limits, for personal use only, and equal for all. This is the level utilized all through fresh water and the woodlands, and used more and more often in many coastal waters, as with snook, redfish and a few others.
This level opens the door for larger commercial takings and sale of wildlife if, and only if, the fundamentals of sustainability and best-use allocation are first met.
Managers should never, ever, begin with the notion that sales of wildlife are sacrosanct or on a par with Level B.
Unfortunately, a longstanding market usage of a particular species, creates a feeling that its “heritage” must be preserved.
Tell that to the next buffalo you see.
there is room for commercial sales of certain species under certain conditions, though I'm always reminded of a famous conservationist's warning:
“Put a price on a wild animal and kiss it goodbye.”
It's argued that these ideas represent attacks against commercial fishermen as people. No, the ABC concept is all about methods and uses, not at all about particular individuals.
More than anything, it's about protection, abundance and fairness.