May 16, 2011
You can count on federal fish mismanagers to continue their bizarre claims that red snapper and grouper stocks are severely overfished.
They're seeking months long closures and draconian bag limits for citizens while still allowing annual takes of many tons by their commercial buddies.
That could change if the Obama team does some badly needed housecleaning. But anglers are plenty wary. Undue commercial influence is embedded in the walls of the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Some of the government newcomers appear to have scary allegiances to no-fishing zones that lock out the general public even when large commercial takes are the documented problems.
Entrenched interests already are doing their darndest to ignore a new economic study showing that recreational fishing for red grouper actually can provide thousands more jobs and millions more dollars than plopping the fish on meat counters. The Gentner Report (see CCAFlorida.org) should be super powerful for many years to come.
The younger Bush may not have been an environmentalist's dream president, but he took two potentially huge steps for recreational fishing as he left office. First, he issued an executive order calling for non-commercial fisheries to be maintained in all federal jurisdictions.
Then, W created vast saltwater monuments in the Pacific ocean and banned commercial fishing there, but ordered personal-use catches to be allowed with permits.
Whether the order and proclamations will be fully embraced is an open question, but the precedents are most welcome.
On the Florida front: Anglers, and all citizens, should support in every way possible the state's plan to buy 180,000 acres of over-drained and polluted sugar land in order to restore much of the degraded Everglades. This could save major estuaries from punishing discharges that wipe out seagrasses and estuarine life on both coasts.
We think the nutrient pollution is a thousand times more important than an issue like grassflat prop scarring. Certainly scarring is undesirable but we have to question some claims as to whether it is increasing. Huge areas of “pole and troll” zones or no access could greatly impede traditional flats fishing for little benefit.
Let's hope that a law passes this year to require fishing licenses for resident shore anglers in salt water, as already is the case in fresh water and other jurisdictions. The long-overdue change would provide needed revenue to support fishing and also bring in federal matching funds we're now missing. Help support the shore license.
Lastly, we find satisfaction in the fact that South Dade growers favor ending the use of endosulfan, a nasty killer of fish (and people sometimes) that FS Managing Editor David Conway exposed (see “Your Turn” this month). We also commend Everglades Park super Dan Kimball for carrying the ball.
So, as usual, I'm afraid, the conservation plate runneth over. Let's go get ‘em.