May 16, 2011
By Karl Wickstrom
The biggest threat to our fish populations has been commercial overfishing.
I'm sure that most folks in this arena would agree.
But now, somewhat suddenly, the biggest threat to our enjoyment of recreational fishing is a gathering storm of extremism.
The Bright Greenies, as I call them on a TV segment, are well meaning citified folks who don't like fishing and don't see why anyone else should either.
These are no-touch preservationists who reject the nation's rich heritage of fishing and hunting, even when conducted on a completely sustainable basis and supported by solid conservation programs.
For most of Florida Sportsman's
four decades, we ignored what we thought of as inexperienced fanatics. These folks wouldn't kill any living thing (presumably including garbage maggots and diseased and dangerous animals) but they don't hesitate to buy plastic-wrapped meat that they perhaps think was born that way.
But the Bright Greenies are more difficult to ignore now because many of them are packed to the gills with ammunition—called money. Gobs of it. They can and do enlist naïve celebrities and hire the most expensive public relations companies to spread false information to the effect that John Doe and his family are just as responsible for overfishing as the industrial commercial fleets.
Thus, we are faced with campaigns to stop all fishing, not just the commercial overkills.
You'll find the Bright Greenies first in line to sing praises about added no-fishing zones where all manner of traditional family enjoyments are eliminated, in the name of, believe it or not, fairness to “user groups.”
Most of these Greenies have no understanding of how limited catches with bag limits and seasons can, and do, manage wildlife perfectly well. When everyone's equal, the overkill stops. Period. When and if limits need to be tightened, it happens with little or no fuss.
Of course, effective management with use of the resource isn't good enough for a zealous Greenie. He or she is happiest when no touch is the law.
We've looked into the backgrounds of some of the outspoken extremist groups and found that many of their grassroots members have no idea that their leaders are out banning “cousin Jack's” fishing or hunting. That's because while the campaigns appear to be targeting huge global trawling kills, the remedies usually are to prohibit all catches.
Witness the current Atlantic red snapper shut down. It's largely based on suspect science but also has a no-fishing component just below the surface.
Compromised managers, cheered on by the Bright Greenies, appear happy to prohibit the smallest of family-level catches if the commercial overkills can't proceed as always in the federal saltwater jungle.
We must continue to foster the meaning of conservation to be “wise use” rather than “no use.”