May 16, 2011
By Karl Wickstrom
Although I'm told that my dancing leaves much to be desired, I do suggest that we all learn a Two-Step together.
Here's a New Year's resolution that could change saltwater fisheries management for good.
It's a reform step that's already the norm in fresh water all across the land. I feel certain that some day it will be the rage on the marine scene as well.
Till then, we wrestle with an outdated and disastrous policy that starts with a basic assumption that there should be equal shares of fish populations for “user groups,” meaning commercial and recreational. Why? Because “that's the way it's always been.”
This leaves us a slave to grand old tradition, whether right or wrong under today's circumstances.
What happens when it's proven that recreational fishing produces far more benefits in every way, from economics to simple fairness? Occasionally, the recs prevail, after much delay and acrimony, but the “user group” thinking too often prevents good management.
Enter the Two-Step.
As policy, let's clearly enunciate priorities like so:
Doing the Fisheries Management Two-Step:
One: Establish a General Public fishery for a species that provides good sustainable abundance, year-around with reasonable limits, equal for every individual and not allowing sale of the fish.
Two: If there is a fishable surplus of a species, after assuring step one, then allow limited, beyond-bag-limit commercial catches, closely monitored and stopped if necessary in order to preserve the principle of equality and abundance for all.
You've probably seen these general sentiments expressed here before, but it may help to enunciate them as the Two-Step.
The initiative for change has to come from the fishing public, and public in general, because so much of our fisheries management structure is still paralyzed by what we've called oldthink.
Reforms such as the gillnet ban and gamefish status for redfish came not from government but from citizens.
The public can do the Two-Step just right.