November 09, 2016
By Karl Wickstrom
Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument Area, Atlantic Ocean.
Let's try to imagine a 5,000-square mile piece of ocean where no commercial fishing
is allowed, but limited recreational fishing is welcome
Sounds like an unlikely pipe dream after all we've been through.
Still, we can now wake up to just such a reality.
The new no-sale area is the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, about 150 miles east of New York. It adopts the principle we've howled for during decades of commercial overfishing slaughters—that limited personal-use fishing should not be banned when and if it is judged to be the best overall use of a fish population.
This equal-for-all, no-sale mindset has been the cornerstone of modern fisheries management in freshwater. Now, for sure, it must extend to marine waters except in certain cases where clearly marketable surpluses may occur.
Hopefully, and optimistically, we can look for the Northeast Canyons policy to be an important precedent. It may even help overturn the ill-advised total closures in parts of the Tortugas, some of Florida's very best angling grounds.
There never was any credible evidence of recreational fishing causing overfishing in the Tortugas, and yet countless anglers are deprived of unforgettable experiences by being closed out of those waters.
There have been a number of recent attempts to lock out anglers from prime areas.
Fortunately, the latest closure schemes, including a whopper off Miami, have been put off at least for now.
It's truly great to see fishing conservation voices recognize the crucial difference between
limited family-level fishing and industrial-style takings by the ton for the market. They are two different worlds.
We especially commend the Coastal Conservation Association, the American Sportfishing Association and the many individual anglers who have fought for better fisheries management.
First Published Florida Sportsman Magazine November 2016