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Editorial Nov/Dec 2009

Obama's interagency oceans policy task force

possibly the greatest threat to sport fishing ever

  In typical Obama fashion, the administration created an Interagency Oceans Policy Task Force (IOPTF) in June of this year and given until December 9, 2009, a period of 90 days, to develop a comprehensive federal policy to solve and rectify all marine resources and ocean environmental problems such as pollution, fisheries conservation, fisheries protection and restoration of health, preservation of marine heritage, climate change, and coordinating it all with our national security and foreign policy interests for all U.S. coastal, ocean, and Great Lakes waters.
  The IOPTF is made up of representatives from government agencies such as the Coast Guard, Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, EPA, Department of Energy, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Department of Health and Human Resources, Department of the Interior, Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Department of Justice, National Security Counsel—The list continues on and on. The President has given this Task Force the infinity power to do whatever they deem necessary to reach their goals.
  The task force reviewed the reports from the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy (2004), the report from the Pew Oceans Commission (2003) and receives recommendations from the following groups: Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Conservation Law Foundation, Greenpeace, Marine Fisheries Conservation Network, Oceana, Sierra Club, and the Pew Environment Group. Are we getting the idea who is helping steer this task force!
  On September 9, 2009, the IOPTF drafted an interim report with their preliminary recommendations. Many of these recommendations were taken verbatim from the recommendations of the above environmental groups. But in this report the task force fails to mention the recreational fishing industry’s one million jobs and the 125 billion dollars annually it generates into the economy along with the 60 million anglers that enjoy the sport. Our comments as an industry that were submitted to IOPTF during their public comment period were also ignored.
  Another total disregard in the IOPTF Interim Report was the failure to address a balance between ocean conservation and the need for this country to utilize its extensive offshore oil and gas resources that could help loosen foreign oil interests’ stranglehold on this country’s economy.
  One recommendation from the environmental groups to the IOPTF is fishing area closures and this is accomplished by the creation of marine sanctuaries around the country to protect the supposed 25-percent of the 230 major fishery stocks that NMFS has deemed overfished. The environmental group closure recommendations particularly mention the canyons of the Atlantic Ocean.
  Another recommendation from the environmental groups to IOPTF is to, “ ... quickly bring ourselves into compliance with the essential requirements found in the Magnuson -Stevens Fishery, Conservation and Management Act (MSFCMA),” and the “...rebuilding of stocks in as short a time period as possible.”
  The Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) has been fighting for flexibility in the MSFCMA in order to keep many different fisheries open and the revenue they generate continuing its flow into the economy. Let’s also make mention of the millions of jobs these fisheries create. Without flexibility in the MSFCMA, if a fishery is deemed not at 100-percent sustainable levels it must be rebuilt in the shortest time period as possible. This means complete closure of a fishery even if it is at 99-percent sustainable level.
  It’s apparent the IOPTF is following direction from organizations that desire to shutdown, highly regulate or totally restrict commercial and recreational fishing. These groups are not our friends and it appears they are at the helm of this task force guiding their way. It’s also becoming apparent that we as recreational fishermen will have little input in the IOPTF fishery decisions that will be made on December 9.
  Another major problem I foresee with this task force is the bad science, error and special interest manipulation factor that will surely occur when faced with getting this huge problem-solving quest done in 90 days when it really should require a five-year plus effort.
  I am not sure of the outcome of this task force that will befall our sport on December 9, but I believe this 90 day wonder task force is the greatest threat I have ever witnessed to recreational fishing as we know it today. I can tell you to write your legislators, but most of you guys won’t. I guess we will soon see what Obama and his task force have in store for the recreational fisherman. I also believe it is a part of a continued power grab and total control effort being perpetrated by this administration on our country. We are experiencing more and more government creeping into our lives these days. Has George Orwell’s 1984 arrived 25 years late?

  Captain Len Belcaro