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Editorial May/June 2010

Our Greatest Adversary, The Environmental

"Business" Community

    I have been fighting the good fight on the recreational fishing front for many a year. In the past, one of our battles was against corporate ocean dumping. The battle plan was to attack the big corporations’ environmental image which quickly and easily brought the dumping of carcinogens along our continental shelf to an end.
During the same period, an assault on our highly migratory species (hms) was being perpetrated by commercial fishermen using unselective gear types such as longlining, pair-trawling and purse-seining operations—All with the National Marine Fisheries Service’s (NMFS) blessings. The blatant commercial bias of NMFS and its old Bureau of Commercial Fisheries mentality along with the politics that surround that agency were apparent with every proposed rule issued. NMFS was forcing the recreational fisherman to pay the price through excessive regulations while the cause of the problem was allowed to continue mostly unrestricted. Through many lawsuits filed against NMFS, the massive hue and cry of recreational fishermen everywhere, and the hard work of many individuals and organizations, NMFS was forced to do their job and adopt longline time and area closures in spawning areas, eliminate pair-trawling completely, and greatly curtail purse-seine operations.
Today, we as recreational fishermen face a new adversary that is slowly, methodically and legally removing us from fishery after fishery—the environmental business community and their ideology. I use the term “business” because it is one of the most lucrative in the United States today. Their tool is the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA), their methods are infiltration in the fisheries management process, the swaying of public opinion to their cause using bad science, the demand for Marine Protection Areas (MPA), and area closures to both recreational and commercial fishing.
    Recreational Fishing Alliance’s (RFA) Jim Hutchinson’s article “Pew This Stinks” in the March/April 2010 issue of The Big Game Fishing Journal clearly explains the modus-operandi of the Pew Charitable Trusts. It is a must read for every fisherman nationwide. The entire article can be found on our website at www.biggamefishingjournal.com.
The MSA’s stock rebuilding policy states, if NOAA Fisheries (NF) deems a fishery overfished, it is required to rebuild the stocks of that fishery to 100-percent sustainable within a 10 year period. In 2000 the summer flounder fishery was deemed overfished by NF. Remarkably today, ten years into the stock rebuilding plan, NF continues to list the fishery as overfished. However, many anglers, both commercial and recreational who are actually in the “trenches,” along with several fishery managers and scientists dispute this assessment. In fact, they contend that the summer flounder stock today is in the healthiest condition it has ever been. The NF decision to continue listing summer flounder stocks as overfished even though many feel they are in great shape is simply due to the bad science being used by NF to determine the health and sustainability of this fishery and many others. The lack of “flexibility” in the MSA’s rebuilding regulations is legally requiring NF to close fishery after fishery in the name of conservation. The environmental community just waits in the background ready to pounce with their team of attorneys if NMFS does not comply with the letter of the law.
    In 2006, the MSA was reauthorized with some of the strictest mandates ever seen in fisheries management. At that time, NF added an additional three years into the summer flounder rebuilding process. Prior to reaching the end of the 13 year rebuilding period in 2012, and without flexibility in the MSA, NF is required by law to shutdown the fishery if the exact summer flounder stock numbers deemed by NF to represent a healthy, 100-percent sustainable fishery are not achieved—and this means the exact numbers and not a pound under.
To the delight of the anti-fishing environmental business organizations, this lack of flexibility in the MSA rebuilding policy is a blessing and has already been instrumental in closing the recreational and commercial fishing door to sea bass, red snapper, amberjack and several species of grouper. The environmental business community, with Pew leading the charge is vehemently fighting against Congressman Frank Pallone’s bill HR 1584 and Senator Chuck Schumer’s S1255, which would provide this much-needed flexibility in the rebuilding process. If the bipartisan HR 1584 and S 1255 are adopted, the anti-fishing groups will lose a powerful tool to continue their assault on recreational and commercial fishing.
    Let’s take a look at one of the driving forces and decision makers at NOAA Fisheries today. Dr. Jane Lubchenco, current NOAA Administrator has served on the Pew Ocean Commission and received a Pew Fellowship along with an award of $150,000 from the environmental group. As a Pew Fellow, it is my belief that the recipient of the fellowship and monetary award must continue to promote Pew ideology. One of her first appointments made as NOAA Administrator was Justin Kenney as NOAA Director of Communication and External Affairs. While Kenney was a former communications director for NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuary Program in the 90’s, he was most recently the Public Affairs Senior Officer at Pew Charitable Trusts. After switching PR digs from Pew to NOAA, Kenney was soon appointed by Lubchenco to act as an ex-officio member of the federal Catch Share Task Force. Dr. Lubchenco asked another former Pew staffer, Monica Medina, to lead the Catch Share Task Force in order to assist NOAA and the regional fishery management councils as they consider and implement catch-share management programs around the country.
    Medina after the appointment, explained, “This task force will engage stakeholders to help ensure that the regional fishery councils and NOAA implement catch shares wherever appropriate.” Catch shares have the very real potential of privatizing the entire harvest of fish stocks in America, putting recreational and commercial quotas into a single pool, and opening up “individual quotas” for purchase by the highest bidder. By taking the public resource away from the public, catch shares by design would constrict fishing participation overall, a primary anti-fishing goal. Before taking over the role of “Catch Share Czar” at NOAA, Medina was the director of the Pew Whale Conservation Project and was previously acting director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). Medina, by the way, is also married to VP Joe Biden’s Chief of Staff Ron Klain, one of the more influential Democratic Party insiders in America today. I will discuss catch shares and their affect on recreational fishing in my July/August 2010 editorial.
    Recently, Dr. Lubchenco appointed Russell Dunn as our new National Policy Advisor for Recreational Fishermen. He is required to answer directly to Lubchenco. His previous employer was the National Audubon Society where he worked as their Director of Government Relations, Living Oceans Campaign. He also held the title of Assistant Director of the Ocean’s Wildlife Campaign which is a coalition of six conservation associations. He was on the political advisory committee of the League of Conservation Voters, a conservation organization that grades politicians on their environmental record. He has worked closely with the National Resources Defense Council, Oceana, the Ocean Conservancy, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the World Wildlife Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense, National Parks and Conservation Association, KAHEA, Conservation Law Foundation, American Oceans Campaign, Sierra Club, Marine Conservation Biology Institute, and the Pew Oceans Commission. As you can see, Mr. Dunn’s resume is extensively environmental, but Lubchenco says he is an avid recreational fisherman so he must be perfect for the job. NOAA Fisheries is being infiltrated by the enviros and the “deck” is slowly being stacked against both the recreational and commercial fishermen.
    Another front on the environmental business communities’ infiltration into the fisheries management process can be found in a document entitled, “Recommendations For Adoption and Implementation of an Oceans, Coasts, and Great Lakes National Policy” submitted by a coalition of environmental groups to Obama’s Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force which, in the near future, will be making major decisions that will affect both commercial and recreational fishing. Here is a list of the coalition of environmental organizations steering the task force that signed on to the “Recommendations” document. They are the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Environmental Defense Fund, Greenpeace, Marine Conservation Biology Institute, Marine Fish Conservation Network, National Wildlife Foundation, National Resource Defense Council, Ocean Champions, Ocean Conservancy, Oceana, Sierra Club, Seaweb, World Wildlife Fund, and the Pew Environmental Group. Using the arguments that 25-percent of U.S. fisheries are overfished, 80-percent of the world’s fish stocks are depleted and the world’s highly migratory species including tuna, sharks and marlin have declined 90-percent, two of their many recommendations to the task force are the opposition to legislation to “weaken” the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and the need for marine spatial planning (MPAs and area closures). Are we getting the big picture here?
    Today, the recreational fisherman has a common plight with the commercial fisherman—The systematic removal from fishery after fishery at the hands of well-organized, and extremely well-funded environmental business organizations that are hell bent on forcing their preservationist ideology on everyone.
Every appointment, every decision being made by Dr.Lubchenco must be carefully scrutinized by recreational and commercial fishing watch dogs. This is becoming the greatest battle for our right to fish ever. Our adversaries have unlimited amounts of cash, and resources. It is no time to continue the petty bickering amongst recreational and commercial fishing interests and the lack of alignment between recreational fishing advocacy groups. In other words, it is time to “bury the hatchet” and join forces to fight this common enemy—There is strength in numbers.

    Captain Len Belcaro