Time to Shed a Little Light
By Ted Venker
Coastal Conservation Association
Fishermen are notorious for having a little trouble with the truth. Whether it’s adding a few pounds to the fish you caught last week or misdirecting a buddy away from your favorite spot or calling in sick on a beautiful day with a green tide, anglers can bend the truth when they need to.
It’s all part of the game.
Unfortunately, the truth in fisheries management often gets bent and twisted until it is an unrecognizable, smoking heap of wreckage, and that is the subject of a very good column in the May 2011 issue of SaltWater Sportsman Magazine entitled, “The Great Conspiracy Theory.” Rip Cunningham traces the origins of the great catch share conspiracy theory and offers a blunt assessment: “The true conspiracy may be the effort of a few in the shadows to maintain the status quo by creating a perceived conspiracy,” he writes. “The most insidious conspiracy of all may be the effort to invent one where none exists.”
We’ve had to do our share of debunking myths about catch shares as well, and published an article called “Caught Up in Catch Shares” back in February to tell our side of the tale once and for all. Rip’s analysis is right on the mark.
The thing about conspiracies is that you never really know who is behind them or what their motives are. To be functional and effective, organizations can’t be overly concerned with that end of the equation, though. You can chase shadows and whispers all day long and accomplish exactly nothing. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “”It behooves every man to remember that the work of the critic is of altogether secondary importance, and that, in the end, progress is accomplished by the man who does things.”
If you want to know about an organization, look at the work it is actually doing on issues that matter to you.
If you care about the impact of destructive fishing gear like longlines, trawls and gillnets, CCA has game fish legislation in play right now in the North Carolina General Assembly, has launched a net-ban effort in the Pacific Northwest, is pushing to end longlining in the Gulf of Mexico, and is leading the charge against rampant poaching of striped bass in the Chesapeake Bay.
If you care about habitat, CCA’s Building Conservation Habitat Program will pour $1.5 million into marsh and reef restoration and creation over the next three years. In the inaugural project of this national program, four acres of artificial reef are set to splash down in Louisiana’s Barataria Bay in the next few weeks. The habitat projects undertaken over the last year by individual CCA state chapters are too numerous to mention here, but cover everything from oyster recycling to seagrass planting to ghost crab trap removal programs.
If you care about enforcement and research, CCA state chapters have donated hundreds of thousands dollars of equipment to state wildlife enforcement agencies. CCA is also working to defeat short-sighted efforts in New York and New Jersey to roll back saltwater recreational saltwater licenses that will de-fund those state management agencies and open the door to commercial abuses and neglect of marine resources. CCA North Carolina is fighting the commercial industry to secure a Joint Enforcement Agreement to secure federal funding that will allow state officers to enforce federal law. And CCA Texas funded $700,000 for a marine larviculture laboratory to study recreational fish species for hatchery programs in partnership with the University of Texas Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas.
If you are concerned about the potential negative impacts of catch shares, CCA is the only recreational fishing group in the country that is engaged in a lawsuit over catch shares against both the federal government and the Environmental Defense Fund.
And if you care about absurd fishing regulations, like the recently announced 48-day season for red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico, CCA is pursuing a strategy for reallocation at every level of federal management in an effort to have fisheries allocated based on current economic, social and conservation criteria rather than outdated past catch history.
There are many challenges in fisheries management, and unfortunately one of them is, as Rip says, the efforts of a few in the shadows to maintain the status quo by spreading mistruths. The next time a hazy shadow on a fishing chatroom whispers something that sounds outrageous, be sure to ask them where their group stands on things that matter to you, like game fish status, fishing licenses, destructive fishing gear, habitat restoration and resource conservation.
Nothing makes a hazy shadow go away like a little sunlight.