Category Archives: Fishing Politics

Reflection On Independence Day and the Future of Our Freedoms

Independence Day Reflection
Jim Shepherd
from The Fishing Wire

As we prepare to celebrate our national birthday, I’m reflecting proudly on our past, but as a gun owner and recreational shooter, I’m concerned for our future.

Last week, two Supreme Court opinions led one of their own members (more on that below) to accuse the Court of being “drunk on power.”

In a dissenting opinion on gay marriage, Justice Antonin Scalia broadened his dissent with an accusation that the Supreme Court was willingly undermining a fundamental principle of the American Revolution: “the (people’s) freedom to govern themselves”.

Scalia used a decision he described as “lacking even a thin veneer of law” to say the Court made “a naked judicial claim to legislative- indeed super legislative power; a claim fundamentally at odds with our system of government.”

Whatever your position on that issue, his words, which appeared very carefully chosen, should concern you.

He characterized the ruling as a “putsch”- a fighting word in most of the rest of the world. “Putsch” is the attempt to overthrow a government via suddenness and speed – a sneak attack.

Scalia and fellow dissenting Justice Clarence Thomas said the intent of the dissent was to “call attention to this Court’s threat to American democracy”.

For firearms owners, that’s warning of what is likely ahead. The landmark Heller opinion reaffirming our right to keep and bear arms was upheld by the narrowest of margins.

Today, that same court seems to be more likely to restrict gun owners than affirm their freedoms.

Before you write to indignantly remind me the 2A only recognizes a God-given right, realize this: today’s Washington is as fundamentally different from our founding fathers as the Houses of Parliament and monarchy from which they declared independence.

Justice Scalia says the Supreme Court has affirmed the right of the elite to decide what’s best for “the rest of us”. Last week it was health care and personal partners. Next time, it could be the right of firearms ownership.

The Court’s apparent willingness to decide law rather than follow it has many other smart people, principally those located outside Washington, equally concerned.

Today’s Supreme Court, as described by two of its own members, is highly unrepresentative of the people – and actively engaged in a “social transformation” of the country.

In fact, Scalia’s dissenting opinion characterized the entire Federal judiciary as “hardly a cross-section of America.”

Should enough of the “unrepresented America” decide enough is enough and act, Justices Scalia and Thomas may have unknowingly authored the catchphrase for yet another Declaration of Independence.

The first American revolution, Scalia wrote, represented the ultimate rejection of “taxation without representation”. He continued, saying “social transformation without representation” was equally intolerable.

That accurately describes the feeling of many across the nation as many elected officials, sworn to follow both the law and will of their constituents, do neither.

They’re joined at the hip with a mainstream media which agrees with their reshaping of America. With “the watchdog of liberty”- a free and unbiased media- transitioned to lap dog, news is no longer reported; it’s tailored to fit a particular narrative.

In short, our leaders no longer believe us smart enough to make our own decisions -so they’re making them for us.

That’s what makes Justice Scalia’s dissent both damning and frightening.

It’s damning in his enumeration of just how far government has distanced itself from the people.

It’s frightening because it indicates Washington no longer fears dissenters -even when they sit on our Supreme Court.

If you accept what Justice Scalia has written as accurate, many in government believe the rest of us to unwilling to suffer the discomfort associated with defending our core beliefs and national values. And they’ve suborned millions into agreeing with them by making it better to live on the dole than work.

Absent a dissenting Supreme Court and with the judicial branch already playing follow the leader, they really see nothing to rein in their remaking of our country as they think it should be.

A wealth of anti-gun legislation has already been introduced at the state and national levels this year.

It may look like more of the same knee-jerk legislation offered on the heels of other national tragedies.

But today’s legislative, executive and judicial branches are fundamentally different from those of only a few years ago.

As tens of thousands of New Yorkers have refused to comply with the mandated registration of their modern sporting rifles, legislators have seethed and are quietly looking for some way to compel their compliance.

With the non-compliance, these gun owners have essentially made themselves willing criminals. But the legislators appear uncertain as to how far they can push to enforce their legislation.That’s partially due to many law enforcement officials saying they won’t be part of some police action against otherwise law-abiding citizens.

Still, many of those elected officials would have no problem declaring firearms ownership as entirely illegal, or making gun ownership a disqualification for anything from holding a government job to opening a bank account or obtaining medical care.

We will still celebrate Independence Day 2015 at my home tomorrow, because we still have much to be thankful for.

But I hope you’ll take a few minutes to consider the thoughts I’ve been compelled- but uncomfortable-to write as a holiday message.

Examine your own family and your beliefs, then ask the same Creator whose guidance was petitioned by our founding fathers to give you a sign as to what each of us can – and should – do going forward.

God bless each of you – and, yes, God bless America.

As always, we’ll keep you posted.

What Is Magnuson Stevens and What Does It Have To Do With Fishing?

Improvements Much Needed in Recreational Fishery

By Jim Donofrio, Executive Director
Recreational Fishing Alliance
from The Fishing Wire

Fluke

Fluke

As a longtime Jersey charter boat captain, listening to my customers’ needs was critical to business success. Now as executive director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance, it’s my responsibility to listen to our individual members’ needs, which in many ways are the same as those I used to take fishing full time for tuna, striped bass, weakfish, bluefish and fluke.

The saltwater anglers I speak to on a daily basis want healthy fish stocks; they also want reasonable access. As rewritten in 2006 by special interests at the Marine Fish Conservation Network, the federal fisheries law (Magnuson Stevens) rebuilds fish stocks by stopping allowable fishing. Black sea bass is a rebuilt fishery that environmentalists tout as a Magnuson victory; New Jersey anglers, however, are not allowed to fish for sea bass from Jan. 1 through May 26, and on July 2 will be allowed only two fish.

Summer flounder (fluke) is a rebuilt fishery that the Marine Fish Conservation Network cites as an example of Magnuson’s excellence, yet two years ago the state was forced into a more restrictive “regional” approach with New York, leading to an increase in state size limit now decimating South Jersey businesses forced to compete with Delaware.

At the same time, the federal government will not allow New Jersey to open the fluke season before May 17, thanks to the federal law and “fatally flawed” data collection. Meanwhile, recreational blueline tilefish anglers are facing draconian cutbacks because the government has failed to collect enough statistical data.

Magnuson Stevens was enacted in 1976 to protect our U.S. recreational and commercial fishing industry. It was meant to foster robust coastal communities while conserving coastal fish stocks. While Marine Fish Conservation Network lobbyists boast of their success with rewriting this law in 2006, they fail to address the impacts of lost angling opportunity. Today, their political operatives take great delight in reducing open congressional review of this law into partisan grandstanding, while the overwhelming majority of commercial and recreational fishing organizations have banded together in mutual support of H.R. 1335 to reform Magnuson Stevens.

The legislation passed by the House Natural Resources Committee addresses the arbitrary, congressionally created timelines for rebuilding fisheries, a hallmark legislative appeals put forth by Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., on behalf of New Jersey fishermen.

With support from new committee member Rep. Tom MacArthur, R-N.J., H.R. 1335 would also modify the rigid requirements now forcing draconian “accountability measures” leading to ever-shrinking seasons. It also would force management councils to provide more public transparency. H.R. 1335 would limit future “catch share” programs in our region (concepts pushed by the environmentalists to issue individual fish tags for all fishermen), and dedicate fishery fines toward data-poor fisheries while taking steps to improve recreational data collection.

As a registered lobbyist who works exclusively to represent saltwater anglers and the recreational fishing industry nationwide, it’s important that I listen to my members while also keeping open dialog with the opposition, wherever possible. Paul Eidman, who as early as December of 2009 was lobbying for Marine Fish Conservation Network to stymie efforts to allow improved angler access to rebuilding fish stocks, continues his partisan attacks against sensible fisheries reform through the Asbury Park Press.
After seven years of congressional hearings, it’s obvious that the federal fisheries law needs reform. It’s time for congressional Democrats to stand up on behalf of their angling public, and allow what once had bipartisan committee support to move forward, without partisan grandstanding on behalf of radical “green” ideology.

This law is rapidly destroying the robust fishing communities it was designed to protect.

Jim Donofrio is executive director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance.

Why Should I Call My Senator About The Sportsman Act?

Urge Support for S. 405: The Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2015
from The Fishing Wire

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following Action Alert was sent to its members by the National Shooting Sports Foundation. We agree that S. 405, The Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2015 is an important one for all outdoor enthusiasts.

Contact your Senators at 202-224-3121 or email them and urge them to cosponsor S.405, the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act.

This week, anti-hunting forces in an attempt to derail the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act, sent Humane Society of the United States’ Wayne Pacelle to Capitol Hill to testify in opposition to this pro-hunting, pro-sportsmen legislation. It is imperative that your Senators hear from you in support of this bipartisan bill – the most important proactive piece of legislation to hunters and sportsmen in a generation.

In his testimony, Pacelle told the committee, “I want to be clear that the Humane Society of the United States is not opposed to hunting.” Really? Then how do you explain your quote from an article in the Associated Press? “If we could shut down all sport hunting in a moment, we would.”

But it’s not just sport hunting. Pacelle also said he would campaign against people hunting for food and HSUS has worked to restrict deer hunting in New York, wolf hunting in the Great Lakes region, bear hunting in Maine and all big-game hunting in California.

Senators from both sides of the aisle have worked together to craft a proposal that would protect the use of traditional ammunition made with lead components, increase access to public lands for hunters and other sportsmen, and increase flexibility for shooting ranges to build and maintain facilities to create more opportunities for everyone to enjoy the shooting sports.

Your Senators need to hear from our side so that radical, anti-hunting, anti-sportsmen activists don’t derail this legislation.

Call your Senators at 202-224-3121 or email them today and urge them to sign on as a cosponsor to S.405, the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act.

Why Am I A One Issue Voter?

I admit it. I am a one-issue voter. I will never vote for any politician that thinks making it harder for law-abiding citizens like me to get a gun or ammo will do anything to stop gun crime. And as a bonus, I usually find the candidates that oppose gun control also agree with my feelings on most other issues, too.

Gun control is one of those issues that pits individual liberties and responsibility of the individual against those that think government can solve all problems. Supporters of gun control want to pass even more laws that have no effect on people that use a gun for crime. How can any rational person, politician or anybody else, think someone willing to commit murder will be affected in any way by laws restricting the availability of guns?

Blaming the gun for crimes and trying to control access to them is like blaming the drugs for addiction and trying to control access to them. It simply does not work. If it did there would be no illegal drug use. It is also like blaming the match for arson. Guns don’t go out and shoot someone by themselves any more than a match goes out and lights a fire without someone striking it.

Some may think eliminating guns will keep criminals from getting them. If there are no legal guns, like there is no legal heroin or cocaine, they somehow think gun crime will be eliminated. Heroin and cocaine prove the illogic of that position.

Recent events in the US and Canada have drawn the usual whines for even more gun control. In Canada a terrorists used a 30-30 lever action rifle to kill a soldier and shoot up the parliament building. I just kept waiting for someone to call the rifle that has been around for over 100 years a “semiautomatic assault style weapon.”

In the US, police were attacked by a terrorists using a hatchet. Wonder if it was semiautomatic? In a school shooting a student brought a handgun to school and killed two of his classmates and shot others, The big question has been “where did he get the gun.” As Hillary would say, “What difference does it make?”

Why did he do it? Would he have done something similar, or worse, for example some kind of bomb, if he had not gotten a gun? Immediately the Brady Bunch, who used to be called Handgun Control, Inc and now renamed the Brady Center to Prevent Handgun Violence, sent out fund raising letters and emails. They want to somehow stop kids with mental problems from getting their parents guns. How? By eliminating all guns?

There are insane people in our world and there are mean, evil people, too. They will find some kind of weapon to do violence on those that abhor it. If no one had a gun, what would they use? And in the two above cases, a good guy with a gun shot and stopped the terrorists.

If guns caused problems there would be a high murder rate in deer camps, where every fall folks sit around for days within easy reach of high powered rifles, often the dreaded semiautomatic weapon type. Yet you never hear of a shooting in a deer camp.

If guns caused problems it would be unsafe to walk into a store selling guns. From Walmart to Berrys Sporting Goods, racks of guns sit calmly and don’t shoot anyone. In fact, there are a bunch of guns in my house, all loaded and ready to shoot, but they have never shot anyone.

Gun safety is important. If there were young kids in my house I would teach them to leave guns alone unless an adult was present, but I would store guns and ammo separately and lock them up. Kids will be kids and accidents will happen, but teaching safety will go a long way to preventing them.

I got my first .22 when I was eight years old, and had been shooting a BB gun for about three years before I got it. Gun safety was instilled in me from the time I was old enough to understand danger and guns were part of my life every day. All my friends had guns and from the time we were about ten years old we were allowed to hunt together, since our parents knew they had taught us well. And we never had an accident or intentionally shot another person.

Guns are inanimate objects. They have no will of their own. Only people have the ability to do harm with them. Getting rid of guns or making it difficult for careful, law-abiding folks will do nothing to stop those with a will to do harm.

Be wary of politicians supporting gun control. They don’t trust you and guns are not the only one of your liberties they want to control.

A Response to “Another View on Gulf Red Snapper Management”

In Response to “Another View on Gulf Red Snapper Management”
from The Fishing Wire

Recreational angling stakeholders recently released a joint one-pager on the potential impacts of bureaucratic decisions regarding the red snapper fishery in the Gulf of Mexico. As part of that release, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (Foundation) – not the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus – issued a press release on the current proposal before the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Council) that looks to pit components of the recreational sector against one another. While coverage of the one-pager has been well-received, the release’s recreational angling outlook received a naïve assessment entitled “Another View on Gulf Red Snapper Management” as published in the July 24 edition of the Fishing Wire.

The author, a former representative on the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, criticizes the Foundation and its partners for suggesting that the Council has not done a good job of developing real solutions to the challenges facing red snapper anglers. He states that, “In reality, the Council has been working on red snapper management alternatives for decades by implementing various management tools, such as bag and size limits, seasons, and quotas.” Unfortunately, the “reality” we’ve seen is shorter and shorter federal recreational red snapper seasons, culminating in the shortest ever: nine days in 2014. If sector separation (Amendment 40) is successful, the average recreational angler will likely see zero days in federal waters despite snapper populations that are more abundant than ever documented. How can the trend of fewer and fewer days to fish for the healthiest population of red snapper in history be considered successful management?

It is clear the author subscribes to the theory that separating the two identifiable components of the recreational sector will solve the problems for recreational anglers, especially the charter-for-hire (CFH) component. If you are a charter captain who was given only nine days to fish this year, having your own quota may seem like the silver bullet you need to make a living. Any business owner could sympathize with looking for an alternative lifeline. But one must question if it is really the salvation of the industry?

Although he states there is no comparison between the commercial sector’s catch share program and sector separation, later on he says that “each new recreational sector would be responsible for their quota.” How can a small, finite number of charter captains not be allocated some form of individual shares or quota? Although an Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) program for the CFH sector is not specifically part of Amendment 40, the 178-page amendment document makes several references where this form of catch shares would be an option for managing the new CFH sector if Amendment 40 is successful. That, combined with the current Head Boat Exempted Fishing Permit (EFP) and the proposed Alabama Charter-for-Hire EFP, suggests that is exactly where this is headed – Individual charter captains holding individual shares of quota.

Charter captains need only to take a look at other sector separation and catch share programs to be concerned. In all catch share fisheries to date, over 50% of all fishery participants exited the fishery. Ultimately, if you don’t hold an initial share, you are out of luck to begin with. That’s what catch shares are designed to do … to reduce capacity by getting boats off the water. There will be winners, yes. But there will be losers as well. More losers than winners. Is it worth the gamble? Just ask an Alaskan charter boat captain how sector separation in the halibut fishery has worked for them.

The author points out that since the commercial sector’s individual fishing quota went into effect, that sector has not exceeded their quota once, while the recreational sector has exceeded their quota most every year. This is the same argument used by the commercial sector to emphasize how great the commercial IFQ program is while labeling the recreational sector “unaccountable.” Despite what the commercial industry and environmental groups proclaim, recreational anglers (both private and CFH components) have been accountable and abide by the law and the regulations. It is the federal system of fisheries management that has been “unaccountable” and has failed the recreational fishing public as a whole.

Finally the editorial states that, “Currently, there are two distinct components of the recreational fishing sector…” According to section 407(d) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which deals specifically with red snapper, there is just one. Private recreational anglers and CFH are distinctly treated as a single component and rightly so. One has the means of accessing red snapper on their own, whether they own a boat or know folks who do, while the other provides a service for the rest of the American public who does not. The recreational sector of the red snapper fishery is intended for any American to be able to go to the Gulf of Mexico and catch red snapper if they so choose. All other successfully managed Gulf recreational fisheries have the same two components of the recreational sector, yet they are successfully managed as one. Why do we need to split the two for Gulf red snapper to provide relief for a minority of the CFH captains?

In short – we don’t. The Council needs to get serious about managing the fishery as a whole. Trying to apply that same commercial model to the recreational sector has proven unsuccessful. Holistic management will require some controversial, but appropriate, choices like that of true re-examination of allocations, not just above 9.12 million pounds. The current quota of 49% recreational/51% commercial has not been updated in nearly three decades and was established at a time when recreational angling for red snapper was at an all-time low using survey methodologies that have since been replaced because of gross inaccuracies. That, in and of itself, begs for a new look at where we are today. Red snapper, and all our marine fisheries resources, belong to us all. Good government mandates that we make the best use of our public trust resources for the benefit of the nation as a whole.

We need to take a hard look at how the states would manage red snapper. The states have successfully managed recreational fisheries for a century, but not based on how the Council or NOAA fumbles with fisheries management. States have been successful because they manage on a rate of harvest and not by trying to squeeze every pound out of the fishery as does federal fisheries management with its concept of maximum sustainable yield. The Council needs to implement alternative, harvest-based management of the fisheries, or simply give it to the states which have more experience and better data.

Red snapper can be managed to benefit both recreational and commercial fishermen. However, sector separation will only ensure that there are a few winners and a bunch of losers. Sector separation is not the answer.

Mike Nussman
American Sportfishing Association

Jeff Crane
Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation

Pat Murray
Coastal Conservation Association

Steve Stock
Guy Harvey Foundation

Jeff Angers
Center for Coastal Conservation

Thom Dammrich
National Marine Manufacturers Association

Another View on Gulf Red Snapper Management

Red Snapper Catch

Red Snapper Catch

From William Teehan, Another View on Gulf Red Snapper Management

Here’s an alternate take on the current haggling over red snapper management in the Gulf of Mexico. We may not necessarily agree with it, but Bill Teehan has been around fishery management a long time and has a lot of useful knowledge on the topic-here are his thoughts:

By William Teehan
from The Fishing Wire

As a retired Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission marine fisheries manager who represented the agency at Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council meetings, a July 15, 2014, Congressional Sportsman s Caucus press release published in The Fishing Wire entitled re e Congressional Sportsman Commission marine fisheries manager who represented the agency at Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council meetings, I’ve built up a lot of information about this issue, how it came about and why the Council is considering it. Frankly, I found the press release and its additional signatories the American Sportfishing Association, the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, the Center for Coastal Conservation, the International Game Fish Association, the Coastal Conservation Association, the National Marine Manufacturers Association, and the Congressional Sportsman’s Foundation misleading. I would like to take this opportunity to debunk a few of the statements made in the press release.

Currently, there are two very distinct components to the recreational fishing sector, but the Caucus and its press release signatories do not want to recognize the differences. The recreational sector is comprised of anglers that hire federally permitted vessels to access the fishery and anglers that own private vessels and do not rely upon the for-hire fleet to go fishing. Under current management, these two distinct recreational angler groups share one red snapper quota.

The Caucus issue is with the Councils proposed Reef Fish Amendment 40, which will separate these two distinct fishing groups into their own sectors within the recreational red snapper fishery. Short story: Amendment 40 proposes looking at the catch histories of these two distinct components and making them their own sectors on equal footing with each other based upon their historical catches.

The Caucus states that Amendment 40 will divide the recreational quota e two distinct components and making them their own sfor-hire sectors. The Caucus is misleading this as the Council preferred alternative. In reality, the Council is considering establishing the private angler share as 54.1% and the for-hire share as 45.9% of the recreational quota. These allotments are based on average landings histories between 1996 through 2013. The Council has also requested new alternatives based upon different landings. All catch history alternatives exclude 2010 landings because of the broad closures resulting from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. To see the full suite of allocation alternatives please see Council’s Sector Separation video.

The Caucus lays the blame for the red snapper situation squarely at the feet of the Council, going so far as to say that the Council is not working “to develop real solutions to the challenges facing the recreational red snapper management.a In reality, the Council has been working on red snapper management alternatives for decades by implementing various management tools such as bag and size limits, seasons, and quotas. The concept of separating the recreational sector components first arose in late 2008 when federal fishery managers, of which I was one, were required by the 2007 Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization to get serious about ending overfishing in marine waters.

Before the 2007 Magnuson-Stevens Acterfisauthorization, the red snapper fishery was severely overfished and substantial cuts were made to both commercial and recreational sector quotas to begin rebuilding the depleted stock. The commercial sector even adopted an individual fishing quota management tool to keep their fishermen on the water while protecting the red snapper resource. Since 2007, the commercial sector has not exceeded their quota once, while the recreational sector has gone over theirs every year, excepting 2010.

The Caucus attempts to compare sector separation to the individual fishing quota program presently used in the commercial sector. In reality, there is no comparison between the two sectors. The commercial quota program allots individual fishermen a share of the fishery based upon landings history; whereas, sector separation would split the overall recreational quota between private anglers and the for-hire sectors based upon landings histories of the sectors, not individual anglers. Each new recreational sector would be responsible for their quota, which will allow managers the flexibility the Caucus and its signatories ask for and allow the new sectors to use their quota as their fishery dictates.

The Caucus press release also suggests that sector separation will expand to other fisheries. But sector separation is only one type of management tool. In the case of Amendment 40, it is being discussed for the Gulf recreational red snapper fishery only. There are no plans to apply this tool to other fisheries at this time; however, it is available to use on as a species or a complex basis.

Finally, the Caucus press release would make you believe that sector separation is a done deal. It points the reader to the next two full Council meetings in August and October as the ock. hallenges frn the tide.r The reality is that the Council will be conducting public hearings in all of the Gulf States during early August to gather public testimony on a draft document, including suggestions for management alternatives. The Council will also be taking written comments on Amendment 40. Dates, times and locations for those hearings can be found here.

Is Ethanol Gas Damaging Outboard Motors?

Yes – Ethanol Gas Is Damaging Outboard Motors
from The Fishing Wire

Having been fortunate enough to enjoy amazing spring-like weather from the deck of a boat on Tennessee’s Douglas Lake, it was tough to get back to work after the first real weekend with cooperative weather in some time. Having spent a large portion of the weekend enjoying family and recreation reminded me why I love the outdoors in the first place.

Even under those pleasant conditions, it’s tough to stop being a reporter -or at least listening to conversations that wouldn’t interest most other boaters. There were a couple of items that I think bear more investigation and conversation from anyone who uses a boat in pursuit of their interests – personal or commercial.

First, what’s the real deal with the ethanol controversy? Today’s news section carries a release from the Boat Owners Association of the United States (BoatUS) taking exception with the Missouri Corn Growers. Seems the growers put out a call for a concerted push by consumers to get more ethanol mixed into gasoline as a quick-fix for high prices.

BoatUS puts forth the now-familiar warning that more ethanol is virtually certain to damage small engines like those on outboard boats, as well as lawn mowers, motorcycles, generators, gas-powered blowers and any one of the myriad of gasoline-engined devices we all use on an almost-daily basis.

They cite the fact – not the assertion- that since the inclusion of ten percent ethanol in gasoline there have been increased problems with those engines. Their argument is focused on boats, but I have spoken with enough small engine manufacturers and repair shops to know that the ethanol is definitely the one change blamed for many of the fuel, fuel line and fuel system problems that have turned formerly-reliable pieces of equipment into recyclables.

At this point, the EPA has specifically prohibited the use of the newly-proposed E15 in marine engines, but not the multitude of other small engines. That raises the very real concern that distributors may accidentally dispense E15 to docks and marinas. Fuel mistakes have caused documented aircraft fatalities, and I realize that’s an extreme example that’s perilously close to fear-mongering. But I’d also argue that having an engine conk out in the midst of a rapidly-deteriorating weather situation is a life-threatening situation in the marine environment. The Coast Guard might also back me up on that argument, too.

But the hazards of this new fuel isn’t just the worst-case scenario. Our society seems fixated on “actionable” situations, those times when something breaks and your lawyer says there’s someone to “look to” for responsibility. If the quick mart where you normally buy gas for your mower switches to E15 and doesn’t clearly label the change, you could find your power tools, motorcycle, ATV or boat paying the price. At that point, it’s normal for people to “lawyer up” and go looking for someone to make them whole again.

I don’t think that’s the intent of E15, but it’s hard to judge motivations in a legislative and regulatory world where it seems the thicker wallet has the best odds of getting changes made in their favor.

So I’m encouraging everyone to do a lot of investigating before even considering saving those pennies per gallon on gasoline.

And if there’s a definitive answer to the question, I’d invite you to share it with me. In turn, I’ll share it with our readers. After all, none of us is as smart as all of us.

What Is the Land & Water Conservation Fund?

Land & Water Conservation Fund: A Program We Can All Agree On
Randy Newberg
from The Fishing Wire

In today’s political world, rare is the program over 75% of Americans can agree on. To have that support, it must be a Red White and Blue idea.

Well, one such idea exists. It’s existed since 1965; the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Fifty years ago, back when people actually solved problems, the oil and gas industry, along with hunters and anglers, agreed on a program to mitigate the known impacts of offshore oil and gas exploration.

It was decided, and supported by all, that some of the offshore royalties would be earmarked to this new account, the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The purpose – Use those funds to restore habitat and enhance public access. Imagine that. A good idea supported by all sides, even Congress. There was a time in this country when good ideas were not the enemy of politics.

Roll forward fifty years. The LWCF has invested $13 billion dollars into public access for hunters and anglers, in the process, helping all outdoor recreation. Millions of acres of public access has been acquired or improved. Thousands of boat ramps, fishing piers, and fishing access sites have been funded.

Yeah, Congress has managed to pilfer $17 billion dollars from the fund for other uses, but I guess we’ve come to expect that. Congress can make amends for past sins by reauthorizing this popular program in 2015. Hopefully placing the funds in a trust account, reducing the temptation of diversion.

A 2013 survey of Americans showed that LWCF enjoys a popularity quite the opposite of Congress. Over 85% of those asked want to see LWCF continue; marking 93% approval among Democrats and 78% among Republicans. The support in 2013 has grown from 81% support in the 2009 survey.

Congress could do something that almost all Americans support; reauthorize LWCF. I suspect the oil and gas industry prefers that a small fraction of their royalty payments stay earmarked for something beneficial, such as LWCF, versus tossed to the dark abyss of Congress.

Hunters are the greatest beneficiary of LWCF. Especially seeing the NSSF survey shows that losing “places to hunt” is the top reason people are hunting less. LWCF has provided more places to hunt than any program, ever. LWCF is the quiet program that provides matching funds to states, conservation groups, and local agencies to fund hunting and fishing access.

In my back yard of Bozeman Montana, the Gallatin National Forest has had over 200,000 acres of access acquired or improved by LWCF. All who hunt and fish can probably find a similar LWCF story in their back yard. Maybe your favorite spot.

In the coming year, Congress will face reauthorization for LWCF. Hunter, anglers, and the groups who represent us need to pressure Congress to reauthorize our most important access program, LWCF. In 1965, our legacy of hunting and fishing was handed a gift in the form of LWCF. Now is the time to make sure we can do the same for those who come after us.

Randy Newberg is the host and producer of Federal Premium’s Fresh Tracks with Randy Newberg, making him the voice of self-guided public land hunters in America; where he shows the common hunter uncommon experiences available on our western public lands. You can catch his show on Thursday nights, only on Sportsman Channel and you can get more details about his hunts on his forum www.HuntTalk.com

Why Did the National Marine Fisheries Service Publish Misleading Information?

Federal Fisheries Agency Adjusts Misleading Economic Information on fishing
from The Fishing Wire

(Editor’s Note: Just when you thought you had seen it all, the National Marine Fisheries Service has now admitted a key fisheries economics report showing commercial fishing of greater value than recreational fisheries in the U.S. included billions in foreign imports! Here’s a closer look from the American Sportfishing Association.)

After significant objection from the recreational fishing and boating community, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has taken steps to correct a key fisheries economics report that misleadingly indicated that the domestic commercial fishing industry in the United States was significantly larger than the recreational fishing industry. When imported seafood, which is not regulated or managed by NMFS, is removed from the equation, the corrected data show that the recreational fishing industry is actually $7.9 billion dollars larger than the commercial fishing industry. Furthermore, the corrected data show that the domestic commercial fishing industry actually decreased by $2.3 billion in 2012.

“When seafood imports, industrial species, shellfish and fish that aren’t caught by recreational anglers are removed, recreational fishing generates $33.3 billion dollars more than their commercial counterparts while taking far fewer pounds of fish,” said Ted Venker, Conservation director for the Coastal Conservation Association. “That is the apple-to-apples number that needs to be considered when we are talking about management decisions that impact domestic fisheries, and it is important that NOAA corrected the data.”

In late April of this year, NMFS released its Fisheries Economics of the United States 2012 with the headline “NOAA Reports Show Strong Economic Gains from Fishing, Continued Improvement in Fish Stocks,” but there was no indication that the agency had changed the way the economic impact data were compiled in the report. Previously, NMFS separated imports from domestic industry figures and reported each separately. In the latest report, the agency eliminated that distinction and simply published a total that included domestic and imported seafood. As such, topics such as imports from illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing, 75,000 pounds of shark fins and shrimp harvested by practices that the U.S. has banned were included in the totals for the domestic commercial sector.

“It was important to set the record straight because people naturally use this report to compare the two sectors, and combining imported seafood with domestically caught seafood gives an overinflated and incorrect representation of the economic impact of this country’s commercial fishing industry,” said Mike Nussman, president and CEO of the American Sportfishing Association. “This is particularly risky if this information is used to halt progress on important management decisions such as how fisheries are allocated between the two sectors. More than 64 percent of the total sales of seafood is generated by imported product which should have no bearing whatsoever on allocation discussions.”

Recreational fishing and boating organizations including the American Sportfishing Association, Center for Coastal Conservation, Coastal Conservation Association, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, International Game Fish Association and National Marine Manufacturers Association recently met with agency officials to request a correction. The agency refused to reprint the report, but did release a web query that allows individuals to remove imports and generate an accurate report on their own.

Do We Need Another Marine Sanctuary?

More Marine Protected Areas on the Way?
Jim Shepherd
from The Fishing Wirerd

President Obama says he’s planning to create the world’s largest marine protected area in the south-central Pacific Ocean. The announcement comes from the White House during Secretary of State John Kerry’s Oceans Conference underway this week in Washington. And like presidents Bush and Clinton, he’s doing it without the approval of Congress.

“Growing up in Hawaii, I learned early to appreciate the beauty and power of the ocean,” he said, “And like Presidents Clinton and Bush before me, I’m going to use my authority as president to protect some of our most precious marine landscapes, just like we do for our mountains and rivers and forests.”

Not everyone is a fan of the president’s use of the executive action, especially since he has already used the Antiquities Act of 1906 as grounds to designate eleven new national monuments on land, closing millions of acres of land.

Opponents of his actions are quick to bring up the fact that his actions block any commercial activities on vast regions-including oil and gas development. More evidence, they say, of his obsession with alternative energy, despite the disasters of Soylindra and other administration-championed boondoggles.

Representative Doc Hastings, Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, was direct in his opposition to the plan in a statement released after the announcement: “Oceans, like our federal lands, are intended to be multiple-use and open for a wide range of economic activities that include fishing, recreation, conservation and energy production. It appears this administration will use whatever authorities -real or made up – to close our ocean and coastal areas with blatant disregard for possible economic consequences.”

The administration’s response is that with the latest marine protection area it appears will “only” impact commercial tuna fishing. And there’s are still a few details that remain to be worked out. The White House says it has yet to determine the size of the new protected area- or determine what statute it would be created under.

They also say there will be meetings and consultations with outside groups including environmentalists, the fishing industry and elected officials. Privately, fishing industry leaders tell me they expect to have the same voice in the decision-making process that the firearms industry was given in the administration’s drive for more stringent gun controls after the Sandy Hook tragedy.

If that’s the case, it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that there will be no fishing- commercial or recreational- allowed inside those protected areas. Ditto other recreational activities as the administration is moving to “protect the oceans” from “overfishing, pollution, and climate change.”

Additionally, Secretary of State Kerry is calling for the creation of a “global ocean strategy”. That, too, is resonating with environmental groups who have pushed for the closure of huge chunks of land and sea to virtually all human interactivity.

In these latest announcements, it sounds as if the administration isn’t really differing from prior ones in their moves to protect our natural areas, but there is a key difference. When the Bush administration, for example, created a 140,000 mile marine area, it was designated a marine sanctuary not a marine protected area. According to the World Conservation Union definitions, there are several important differences: a sanctuary is an area designated free from hunting, while a protected area may have prohibitions on fishing, hunting or development- meaning the laying of cables or oil drilling.

Under one designation, the species of the area are protected from overfishing or other harmful practices. Using the other; designated areas are off-limits to virtually any access beyond surface transit. That, too, may be strictly regulated or prohibited entirely.

Protection of our natural resources is a responsibility each of us must share.

Prohibition of the use of those resources, however, is not something we should permit.

Responsible use and protection are not mutually exclusive.