Here's a fascinating read, a recreational fishing leader rethinks strategy after deciding that his side is "losing" in California (they fought against MPAs, saying they were not needed).
Now they plan to become more reasonable and become the purveyors of conservation. Good idea, if they actually walk the walk.
Guest Editorial - Common Ground
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
For better or for worse, the end results of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) will be not be determined by the actions of recreational anglers, but rather the general public's perception of what is best for the ocean. While fishing is important, a decade of beating up on the problems of the ocean by recreational anglers (that's right - us!), followed by environmental groups singing the same tune, has left California citizens with the impression that our ocean is on the verge of collapse. Remember, we led the fight against gill nets, long lines and bottom trawls, highlighting their highly destructive nature. The enviros came later! Then, we took them on as we had taken on industrial fishing excesses.
For recreational fishing to prosper, we need to understand the dynamics of the conflict we face. It's a battle for the hearts and minds of the real deciders - the millions of Californians who care about the health of our ocean. The MLPA provides the stage - a public process garnering headlines that equate the Act with the health of our ocean.
Looking at this battlefield from above, one would see two camps of extremes. On one side we find the protectionists, those who would be all too happy to close all fishing and access to our ocean. On the other side, we find the polar opposite - unbridled commercial exploiters who assume anything in the ocean is rightly theirs and fair game. Here's the rub: Perception is everything and, in the public's eyes, if we're against the Act, we're against conservation. We are equated with the exploiters who created these problems in the first place.
Today, sportfishing is at a crossroads. Recreational anglers are perceived as being in this second camp. In fact, UASC (and I personally) can take responsibility for much of this public perception. Leading "red shirt rallies" through the Channel Islands and initial MLPA process, we garnered support from thousands of anglers. At the same time, we fueled the ire of the extremists and alienated millions in the general public who - through the eyes of the LA Times and other media - saw us as spoiled children mad about losing our toys.
But, as Yogi Berra put it: "it ain't over 'til it's over."
The MLPA process is going into high gear on California's north Central Coast and Coastside Fishing Club, our Northern California partner, will be at Ground Zero. We will work closely with Coastside, its founder Bob Franko, and the American Sportfishing Association, to ensure a vibrant future for recreational anglers. Franko will lead the team, taking a conservation-based approach to the Act that will risk the ire of not only the protectionists, but also the trawlers, gillnetters and long liners who make up camp number two. He will also face the anger of recreational anglers who stand with those destructive industrial fishing interests.
I am proud to stand at Bob's side in this battle. Together, Coastside, UASC and ASA hope to reclaim the conservation ground between protectionism and exploitation by building coalitions. We will balance the need for healthy oceans with the light footprint of recreational angling - and maintain the widest possible access to pursue our passion.
Tom Raftican, President of United Anglers of Southern California