Saturday, October 13, 2007

Fishermen and no fishing zones

Is there any common ground between marine ENGOs and recreational fishermen on the difficult subject of no fishing zones (or marine reserves, or no take MPAs)? The answer is yes, after some interesting time spent in Florida considering exactly that question.

I was invited by Mike Nussman, president of the American Sportfishing Association to represent “MPA proponents” on a panel with fisheries scientist Ray Hilborn and NOAA’s Donald Kennedy. In the panel presentations, discussion, and side conversations there were many areas of agreement.

Many noted that fisherman have been some of the world’s best conservationists in the past, and I agree with that because I've seen it. Then, of course, there's the obvious shared interest in conserving fish.

On the hard stuff, we talked about what should be the basis for MPAs. Most seemed to agree that MPAs should be designed to achieve clear objectives and that fishing restrictions in MPAs should be focused on achieving the objectives. Some felt that recreational fishing was not the problem, and that restrictions should focus on commercial fishing. I noted that impacts don't fall neatly along sector lines, rec fishing can be harmful and sometimes commercial fishing uses hook and line gear similar to rec fishing (it's not all bottom trawling or gillnets. So OK, we had some disagreement on fishing impacts.

Now I’m flying back from Florida, after a paltry 22 hours on the ground. Not my favorite kind of travel, but the meeting seemed worthwhile. I hope we can take this common ground and go further with it. Am I alone in that hope?

Of course, there is other common ground on the easier subjects of ending pollution, protecting habitat, etc. This was a meeting designed to talk about the hard stuff, the issues where we’ve been fighting for the last few years. Even on the tough subjects like MPAs, I’m optimistic.


Anonymous said...

I have fished (ethically) in the Southern California waters for 40 years before i quit the sport back in '01. When the sportfishing community declared 'war' against the MPA's i quit the sport that had consumed my life. I simply could not believe that fishermen were so utterly selfish that they do not want to put small areas aside so that they reestablish their historical populations of resident fish and other inhabitants. If you can't fish here, you move a mile down the island...

I replied to a similar discussion last week where i talked about attending the first meeting of United Anglers, Southern California chapter. One of the guys that responded alluded to the fact that it was primarilly environmentalists who had little experience on the water who were pushing the reserves. Forgive me for this brazen statement, but no other man has traveled the Southern Califiornia waters like i have in the last 24 years. For that reason, i am imminently qualified to offer my opinion on the state of our shared fishery.

i voted with my heart and soul when i gave up fishing. I am here to tell you that if we don't put a series of no-take zones at SNI, SCI, Catalina, and along the southern coast, we will be missing a historical opportunity to save what little has endured the decades long free-for-all...

The shallow water rockfish are the bellweatherspecies, the canary in the coal mine. The main reason that we have closures is to reestablish these resident, shallow water species. The main reason that these species is because CA still allows the live fish fishery. I will state this catagorically, the live fish fishery is THE most detrimental fishery in the bight.

The next time someone says that it is only the whacked out environmentalists who are in favor of the reserves, you need to refer them to me... i have logged over 90,000nm miles in these waters and have spent over 700 nights anchored 60+nm off the Southern California coast. Most of that time spent as a recreational fisherman. There isn't a damn thing that i don't know about sportfishing as it relates to the decline or the sustainability of our shared fishery, specie notwithstanding.

If the sportfishing community was really serious about DOING something about the decline of the resident species, they would declare 'war' against the live fishery and realize that the no-take reserves were paid for in full by their quiesence to that devestating fishery!

Mark Powell said...

Brad, Thanks for weighing in here. I hope more sportfishermen will support reserves in the future, but so far the number is few. Thanks for your courage. BTW, I note that the person who started the current push for closed areas in California was a sportfisherman.