Yesterday’s “United We Fish” rally was quite interesting, generating a crowd estimated at three to four thousand fishermen, brought together from the commercial, charter, and recreational segments of the fishing industry.
Wait a sec – commercials and recs working together? Has the world come to an end? Nope–but thanks to the current status of the Magnuson-Stevens act, fishing could be at an end for all of us. Seriously. The biggest point of contention is the arbitrary establishment of time lines for stock rebuilding, which force Draconian regulations like the complete shut-down of black sea bass we experienced this fall and winter… a closure that effected both commercials and recs equally, and made absolutely no sense at all considering that just about everyone agrees there are more bass out there then we’ve seen in decades. Evidently, slamming the door closed on all of us was enough to work a minor miracle, and get commercials and recs onto the same page.
Recreational Fishing Alliance rep Jim Hutchinson may have put it best, when he said “We might have been arguing over allocation yesterday, and maybe we’ll argue about it again tomorrow. But today we’re here together because if we don’t unite there won’t be any allocation to talk about.”
The commercial contingent significantly out-weighed the recreational showing (my guess is the split was about 70-30) with a healthy smattering of charter and party boat captains, as well as tackle shop owners. “We needed to be here,” said Keith Frazier, of the internet-based tackle shop www.alltackle.com. “These closures really hurt us.”
But, what good will it do for a bunch of vocal (is somewhat scruffy-looking) fishermen to show up at the capitol? If nothing else it raised the awareness level of prominent politicians, and several members of congress addressed the crowd and voiced support for the Flexibility in Rebuilding America’s Fisheries Act, HR 1584/SB 1255. (These bills would change the restrictive time-lines for fisheries rebuilding in the Magnuson-Stevens act.) If you fish, take note: we aren’t kidding here, folks, some high-powered people want to shut down fishing altogether – both commercial and recreational – so get off the stick and shoot an e-mail to your congressmen, today!