We say, definitively, NO!

As much as folks want to complain about the federal government, our founding fathers were geniuses. They developed a system of government that is designed to move slowly through arduous checks and balances.

The pendulum does swing back and forth. Over the course of time, a balance can be established. All things being equal, it is a fantastic system. But, when things aren’t equal, and intentions are no longer genuine, things can get bad very quickly.

These are truly interesting times for our fisheries. The volume of information and the speed in which it is delivered makes any topic almost impossible to understand. Most recreational fishermen don’t have the time to dig into the issues and rely on various groups to educate and inform them.

So, what happens when those groups no longer have recreational fishermen’s interests in mind? Bad things folks…bad things indeed.

Recreational anglers support groups because of the reasons mentioned above. Most of us have full-time jobs, families, and responsibilities that can be overwhelming. We trust the groups, attend their functions, and by proxy support their efforts.

Would it shock you to know that this time you are being led astray? Would you feel betrayed if you knew that good intentioned volunteers are no longer setting policy? Would it shock you to know that large corporations have taken over something that was created for good and turned it into a vehicle to promote their agenda?

It has happened, and the proof is right there in front of you, but you don’t have the time to investigate, right?

Let us help…

Non-profit organizations can’t donate directly to politicians, yet non-profits can form a PAC (Political Action Committee) which is a political committee designed to raise money to elect or defeat candidates. Almost all large non-profits do this and there’s nothing wrong with it.

The Center for Coastal Conservation (now the “Center for Sportfishing Policy”) was formed in 2008 for this reason. It was a good move for the saltwater recreational fishing sector. The Center was a small player inside the DC Beltway, but their hearts were in the right place.

The Center brings under a single umbrella the leading advocates for marine recreational fishing and boating. The new organization promotes sound conservation and use of ocean resources by backing federal legislators who support its goals. The Center will focus on promoting a quality recreational fishery; ending overfishing; rebuilding plans for fisheries; improving angling and boating access, and working waterfronts and marinas.”

The board was filled with volunteers that worked hard for conservation. Guys like Walter Fondren, Gus Schram, and others believed in leaving the resource better than they found it. The board members made commitments to financially support the Center and with that, the message of conservation rang true. Back then, there was only one person from a corporation on the board.

Things have changed in the last 9 years. The board has a far different composition now. Members include officers from Shimano, Brunswick Boats, Yamaha, AFTCO, Sportsman Boats, Maverick Boats, and Sea Star Solutions.

Gone are the days when true recreational anglers would push for “promoting a quality recreational fishery; ending overfishing; rebuilding plans for fisheries.” Now, we are left with the recreational industry leading the group, which is trying to drive policy for “millions” of average recreational anglers. And they can do this, because average anglers don’t usually have their fingers on the pulse of the politics of fish.

What they have done is distort the good work of countless volunteers to promote their own goals. With phrases like “Keep America Fishing,” “states rights,” and promoting “access” they are playing to your most basic sense of what fishing should be.

Their efforts to reauthorize the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act are a complete 180 from what just about all the member groups stood for just a few years ago. The “Modern Fish Act”, the “Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act” and other current fisheries bills in Congress seek to undermine rather than strengthen conservation measures already in the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Creating loopholes in rebuilding timelines, alternative management in lieu of real catch limits, and mandatory allocation reviews have nothing, zero, nada to do with conservation.

Capt. John McMurray did an excellent job breaking down The Modern Fish Act (H.R. 2023) and the “Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act” (H.R. 200). I won’t rehash the points.

If you know anything about fisheries, you know that the opposite of conservation is the lobby for groundfish in New England. From the Cod Father to ignoring science, it’s not where folks usually go to find out about how to preserve resources for the next generation. You would be a pretty good conservationist if you did the exact opposite of anything they propose.

It may shock you that the Center for Sportfishing Policy’s effort to reauthorize MSA is being supported by the groundfish fleet. “It really looks like they don’t want to be handcuffed to specific numbers, like the 10-year rebuild plans,” Gloucester Fisheries Director Al Cottone told the city Fisheries Commission, which voted to draft a letter to the Massachusetts congressional delegation supporting H.R. 200. “If we can get that flexibility, that could be huge.”

“That would mean fishermen would not necessarily have to wait the full decade for access to stocks that have rebounded before the 10-year rebuild mandate is complete.”

Let that sink in before you blindly share an email or lend your support to the Modern Fish Act.

“Who the heck wants to rebuild stocks?” … “Who wants to deal with those cumbersome catch limits?” … “We need access!!”,,, “We want the other sector’s allocation!” … “Science is terrible!” …Said no conservation- minded angler ever. But that’s essentially what these bills are seeking.

Don’t be so trusting and easily led. This is what you love. Do some research.

Your kids and grandkids deserve that, don’t you think?