If you speak to fishermen from across the country, one message rings clear, they want to be able to catch fish. Some may want to keep their limit while others want to throw everything back but all of them want to have a decent chance of catching a few. The other common thread among the angling community is that we want to leave the resource in better shape than we found it.
Fishing isn’t your run-of-the-mill sport. It is more of a lifestyle that is passed down from generation to generation. It is also an activity that allows a higher level on connection across generationals. The connection that people strive to create is waiting there at the end of a line. Most fishermen were taught from a family member and provides a path to share knowledge and history. But fishing is so much more than that.
Fishing connects the young folks to nature. It teaches them about conservation as well as patience and humility. It is also really hard to use an Ipad while holding a rod. Kids need fishing now more than ever and frankly, fishing needs them. We should all be working towards a brighter future for fish and for kids that will hopefully be trying to catch them.
When fishermen take up causes, this should be the one that gets the most investment, attention, and involvement. But, we find ourselves polarized now more than ever before. The fights over who gets how much of a quota, how many fish we can keep, and how much each group contributes to the economy are taking center stage.
We all need to take a breath and think about what is important. Our ancestors taught us how to fish and how to care for nature. Should we be selfish and worry about what we can take today or should we be conservative and worry about what we will leave for the future? Would predecessors approve of who we have become? Are we truly doing what is best for the next generation? These are all questions we should be asking before taking up the wrong cause or asking for more fish.
I believe that anglers are good people. I also believe they are being lead astray. Don’t fight for your “right” to fish. Fight for the next generation’s ability to be a part of something greater than themselves. Leave it better than you found it. Take only what you need. Put the future ahead of the present. We have a chance to turn this around. Let’s hope we don’t screw it up.
Sometimes it isn’t clear what side of the fence you should land. In today’s polarized climate it is hard to trust any information you find. In turn, deciding which side to take becomes increasingly difficult.
I’ve found in these cases you look for folks that don’t have a dog in the fight. Do you stand to make money from the decision? Well, I’m not prone to accept those ideas very easily.
When we look at the situation with Magnuson Stevens, we see two entrenched camps with directly opposing points of view. One side desires more access to the resource and is looking to reauthorize our nation’s most important fishery law to enable one sector to fish more with less accountability. The other side wants to strengthen Magnuson Stevens and enhance the the ability of the law to address. Both have strong arguments involving the economy, conservation, fairness, and the future of fishing.
Recently, 300 scientists from across the nation weighed in on the issue and the message was clear, do not weaken Magnuson Stevens. The scientists come from Miami, Seattle, Mississippi, North Carolina, California, and even the Farrallon Islands. When a group this large and diverse cares enough to write a letter to congress, we should listen. Plus, they don’t have that “dog in the fight” that’s a sure sign of bias. These are university scientists that by and large got their jobs because they love learning about the resource and protecting it for future generations.
I encourage you to click the links and decide for yourself. Should we weaken the law or should we think of future generations.
We should all be concerned about t he menhaden fishery in the Gulf of Mexico. You may ask why? Four big reasons jump out right away.
- 1 billion pounds of menhaden are caught per year in the Gulf of Mexico. That’s a heck of a lot of little fish
- Menhaden are filter feeders and remove the material that causes dead zones in the Gulf. At a historical abundance, menhaden could filter the entire outflow of the Mississippi River 34x over.
- Bycatch allowances are staggering. It is just 5% of the catch but when the catch is 1.2 billion pounds, that equates to 60 million pounds of redfish, trout, and various other gamefish.
- Menhaden are the basis of the food web. Everything eats them. A stable menhaden population is a foundation for a healthy food web.
Image by Capt Mike Frenette originally published in SportFishing Magazine Oct 2, 2017 Dead discards from bycatch from menhaden fishing. Dead bull reds lining the beach
There are so many pressures on the Gulf of Mexico. We have a dead zone the size of New Jersey, our marsh is disappearing, and nutrients are flowing into our waters at an unprecedented rate. We have to question the validity of removing 1.2 billion pounds per year of a little fish that could potentially help us so much.
In the beginning of November, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission with decide if menhaden should be managed for their ecological significance or continue the current single species management.
We will update you on the conclusions of that meeting as details become available. Our resources can only take so much and menhaden are the cornerstone of a healthy Gulf of Mexico.