Saturday, June 26, 2010


“Fishing is a privilege, not a right.”

Wrong. Fishing is a right, protected under thousand-year old law, upheld by the Constitution of the United States.
While it’s true that there is no constitutionally protected Freedom To Fish Amendment in either the US Supreme Court or in my own home ‘states’ of New York or New Jersey, there have been attempts to create such legislation on both the federal and state sides. Here in New York, Freedom to Fish legislation passed the Senate in 2003 in the form of Senate Bill 5381, but it stalled in the Environmental Conservation committee in the form of Assembly Bill 7299, which is where it’s stayed ever since.

Many environmental groups openly oppose Freedom To Fish legislation, particularly the State Environmental Resource Center or SERC, a project of the Defenders of Wildlife and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). At SERC’s website you’ll learn that these leading preservationist groups argue against the basic language of Freedom to Fish acts because it prohibits states from closing waters to fishing unless “there is a clear indication that recreational fishing is the cause of a specific conservation problem.”

The Defenders of Wildlife and NRDC maintain that if passed, Freedom to Fish legislation “would effectively end the ability of states to create marine reserves, which are an important conservation tool for the restoration and protection of ocean ecosystems.” The group makes the argument that “for many species, recreational fishing is the primary source of fishing mortality, and catch-and-release practices are often not effective” management compromises.

In other words, granting fishermen exclusive rights to catch fish would make it impossible for these groups to create legislation banning public access to public waters. Other national organizations coming out in vocal and adamant opposition to Freedom To Fish legislation include Environmental Defense and the Ocean Conservancy, organizations which not only support no-access marine parks but also publicly support a management scheme known as ‘catch shares’ which further privatize our nation’s fisheries by granting exclusive access to the resource to certain groups and/or individuals.

While fishermen don’t have their own amendment to hang their waders on, what we do have is a public trust doctrine, a Roman era principle that says that certain natural resources are to be preserved for public use and that the government is required to maintain it for the public’s reasonable use. When the Emperor Justinian first held around 500 AD that the seashore not be appropriated for private use but was open for all, he was setting a precedent to be memorialized by the King of England some 700 years letter when the Magna Carta ruled that fishing traps must be removed from public waters in order to allow the public access to the fish.

English law being the foundation of our nation, in 1842, the Supreme Court ruled that the Magna Carta was the ultimate rule determining who owned the country’s fish and wildlife, saying that King Charles II did not have authority to give away the “dominion and property” of lands in colonial America, and stated that the American Revolution rewarded the American people with public trust responsibilities for fish and wildlife except for rights specified in the U.S. Constitution.
Just 50 years after that, the Supreme Court would again make an important ruling in Illinois Central Railroad v. Illinois, upholding the public trust doctrine again by ruling that the state of Illinois was in violation of the Constitution when it attempted to divest the State of the control and management of state waters, writing “It is a title held in trust for the people of the state, that they may enjoy the navigation of the waters, carry on commerce over them, and have liberty of fishing therein, freed from the obstruction or interference of private parties.”

Fishing is not a privilege, nor is access to our public waterways and the resources themselves privileges – these are instead inalienable rights granted to man more than 1,500 years ago, and upheld for over a century by the U.S. Supreme Court. Any individual who claims that fishing is not a right would be contradicting recognized legal opinion, and any organization which would support the denial of access to public resources is in turn in violation of America’s constitutionally guaranteed, Supreme Court upheld right to fish.

State and federally recognized Freedom to Fish legislation would be nice, but thankfully the saltwater anglers of America have the Magna Carta, the public trust doctrine, the U.S. Constitution, more than 300 years of precedence in this country, and the Recreational Fishing Alliance standing firmly on a nation’s right to fish!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Hello DC, Is There Anyone Home?

It's sad to watch the liberal elite come completely unglued under pressure. Most talk a good game about peace & love & impartiality, but when confronted with actual challenge, the far left is wrapped far too tightly in their own blanket of self-righteousness to mete out any true change, reverting instead to temper tantrums and petty theatrics. Pecksniffian weasels, the whole lot of ‘em!

Pecksmith is a character from a Dickens story, an architect who never designed or built anything, going on to become one of the biggest hypocrites in fiction history. Dickens himself compared Pecksniff to a signpost which is always telling the way to a place, but never goes there itself. Same ol’ sanctimonious “DO as I say, NOT as I do” hogwash we’ve been seeing from legislators from both sides of the aisle, but it seems to permeate most through the liberal left of the private sector today.

I’m no fan of the past president mind you, in fact I only voted for him the first time around (I believe Pecksmith is Gore’s middle name). But our latest commander in chief is certainly not making any friends in my industry right now, as his administration has run roughshod over the rights of both fishermen and their accompanying industry since taking control of the White House. If not by his own hand, those he has selected to do his bidding have arrived in our nation's capitol carrying a helluva lot of ideological baggage.

NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco, longtime environmental champion is the recipient of a hundred-thousand dollar plus fellowship from the Sun Oil Company founded Pew Charitable Trusts, and through her work at the Pew-funded Environmental Defense Fund helped author a study praising ‘catch shares’ as the panacea for the ills plaguing our global fisheries. On April 19, 2010, the day before the BP’s Deepwater Horizon blew up, killing 11 people and dumping millions of gallons of crude oil (and counting) into our marine ecosystem, the Huffington Post ran an interview with Dr. Lubchenco which covered a series of topics, including the NOAA chief's fondness for no-take marine reserves, privatization schemes, climate change and the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force. When asked by the interviewer her biggest concern for our oceans, Dr. Lubchenco responded "At the global scale, probably the one thing currently having the most impact is overfishing and destructive fishing gear."

Just 44 days later, the Huffington Post ran another story about ‘Blowout Jane’ in which the President’s appointment to lead scientist at NOAA refused to contradict BP CEO Tony Hayward's statement that "the oil is on the surface" and "there aren't any plumes." The liberal news website and aggregated blog founded by Arianna Huffington reported that Scientists aboard NOAA and academic research vessels have been reporting for weeks on the presence of oil suspended in the water column, claiming that lab results from a previously secret NOAA research mission have been analyzed and results not publicized.

Click here to read the article in its entirety, but members of the scientific community invited on NOAA vessels are apparently under gag order at the time, as Blowout Jane uses terms like “circumstantial" and “anomalies” to explain away reports of subsurface oil plumes in the Gulf. You have to wonder if the good doctor still thinks that fishermen are the biggest plague to our ocean environment. Her enviro friends at the big Pew-funded groups like Nature Conservancy have suddenly found themselves under a great deal of fire for being business partners with oil companies like BP. The Washington Post recently reported that Nature Conservancy specifically had given BP a “seat on its International Leadership Council and has accepted nearly $10 million in cash and land contributions from BP and affiliated corporations over the years.”

The Nature Conservancy recently contributed $350,000 to the Ocean Conservancy towards developing a partnership with various environmental groups and “specific stakeholder networks, both within the Administration and with a variety of stakeholders on the ground,” while promoting the “need for a federal marine spatial planning framework and supportive funding mechanisms.” This is another fancy way of saying they’re lobbying for legislation and pushing the Administration to divvy up ownership of the oceans, creating a series of ‘no take’ marine reserves, privatizing fisheries through Blowout Jane’s concept of ‘catch shares’ while working to a lot certain coastal zones for mineral extraction.

Catch shares are essentially rights & privileges to fish. Only those who actually own shares of a particular stock are allowed to harvest fish, and the owners of these individual ‘catch shares’ can trade or sell these rights as they see fit. There’s very little evidence to prove that this privatization scheme works, except that by its very nature it will reduce participation to only the very few, or those privileged to be granted ownership. Blowout Jane says “moving forward to implement more catch share programs is a high priority for me.” Of course, she wrote one of the definitive scientific papers while working with the Pew-funded Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). Nearly every recreational fisherman I've ever met has been vehemently opposed to catch shares, except for a few well-connected allies of the Ocean Conservancy and one Houston-based conservation organization I can think of.

Dr. Lubchenco's buddy David Festa, vice-president of EDF said the right approach to getting tie-in from the fishing industry is to offer incentives, or what some might call bribes. "Make it easy, grease the skids with some money, and celebrate the successes," he was quoted as saying in the Science Insider. According to journalist Richard Gaines, Festa has been urging institutional investors to buy shares of New England groundfish, touting a projected 400 percent return on investment based on experiences with catch shares in other fisheries.

Another environmental ally in this privatization movement is fisheries scientist Andy Rosenberg of the University of New Hampshire, who helped write the catch share manifesto with Lubchenco. It should be noted that Rosenberg is also Senior Vice President of MRAG Americas, a consulting firm that’s in the business of managing fishery observer programs and stands to profit greatly on monitored catch share plans.

Last week, the President acknowledged that his administration was not aggressive enough making reforms in the Minerals Management Service (MMS), the arm of the Department of Interior which oversees oil drilling operations. In a press conference, the President noted the agency "had been plagued by corruption for years," while simultaneously carrying on a "scandalously close relationship" with the oil companies. It certainly appears these cozy relationships between members of the Administration and big oil companies has had a much more devastating impact on our oceans than that family who enjoys taking a home a few red snapper, porgies or fluke ever could.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has promised an aggressive criminal investigation of BP and its contractors for their actions leading up to the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill, already the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history. He had damn well better look inside the Administration as Mr. Obama clearly stated, to see what links the oil industry had on the MMS, the Department of Interior, and by god the Department of Commerce as well which oversees NOAA.

It seems pretty apparent to me that the environmental groups are not asleep at the wheel on this one. Instead, they’ve purposely focused all attention on fishermen and the “overfishing boogey man” because that’s been the butter of the bread. The Sun Oil Company family fortunes at Pew Charitable Trusts have filtered along through the entire environmental community, poisoning the environmental movement. Instead of pressuring this and every other administration on the lax standards and improprieties stemming from undue petroleum influence, the non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) have taken the easy route and put the preservationist crosshairs on the backs of fishermen.

Yes, there most certainly is an environmental business community, and the do-gooders and preservationists who’ve been blindly leading a battle for the past decade to save the last fish may have inadvertently destroyed the entire coastal ecosystem at the very same time.

Who the hell is in charge down there anyway?