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Sunday, January 20, 2013

BARNEY FRANK’S WARNING TO CONGRESS - “Be Skeptical of Environmentalists”

One day out of office following his retirement, former Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) has already begun making new political waves.

On January 4th, 2013, Politico reported that the outgoing congressman had asked Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick to send him back to Washington as interim senator following the confirmation of Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) as secretary of state. “I’ve told the governor I would now like, frankly, to do that,” Frank said in an interview broadcast on CNBC, explaining that the new fiscal cliff deal “means that February, March and April are going to be among the most important months in American financial history.”

For our nation’s saltwater fishermen, the first quarter of 2013 could be one of the most important periods in fisheries management history as well, given the state of four different federal fisheries disasters declarations by the Commerce Department in 2012, a broken federal fisheries law (Magnuson Stevens Act) now up for reauthorization debate, and pending presidential appointments of critical angler interest, notably the Secretary of Commerce and a NOAA Administrator.

ENVIRO’S LACK “VALUES”

Fishermen have long blamed a radical new preservationist agenda for the problems experienced at the federal, regional and state level of government, a sentiment strongly echoed by Frank himself. In an interview with Saving Seafood, Rep. Frank criticized the policies of some environmental groups as overly rigid, and he urged lawmakers to listen to fishermen and ultimately called for elimination of the 10-year stock rebuilding requirement in the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Frank also described outgoing NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco as "unfit for the job," noting her unwillingness to consider changes to the arbitrary 10-year requirement.

"Her instincts are to be disagreeing with people," Frank said of Lubchenco, a 2009 presidential appointee who will be replaced in 2012.

Frank said the fishing industry has made notable strides in recent years, explaining that there now exists an "east coast fishing alliance" composed of fishermen and industry advocates from the Canadian border to the Florida Keys, an alliance he called critical in coming years as the Magnuson-Stevens Act comes up for reauthorization by 2016. One of the key items of interest for Magnuson reauthorization according to Frank is that lawmakers should change the 10-year requirement, which he called "rigid," arbitrary and not based on independent science. "If you can reach the goal in 13 years instead of 10, and have much less of a negative impact on the working people of the economy, why not do it," he asked.

Frank said he's not willing to compromise on other environmental issues like global warming and clean air, but said the "reproductive rate of fish is a [subject] much less fit for absolutism than many environmentalists think."

"No matter what your connections might be, don't assume that the environmentalists are the right voices and the fishermen are simply greedy," Frank said explaining that environmentalists can be needlessly inflexible on certain issues, and sometimes lack a "hierarchy of values."

CUTTING OFF THE LEGS OF SPORTSMEN

The environmental movement today – particular big money showroom environmental organizations like Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Pew Environment Group (PEW) and their beard group the Marine Fish Conservation Network – have certainly lost their way. Those fishermen (like members of the Recreational Fishing Alliance) who have stood up to question the management of our fisheries have put themselves under environmental non-government organization (ENGO) scrutiny and disdain as social media campaigns to malign the point of view held by any fishermen who question the bureaucratic process have turned hateful – that’s as Rep. Frank describes as lacking in values.

At the upper corporate level of the environmental business industry, ENGO’s like EDF, Pew and the Marine Fish Conservation Network hire out-of-work congressional staffers, public relations experts and former media executives, all while using scare tactics and propaganda at the grassroots level to recruit idealistic college students to carry out their anti-fishing message. Leaders at these organizations refuse to enter into serious debate or discussion at the public, grassroots level of the fisheries management process, and prefer to sit back in their wood-paneled boardrooms to devise ways of further disparaging the individuals who hope to improve the balance of commerce and conservation.

The environmental movement has most certainly lost its way, and their activist efforts today are more about preservation than they are about conservation. Consider for a moment the post-Sandy efforts in New York and New Jersey to rebuild valuable infrastructure following the devastating storm. The National Park Service, under heavy pressure by ENGO groups, has decided to not renew a 40-year lease by the owners of Nichol’s Marina in Great Kills Harbor, removing several hundred boat slips (and several hundred boaters/anglers) from the equation. Essentially, the ENGO lobbyists are looking to remove the human footprint from the earth by cutting off the legs of our nation’s sportsmen.

THE OTHER, OTHER WHITE MEAT

Congressman Barney Frank has been a passionate supporter of fishermen’s rights, speaking at two national rallies in Washington DC spearheaded by commercial and recreational advocates alike to bring attention to the plight of our coastal fishing businesses. Rigid language written into our nation’s federal fisheries law and passed by unanimous consent of the GOP-held Senate in 2006 has contributed to serious and catastrophic loss within the fishing industry.

Fisheries managers today are finding in next to impossible to navigate their way through the legal requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, forcing fishermen to actually stop fishing when rebuilding targets are met and statutory ‘overfishing’ or ‘overfished’ thresholds are removed. The grand hypocrisy is now being uncovered by Congress and fisheries experts alike – as fish populations grow, the opportunity for fishermen to fish diminishes.

During the past six years, recreational and commercial fishermen have continued to plead for Congressional attention, while the showroom environmentalists have fought back to diminish our role in government action. While fishermen try to point out the empty-headed logic of the fisheries management process today brought about by rigid and inflexible legislation coupled with the Commerce Department’s failure to address bureaucratic negligence with science and data collection, ENGO groups blast the fishermen for being out of touch with the resource, labeling protest and the protesters as “fringe” elements within our community.

The showroom environmentalists have spent all of their time telling Members of Congress that the fish are fine, that the fishermen are wrong; is it any wonder then that in the recent attempt to fulfill the $150 million federal fisheries disaster relief package that many House members simply viewed the package as pork? Hell, it’s been the ENGO’s who have done nothing but refer to fishermen as pigs, it only stands to reason that Congress would think of anything fishing related as nothing but pork!

THE FACTS ABOUT THE SANDY PACKAGE

When the U.S. Senate voted 61-33 in favor of a $60.4 billion disaster relief package on December 28, 2012, there were 12 republicans who joined with 49 democrats in supporting legislation entitled ‘‘An Act making appropriations for the Department of Defense and the other departments and agencies of the Government.’’ While conservative pundits and lackadaisical reporters called this the “Sandy package,” HR1 was actually a complete package to make cash appropriations available for various natural disasters which occurred in the United States during the 2012 calendar year – which just so happen to include important funding for Sandy relief.

In a bipartisan letter from 14 U.S. Senators to their respective appropriations leaders in the Senate on December 11, 2012, a request for $150 million in funds was formalized by legislators from Alaska, Mississippi, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Connecticut. In response to four federal fisheries disasters official declared by the Secretary of Commerce, nine democrats and five republicans in the U.S. Senate signed off on this letter in asking that the appropriations committee authorize relief funding these disaster declarations made under Section 308( d) of the Interjurisdictional Fisheries Act and Section 315 of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

“These designations allow Congress to appropriate federal relief funds to alleviate the harm caused by natural disasters to fisheries and the fishing industry,” the letter noted, explaining how “disaster assistance funds can be used to repair or restore fishing equipment and infrastructure, compensate for losses, restore fisheries habitat, support workforce education, provide low-interest loans, and conduct monitoring and cooperative research focused on improving stock assessments.”

Regrettably, few reporters bothered to ask any serious questions with regard to the $150 million appropriation request; fewer still were inquisitive or concerned enough to ask about the basis for HR1 or the actual intent of the “Act making appropriations for the Department of Defense and the other departments and agencies of the Government.” Five GOP senators signed on to that letter, yet the mainstream media lackadaisically following the lead of angry conservative pundits simply ignored this fact.

Again, the original disaster relief bill put forth by the U.S. Senate in late December was an attempt to address multiple natural disasters in the United States; while there was no doubt some additional fat in the final figure, sloppy reporting by the national media helped make a federal case out of critical regional issues. Regrettably, the $150 million was removed from the final legislation, no doubt in part to the aggressive work of ENGO’s working over Congress to minimize the input of coastal fishermen.

After all, why the need for federal fisheries disaster monies when PEW, EDF and Marine Fish Conservation Network have spent the past 12 months telling key congressional staffers that there’s simply nothing wrong with our coastal fisheries?

FRANK ADVICE FOR 113TH CONGRESS

Offering advice to new members of Congress, outgoing Congressman Frank asked that they recognize fishing as “an important economic interest, a cultural interest, a social interest and...understand that the fishermen are very responsible, that nobody has more of an interest in regulating fishing than the fishermen," while adding, "be skeptical of our friends, the environmentalists."

Skepticism is a good bit of advice Mr. Frank, and the best place in the world to cut through the debate and rhetoric is in Congress through open discussion with stakeholders and interested parties. My hope is that you will in fact be given that temporary Senate seat, where perhaps then we can move forward with Senate deliberations on the problems affecting our coastal fishermen.

As Barney Frank said, nobody has more of an interest in regulating fishing than fishermen; and no one has more on the line with regard to the sustainability of our fish stocks than the coastal anglers themselves. ENGO lobbyists at EDF, PEW and the Marine Fish Conservation Network have done nothing more than attempt to suppress discussion and debate of stakeholders and constituents. If they truly embraced the democratic process and American exceptionalism, the ENGO’s would agree to debate and allow Congress to hold Committee hearings on the fisheries management issues in America today.

The big question is, are the showroom environmentalists and ENGO lobbyists willing to malign and vilify environmental champions like Barney Frank for daring to question these groups and their leadership “values” and for warning Congress to be “skeptical” of their actions and initiatives?

Or once again will they attempt to hide from debate by defaming and demoralizing other groups and individuals for daring to petition for a governmental redress of grievances?

The bottom line is that fish is not pork, fishermen are not pigs, and many of the ENGO’s simply have no core values. As for the angling organizations and conservation groups who have acquiesced to ENGO pressure and joined forces with many of these coalitions of deceit in opposition to sensible fisheries reform while supporting arbitrary, time-specific deadlines and rigid overfishing definitions, please take not that you have only been made complicit (perhaps unknowingly) in the continued slaughter of our industry through widely supported congressional neglect of coastal fishing interests.