Wednesday, July 16, 2014


There’s a new buzzword circulating throughout the recreational fishing community of late; a word that’s actively being embraced by many saltwater anglers because of its simple, seemingly straightforward connotation that gives those who speak it a sense of ample warmth and coziness.

That word is abundance. 

Recently, the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) issued a bulletin encouraging saltwater anglers and industry representatives to participate in an ongoing national saltwater recreational fisheries policy discussion with NOAA Fisheries.  At the same time, members of the environmental business community have tried to keep anglers away from the active discussion, calling the NOAA meetings “a lot of wasted time and effort,” while supporting an end to “liberal size, season and bag limits” as if U.S. recreational anglers somehow were hoping for even more restrictive seasons on cod, haddock, summer flounder, black sea bass, and red snapper.

These individuals who work for the environmental organizations – whether salaried directly by Pew Environment Group and Environmental Defense Fund, or simply working via one of their heavily funded offshoots – are running a ‘name game’ against individual anglers, urging them to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain but instead to listen to the words of the great and mighty wizard of environmental oddity. 

The last thing you want to do attend one of those irritating meetings,” is what one Environmental Defense Fund advisor and regional fishery management council member advises his followers, explaining that the political process of open dialog is “too much like work.”  Instead, this full-time environmental grant administrator and anti-industry leader is telling his loyal subjects to just stay home and “take five or 10 minutes tops, to submit a note about how you want the recreational fishing policy, first and foremost, to emphasize managing for abundance.

So, what is abundance exactly? 

Actually, Oceans of Abundance was originally an ‘action agenda’ developed by Environmental Defense Fund, Marine Conservation Biology Institute, and the World Wildlife Fund, with financial support from the Walton Family Foundation.  According to the Oceans of Abundance final report, to achieve a certain level of abundance in U.S. fisheries, the Environmental Defense Fund coalition group says “President Obama should ensure that all federal fishery management plans are evaluated for catch shares by 2012, and that at least 50% of federal fishery management plans feature catch share management by 2016.” 

Furthermore, Environmental Defense Fund states in their Oceans of Abundance final report that “the U.S. Congress should ease bottlenecks in order to achieve the President’s goal by passing legislation to require that catch shares be considered in all fishery management plans by 2012.

In other words, Environmental Defense Fund and its lobbyists, advisors, funding recipients, general minions and peculiar bedfellows simply want saltwater anglers from every walk of life to ask NOAA Fisheries for a policy directive that would consider placing all fishery management plans in the United States under a catch share program designed to ‘cap’ fishing participation and ‘trade’ access rights amongst individuals hand-selected to own the resource.

That means fish tags, auction houses, and state-run access lotteries as our future of recreational fishing, all in the name of abundance!

You can view the document for yourself at - it’s part of the entire Environmental Defense Fund catch share movement that has led to the funding of groups like the Gulf of Mexico Reef Shareholders Alliance and the Charter Fishermen’s Association, as well as the recent lawsuit to enforce a nine-day red snapper season upon recreational anglers.  Thanks to Environmental Defense Fund, catch share champion Dr. Jane Lubchenco was appointed to NOAA Fisheries during President Obama’s first term, and we are now facing new sector separation mechanisms to divide the recreational fishing community into bits and pieces because of the insidious appointments of ideologues posing as fishermen to regional fisheries councils in the United States.

In other words, asking for abundance is another way of saying ‘please, take away my right to fish.’

I know it sounds good when presented by well-spoken, hip conservationists who claim to be friend to both fish and fisherman.  Ripping a page from the 21st century progressive’s handbook, these angling elite tear into the fishing industry, demonizing those who earn profit in some way, shape or form from the harvest of fish, while pledging to build our oceans to levels of abundance never seen in our lifetime on behalf of the ‘99’ percenters who apparently struggle to catch even a single fish in these dire environmental times.

Anyone who has spent significant time on the water during the past 30 or 40 years will freely admit that the environmental movement of the 1970’s and the enactment of federal fisheries laws during that decade have led to many success stories in coastal fisheries.  And while mostly cyclical, the fishing (when we’re allowed by law) today and overall state of our coastal waters is far better in 2014 than it was during the second part of the 20th century, but that matters little to the environmental hipsters masquerading as nuts and bolts fishermen. 

The soothsayers of the conservation movement readily admit that “we have to comply with federal fisheries law anyway,” which makes the entire abundance argument that much more ridiculous.  Fact is, the federal fisheries law (Magnuson Stevens Act) was originally enacted in 1976 to ensure fishery resources were managed for the greatest overall benefit to the nation, particularly with respect to providing food production and recreational opportunities here in the United States.  By law, those two words – FISHERY and RESOURCES – have very specific meanings when it comes to managing our federal fisheries for continuing sustainability. 

By NOAA Fisheries’ legal definition, resources are “a natural source of wealth and revenue,” including “anything that has value; living and nonliving components of nature such as fish, oil, water, and air.”  At the same time, NOAA says “a fishery is an activity leading to harvesting of fish.”  As much as the progressives would like you to believe that ‘fish’ should have no economic value, the fact that they DO have intrinsic worth by law is precisely the reason why they’ve been protected and conserved with such vigor and tenacity during the past 38 years. 

By the very basic tenets of the Magnuson Stevens Act, our nation’s fishery resources are managed under something called Optimum Yield, which is defined as “the harvest level for a species that achieves the greatest overall benefits, including economic, social, and biological considerations.”  Optimum Yield is the annual ‘yield’ of harvest which in turn provides for the greatest overall benefit to the nation in terms of the wealth, revenue and continued sustainability of our nation’s fisheries.  Economic, social and biological in turns means fish, fishermen and the fishing industry (coincidentally, much in line with the stated mission of the Recreational Fishing Alliance).

Under those very definitions, rebuilding fish stocks while denying fishermen access is actually a violation of the federal law originally intended to foster robust coastal fishing opportunities.  And asking NOAA Fisheries to manage our recreational fishing community for abundance in turn is asking for something which in turn violates federal law. 

The ‘fish first’ conservationists are talking a good game and leading some folks to believe that oceans of abundance will punish greedy business owners while leaving more fish in the ocean to catch, but it’s really just a ploy to build support for reduced fishing participation through shortened seasons and bag limits.  

It's all psychological,” says Mayor Vaughn in Jaws, “You yell ‘barracuda,’ everybody says, ‘Huh? What?’ You yell ‘shark,’ we've got a panic on our hands on the Fourth of July.”

The word ‘overfishing’ is like that word shark, or cancer…they’re terms that strike fear into the hearts of men.  Abundance?  Heck, that’s like asking to cuddle a puppy, or for another slice of apple pie for crying out loud – and who’s opposed to cuddly puppies?!?!

As a saltwater angler, before you go sending an email to NOAA Fisheries in request of abundance just because some well-heeled light tackle and fly guy suggested you do so, consider this scenario.  In the summer flounder fishery, the commercial sector gets 60% of the annual harvest, while the recreational community gets 40%.  If commercial folks manage for ‘optimum yield’ they’ll use 100% of their quota; yet if the recreational community wants to manage for ‘abundance’ does that mean that we’ll opt to use only 50% of our allotted quota in order to build fish stocks? 

Is that what we expect of our regional council members in terms of a vote?  We have an increasing abundance of red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico, yet saltwater anglers are incensed at the lack of access while the shoreside businesses are collapsing.  Pragmatically speaking, that means the Magnuson Stevens is failing.   

Of course, abundance in the recreational sector should make the commercial guys pretty happy.  By taking a deeper than required harvest cut this season, it would mean more abundant fish stocks, so that next season our combined quotas will be larger and the commercial fishermen can harvest more of the fish (optimum yield), while I guess we would take yet another precautionary cutback (abundance).

Here’s the bottom line – managing for abundance sounds wonderful.  Theoretically speaking, in fisheries like tarpon, bonefish, permit, and even Atlantic marlin, managing for abundance is fairly easy considering the lack of commercial pressure in these fisheries.  However, in mixed-used stocks like snapper, flounder, grouper and sea bass, abundance is simply a buzzword created by Environmental Defense Fund to manipulate the conservation ethic of saltwater sportsmen; to once again steal that conservation moniker in the name of grand theft fisheries which will only lead to reduced angler access and a collapsed recreational fishing industry. 

Be proud of the economic output that you provide this nation as a hardcore saltwater angler; remind your member of Congress, as well as the guy down the street, that when you fish it keeps people working.  Fish within the law, keep only that which you plan to consume, and respect the resource - but don’t allow elite conservationists to make you feel guilty about taking home a legal, sustainable American fish for the dinner table. 

Beyond everything else, don’t let some zealot put words in your mouth; tell the federal government what you want as a saltwater angler, not what someone else tells you to want. 

Don’t buy into the abundance of crap that these sharks are selling; they smell blood in the water already, and now they’re looking for the big kill!