image

image
image
image

image
Fight for Your Right to Fish- Updates
Friday, November 15, 2013 -


November Update

Zelden For Congress New York Fishing Tackle Trades Association & Recreational Fishing Alliance

“New York Saltwater Anglers For Zeldin” Cordially Invite You to Attend a Cocktail Reception Honoring Senator Lee M. Zeldin Candidate for U.S. Congress, 1st District

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Parto’s Italian Restaurant 12 West Main Street (at Peconic Avenue), Riverhead, NY

$250 – Requested Individual Donation Hors D'oeuvres, Beer & Wine SPONSORSHIPS: • Gold Sponsor - $500 • Event Committee Chair - $1,000 (includes 2 tickets) (includes 4 tickets) RSVP: By December 6, 2013 Courtney@thekimgroupllc.com or 202.827.8766 Sorry No Corporate Checks (Personal Only) Zelden will fight for Fishermen's Rights!

 

September Update

Thank You Governor Cuomo from the Viking Fleet

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Thursday called on federal officials to loosen their "unfair" restrictions on local fluke catches, which he said are damaging the economies of eastern Long Island and the state.
Joined in Montauk by state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, Cuomo said that if talks with the U.S. Department of Commerce, which regulates the industry, don't yield results in coming months, Schneiderman would file suit to ensure "New York's fishermen get a fair deal."

"We have gotten shortchanged by the federal government year after year after year," Cuomo said from the dock of the Swallow East restaurant, with about a dozen commercial and recreational fishermen standing nearby. "It's clearly not fair to New York and it's costing us millions and millions of dollars."

"The size of our catch can influence everything that we do, from the groceries that we buy to the taxes we pay," said Tony DiLernia, a charter boat captain who sits on the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, which recommends regional policy to the Commerce Department.

Commerce officials did not respond to calls and emails requesting comment on Thursday.
Federal regulations that determine the catch limits for fluke -- or summer flounder -- rely on "outdated" data, Cuomo said. States including New Jersey allow anglers to "land" a larger amount of the fish, and as a result are attracting business from New York.

Cuomo, Bellone and Schneiderman said the data used to determine New York's commercial fluke catch limits date to the 1980s, before the fish population in local waters increased.

"We're still bound by restrictions that were designed for smaller fisheries," Bellone said.

In 2011, 1.4 million pounds of fluke were caught in the state, with a value of $3.4 million, according to Cuomo's office. If New York's federal allocation were the same as in some nearby states, anglers could have caught about 4 million pounds, for $9.8 million in revenue.

The state has unsuccessfully challenged fluke restrictions before, including when Cuomo was attorney general in 2008. New York argued that the state's share of fluke landings was 7.6 percent of the total Atlantic coast catch, while North Carolina was allowed 27.4 percent, Virginia 21 percent and New Jersey 16 percent.Officials with the federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said at the time that the "conservation equivalency" "allows states to tailor recreational measures to meet their own circumstances."

 

Aug 2013 Update

Recreational Fishing Alliance (NY)
Contact: Jim Hutchinson, Jr. /  888-564-6732 
For Immediate Release
August 1, 2013

NYSF & RFA LOOKING FOR STRIPED BASS OPINIONS
* ANGLERS ASKED TO RE-SEND COMMENTS TO NYSF.ORG *
 
***IF YOU SUBMITTED COMMENTS TO WWW.NYSF.ORG/CONTACT BETWEEN 2PM WED. AND 9AM THURS. WE ARE ASKING YOU TO RESEND YOUR STRIPED BASS COMMENTS. DUE TO TECHNICAL SERVER ISSUES, SOME COMMENTS WERE LOST - NEW YORK SPORTFISHING FEDERATION AND RFA ARE ASKING ANGLERS AND BUSINESS OWNERS TO HELP BY COMMENTING AGAIN, AND WE APOLOGIZE FOR THE INCONVENIENCE.
 
July 31, 2013 - According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC), fisheries managers will not be taking any official action on striped bass management along the Atlantic Coast until a coastwide benchmark stock assessment is completed and peer-reviewed later this summer.
 
Jim Gilmore, director of the NYSDEC's Marine Bureau said his department has received several inquiries about the status of the striped bass assessments, but said he won't have anything to report or reply on until the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) finalizes the stock report and makes it available to member states.
 
"Currently, we understand the assessment has been completed and is being peer reviewed; we have not seen the results," Gilmore said, adding "the ASMFC Striped Bass Management Board will not be taking any action until the October meeting based upon the current schedule."
 
Gilmore noted that many fishermen believed that results of the stock assessment might be available for review by the public this summer, but said it is not at this time, though as information becomes available, he will communicate back to the New York fishing community.
 
The status of the striped bass population along the coast has been a heavily debated issue in recent years, as many coastal regions are reporting fewer striped bass catch reports in recent years, and in some cases a complete loss of fish. ASMFC in turn has been targeted by some anglers and writers as "turning a blind eye" to the situation, and "often siding with commercial interests."
 
According to feedback received by coastwide members of the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA), in addition to the localized comments received by the New York Sportfishing Federation (Federation), what will happen after the release of the stock assessment is just about anyone's guess - and the answers to any future problems will not be easy to find.
 
"We've had numerous discussions among the Board of Directors at the Federation, and have heard various input from anglers throughout the New York marine district, and I can tell you that there is no common bond in terms of a recreational management approach to striped bass," said Jim Hutchinson, President of the Federation and the managing director of the RFA.
 
"There are some folks who would like to see a slot limit in the neighborhood of 24 to 30 inches for a keeper striper to protect the bigger breeders, while others would like to see the bag cut in half and the size limit increased to 32 inches," Hutchinson said. "East End captains have a view different from those on the West End, while the surfcasters as a whole are looking at options differently than guys who run center consoles, so there's really just no angler commonality right now, except of course in terms of gamefish protection," he added.
 
"From what I have observed here on the West End, something has changed over the last 4 to 5 years, and it has not been an increase in the 'schoolie' bass population," said Federation board member Dr. John Meringolo of Brooklyn, who personally prefers to see a one fish bag limit with a slot size in the 28- to 40-inch range. "The bigger issue we see as recreational fishermen is the 'poaching' of the stock," Meringolo added.
 
Bob Danielson, a Federation board member from the Great South Bay Anglers club who also sits on the New York Marine Resources Advisory Council (MRAC) said angler feedback is important at this time, particularly considering the statistical predictions. "The models prior to the stock assessment were already predicting a downturn in striped bass populations through 2017," Danielson said, explaining that mycobacteriosis (or fish handlers disease) found in many migratory stripers associated with the Chesapeake Bay stock could be a wild card in the final assessment.
 
"No one really knows what effect it will have on either the total biomass or the spawning stock biomass, we all presume that it will exacerbate the downturn in population," he added.
 
"I think the results from the stock assessment will be interesting and maybe educational," said Federation board member Capt. Joe Paradiso who runs a charter boat out of Greenport on the East End. "Despite what the conclusions are you really can't deny the fact that our striped bass fishery is on a dangerous decline."
 
Paradiso is also a member of the New York MRAC who believes that smaller fish have become less abundant over the last 10 years, which he said may be indicative of poor young of the year classes. "There is a good argument out there regarding a reverse slot to protect the teen-size fish which some believe are the more successful breeders," Paradiso says of the fish between 28 and 36 inches in length.
 
"However, that leaves it open to taking those 'cows' which are also main breeders. I think cutting the bag in half, doing away with the one fish over 40 inches, and increasing the size limit to 32 inches is a start," said Capt. Paradiso, who said he would also support doing away with the special party/charter boat permit which allows anglers two fish at 28 inches.
 
For marine anglers south of the G.W. Bridge, the striped bass season is open from April 15 to December 15 with one fish at 28 inches to 40 inches in length, plus one fish greater than 40 inches (the party/charter boat limit is two fish at 28 inches).
 
"It is evident that something needs to be done," said Alberto Knie, president of Tactical Anglers. "As an avid striper fisherman, seminar speaker, publication distributor and a tackle industry manufacturer, for years I've been pleading that we need a change and history is repeating itself."
 
Hutchinson said the bottom line is that the suggested regulatory changes offered by anglers prior to the release of the benchmark assessment and subsequent management advice from the ASMFC striped bass technical committee is based solely on hunches or gut feelings and not necessarily based on the condition or needs of the Atlantic striped bass stock.
 
"We are all experiencing the effects of the historically strong 2003 year class moving out of the fishery combined with the relatively recent elevation of natural mortality but it is important to reserve absolute support for altered regulations until the release of the assessment," Hutchinson said. "That way any changes can be tailored toward particular management objectives for the stock."
 
New York Sportfishing Federation is interested in your thoughts on striped bass management in the New York marine and coastal district and will begin collecting opinions over the next couple of months. Would you like to see a change in bag, season or size limits to better conserve striped bass? What are you thoughts and opinions on striped bass management?
Go to www.nysf.org/contact and put Striped Bass in the 'subject' field followed by 'your message.' You can also send us mail at New York Sportfishing Federation, 72-11 Austin Street, Suite 144, Forest Hills, NY 11375.


July 2013 Update

Recreational Fishing Alliance
Contact: Jim Hutchinson, Jr. /  888-564-6732 
For Immediate Release
July 25, 2013

SENATE HEARS SUPPORT FOR FLEXIBILTY

RFA's 7-Year Fight For Magnuson Reform Gains New Ally

 

Even Rip Cunningham supports Magnuson flexibility!

 

That's the message heard by members of the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard in a July 23 hearing looking at New England and Mid Atlantic region perspectives on the upcoming reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. It's also a message greatly appreciated by the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) which has spent the past 7 years trying to build support for reforming the federal fisheries law to provide a better balance of commerce, conservation and access for recreational fishermen.

 

In opening testimony from a three-member panel of fisheries managers, a common theme was that changes made in the 2006/2007 reauthorization of the Act have had a major impact on the socioeconomic state of both commercial and recreational fisheries in the Northeast region, and not all of it good.

 

"When reauthorized in 2007, the Act gave the eight Regional Fishery Management Councils and NMFS a very clear charge and some new tools to support improved science and management," said John Bullard, Northeast Regional Administrator for the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). "While significant progress has been made since the last reauthorization, we recognize that this progress has not come without a cost."

 

Among the initiatives included in the reauthorization of Magnuson, Bullard noted specifically how the law "mandated the use of science-based annual catch limits and accountability measures to prevent and end overfishing, provided for market-based fishery management through Limited Access Privilege Programs or catch shares, focused on collaborative research with the fishing industry and bycatch reduction, (and) addressed the need to improve the science used to inform fisheries management."

 

"Managing fisheries using annual catch limits and accountability measures was a major change for some fisheries, and the initial implementation has identified some areas where we can improve that process," Bullard noted in his testimony, adding "The U.S. now has effective tools to address marine fisheries management, and as we look to the future, we must look for opportunities to increase flexibility in our management system."

 

Rick Robins, Chairman of the Mid Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC) noted that the recreational fishing community is highly diverse and includes not only private anglers, but also for-hire vessels in the party/charter fleet whose business interests may reflect different values and regulatory preferences than the commercial sector. Robins told the Committee that during recent outreach sessions with members of the public, anglers have asked for reasonable access to fishing opportunities and greater regulatory stability.

 

"Enhancing the stability of our fisheries is one of our top strategic priorities," Robins said, adding "we've just submitted an Omnibus amendment that would frame our recreational accountability measures in such a way that it would take the statistical uncertainty into account." The recent vote by Robins and the entire MAFMC would remove accountability measures (AM's) like general in-season closure authority from NOAA Fisheries and halt implementation of recreational payback on healthy fish stocks, a move viewed by RFA as a benchmark decision for other regional fisheries councils to follow.

 

"We would suggest leaving room in the Act for some flexibility in recreational AM's," Robins said of the congressional efforts to reauthorize Magnuson.

 

Explaining how the system established by Magnuson has helped end overfishing in MAFMC managed stocks while leading to rebuilt stocks, Robins told Congress that "the next authorization should build on that success but should do so in broader terms than simply just preventing overfishing."

 

When asked by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) if the Magnuson Stevens Act should be revised to offer greater flexibility in rebuilding timelines for fisheries, Robins said personally that he felt that some "targeted flexibility" would be beneficial at the council level.

 

"A lot of times stock growth and rebuilding hinges on environmental conditions that facilitate recruitment and growth into that population to the extent that those environmental variables are outside of our control," Robins said. "I think it would be helpful to have some flexibility to deal with those types of changing and adverse environmental circumstances when a council is trying to rebuild a stock."

 

Rip Cunningham, chairman of the New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) noted that with little ability to predict and no ability to control the environmental changes that are key drivers in the rebuilding progress, "we think management should focus on ending overfishing and not arbitrary rebuilding timeframes."

 

"The New England Council feels that the focus should be on preventing overfishing, not on a set rebuilding timeline," said Cunningham, formerly a loud and vocal critic of efforts to amend the portion of Magnuson-Stevens to address the arbitrary rebuilding deadlines. "We don't have the scientific information that's exact enough to allow us to rebuild to that set time period."

 

In response to the question from Sen. Rubio, Cunningham said "The Council would be supportive of an effort to offer greater flexibility with regards to how we view the timelines," adding "that is the Council's position."

 

RFA executive director Jim Dononfrio said that Senate committee members should be able to take a lot of good information from the first witness panel in Tuesday's hearing. "As I once told Sen. Ted Stevens himself, the accountability measures in the recreational community are like double jeopardy restrictions. We are given a bag, size and season limit by fisheries managers to restrict our catch, and then when the data shows that it was unsuccessful in containing harvest, managers punish anglers a second time."

 

When the MAFMC voted on new omnibus measures in June, Council member Steve Heins of New York noted specifically that if managers set regulations that are not successful in constraining harvest, then perhaps, "the managers should be punished and not the fishermen."

 

At the time of the vote, Bullard himself noted specifically the word's of MAFMC member Tony Dilernia (NY) that the federal government may actually be closing down the 2014 black sea bass fishery because the stock is simply too healthy. "So I'm scratching my head saying we're closing the fishery 'cause there's too many fish, so that doesn't make sense, right?" Bullard noted in December, adding "in 2014 that's what we'd be doing, and so this is the problem we have to solve."

 

Donofrio said it's regrettable that the Senate Committee members in Washington only got half the story at the hearing.

 

"In the last reauthorization of Magnuson, with the help of democrats and republicans in the House, along with New York's Senator Chuck Schumer, Congress increased the deadline for summer flounder rebuilding by 3 years from 2010 to 2013," said Donofrio. "That deadline flexibility allowed anglers to continue fishing over the past five seasons while the stock itself has flourished."

 

"Meanwhile, the AM restrictions mandated by Magnuson have threatened to shut down a healthy, sustainable and rebuilt black sea bass fishery, so obviously the law is in need of repair," Donofrio added. "Hopefully the next time this Senate committee meets they'll take into consideration the input of vested, full-time industry professionals from the recreational for-hire and tackle industry."


June 14 2013- Update

Recreational Fishing Alliance
Contact: Jim Hutchinson, Jr. /  888-564-6732 
For Immediate Release
June 13, 2013

MAFMC OVERTURNS 'PUNITIVE' RECREATIONAL MEASURES

RFA Sees Council Vote As "Benchmark Decision" in ACL/AM Battle

 

June 13, 2012 - The Mid Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) this week approved an Omnibus Recreational Amendment to evaluate alternatives to the accountability measures (AMs) currently in place for the recreational Atlantic mackerel, bluefish, summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass fisheries.

 

The successful vote by Council in favor of removing general in-season closure authority from NOAA Fisheries and halting implementation of recreational payback on healthy fish stocks is seen by the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) as a benchmark decision for other regional fisheries councils to follow.

 

"The Mid Atlantic council has truly taken a leadership position with this vote, and RFA is grateful for the dedicated work of Council staff under the leadership of executive director Chris Moore, and especially for the ongoing support of council chair Rick Robins from Virginia," said RFA executive director Jim Donofrio. "Of course, it also helps when you have a Northeast administrator for NOAA Fisheries like John Bullard supporting the cause for common sense fisheries management under a completely broken federal system."

 

The MAFMC vote to remove the general in-season closure authority from the Northeast regional office of NOAA Fisheries was one of the key AM issues of concern to recreational anglers, especially those who target black sea bass. Such in-season closure authority was used as recently as the fall of 2012, bringing a premature close last year's black sea bass fishery. For a region already impacted by Mother Nature in the form of Superstorm Sandy, the closure was another blow to regional and local economies as well as adversely affecting jobs.

 

Northeast Regional Administrator John Bullard noted specifically the word's of council member Tony Dilernia (NY) that the federal government may actually be closing down the 2014 black sea bass fishery because the stock is simply too healthy. "So I'm scratching my head saying we're closing the fishery 'cause there's too many fish, so that doesn't make sense, right?" Bullard noted in December, adding "in 2014 that's what we'd be doing, and so this is the problem we have to solve."

 

The Council vote to remove the in-season closure authority was nearly unanimous, with Council members Dilernia, Steve Linhard (MD), Rob O'Reilly (VA) and Chris Zeman (NJ) leading the argument in favor of the change. While NOAA Fisheries could still implement an emergency closure if needed, such a decision would have to first be approved at the top by U.S. Secretary of Commerce and would only be for situations when an emergency or overfishing existed as stipulated by Magnuson.

 

MAFMC also voted to restrict payback of any harvest overage in the annual catch limits for recreational fishermen to those species that a B/BMmsy ratio of greater than 1; in other words, there will be no payback mechanism in place for those fisheries which have been determined to be rebuilt stocks in the Mid-Atlantic region includes black sea bass, summer flounder, porgy, and bluefish. For those fisheries not fully rebuilt, any payback will be scaled relative to how nearly fully rebuilt the fishery is. The Mid-Atlantic is the only Council in the nation that has paybacks in recreational fisheries.

 

Capt. Adam Nowalsky, chairman of the RFA-NJ chapter, was the only member of the recreational community in attendance to speak in opposition to the in-season closures and payback mechanisms presently in place. "As highlighted by Council staff, paybacks are punitive in nature," commented Nowalsky. He also added that, "while RFA remains entirely opposed to paybacks, limiting and scaling paybacks only to those fisheries that may be afforded some conversation benefit towards rebuilding is a major step in the right direction."

 

Council member Steve Heins (NY) supported the RFA position of no paybacks, commenting that if managers set regulations that are not successful in constraining harvest, then perhaps, "the managers should be punished and not the fishermen."

 

Another major victory for recreational fishermen was Council action relative to the quality of the data used for the triggers of the accountability measures described above "Accountability measures would only be triggered by a three-year average of the lower limit for the confidence interval of the recreational harvest," said Capt. Nowalsky. "In other words, instead of treating recreational landings as an absolute number, the Council is recognizing this data as an estimate with an inherent variability. Recreational catch estimates exist within a range as opposed to an absolute, to-the-pound number, and only the lower range of that number should trigger a punitive measure."

 

The council's decision to remove the general in-season closure authority from the Northeast regional office of NOAA Fisheries, restrict overage payback in the recreational sector for rebuilt fish stocks, while incorporating analysis of statistical confidence intervals on a three-year average must first be approved by NOAA Fisheries, but RFA expects the support of the regional office out of Gloucester, MA.

 

"What was done here needs to be incorporated into the reauthorization of the Magnuson Stevens Act so that future regional councils are not bound by various interpretation of a broken law, this is something that needs to be put back into the federal law to guide these fisheries councils," said Donofrio. "It's a shame that this wasn't attacked with more support five years ago before the ACL and AM madness upended our recreational fishing community and put so many of our recreational fishing businesses in jeopardy."

 

"Our hope is that the Mid Atlantic council's action this week will help empower some of the other council members around the country, to stand up for common sense and not simply rubber-stamp the bureaucratic interpretation of a bad law," Donofrio added.

 

 

About Recreational Fishing Alliance
The Recreational Fishing Alliance is a national, grassroots political action organization representing recreational fishermen and the recreational fishing industry on marine fisheries issues. The RFA Mission is to safeguard the rights of saltwater anglers, protect marine, boat and tackle industry jobs, and ensure the long-term sustainability of our Nation's saltwater fisheries. For more information, call  888-JOIN-RFA  or visit www.joinrfa.org.

May 24 2013- Update

Recreational Fishing Alliance
Contact: Jim Hutchinson, Jr. /  888-564-6732 
For Immediate Release
May 23, 2013

CONGRESS HIJACKS 'FREEDOM TO FISH'

Obama To Sign Law Protecting Dam Anglers in Midwest

 

May 23, 2013 - On May 21, 2013, the United States Senate voted by unanimous consent to pass the federal Freedom To Fish Act Of 2013. The following day, the legislation was delivered to the President for his signature.

 

Before you go off and give a big Memorial Day toast amongst your angling partners this week, the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) wants you to know that the new Freedom To Fish Act is not the same legislation you fought long and hard to support over the past 10 years. In fact, as far as saltwater angling goes, the new federal Freedom To Fish Act is mostly farce.

 

Trumpeted by some House and Senate republicans as a historic piece of legislation, the Freedom To Fish Act placed on President's Obama's desk this week does little more than provide a 2-year moratorium on the Army Corps of Engineer's plan to erect barriers specifically along the Cumberland River in Kentucky and Tennessee.

 

"A total of 11 sponsors of a House and Senate bill, with all members from either Tennessee or Kentucky, yet this legislation just sails through with a smile and a wave," said RFA executive director Jim Donofrio. "Bring 5,000 coastal fishermen to Washington DC in organized protest of our federal fisheries law and garner support of upwards of 50 federal legislators, and Congress does nothing, it's maddening."

 

Donofrio said the new legislation might offer some freedom to fish for dam anglers on the Cumberland River in Kentucky and Tennessee, but he added "had any of the original Freedom to Fish sponsors in DC actually read this bill they would've realized that their coastal anglers were essentially being pawned off by unanimous consent."

 

To expedite congressional proceedings - typically at the end of a long day in session - the Senate may make allowances for a unanimous consent on the floor to set aside a specific rule of procedure. If no senator objects to it, legislation is essentially passed without an official roll call vote by its members. The reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act was passed in the U.S. Senate by unanimous consent in 2006, an action which RFA has criticized as being particularly disrespectful towards angling interests whose concerns over the rigidity of the law were suppressed by environmental lobbyists.

 

"The approval rating in Congress is in the low teens for good reason, our elected legislators aren't reading these pieces of legislation, not the ones they support nor the ones they oppose," Donofrio said.

 

RFA and other organizations spent several years trying to pass a federal Freedom to Fish Act which would've protected millions of coastal anglers from being subject to arbitrary and unscientifically backed closure of coastal waters through creation of marine reserves. Already passed in several coastal states, the Freedom to Fish Act was stalled at the federal level by environmental groups looking to create a network of zero public access marine reserves.

 

RFA said the original act would've provided far broader federal protection for anglers against arbitrary closed area regulations on every coast.

 

"It was good legislation designed to sensibly protect our coastal fishing interests, but the environmental groups demonized the effort while some folks who should've been fighting for its passage were afraid to get their hands dirty," Donofrio said. "It's a shame too, I'm sure that particular federal law would've protected a whole lot of industry jobs had it passed 10 years ago when we had the momentum."

 

RFA said the new legislation which is expected to be signed into law by President Obama in the coming days specifically defines "restricted areas" as only those waters "at dams and other civil works structures in the Cumberland River basin."

 

"Hope our national tackle manufacturers are happy, their lobbyists just helped hand the most angler-unfriendly administration in history what will probably be turned into a huge public relations win, with a piece of legislation with very little public access benefit," said Donofrio.

 

Unless, of course, you fish solely on the Cumberland River.

 

Donofrio said RFA continues its fight exclusively on behalf of its mission to safeguard the rights of saltwater anglers and protect boat, marine and tackle industry jobs, and he said the organization's promise to protect their members' freedom to fish will not be deterred, even though a handful of congressional members were apparently influenced into selling out the interests of millions of anglers in order to give the president a Memorial Day win.

 

"Radical environmental groups and apologists within the recreational community have been attacking the RFA and its members for national rallies in Washington DC and for standing up for anglers' right to fish by supporting federal and state level Freedom to Fish legislative efforts, but they sure found a cute way to retire that legislative name without securing the intent of the original act, all while allowing the president to sign a new law that provides no additional freedoms to 99 percent of the nation's anglers," Donofrio said

 

"I'm sure there are a few thousand freshwater anglers in the Midwest who are happy about a 2-year moratorium on boat access near Kentucky and Tennessee dams, but for the millions of U.S. saltwater anglers under daily attack by showroom environmentalists, Beltway insiders, bureaucrats and a dysfunctional Congress, there are no freedoms granted by this particular legislation," Donofrio added.

 

About Recreational Fishing Alliance
The Recreational Fishing Alliance is a national, grassroots political action organization representing recreational fishermen and the recreational fishing industry on marine fisheries issues. The RFA Mission is to safeguard the rights of saltwater anglers, protect marine, boat and tackle industry jobs, and ensure the long-term sustainability of our Nation's saltwater fisheries. For more information, call  888-JOIN-RFA  or visit www.joinrfa.org.


May 10th Update
FishNews banner

May 8, 2013
 
 
EVENTS
Two Atlantic Shark Identification Workshops in Bohemia, New York, and Panama City, Florida.
Both are free.
 
Four Protected Species Safe Handling, Release, and Identification Workshops in Maryland, Rhode Island, North Carolina, and Mississippi.
All are free.
 
Managing Our Nation's Fisheries-3 conference in Washington, DC.
 
Public meeting of the Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee (MAFAC) in Washington, D.C.
 
Workshops for participants in pollock and trawl fisheries in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands and in the Western Alaska Community Development Quota Program.
 
Public conference call to discuss progress toward the 2011 Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Recreational Fishing Action Agenda.
 
Joint public meeting of Scientific and General Advisory Committee to the U.S. Section to the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission in Long Beach, California.
 
Workshop for owners/ operators of vessels and shoreside processors for pollock fishery.
 
Free Safety and Survival Training for Commercial Fishermen in Gloucester, Massachusetts.


ANNOUNCEMENTS

June 3
Pre-proposals due for Coastal Fish Habitat Protection funding.

FEDERAL REGISTER ACTIONS
 
Click here for a list of only those actions open for public comment. Scroll search for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
 
For a list of all daily actions, check the Federal Register online.
 
HIGHLIGHTS

 
The 2012 Annual Report on the Status of U.S. Fisheries highlights the collective progress that NOAA Fisheries, the regional fishery management councils, and our stakeholders have made toward ending overfishing and rebuilding stocks. In 2012, 10 stocks were removed from the "overfishing" list and six were declared rebuilt. Sam Rauch notes in a message to stakeholders that these improvements demonstrate the success of U.S. science-based fisheries management.
 
Check out this new, 8-page report that details how habitat restoration and protection is yielding fantastic results in terms of bigger, healthier populations of fish. The report includes specific data on increases in size and abundance of fish populations drawn from around the United States and covering an array of habitat types. In an accompanying message, NOAA's Eric Schwaab emphasizes how habitat conservation keeps U.S. fisheries going strong.
 
By June 17, submit your comments on a proposed rule to implement some of the domestic provisions of the Shark Conservation Act of 2010. The Act prohibits any person from removing shark fins at sea or possessing, transferring, or landing shark fins unless they are naturally attached to the corresponding carcass.
 
The Obama Administration announced the release of the National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan in April. To help specific groups of stakeholders understand their potential involvement in this voluntary regional planning effort, factsheets are available on topics such as recreational fishing, commercial fishing, and aquaculture.
Northeast
Drawing on the advice of the New England Fishery Management Council, NOAA Fisheries announced final management measures for the Northeast groundfish fishery, including much lower quotas for some key stocks, as well as actions to help fishermen adjust to these quotas. NOAA and the Department of Commerce continue to work with Congress to help mitigate the impacts of these measures on the region.
 
The Whale SENSE Program is a collaborative effort among NOAA, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation organization, and commercial whale watching companies that promotes safe and responsible whale viewing. As they give tours, Whale SENSE member boats aid in educational outreach, data collection, and reporting whale entanglements to rescuers.
 
A 28-foot-long basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus) washed up on Misquamicut Beach in Westerly, Rhode Island, presenting NOAA shark biologists an unexpected chance to gather important shark data close to home.
Southeast
As part of the larger restoration plan following the 2002 Everreach oil spill outside North Charleston, South Carolina, NOAA and its partners restored 12 acres of salt marsh on the Noisette Creek. The restored habitat will support activities such as boating, fishing, shellfish harvest, and shrimp baiting.
 
On one of the first restoration projects completed following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, NOAA and its partners have restored submerged aquatic vegetation at 17 sites where response activities scarred seagrass beds. These sites range from Apalachee Bay, Florida, to Perdido Bay on the Florida-Alabama state line.
 
By June 6, submit your comments on the U.S. Air Force's application for authorization to take marine mammals (by harassment incidental to military readiness activities) at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida during a 5-year period.
Southwest
By June 3, submit your comments on the Southwest Fisheries Science Center's request for authorization to take small numbers of marine mammals incidental to fisheries research during a 5-year period.
 
By July 1, submit your comments on the Draft Programmatic Environmental Assessment for Fisheries Research Conducted and Funded by the Southwest Fisheries Science Center. This assessment evaluates the potential environmental impacts of fisheries and ecosystem research along the U.S. West Coast, Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean, and Scotia Sea area off Antarctica.
Northwest
Photo by Jeff Bash, Northwest Fisheries Science Center

NOAA Fisheries' Northwest Region announces the winners of the second annual photo contest aimed at highlighting the work of NOAA staff at the Regional Office and the Fisheries Science Center.
Alaska
Rockfish (Sebastes spp) often suffer internal barotrauma injuries when brought up to the surface from deep water. Researchers at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center demonstrated that rougheye rockfish can survive capture if recompressed, suggesting the potential for tagging studies of deepwater rockfish.

 

March 14 update

Recreational Fishing Alliance
Contact: Jim Hutchinson, Jr. /  888-564-6732 
For Immediate Release
March 12, 2013

THE ABSURDITY OF FISHERIES MANAGEMENT

PART 7 - An Act of Congress Can Help End the Madness

 

During the past six weeks, the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) has detailed a series of fisheries management absurdities which includes time-certain deadlines, in-season recreational measures based on flawed data, rigid annual catch limits and punitive accountability measures, not to mention a federal bureaucracy more focused on 'effort reduction' and 'catch & release' than with promoting angler opportunity or preserving fishermen's rights to responsibly harvest marine species.

 

For the past 7 years, RFA has contended that the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act, reauthorized by unanimous consent in the U.S. Senate in late 2006, is a broken law in desperate need of reform. To make matters worse, NOAA has been selectively enforcing provisions of this law by picking and choosing which sections it wants to follow and those it wants to disregard, resulting in deliberate and excessive negative impacts to the recreational community.

 

Regrettably, as you read in last week's edition, dissension even amongst the ranks of recreational fishermen (for whatever the reasons) has only led to problems in Congress with getting sensible reform legislation to the table.

 

Following a series of discussions and debates before the House Natural Resources Committee going back to 2007, committee members Jon Runyan (R-NJ) and Steve Southerland (R-NJ) shepherded a committee-backed bill in the House of Representatives in August of 2012, pulling together various components of other fisheries legislation supported by fellow committee members including Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Rob Wittman (R-VA), in hopes of addressing the various problems with Magnuson.

 

Known as the Transparent and Science-Based Fishery Management Act of 2012, this 'committee bill' has been thoroughly reviewed by House Natural Resource Committee members and staff, and according to the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA), should be re-introduced in the 113th Congress for a chance to pass out of committee and be voted on by fellow House members.

 

"There were many different representatives from a host of organizations hoping to see their own individual piece of legislation adopted by the committee, but it's time for all individual organizations to band together behind one comprehensive bill to see if we can salvage what's left of our beleaguered industry," said RFA executive director Jim Donofrio. "If the Transparent and Science-Based Fishery Management Act is the vehicle supported by committee members and staff, then let's all get in the driver's seat and get to where we're going."

 

THE SUM OF ALL PARTS

The bill to amend the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act would provide increased flexibility for fishery managers, additional transparency for fishermen, a referendum for catch shares, and added sources of funding for fishery survey mechanisms in support of coastal fishermen from both the recreational and commercial fishing communities.

 

It would amend Magnuson to provide that any regional fishery management council is not required to develop an annual catch limit (ACL) for a fishery or stock for which a survey and stock assessment has not been performed within the preceding 5 years; it also permits the Secretary to suspend ACL's if the scientific advice is based on a level of uncertainty that insufficiently meets national standards. To help improve science and statistical standards, the legislation also mandates that portions of fisheries enforcement penalties be used for data collection purposes.

 

The Transparent and Science-Based Fishery Management Act would require that each ACL take into account key management measures under international agreements and informal transboundary agreements under which management activities outside the exclusive economic zone by another country may hinder conservation efforts by U.S. fishermen. It would also prohibit the New England, Mid-Atlantic, South Atlantic, and Gulf of Mexico Councils (except Gulf of Mexico commercial red snapper) from submitting a fishery management plan or amendment that creates a catch share program for a fishery unless the final program has been approved in a referendum by a majority of specified permit holders eligible to participate in the fishery.

 

In addressing rebuilding timelines for rebuilding fisheries, the legislation would allow the Secretary of Commerce to extend the rebuilding period under specified provisions, provided that the maximum rebuilding time not exceed clearly defined criteria based on the biological attributes and life-history characteristics of the stock. The legislation also directs the Secretary to review and report to Congress on each fishery closure that was not a normal and expected occurrence under the fishery management plan and was considered disruptive to sport, charter, or commercial fishing operations, and that was in effect for more than 120 days within the 5-year period preceding the enactment of this Act.

 

"I remember JFK once saying that victory has a thousand fathers, and this legislation could be a great bipartisan example of that," Donofrio said. "There has been a lot of head-butting to get to this point, but if all the representative organizations would agree to support comprehensive legislation which helps keep our fishermen fishing and includes everyone's individual concerns, the Transparent and Science-Based Fishery Management Act could help eliminate a few of these fisheries management absurdities now keeping anglers off the water."

 

RFA said efforts to completely reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Act are already underway with expected debate to begin soon in both the House and the Senate. According to Donofrio, the first official hearing on reauthorizing the federal fisheries law will occur this Wednesday at 10 a.m., and again in the House Natural Resources Committee.

 

RFA said while proceedings to reauthorize the law are underway, many members of Congress have already made personal, public pledges during the past 3 years to fix the current law in order provide some much-needed coastal relief, promises Donofrio is hoping will be kept.

 

"The last time the reauthorization proceedings began, it took more than two years to see something come out of Congress," Donofrio said. "Our fishermen and coastal fishing businesses don't have another 2 years to battle anti-industry environmentalists about what language should or shouldn't be included in a final draft, we need to pick up where the House Natural Resources Committee left off in 2012 and fix this law."

 

Donofrio and RFA staff will be in Washington DC all day on Wednesday, checking in on the hearing and visiting members of Congress in support of federal fisheries reform. As a follow-up, members of the RFA board of directors will be asking RFA members and non-members alike to band together nationwide in support of sensible Magnuson reform in 2013 which can responsibly balance commerce and conservation.

 

The discussion and debate has carried on too long, and it's time for all recreational anglers, businesses and organizations to put their collective efforts together in helping dismantle the ongoing absurdities in fisheries management.




Recreational Fishing Alliance
Contact: Jim Hutchinson, Jr. /  888-564-6732 
For Immediate Release
March 7, 2013

THE ABSURDITY OF FISHERIES MANAGEMENT

PART 6 - SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY

 

No matter where you may stand on the gun control debate, the one fact on which both sides can agree is that the National Rifle Association (NRA) has established itself as the single most powerful lobbying organization in America today. While they're often attacked for staunchly defending individual members and the gun industry itself, the fact is that NRA is a political force second to none in Congress.

 

Regrettably, there is no constitutional amendment protecting the saltwater angler's right to fish, no comprehensive state or federal Freedom to Fish law by which to stand firm in the belief that Americans have an inalienable right to fish. Even more disheartening is that unlike those who cater to the sporting consumer under protection of the Second Amendment, the recreational fishing industry has mostly allowed their customers' right to open access to a sustainable public resource to be treated more like a privilege as opposed to a right.

 

Legal U.S. gun owners have grown accustomed to the 'guilt treatment' while criminals steal the headlines. More recently, recreational anglers have been subjected to the same treatment, with our 'right to fish' argument ridiculed by groups like Pew Environment Group, National Resources Defense Council, Marine Fish Conservation Network and others who rail against the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) as being nothing more than a "marine equipment industry lobby/trade association," and a "fringe" group unwilling to concede on important access issues.

 

Sadly, if the recreational boating and tackle industry were as steadfast in their defense of saltwater anglers as NRA was with their members, our recreational fishing industry probably wouldn't be forced into giving up so much, so fast, as we have since special interests helped pass the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act in 2006. When you consider our own national fishing and boating trade associations helped broker the restrictive federal policies in the federal law in the first place, the best analogy would be if the national gun manufacturers closed down operations and simply turned their product over to the government before giving their customers a choice or a voice in the debate.

 

In essence, by continually providing cover for an inefficient federal bureaucracy while lobbying against sensible legislative reform of our federal fisheries law, the recreational fishing industry is doing just that.

 

EVEN CATCH & RELEASE REQUIRES OPEN ACCESS

In the past several weeks, the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) has detailed a series of absurdities in fisheries management, including time-certain deadlines, in-season recreational measures based on flawed harvest data, rigid annual catch limits and punitive accountability measures, not to mention a federal bureaucracy which seems to focus more attention on 'effort reduction' as opposed to promotion of angling opportunities. Since early 2007, RFA has contended that the Magnuson-Stevens Act was a broken law, warning of an impending train wreck in managing both rebuilding and rebuilt fish stocks.

 

While RFA has spent 7 years arguing for congressional intervention in addressing these absurdities, even spearheading the first 5,000-strong rally in DC to embolden the call for Magnuson reform back in the winter of 2010, the recreational fishing industry itself has stood mostly along the sidelines, even while their own Beltway advocates have partnered with our legislative enemies while helping support a broken federal bureaucracy. Perhaps unbeknownst to most boating and tackle CEO's, they've actually become directly involved in the fight by providing cover and support for those who support these fisheries management absurdities.

 

Take for instance the Center for Coastal Conservation (CCC), a lobbying organization created in 2008 by the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) with financial help from the recreational boating and tackle industry. With a board primarily consisting of CCA members, the CCC mission supports "ending overfishing by a time certain," and "rebuilding plans for fisheries with time constraints," both of which are unscientifically based absurdities which RFA has openly criticized.

 

"Imagine if the entire recreational fishing industry understood just how badly angler access has eroded due to time-certain deadlines and constraints, I don't see how they'd ever spend another dollar on lobbying against their customers' best interests," said RFA executive director Jim Donofrio. "Yet every time we walk into a Member of Congress' office, RFA has to once again unscrew this problem created by the industry's support for inflexible fisheries management through artificial deadlines."

 

Another recreational boating and fishing industry side project creating confusion in Washington is the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP), described by non-profit reporting group GuideStar USA as an organization funded by Pew Charitable Trusts ($484,000), William & Flora Hewlett Foundation ($370,000) and the Turner Foundation ($305,700). According to their recent federal policy agenda, among the TRCP action items for 2013 is helping fisheries managers to acquire the "the tools and opportunity to make in-season adjustments necessary to help recreational anglers stay within their annual catch limits."

 

"What the TRCP board of directors is saying to Congress is that they support real-time, in-season closures so that saltwater anglers won't go over rigidly assigned annual catch limits, even though the recreational data collection is based on random surveys and stock assessments which are being called into question by key members of Congress," Donofrio said.

 

Earlier this week, USA Today reported on a bipartisan group of senators now pressing for an independent review of how the federal government calculates fishing stocks in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic. "We have a systemic problem within NOAA right now on how they do stock assessments," Donofrio told USA Today, explaining how fishermen around the country are suffering due to the bureaucratic challenge. "It just goes to show you that they have to start paying attention to on-water observations and fishermen," Donofrio said, adding "we've been ignored for the most part."

 

In the same article, it was also noted that environmental groups like Pew are continuing to dispute RFA's claims about angler participation in the fishery management process, openly charging the recreational fishing industry as being over-represented among members of the eight regional councils that help guide NOAA on catch limits around the country.

 

"If the recreational boating and fishing industry really understood what their involvement with Pew on their TRCP board of directors was actually doing to influence members of Congress, they'd be shocked to learn that they are actually helping support fewer and fewer angler days on the water for their customers," Donofrio said. "These particular environmental groups have very little respect for industry, and without individual anglers, there is no recreational fishing industry."

 

Much like NRA has stubbornly refused to budge on behalf of its members and businesses, RFA refuses to concede open access through compromise to those who would promote angler intolerance through guilt.

 

Or perhaps as Benjamin Franklin once pointed out, "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

 

On Tuesday, March 11, the final installment of RFA's month-long series on the Absurdity of Fisheries Management looks at the answer to all this madness as Congress once again takes up debate on the 'reform' and 'reauthorization' of the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

 

About Recreational Fishing Alliance
The Recreational Fishing Alliance is a national, grassroots political action organization representing recreational fishermen and the recreational fishing industry on marine fisheries issues. The RFA Mission is to safeguard the rights of saltwater anglers, protect marine, boat and tackle industry jobs, and ensure the long-term sustainability of our Nation's saltwater fisheries. For more information, call  888-JOIN-RFA  or visit www.joinrfa.org.
 

 

 

Fight for Your Rights to Fish! Articles and News. Please read on!


Recreational Fishing Alliance
Contact: Jim Hutchinson, Jr. /  888-564-6732 
For Immediate Release
February 28, 2013

THE ABSURDITY OF FISHERIES MANAGEMENT

PART 5 -CONVERSION, DIVERSION AND PERVERSION

 

On this the final day of February, the woman in charge of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrator (NOAA) is expected to officially step away from her appointed post. Based on promises and performance, that can't be bad news for any coastal fishermen in America today.

 

At a meeting with the New York fishing industry just 2-1/2 years ago for example, Dr. Jane Lubchenco heard first-hand about ongoing problems experienced by coastal fishermen - the 'regulated community' as NOAA calls us. Brokered by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), the personal sit-down was meant to provide a forum for members of the both the recreational and commercial fishing community whom together shares allocation of important food fish species like black sea bass, porgy and summer flounder.

 

Regrettably, the take-home tasks and follow-up items promised by Dr. Lubchenco following the meeting never materialized. Whether or not a new NOAA Administrator - expected to be appointed by President Obama any day now - will address these concerns remains unknown. What is known and has been openly expressed by the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) years prior to that 2010 meeting is that recreational fishermen cannot be managed by the same rigid methodology as the commercial sector.

 

"The way our recreational fishery is managed is wrong in terms of pounds of fish," RFA managing director Jim Hutchinson told Dr. Lubchenco at the open forum, pointing out one of the most critical items for the NOAA administration to address in terms of the methodologies used for representing recreational harvest. "It's unfair to manage recreational fishermen the same way as commercial," Hutchinson added.

 

This criticism by RFA of the federal fisheries service on behalf of its mission as a political action organization has often been misconstrued and vilified by preservationists as nothing but a call for less government restriction and more allowable harvest by anglers. In truth, RFA has long contended that this particular absurdity of fisheries management has not only led to more restrictive access against anglers, it is also counter-intuitive to the overall health of the resource. The elite preservationists can criticize the messenger all they want, but it was Samuel Adams who said "For true patriots to be silent is dangerous."

 

"A SYSTEM DESTINED TO FAIL"

For more than a decade, the recreational industry has asked for fishery management plans to be changed to recognize the number of fish caught by anglers as opposed to just pounds of fish, which RFA says leads to an inflated quota based on statistical modeling. "Every time we increase the size limit to curb overall harvest when setting a fishing season, we are actually increasing the size of the harvested fish and the release mortality, and in turn the weight of the fish caught in pounds," Hutchinson said at the 2010 meeting, explaining "it's the quintessential Catch 22 and it's destroying the recreational fishing community's ability to properly manage fisheries."

 

As RFA has frequently pointed out, commercial landings of fish in pounds is pretty straight-forward; when commercial boats return to port to sell their catch, every pound of fish offloaded and sold is accounted for by way of paper trail for both harvest and tax purposes. When state and federal records show an annual catch limit (ACL) has officially been met dockside, that commercial fishery is officially closed to avoid overage. Because every fish harvested is bought and sold, in-season accountability measures (closures) make perfect sense for the commercial industry.

 

In the recreational sector on the other hand, pounds of fish can never be 100% accountable - when you consider that anglers fish from docks, bridges, beaches, private marinas or even upon boats kept in their own backyards, compiling a pound-for-pound accounting of recreational harvest is an impossibility. To monitor ACL's in the recreational sector, the initial poundage of harvest is converted to numbers of fish, which allows state fisheries managers to devise a season, size and bag limit which places a limit on the amount of fish caught during a year. The numbers of fish harvested, in turn, is measured by random sampling through a series of (A) phone calls to coastal households, coupled with (B) random dockside intercepts at certain public locations where anglers might be found.

 

To keep this theoretical limit on angler quotas, NOAA Fisheries converts 'pounds' of fish to 'numbers' of fish, and then uses an average weight of each fish to estimate the numbers of pounds harvested within the recreational community. To provide maximum opportunity for anglers to fish during a given season, the sliding scale of season, size and bag is adjusted accordingly. To provide more days on the water, statistics require the size of a legal fish to increase in order to reduce the overall numbers of fish harvested; conversely, to lower the size limit of a given fish to provide anglers with better opportunity to 'bag' a keeper, the number of available days must be reduced and the seasons shortened.

 

"To meet the rigid ACL's with this random recreational data collection and provide more days on the water, we're forcing anglers to harvest bigger fish which in turns hits the quota even faster than the statisticians could've comprehended," said RFA executive director Jim Donofrio. "We may catch fewer numbers of fish, but the actual poundage of fish caught coupled with increased discard mortality by anglers throwing back undersized fish is contributing to this complete absurdity."

 

Donofrio noted that the recreational data collection methodology applies a mortality figure to released fish, which also adds up in total poundage. "For Mid-Atlantic summer flounder for example, there's a 10% mortality rate for throwbacks, meaning that every time you raise the size limit by an inch or two, you're focusing harvest on bigger breeders and statistically forcing anglers to kill one more fish for every 10 they throwback," he added. "If you were to raise the allowable size limit on fluke to something crazy like 24 inches, theoretically, you would register more harvest through discard mortality than anglers would ever be able to put in the box."

 

In the Gulf of Mexico, ongoing efforts to rebuild the red snapper population has resulted in bigger fish at the offshore rigs, reefs and rockpiles, which in turn has led to anglers reaching their annual limit of fish even faster. "Two big fish in the box, a bunch of undersized discards, next thing you know we're looking at a shorter season next year as the stock becomes more robust," Donofrio added. "It's not that NOAA hasn't heard of this issue before, it's just that the administration refuses to work with our community on finding answers to address the problem."

 

In relation to the ACL requirements contained in Magnuson-Stevens Reauthorization Act (MSRA) of 2007, none of this should come as a surprise to anyone involved in fisheries management. In an April 17, 2007 letter to NOAAregarding annual catch limits, Donofrio said "consistent with our position in the final discussion of MSRA, we believe these management tools, though easily applied to commercial fisheries, are inappropriate for the recreational sector," while referring to the error value in pounds to numbers as part of "a system destined to fail."

 

"The 'catch and release' principle embraced by some conservationists is quite noble, but it's literally killing many of our most important food fish and leading to fewer available days on the water for recreational anglers," Donofrio added. "RFA's ongoing criticism of this reckless conversion is not just about our right to fish, it's also about the responsible management of fish as a sustainable resource."

 

Or as Adams himself noted, "The people alone have an incontestable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to institute government and to reform, alter, or totally change the same when their protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness require it."

 

RFA members aren't happy. Are you?

 

Next Thursday, March 7, don't miss part 6 in the continuing series on the Absurdity of Fisheries Management as RFA looks to the recreational fishing industry in support of their customers.

 

About Recreational Fishing Alliance
The Recreational Fishing Alliance is a national, grassroots political action organization representing recreational fishermen and the recreational fishing industry on marine fisheries issues. The RFA Mission is to safeguard the rights of saltwater anglers, protect marine, boat and tackle industry jobs, and ensure the long-term sustainability of our Nation's saltwater fisheries. For more information, call  888-JOIN-RFA  or visit www.joinrfa.org.


Feb 20 2013

 

Please see the letter below sent by Senator Schumer to the ASMFC.

 

Best,

Gerry

 

February 19, 2012

 

Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission

C/O Robert Beal, Executive Director

1050 N. Highland Street, Suite 200A-N

Arlington, VA 22201

 

Dear Representatives of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission,

For over a decade, the hardworking men and women of New York’s recreational fishing industry have been the victims of an onerous and unjust fisheries management system for our most precious species, summer flounder. Despite a remarkable rebound in the health of the summer flounder over the past five years, over 200,000 New York anglers continue to get short-changed by the “conservation equivalency” system annually approved by the Commission.

Today, the Commission has new data at its disposal that clearly demonstrates the current Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for summer flounder is not based on the best available science and, in fact, may be in violation of the National Standards outlined in the Magnuson-Stevens Act. In the coming weeks, the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Fisheries will be holding a hearing at my request to examine this issue in greater detail. However, I write today to urge you to act on a set of reforms that will be proposed to you by the New York members of the Commission that will inject more up-to-date science, better management, and fairer fish allocations for all states represented. In the absence of these reforms, I will pursue legislative changes to the federal fisheries law that will require the Commission and the National Marine Fisheries Service to appropriately update the FMP for summer flounder using the best available science.

As you know, New York has been stymied in its attempts to make changes to summer flounder management for several years. Fluke, as it is known in New York, is the most popular recreational fish in New York’s marine district, which includes a significant but declining charter boat and recreational fishing industry. I have heard about this problem from this industry for many years: the original decisions that determined quota allocations were based upon recreational survey data from the late 1990’s that we now know have changed significantly over the last decade and were never accurate in the first place. States with higher allotments from the unequal distribution of the recreational quota have an unfair competitive advantage over New York, which is naturally one of the largest fluke-fishing states. New York receives only a fraction of the potential recreational catch compared to its historical effort, industry representation, and abundant fluke waters.

Past efforts by my office and other New York stakeholders to fix the glaring inequities in the FMP have not yet led to much-needed reform. Three years ago, the State of New York took the federal government to court over the mismanagement of summer flounder. As a U.S. Senator, I have secured federal appropriations for the Partnership for Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Science to update our understanding of the stock’s behavior with the hope that the Commission would use the data to change the FMP. I have also convened at least two meetings on Long Island with high-level NOAA representatives and most recently, asked the GAO to investigate the issue. I mention these items to you to highlight that it is not for a lack of effort that we find ourselves exploring legislative action to fix the problem in the Magnuson-Stevens reauthorization.

Fortunately, this effort for fairness is now armed with new science and a commitment to greater congressional oversight. We now have a decade of new data on recreational effort for this fishery to complete a new “baseline” for each state. We also know, according to the Northeast Fisheries Science Center, that the range of summer flounder is overwhelmingly expanding and shifting to the north, as our waters are more abundant with stock than at any time in decades.

Fish behavior is often dynamic and fisheries management must adapt to keep pace. It is my understanding that a number of alternatives are being discussed by Commission members and leadership, including a return to a coastwide management system. A coastwide system would certainly inject fairness and sound management back into the FMP. However, I am fully aware that some states would not support this approach and therefore would be amenable to a new multi-regional approach based on the most current science and data.

In closing, I would like to highlight the testimony of one charter boat captain and small business owner from Long Island at a recent meeting my office hosted with NOAA officials. A popular figure for years at the Captree port, this constituent announced at the meeting that after many years in the fishing business, he had to sell his business in large part because of restrictive fluke regulations and a loss of business to New Jersey. As the fluke population rebounds in New York, it is unjust that the story of this Captree fisherman continues to play out, year after year across Nassau and Suffolk, with no end in sight. This system must change and I implore you to act immediately.

 

Please feel free to reach out to Gerry Petrella of my Washington staff at  202-224-6542  with any questions.

Sincerely,


Charles E. Schumer
U.S. Senator

 

CC: Dr. Christopher Moore, Executive Director, Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council

 

Gerry Petrella

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY)

gerry_petrella@schumer.senate. gov

Office:  202.224.0059 

 

 

Feb 10 2013

Recreational Fishing Alliance
Contact: Jim Hutchinson, Jr. /  888-564-6732 
For Immediate Release
January 31, 2013

THE ABSURDITY OF FISHERIES MANAGEMENT

PART 1 - WHEN NOAA MEANS NO

 

As all saltwater fishermen are aware, President Bush signed the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act of 2006 on January 12, 2007. In the six years since this law governing management of our coastal fishing industry- recreational and commercial alike - was reenacted, the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) has pointed out the complete absurdity of fisheries management stemming from both the rigid and inflexible requirements spelled out in this law, as well as the gross neglect by our federal government to meet Congress's deadlines and requirements.

 

Over the next several weeks, RFA plans to focus on several key 'absurdities' stemming from this broken federal law, putting a spotlight on our government failures to properly protect and serve America's coastal fishing communities in the way that Warren Magnuson and Ted Stevens had originally intended when our federal fisheries law was first adopted to aid in the development of the domestic commercial and recreational fishing industry while phasing out foreign fishing in 1976.

 

Of course, some folks would prefer that the RFA keep quiet with our criticism so that they could continue to provide cover for our over-worked bureaucrats and ever-conscientious members of Congress, while forgetting all about the high praise that some national trade and manufacturing groups bestowed upon the Magnuson-Stevens Act when it was reauthorized (which now has brought many recreational fisheries to their knees.) But in the words of the late John F. Kennedy, Jr., "Without debate, without criticism, no administration and no country can succeed -- and no republic can survive."

 

FAILURE TO LAUNCH

During the 2005 and 2006 debate over Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization language, the National Academy of Sciences' National Research Council (NRC) was conducting a comprehensive review of the recreational data collection program used by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). The NRC's final report was issued in 2006, upon which time NRC committee chairman at the time Pat Sullivan, a Cornell University professor, referred to the recreational data collection methodology as "fatally flawed."

 

According to the 2006 NRC report, a panel of experts found specifically that the Marine Recreational Fishing Statistical Survey (MRFSS) which had been used by NMFS since the early 1980's to generate catch statistics from the recreational sector has "serious flaws in design or implementation and use inadequate analysis methods that need to be addressed immediately."

 

As a result, Congress incorporated section 109-479 under the Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization in 2006 specifically to implement a few of the NRC recommendations for data collection. Among the items included in the final law signed by President Bush was the use of surveys that target anglers registered or licensed at the State or Federal level to collect participation and effort data, incorporating an adequate number of docksideintercepts to accurately estimate recreational catch and effort; collection and analysis of vessel trip report data from charter fishing vessels (also known as VTR), and evendevelopment of a weather corrective factor that can be applied to recreational catch and effort estimates.

 

As per this federal fisheries law, the President's signature required that the Secretary of Commerce to "complete the program under this paragraph and implement the improved Marine Recreational Fishery Statistics Survey not later than January 1, 2009."

 

So how has the Department of Commerce met this challenge? In a recent meeting in Gloucester, MA, several recreational stakeholders from New Jersey to Maine learned first-hand how VTR data from the charter and party boat industry was still not being used as a source of data, and that angler registry data compiled by states as required by Magnuson-Stevens was not being used for effort/participation models. Instead of contacting registered anglers, NMFS informed stakeholders that they were still compiling recreational data collection using the original MRFSS methodology of calling phone numbers at random from coastal phone books.

 

One week following yet another public revelation by NMFS that they had failed to meet their federal requirements, a handful of recreational anglers in New York received an email announcing that "NMFS has begun a pilot study of a mail-based effort survey in New York and a few other states. They are continuing the Coastal Household Telephone Survey (for now) and wanted to build awareness of the project in case we get any questions while this is going on."

 

At this time, the Department of Commerce, NOAA Fisheries and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is asking for help in improving outreach and communications in terms of their ongoing pilot studies to improve data collection in the recreational fishing community. Rather than implementing the NRC recommendations from 2006 or adhering to the federal requirements laid out by Congress to meet the 2009 implementation deadline, the government instead would like you to know that nothing has changed, MRFSS is still being used to gather recreational harvest data, the angler registry databases are not being used, and neither are the vessel trip reporting logs collected on federally permitted charter and head boats.

 

RFA is more than willing to help our Department of Commerce in any way possible, and we offer this notice as a public service to our recreational fishing communities nationwide; please take note that NMFS just wants you to know that they are using "fatally flawed" data collection and incorporating "inadequate analysis methods" that should've been "addressed immediately" in 2006 in order to meet a 2009 congressional deadline.

 

Hey, Rome wasn't built in a day. Although it's true, it only took six days for it to burn to the ground!


Recreational Fishing Alliance
Contact: Jim Hutchinson, Jr. /  888-564-6732 
For Immediate Release
February 7, 2013

THE ABSURDITY OF FISHERIES MANAGEMENT

PART 2 - WHEN DOES GOVERNMENT BECOME ACCOUNTABLE?

 

In our first installment of the Absurdity of Fisheries Management series, the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) shined the spotlight on the "fatally flawed" Marine Recreational Fishing Statistical Surveys (MRFSS) which the Department of Commerce is using today to essentially shut down 'commerce' in the recreational fishing industry.

 

Regrettably, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) successfully argued before a U.S. District Court judge in 2011 that Congress didn't actually intend for them to really fix the recreational data collection program by time-certain deadline of 2009. In the words of the Honorable James S. Moody, Jr. who found in favor of the defendant (NMFS), "Nowhere in the MSRA (Magnuson Stevens Reauthorization Act) or its legislative history does Congress indicate its intent, as the Plaintiff argues, for the improved MRFSS to be completely finalized with all phases of the MRIP (Marine Recreational Information Program) fully implemented by January 1, 2009."

 

Actually, Judge Moody agreed with NMFS that meeting the 2009 deadline for the implementation of recreational data collection improvements would be "unrealistic and impossible," further elaborating that Congress never gave an express meaning of the word "implement."

 

Thomas Jefferson said, "Laws are made for men of ordinary understanding and should, therefore, be construed by the ordinary rules of common sense. Their meaning is not to be sought for in metaphysical subtleties which may make anything mean everything or nothing at pleasure." But make no mistake, when Congress reauthorized Magnuson in 2006, they were told explicitly what would happen when they phrased their language as they did.

 

"THE BIGGEST MISTAKE WE CAN MAKE"

Signed into law by President Bush on January 12, 2007, the Magnuson-Stevens Act also changed the requirements to monitoring and adjusting seasonal fishing quotas by requiring any fishery management plan prepared by Council or the Secretary of Commerce to "establish a mechanism for specifying annual catch limits in the plan (including a multiyear plan), implementing regulations, or annual specifications, at a level such that overfishing does not occur in the fishery, including measures to ensure accountability."

 

The deadline for implementing these new annual catch limits (ACL) was 2010, the year after MRIP was supposed to replace MRFSS.

 

According to NOAA, an ACL is "the level of annual catch of a fish stock or stock complex that serves as the basis for invoking accountability measures," whereas accountability measures (AM) are the management controls that prevent annual catch limits from being exceeded, which includes future mitigation. In other words, an ACL is not just a quota, it's a rigid numerical limit based on pounds of fish; if the ACL is exceeded or projected to be exceeded in any way, shape or form by the recreational sector, an AM is the punishment that gets meted out.

 

"Basically this means that if the recreational data collection shows anglers overharvested more of the seasonal quota than we were originally allowed, we'll have to pay that overage back in future quota, a penalty before a new season can even start," said Jim Donofrio, executive director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA). "Our argument in 2006 in opposition to these ACL's and payback measures is the same today, that fisheries managers cannot meet exact weights and measures required under this scheme by simply using old random survey data."

 

While commercial fishermen in theory have nearly exact accounting of every pound of fish that's brought back to dock and sold, recreational anglers are monitored using random phone calls and a dockside sampling efforts. Established in the 1970's as a tool to monitor angler trends, MRFSS is still being used today to gather 'effort and participation' data by calling phone listings in coastal phone books coupled with 'catch per angler' statistics gathered at a handful of dockside locations.

 

"Most of our fishermen have never been called at home nor have they been surveyed at the dock, yet MRFSS is still in place as the tool by which NOAA meets the rigid ACL and AM definitions," Donofrio said. "Of greater concern, as more information comes to light in way of US Fish and Wildlife Service data and state license/registry programs, there is undeniable evidence that MRFSS habitually and significantly overestimates the number anglers," Donofrio continued.

 

As RFA warned from the beginning, the rush to meet time-certain deadlines as required by federal law was ripe with obstacles. Where the U.S. court system has agreed that the deadlines for NMFS to improve the science and data in coastal fisheries were "unrealistic and impossible," the Department of Commerce along with stakeholders at the regional council level have been given no such flexibility to manage around rigid, hard and fast ACL requirements.

 

RFA met recently with NMFS staffers at a meeting in Gloucester, MA. When asked directly why the fisheries agency has not been able to integrate the angler registry database into the new recreational data collection efforts as required by law, one high-level NOAAFisheries policy advisor said "the biggest mistake we can make is moving ahead too quickly."

 

Back in 2006 when the National Academy of Sciences found the recreational data collection methodologies used by NMFS to be worthless in terms of real-time monitoring, it was determined that the random nature of the survey had "serious flaws in design or implementation and use inadequate analysis methods that need to be addressed immediately." Obviously, the word 'immediately' holds a different sense of urgency for those who work around the Beltway.

 

"It will never be perfect," said the NOAA official recently of the random survey methodologies, an argument apparently held by our U.S. court system. Though random angler surveys will never meet the rigid requirements of ACLs and AMs, saltwater anglers can sit back and enjoy the ""metaphysical subtleties" of life which our founding fathers warned can mean everything or nothing at all, depending on your perspective.

 

Because of the complete absurdity of fisheries management and hopeless inadequacy of our federal government, essentially what we've learned in the recreational fishing community is that you will get nothing and you'll like it. But hey, at least we are not rushing into anything!

 

Next Thursday, February 14th, part 3 in the RFA continuing series on the Absurdity of Fisheries Management will focus on how an inflexible law and time-certain deadlines are forcing anglers to drive off a fisheries cliff at incredible speeds!

Recreational Fishing Alliance
Contact: Jim Hutchinson, Jr. /  888-564-6732 
For Immediate Release
February 14, 2013

THE ABSURDITY OF FISHERIES MANAGEMENT

PART 3 - RIDING SHOTGUN OFF A 'FISHERIES CLIFF'

 

One of the most popular trips for most any U.S. angler is probably the drive itself from Miami down U.S. 1 to Islamorada in the Florida Keys. No matter where you come from in terms of flights - or your options afterwards - the 74.5-mile drive from Miami to the 'sportfishing capital of the world' is 1 hour, 30 minutes of excited anticipation that has been made by literally millions of anglers over the past century.

 

So here's a question; if a cab driver outside Miami airport told you he could make that drive down U.S. 1 to Islamorada in just 30 minutes, would you feel comfortable hopping in the back seat? Think that would be a safe, responsible decision? If the ultimate goal is reaching your destination, what's the difference if takes an hour and a half or even 2-1/2 hours?

 

According to the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA), one of the biggest absurdities in fisheries management over the last decade is incorporation of mandatory, time-certain deadlines for rebuilding schedules. If a stock of fish is actively rebounding and the population growing positively every year, why would the need to meet a government-ordered, absolute statistical figure within a time-certain deadline be more important than actually reaching that goal?

 

It begs the question - why does the federal government give fixed, arbitrary deadlines for the natural world to follow anyway, given that nature has no such reactive timeframes? Best put by Thomas Jefferson, "If we were directed from Washington when to sow and when to reap, we would soon want for bread."

 

ENVIRONMENTALISTS AGREE, FLEXIBILITY WORKS

When the Magnuson Stevens Act was reauthorized by Congress in 2006, key lawmakers from New Jersey and New York successfully fought to include a provision for extension of the arbitrary rebuilding timeframe for summer flounder by 3 more years. By order of a strict and inflexible 10-year rebuilding deadline, the Atlantic coastal summer flounder stock was originally given a target to be met by 2010; the additional 36 months would become a Godsend to East Coast anglers able to keep fishing while the stock biomass increased.

 

By act of Congress, key language within the newly authorized federal fisheries law allowed the U.S. Secretary of Commerce to extend the end of the time period for reaching final biomass target until 2013, allowing anglers access to this iconic Mid Atlantic species while the stock continued to grow. "Instead of letting our summer flounder fishery collapse and have coastal fishermen suffer through a moratorium on fluke fishing, several key legislators in the Northeast were able keep our rebuilding periods going for a few years," said RFA executive director Jim Donofrio in August of 2010, adding "without this deadline extension, we would've had no fishery whatsoever at that point in the process."

 

By incorporating that flexibility to keep anglers angling while the stock continued to rebuild, Donofrio said that statutory definitions of overfishing and overfished stocks were still met, while businesses did not have to close their doors to the angling community in order to achieve the goal. Regrettably, this was not an option for regional council members to decide, nor was it a possibility for NOAA Fisheries to decide on their own. Essentially, only by congressional mandate was this balance of commerce and conservation allowed to continue in a more flexible fashion.

 

In a bulletin issued at the time, RFA criticized the environmental organizations including Pew Environment Group who have fervently fought efforts to incorporate limited management flexibility in other coastal fisheries in order to allow anglers the opportunity to fish for certain species while stocks were positively rebounding. "The lobbyists at Pew, Environmental Defense Fund and the Marine Fish Conservation Network were quick to credit strengthened rebuilding plans for summer flounder success, yet this fishery was fully restored to the healthiest of levels while fishermen kept on fishing and only thanks to congressional flexibility," said Donofrio. "Given what's happening now with other coastal fisheries, that's about as absurd as it gets."

 

Today, strict rebuilding deadlines for fisheries like Gulf of Maine cod (10 years), South Atlantic snowy grouper (34 years), Pacific Coast yelloweye rockfish (82 years) and red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico (31 years) are key factors in the setting of annual catch limits for individual anglers, with periodic stock assessments ultimately determining whether these deadlines will be met or not.

 

"All it takes is a couple of bad trawl surveys or a weird anomaly in the fatally flawed recreational harvest information, and suddenly that bar graph isn't going up as sharply as you're supposed to in the time allowed, and next thing you know your season is closed," Donofrio added. "With time-constraints ranging from 1 year to over 80 years, it's hard to believe some folks really continue to support these fixed, non-scientific deadlines without debate."

 

An especially troubling report out of the Gulf of Mexico where abandoned oil and gas rigs are being blown up as part of the U.S. Interior Department's "Idle Iron" program puts even more of a negative spotlight on the unscientific policies embraced by the federal government. Undercover video obtained by Local 15 News shows thousands of pounds of dead fish, mostly red snapper, floating to the surface after a controversial demolition in the Gulf.

 

"You have NOAA and the Commerce Department telling anglers they can only fish for red snapper 27 days this season because of rebuilding requirements, yet the Interior Department is killing hundreds of thousands of pounds of red snapper each year and destroying critical marine habitat, where's the science in that," Donofrio asked.

 

At a 2011 Massachusetts field hearing, outgoing NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco testified how the 10-year rebuilding figure had never been based on science or scientific formula, a fact later substantiated t a House Natural Resources Committee Hearing when one of the legislators responsible for incorporating the 3-year rebuilding extension in the summer flounder fishery noted that it was actually members of Congress who came up the '10' figure.

 

"Fishermen live and die by science, so yes these random timeframes and arbitrary demolition efforts are literally killing both the fish and the recreational fishing industry," Donofrio said. "Anglers would like to see a better balance of commerce and conservation, yet these federal policies run completely counter to responsible fisheries management today."

 

Unrealistic, non-scientific deadlines are like blowing through crosswalks, traffic lights and intersections, just to shave an extra couple of minutes from the length of the drive - it puts everyone and everything else in harm's way. When you watch video of the Interior Department blowing up fish habitat and destroying hundreds of thousands of pounds of red snapper, while the Commerce Department continues to take away fishing days for anglers, you start to wonder who's really in the driver seat here anyway?


December 27 2012

Cuomo brings good news for fisherman, bad news for black sea bass

Fishing season for the black sea bass has been extended from Dec. 31 to Feb. 28 off the shores of New York. The emergency regulation squares with a federal decision by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. The taking of black sea bass in January and February hasn’t happened since 2009.

“Effective immediately, anglers can enjoy black sea bass into the new year,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. “Whether you are taking advantage of fishing on a charter boat or venturing on your own through the waters off of Long Island, the beginning of the winter months will be more welcome for those of us who enjoy our great natural resources and this recreational activity.”

“The Department of Environmental Conservation filed the emergency regulation which takes effect immediately, to ensure a seamless and uninterrupted continuation of the state’s recreational black sea bass fishing season into 2013,” state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens said.

In the same statement, state Sen. Lee Zeldin, R-Long Island, noted that the region’s fishing community, “especially our charter fishing boats and bait and tackle shops, were devastated by the effects of Super Storm Sandy. With the extension of the black sea bass season, some of their economic losses caused by mother nature can now start to be recouped.”

More for you anglers out there:

For all recreational anglers fishing for black sea bass, the minimum size limit has been reduced to 12.5 inches, and the possession limit will remain at 15 fish.

The season, minimum size and possession limits are identical to the recreational black sea bass regulations in place in federal waters as well as in some neighboring states. Anglers fishing in state waters other than New York are advised to check local fishing regulations.

Recreational black sea bass regulations will likely change again in New York prior to the start of the fishing season in the Spring/Summer of 2013. Anglers are advised to check DEC’s website regularly to stay abreast of any changes made to marine recreational fishing regulations.

DEC reminds marine anglers to enroll in New York’s free recreational marine fishing registry (more information here) before fishing. Those registered in 2012 must re-register at the start of 2013.

For additional information about the regulations, contact DEC Marine Resources Division at  631-444-0435 .

 

 


October 26 2012

CONGRESS TO BLAME FOR BLACK SEA BASS CLOSURE

Unrealistic Provisions In Magnuson Stevens Act Strike Again

October 22, 2012 - The black sea bass fishery is rebuilt. However, the stock is too healthy for anglers to go fishing.

 

According to the Mid Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC), there are simply too many black sea bass along the East Coast which has led to too much angler success. Because the stock is so healthy, NOAA Fisheries will have no choice but to shut the fishery down for the next four months while considering how to take a huge chunk of the allowable catch away from anglers in 2013.

 

 

The Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) says credit for this fisheries fiasco can be given to the 109th Congress which convened from 2005-2007.

 

"Congress reauthorized the federal fisheries law in 2006 by incorporating ridiculous, empty-headed logic pushed by environmentalist organizations, and for the past 5 years our legislators have refused to accept their responsibility for destroying the original intent of Magnuson," said RFA executive director Jim Donofrio, who called the federal fisheries law a "jobs killer" as reauthorized.

 

 

"Our thanks to the U.S. Senate for refusing to hold substantive hearings on these issues and for voting for nation's primary fisheries law by unanimous consent," Donofrio said, calling the Senate actions in 2006 "reckless and cavalier."

 

At last week's MAFMC meetings, it was reported that the 2012 recreational harvest limit of black sea bass exceeded 2.3 million pounds of fish through the first four (out of six) full 'waves' of recreational data collection. Given that the recreational sector was given a 1.3 million pound catch limit for the entire year, it is expected that both state and federal waters will soon been closed to recreational sea bass harvest in November and December, and possibly well into 2013.

 

"RFA was adamant with members of Congress in 2005 and 2006 that the new language for the Magnuson reauthorization would ultimately put healthy and rebuilt fisheries off limits to the recreational fishing community, but the national organizations and environmentalists who supported the new changes seemed to know more than local fishermen," Donofrio said. "Kudos to you for helping destroy your own industry from the ground up," he added.

 

Due to wording in the Magnuson Stevens Act signed into law in 2007, since the recreational fishing community exceeded its annual catch limit (ACL) on black sea bass in 2012, accountability measures will be triggered meaning any overages this year could come off of next season's allowable landings. RFA warns that it's entirely possible due to how Congress worded the federal law that the full overharvest in 2012 could be applied directly to the 2013 ACL.

 

"If you consider that we're over the ACL by about 95%, imagine what happens next year when only get to fish on 5% of our allowable harvest," Donofrio said. "A healthy fish stock yet boats will be lucky to sail a week or two at most. And to think that Magnuson was originally passed to help foster a prosperous American fishing industry."

 

RFA last reported on the present absurdity in fisheries management on June 1 when NOAA Fisheries noted how recreational fishermen are catching their red snapper quota faster as the population grows and the fish get bigger. Following an updated population assessment that showed overfishing of Gulf of Mexico red snapper had officially ended and the population was actively rebounding, NOAA Fisheries rewarded the recreational sacrifices by reducing the red snapper season by 8 days from the previous year; a year in which statistical overfishing was still taking place.

 

 

 

"How's that for fishery management, as the population of fish grows the days which anglers are allowed on the water is reduced," Donofrio said at the time, adding "When fish stocks are low, managers stop us from fishing to protect the fish, yet as the population grows and the stocks become more plentiful, managers do the exact same thing, they stop us from fishing to protect the fish."

 

RFA has been pushing legislation in Congress to reintroduce some sensibility in fisheries management by incorporating some limited management flexibility into the federal fisheries law. Specifically, Rep. Frank Pallone's (D-NJ) Flexibility and Access in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act would effectively deal with rebuilding timelines, rigidly enforced ACL's and accountability measures, while requiring a full review of the NOAA's recreational data collection by the National Research Council (NRC).

 

 

 

Supported by 19 bipartisan coastal co-sponsors, this particular Magnuson reform bill has been attacked by the same environmental groups who helped rewrite Magnuson in the first place, and has been wrongly opposed by a handful of Beltway insiders to the detriment of the entire recreational fishing community. An alternate bill pushed by some national organizations would only provide ACL relief on fisheries where no stock assessments have been performed in the past 6 years; both black sea bass and red snapper have been assessed within that timeframe so they could not qualify for such relief.

 

"This flexibility argument to navigate around arbitrary deadlines and these damaging ACL restrictions was met with opposition by our own national boating and tackle industry, though I'm not sure what they're thinking," Donofrio said. "Black sea bass, red snapper, gag grouper, summer flounder, these fisheries closures are piling up because of failure to jump onboard to support our local tackle shops and for hire boats, I'm not sure how much longer we can hold back this federal attack on our local rights."

 

RFA had extensive conversations with key House members in 2006 about how language being moved forward in the reauthorization which dealt with ACL's and accountability measure would lead to significant problems with rebuilt and rebuilding recreational fisheries.

 

"We've been relatively lucky in the Mid Atlantic to this point as compared with recreational fishermen in other parts of the country," Donofrio said. "Our members in the South Atlantic were just given 6 days to fish for red snapper since 2010 where we've actually lost days in the Gulf of Mexico, which is mind-boggling considering the history and importance of red snapper to the recreational sector."

 

The black sea bass situation, grave as it is, could've been far worse had it not been for extensive pressure applied by the RFA and its grassroots activism. An omnibus amendment considered by the MAFMC in 2010 originally would've provided NOAA Fisheries with the ability to shut down fisheries like black sea bass by the third wave of recreational data collection, a rule which would've effectively closed the black sea bass season at the height of the summer tourism season.

 

"RFA argued successfully that NOAA Fisheries' inability to respond to a congressional mandate to overhaul the recreational data collection program was reason enough to delay use of in-season measures like these, which are so damaging to our recreational sector," Donofrio said. "We believe that NOAA is still using fatally flawed recreational data, and it's high time they opened their doors to another NRC review before continuing this assault on our nation's recreational fishing community."

 

RFA is still pushing for a Senate committee hearing on the issues related to ACL's, accountability measures and flawed science, but with Congress essentially stalled for the November elections, it's hard to see anything productive occurring before the year is out.

 

"Congress has simply kicked the can down the road on this issue due to opposition by environmental organizations and the stubborn foolishness of a few Beltway insiders who refuse to take a tough, honest stand on behalf of local business," Donofrio said.

 

"We warned you what would happen, and whether or not you care to face the facts with your members at glad-handing summits and trade events, the fact is that we've been right all along and you've done nothing but stand in the way of progress," he added.


September 14 2012

ROMNEY TALKS FISHING IN BIG GAME FISHING JOURNAL
RFA Praises One Fishing Magazine Tough Enough To Tackle "Big Fish"
 
In the September/October edition of Big Game Fishing Journal on newsstands this week, don't miss an exclusive 'question and answer' session on recreational fishing with Governor Mitt Romney, the man the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) hopes will be the next President of the United States.
 
"The Journal's publisher Len Belcaro asks the real questions on the minds of saltwater anglers today, and Governor Romney's answers are exactly what our community has wanted to hear," said RFA executive director Jim Donofrio. "Just looking at a few of the advance quotes I can tell that Governor Romney truly gets it!"
 
On what sportfishing means to him as former governor of a coastal state (Massachusetts):
"The economic impacts of recreational fishing activities are significant, and they have too often been overlooked in recent years."
 
How 'President' Romney would help preserve and protect our coastal traditions:
"Recreational angling can be an incredible economic engine for our coastal states, but it is being shackled by misguided, over-reaching regulations that make little economic or conservation sense."
 
What a Romney administration would do to address national ocean policy:
"Public participation should begin early in the process and be ongoing. Sustainable recreational use should not only be supported within a national ocean policy, it should be actively promoted."
 
Tackling angler criticism of NOAA Fisheries:
"A more responsive, transparent, science- and economics-based system is needed to properly manage our marine fisheries. When those pieces are in place, we will enter a new era of trust and cooperation that will be good for the fish - and the fishermen."
 
The governor's perspective on critical appointments inside Department of Commerce:
"A Romney Administration would focus on bringing a new philosophy into fisheries management that will put the focus back on commonsense regulations that can protect and rebuild fisheries when necessary, but will also allow anglers greater access to healthy marine resources."
 
This unique perspective by the man many hope (especially RFA) will be the next President of the United States is only available through Big Game Fishing Journal, the one fishing publication in America today willing to tackle the big issues related to modern day fisheries management - and tough enough to bag a big fish like Mitt Romney.
 
"There's good reason why so many fishermen in Congress read Big Game Fishing Journal," said Donofrio, adding "Belcaro's got the guts to put it out in print for all the world to see, he's as engaged as his readers are and that's why we're proud to have Len on the RFA board of directors."
 
"I know when saltwater anglers see the latest edition, they'll agree that a Romney administration is precisely the type of change that's desperately needed in this country right now," Donofrio added.
 
To pick up your copy of Big Game Fishing Journal, visit their dealer's page at www.biggamefishingjournal.com/ourdealers.html. Or, call  800-827-4468 !

 


August 16 2012

OBAMA'S FINAL OCEANS PLAN REMAINS UNDER WRAPS

Hastings Still Waiting For Answers To Committee Questions

August 16, 2012 - The Obama administration yesterday reported that the final version of the president's National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan will not be released this week as originally expected. In a meeting of the Ocean Research Advisory Panel yesterday, National Ocean Council Office Director Deerin Babb-Brott suggests that the final plan will be released to the public later.

 

According to the National Ocean Policy Coalition (NOPC) which represents diverse interest groups united in helping protect the user interests by ensuring the new National Ocean Policy will be more helpful to national interests than harmful, Babb-Brott said the administration is still working on its final plan. Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA), an outspoken opponent of the president's National Ocean Policy, is one of more than 30 NOPC members.

 

President Obama passed the National Ocean Policy by executive order in 2010, prompting RFA to call out the administration for behaving more like a monarchy in passing flawed legislation through executive privilege as opposed to legislative debate. "Our President appears to be infatuated with nonsense and bureaucracy, and once again proves that his authority to rule is more powerful than the legislative process alone, signing his name to decrees as if he were a king," said RFA executive director Jim Donofrio at the time.

 

But Donofrio and the RFA aren't the only ones frustrated by the president's handling of the executive order since the summer of 2010. Late Thursday afternoon, House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) sent a letter to the co-chairs of President Obama's National Ocean Council, repeating his request that the Obama Administration answer outstanding questions and document requests regarding the president's National Ocean Policy and mandatory ocean zoning initiative before finalizing the draft implementation plan.

 

"More than two years have passed since President Obama unilaterally issued a new National Ocean Policy that created an expansive federal bureaucracy to manage ocean activities and resources without any specific Congressional approval, and more than eight months have passed since a draft plan was released containing more than 50 proposed actions for implementing the National Ocean Policy and mandatory zoning of the ocean and coastal areas," Hastings said in his letter.

 

"Despite this passage of time, Congress and the American public are still left questioning the legal justification, regulatory burdens, funding sources, and economic impacts of the National Ocean Policy," writes Hastings. Click here to read a full copy of the letter.

 

In his letter to National Ocean Council Co-Chairs Nancy Sutley and John Holdren, Rep. Hastings called on the Obama administration to answer questions and provide previously-requested information and documents to the Committee prior to finalization of the draft implementation Plan. He specifically asked for the information to provided to the Committee no later than September 5, 2012.

 

Donofrio said the president's executive order creating the National Ocean Policy in the summer of 2010 bypassed the House Natural Resources Committee and the entire Congress in order to implement an unfavorable piece of legislation. "Rep. Sam Farr of California tried pushing this Pew Oceans Commission ocean ownership agenda through the House for the past decade, but every time his doomsday bill got debated in the bipartisan Committee it was tossed out for being a bureaucratic nightmare," said Donofrio. "Given the fact that this president loves bureaucracy so much, this was an easy end-around for enviro's to bypass Congressional oversight."

 

House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Hastings has already sent several letters to the Co-Chairs of the National Ocean Council requesting information on the development, legal authority, activities, staffing, and funding of the National Ocean Policy. The Administration has yet to fully comply with the requests. Hastings also sent two letters asking that the Administration extend the public comment period on the draft National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan for an extra 90 days to allow ample time for public and Congressional review of the sweeping new policy. The Administration declined the request.

 

In May, the House of Representatives passed an amendment by Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX) to the FY2013 Departments of Commerce and Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations bill to halt funding for the implementation of President Obama's ocean zoning and National Ocean Policy. Over 80 groups across a spectrum of sectors including agriculture, fishing, construction, manufacturing, mining, oil and natural gas, and renewable energy, including RFA, joined forces in a letter to support Rep. Flores' amendment.

 

The House also included a provision in the FY2013 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill prohibiting funding for the President's National Ocean Policy and requiring a report on previous funding for the policy.

 

The National Ocean Policy and the Farr Oceans 21 bill have been frequently skewered in the House Natural Resources Committee by members from both sides of the aisle. In testimony given before the Committee on October 26, 2011, Sutley said "The National Ocean Policy does not establish any new regulations or restrict the multiple uses of the ocean, and does not expand the scope of Federal jurisdiction." Under questioning by Committee Member Steve Southerland (R-FL) in which he read from a page of the president's own report which used the words "regulation" and "enforcement," Ms. Sutley appeared confused, unable to explain the discrepancies between her testimony and the presidential edict.

 

In summarizing his letter yesterday back to Sutley and Holdren yesterday, Hastings said "notwithstanding this lack of transparency about legal authorities, funding, and staffing, it appears the Obama Administration has been continuing apace its efforts to zone the ocean and establish this new federal bureaucracy well before the implementation plan is finalized and released to the public."



July 20 2012

Captain Paul Forsberg the owner of the Viking Fleet was invited yesterday to testify at a legislative hearing on H.R. 6096 held by the Subcommitte on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs in Washington DC. H.R. 3096, is a bill introduced by Congressman Timothy Bishop to amend the Atlantic Striped Bass Conservation Act to allow recreational fishing for Atlantic Striped Bass in the Block Island Sound transit zone. We will be working closely with Congressman Bishop and his staff and will keep you posted on the outcome of the Bill. Captain Paul and the Viking fleet are in support of the bill.






July 2012 Update:

Read Capt. Len Belcaro's July/August editorial:

WALMART AND THE WALTON FOUNDATION

The Walton Foundation, of Walmart fame, has released their 2011 grant report showing the recipients of $23,000,000 of their enviro money went to the following seven environmental groups:

Environmental Defense Fund — $9,035,154
Conservation International Foundation — $4,986,457
Marine Stewardship Council — $3,122,500
Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Foundation — $1,934,651
Ocean Conservancy — $1,665,146
Nature Conservancy — $1,136,832
World Wildlife Fund — $992,286

Why is the Walton Foundation pumping millions and millions of dollars into organizations that support and promote catch shares for both recreational and commercial fishermen across the nation? Is it because of the following comments made by Earl. Comstock, of Comstock Consulting LLC, NOAA External Expert and Advisor, in March 2011 at the Washington based Environmental Law Institute’s Designing Effective and Enforceable Catch Share Systems meeting?

“Mr. Comstock addressed the challenges to designing catch shares for recreational fisheries. First, anglers and commercial fishermen think in different units – anglers catch “fish,” not “pounds.” Second, recreational fishery managers have different goals than commercial fishery managers; in a recreational fishery, there is no benefit to reducing participation or consolidating an overcapitalized fleet. Also, participation in recreational fisheries is transitory and individual fishermen do not generally have the long time horizon required to buy a quota. Mr. Comstock proposed “angler catch share pools” as one mechanism for dealing with these problems. A non-profit organization could hold the recreational sector’s share allocation, purchase catch shares from the commercial sector, and sell stamps to anglers who wish to fish. The non-profit would be responsible for controlling the recreational harvest through tools like bag limits, seasons, or limits on stamps. This system could promote optimal resource use and conservation.”

I believe the Walton Foundation and Walmart have been laying the ground work for years to purchase recreational catch share fish quotas through their foundation when implemented, then use their Walmart stores to distribute the stamps or tags to fishermen around the nation. This will allow the Walton Foundation and the environmental community to maintain ownership of our marine resource, make a tremendous profit off the sale of fish stamps and tags, while dictating bag limits, seasons, and size limits to fishermen allowing for the complete control over the fishery management process.

This is an ingenious plan devised by the environmental community to create tremendous profits through fishing leases and fish tag sales while maintaining total control of fishery management. It started with the environmental communities’ input in the 2006 Magnuson/ Stevens Act reauthorization that set rigid stock rebuilding requirements.

The next step was the “calling in” of political markers in 2009 by the enviros from the current administration for Obama campaign contributions (Lubchenco’s appointment to NOAA). With a former employee of the Environmental Defense Fund at the helm of NOAA, they next needed to have the public believe our marine resources were in serious trouble and badly in need of a new system of management. This was accomplished by by using their own bought and paid for science and studies that claim our marine resources are overfished and oceans of jellyfish are coming in 2048.
Coming to the rescue to save the day, save the fishermen from themselves, and save the marine resource with their catch shares system of fishery management would be the enviros next move toward their ultimate goal of profit and control.

When both recreational and commercial catch shares are implemented, the environmental community can then make a fortune trading paper in a commodity that never had any inherent value or worth what-so-ever. There is no worth or value in a cod fish or a tuna swimming free in the ocean unless you had to buy it or lease it first before going fishing. With catch shares, that fish isn’t even on the dock yet, and it has value that the enviros can cash-in on.

The scheme is absolutely brilliant—highly unethical, possibly illegal, completely immoral because of the job loss and business failures our fishing industry is experiencing—but it is truly brilliant!

Because of the Walton Foundation’s support for this unconscionable, clandestine conspiracy to privatize our natural resource and sell it back to the American fishermen, the Recreational Fishing Alliance has proposed a nationwide boycott of Walmart stores by fishermen. The Big Game Fishing Journal supports this boycott and requests our readers inform their saltwater angling friends of this unethical maneuver by the Walton Foundation and Walmart to increase their bottom line by destroying our unalienable right to fish.

Also, please let your freshwater fishing friends know that as soon as they can figure out how to own freshwater lake, stream and pond fish, they may also be in line at Walmart buying bass, steelhead, salmon, crappy, and trout tags.

Captain Len Belcaro


Last year the Recreational Fishing Alliance released a letter addressing Walmart's involvement in funding anti-fishing groups. You can read the letter below.


PRESS RELEASE
Recreational Fishing Alliance
5724 N. Route 9, New Gretna, NJ 08224 P:  888-564-6732 F :  609-294-3812 
For Immediate Release August 17, 2011 Contact: Jim Hutchinson, Jr.  888 564-6732 


WAL-MART GIVES $36 MILLION TO ANTI-FISHING GROUPS RFA Says Walton Family Foundation Supports MPA & Catch Share Efforts


Wal-Mart announced this week its efforts to help fund the demise of both the recreational and commercial fishing industry while also working to ensure that the next generation of sportsmen will have less access to coastal fish stocks than at any point in U.S. history.


In August 16th news release from Wal-Mart corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, the Walton Family Foundation announced investments totaling more than $71.8 million awarded to various environmental initiatives in 2010, with over $36 million alone handed over to Marine Conservation grantees including Ocean Conservancy, Conservation International Foundation, Marine Stewardship Council, World Wildlife Fund and Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).
According to the release, the Walton Family Foundation “focuses on globally important marine areas and works with grantees and other partners to create networks of effectively managed protected areas that conserve key biological features, and ensure the sustainable utilization of marine resources – especially fisheries – in a way that benefits both nature and people.”


Scott Burns, former director of marine conservation at World Wildlife Fund and now director of Walton Family Foundation’s environmental efforts, said money will go to “protect and conserve natural resources while also recognizing the roles these waters play in the livelihoods of those who live nearby."


The Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) countered that these specially managed areas of coastal waters are also referred to as marine protected areas or marine reserves, and the end result is denied angler access, of no benefit to the very people whom Wal-Mart claims to benefit.


“A quick visit to the Ocean Conservancy website should be telling enough for anglers interested in learning where Wal-Mart’s profits are being spent,” said RFA executive director Jim Donofrio. “These folks are pushing hard to complete California’s network of exclusionary zones throughout the entire length of coastline, and they’ve made it very clear that they would like to see the West Coast version of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) extended into other coastal U.S. waters,” he said.


The release said that targeted marine areas moving forward include Indonesia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Panama, the Gulf of California and the Gulf of Mexico.


“Here’s an organization which has publicly opposed creation of artificial reefs used by Wal-Mart’s tackle buyers, in some cases openly advocating for their removal, yet the Walton family is handing over tons of money for support,” Donofrio said of Ocean Conservancy in particular.


“Shopping for fishing equipment at Wal-Mart is contributing directly to the demise of our sport, it’s supporting lost fishing opportunities and decreased coastal access for all Americans,” Donofrio said, adding “I hope all RFA members across the country will remember that when it’s time to gear up, but I would also wonder if perhaps our industry can help spread the message and support our local tackle shops by also pulling product off Wal-Mart’s shelves.”
In April, RFA announced its support of a national boycott of the Safeway Supermarket chain (which also includes Genuardi’s in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware) because of that corporation’s support for California’s MLPA initiative.


"Apparently Safeway has gotten some bad advice from the people in the ocean protection racket, a community to which the California-based mega-corporation is now donating profits," said Jim Martin, West Coast Regional Director of the RFA. "Safeway says it is supporting groups that make a difference like the Food Marketing Institute's Sustainable Seafood Working Group, the Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions and the World Wildlife Fund's Aquaculture Dialogues, but it's little more than corporate greenwashing."


RFA believes it’s time that Wal-Mart was added to the angler boycott list as well.


“The Walton family created this huge corporate entity which has threatened the vibrancy of our local retail outlets, and now they’re essentially doing the same thing with our fishing communities,” Donofrio said. “Much like Safeway has done with their financial investment in the environmental business community, Wal-Mart apparently prefers customers buy farm-raised fish and seafood caught by foreign countries outside of U.S. waters, while denying individual anglers the ability to head down to the ocean to score a few fish for their own table.”


According to the official release, the Walton Family Foundation is also working “to create economic incentives for ocean conservation,” while candidly pledging their support for “projects that reverse the incentives to fish unsustainably that exist in ‘open access fisheries’ by creating catch share programs.”


“Our local outfitters and tackle shops along the coast have had to face an immense challenge by going up against Wal-Mart’s purchasing power during the last decade, but now that the Walton family is so up front about their opposition to open access fisheries, it’s hard for me to believe that any sportsmen would ever be interested in shopping there again,” Donofrio said.


"California anglers have been outraged to learn that money they spend at a Safeway grocery store might end up in the hands of extremist, anti-fishing groups like the EDF and the Ocean Conservancy, I hope more anglers will join the national boycott by sending a message to Wal-Mart as well as Safeway,” Martin added.


According to the Walton Family Foundation website, Sam and Helen Walton launched their “modest retail business in 1962” with guiding principle of helping “increase opportunity and improve the lives of others along the way.” It is that principle the foundation says, that makes them “more focused than ever on sustaining the Walton's timeless small-town values and deep commitment to making life better for individuals and communities alike.”


RFA said grassroots efforts to combat the anti-fishing agenda are more than just an uphill climb. “The EDF catch share coffers are already filled to the top, while Pew Charitable Trusts has billions in reserve,” Donofrio said. “When you add another $36 million annual commitment from the Walton family each year, I can’t see how our local efforts can get anywhere unless the national manufacturers step up and openly denounce this corporate takeover once and for all.”


“The individual anglers and local business owners are being denied opportunity, and I hope the federal trade representatives are willing to get onboard with their support of real small-town values,” Donofrio said, adding that Ocean Conservancy and EDF combined received more than $10 million in Walton Family Foundation grants in 2010.



June 7 Update:


RFA Ad Banner 2
Recreational Fishing Alliance
Contact: Jim Hutchinson, Jr. /  888-564-6732 
For Immediate Release
June 6, 2012
RFA BLASTS ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENSE FUND FISH FRAUD
Catch Share Program Decimates Stocks & Bankrupts Recreational Sector
(06/06/2012) In May of 2010, the Environmental Defense Fund officially saw their new Limited Access Privilege Programs launched in New England's groundfishery with the support and encouragement of NOAA Fisheries. Two years later, the Gulf of Maine (GOM) cod stock appears to have been virtually wiped out by the large-scale commercial fleet.
According to the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA), unless the U.S. Senate follows action approved by the House of Representatives on May 8th and also votes to stop funding of this controversial new fisheries scheme, the spread of catch shares in regional finfish management could lead to devastating consequences in localized coastal fisheries in other regions as well. (To view the recent House debate on catch shares go tohttp://youtu.be/Q1mFkoW-l6I.)
The New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) convened its Recreational Advisory Panel in mid-May for discussions about the GOM fishery, learning first-hand how the decimation of local cod stocks is crippling the recreational charter and headboat fishing fleet. According to Capt. Barry Gibson, RFA's New England director and chairman of the NEFMC's Recreational Advisory Panel, the new sector management program in New England and its Limited Access Privilege Programs (catch shares) could ultimately represent the end of much of the charter and party boat industry from Maine to Massachusetts.
"This is perhaps the most troubling issue I have had to deal with in my 25 years of federal fishery management," Gibson said.
Gibson said the recreational sector has continually cut back on its annual harvest of GOM cod, with seasons shortened by 5-1/2 months and a drop in bag limit to just nine fish. He said that up until a month ago, the minimum fish size was 24 inches in length as compared to the commercial size limit of 22 inches.
"Provisions in the new sector management program for the commercial sector allow draggers of any size to come in to the Gulf of Maine and fish day and night, with no trip limits," Gibson said, adding "boats as large as 90 feet drilled back and forth on Stellwagen Bank, just 30 miles offshore, all winter and spring, as many as 50 vessels at a time."
"When the recreational season opened on April 16, the party and charter fleet found that there were few fish left to catch," Gibson added, explaining how captains fishing 10-hour trips with six anglers aboard were lucky to bring home a few dozen small cod. "An informal poll I conducted among Massachusetts' skippers at the RAP meeting indicated that the average recreational catch was down by 70%." Because of the lack of fish, local captains revealed that recreational charters were cancelling trips right and left as word got out.
Gibson said the fishing has improved in the past several weeks since many of the draggers have moved off the Stellwagen grounds, but there is a tremendous amount of concern that they'll be back.
"What took years to rebuild to phenomenal fishing has been destroyed in two years by catch shares," said Capt. Dave Waldrip of Rockland, MA, at the meeting.
"Previously, under the days at sea system, small-boat commercial and party and charter fishermen were able to share this area," said Capt. Ralph Pratt of Canton, MA. "Now it appears that sacrifices made by these fishermen have been in vain."
"Apparently, those who championed the catch share system never thought about the consequences to the recreational sector," Gibson noted, while adding "if big Georges Bank draggers were able to purchase shares of Gulf of Maine cod, where did folks think these vessels would fish?"
RFA executive director Jim Donofrio laid the blame directly on non-government environmental organizations (ENGO) including Environmental Defense Fund who have steamrolled this privatization system through the council process. "Four-hundred years of sustainable fishery management by fishermen, wiped out in under 24 months by black-tie environmentalists with fancy fellowships and environmental degrees," Donofrio said.
"The ENGO's have received a lot of cover for their actions from the environmental press, I'm just wondering when the media is going to pick up on this story of how a whole segment of our recreational industry was completely wiped out by commercial catch shares," he added.
Donofrio said he and several RFA allies have been criticized for leaving brokered discussions with ENGOs going back to the late 90's, refusing to return to the bargaining table. "We've said all along that Environmental Defense Fund and Pew Environment Group should not be trusted. They have been completely disingenuous in their efforts to use marine reserves and catch shares to control fishermen," Donofrio said.
"Someday maybe the tackle and boating industry will wake up and understand why RFA has been so adamantly opposed to working with their lobbyists and friends in the environmental business community, especially given that their allocation schemes are proving to be just as bad for the fish as they are for our fishermen."
Catch share proponents including paid advisors with Environmental Defense Fund and Pew Environment Group have spearheaded efforts to implement the catch share system in every fishery management region across the country. While ENGOs argue that catch shares are an important conservation tool, the dire situation in New England shows that rapid deployment of this new fisheries management scheme could prove to have a devastating negative impact on both fish stocks and the coastal fishing communities.
"Catch shares have damaged our sector," said Capt. Steven James, president of the Stellwagen Bank Charter Boat Association. "They were not intended to impact the charter and recreational folks but it's putting them out of business." Capt. James said that the new catch share scheme has allowed offshore boats with offshore quota to come in and drag inshore areas with impunity. "This raises real questions about how these decisions are being made," he said.
Under the previous open access fisheries management system, daily cod limits of 800 pounds a day in the GOM and 2,000 pounds on Georges Bank kept big boats offshore. "Now the big sector draggers can go 30 miles out to Stellwagen Bank and catch 30,000 or 40,000 pounds of cod or more. They no longer have to steam 160 miles to Georges Bank," said Capt. Tom DePersia of Marshfield, MA. "They have ruined 20 years of conservation by other fishermen."
Donofrio said he can't see how the Senate could reasonably oppose the recent actions in the House to stop the spread of catch shares in light of the devastation that's occurred in New England fisheries. "The House of Representatives voted in bipartisan fashion to support an amendment to stop funding of this catch shares implementation, and we are urging the Senate to support that action before our fishing industry is completely destroyed," he said.
"The Environmental Defense Fund agenda to reduce the fishing fleet worked perfectly, by destroying an entire population of Gulf of Maine cod while bankrupting our recreational party and charter boat industry, and it's up to the U.S. Senate to do what's right," Donofrio said.
Gibson said the Recreational Advisory Panel has asked the NEFMC to recommend to NOAA some type of emergency action, and to examine commercial catch data for this area. However, he also noted that alone might be too little, too late. "If enough spawning fish were wiped out, Gulf of Maine cod may be in far more trouble than we think."


RFA Ad Banner 2
Recreational Fishing Alliance
Contact: Jim Hutchinson, Jr. /  888-564-6732 
For Immediate Release
June 4, 2012

SEN. SCHUMER ANNOUNCES SENATE MAGNUSON HEARINGS

Says Expected Capitol Hill Discussions With Fishermen "Long Overdue"

(6/4/2012) Following five years of diminished access, and a pair of national rallies in Washington DC, it appears that coastal fishermen will finally get a chance to be heard before the U.S. Senate.

 

United States Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) today announced that he has secured a commitment to hold congressional oversight hearings this fall on the Magnuson-StevensFishery Conservation and Management Act, the federal law which governs how our coastal fisheries are managed.

 

Standing aboard a docked party boat at the Freeport Boatmen's Association on Long Island this morning, Sen. Schumer followed up on his personal pledge to fishermen that he made at the Keep Fishermen Fishing rally on March 21 to call on Congress to begin hearings on Magnuson reform this year.

 

"This hearing will finally give a national voice to the concerns that have been raised by Long Island anglers for years that faulty science and excessively strict quotas are decimating this industry," said Schumer. "It's long overdue for Long Island fishermen to be heard on Capitol Hill."

 

Explaining how the federal fisheries law has resulted in excessively strict fishing regulations despite many healthy and growing fish stocks, Sen. Schumer told a group of fishermen assembled aboard the Capt. Pete out of Freeport that he had secured a commitment fromSenate Fisheries Committee Chairman Mark Begich to conduct the hearing to begin the process of reauthorizing the federal fisheries law and allow for consideration of the fishing community's input.

 

"The Long Island fishing industry is the lifeblood of communities throughout the Island so we must do everything possible to make sure federal fishing rules are allowing it to grow and thrive. Unfortunately, the industry is being stifled by regulations which are sorely in need of change," continued Schumer.

 

"These hearings will help to publicly air the numerous problems with Magnuson-Stevens that Long Island fishermen face and lay out options for revamping the law and providing greater flexibility for those who make their living from the sea."

 

As lead sponsor in the Senate of a bill called the Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act (S632), Sen. Schumer said he is calling for a witness from New York'smarine district to provide first-hand testimony as to how the current law impacts New York and how it can be improved during reauthorization. The senator also made a particular point about the inaccuracy of theMarine Recreational Fishing Statistical Survey (MRFSS) that federal regulators use to determine recreational catch, a program which Congress had mandated to be replaced in 2009.

 

"Sen. Schumer has championed efforts in Washington on behalf of our coastal fishermen back in New York, speaking out about the continued use of fatally flawed recreational data collection and a broken federal fisheries law," said Jim Hutchinson, Jr., managing director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) and president of the New York Sportfishing Federation.

 

"The Senator gave impassioned speeches at a pair of national fishermen's rallies in Washington pledging to get New York fishermen a seat at a Senate hearing, and he's gone and fulfilled that promise once again, which really means something special to our coastal fishermen."

 

Ever since the Magnuson-Stevens Act was reauthorized by unanimous consent in the Senate back in late 2006, RFA has been leading efforts to open up discussion and debate in Congress as to the inflexible nature of the federal fisheries law and its future impact on coastal fishermen. While popular Mid Atlantic fisheries like summer flounder (fluke), black sea bass and scup (porgy) have been deemed healthy, rebuilt fisheries in recent years, strict regulatory controls built into the federal law have made it increasingly difficult for anglers to access these economically vital fisheries.

 

"Five years ago when the black sea bass population was still in its rebuilding plan, our recreational fishing community would be out there on the black sea bass grounds this week taking advantage of the fishery," said Hutchinson. "Today, we have a healthy, rebuilt black sea bass stock but boats like the Capt. Pete are tied up at the dock, unable to take advantage of this success because the federal law is forcing us to keep the fishery closed."

 

"This is after regulators told our party and charter boat captains to hang tight, that their sacrifices over the past decade would eventually be rewarded," Hutchinson said. "There won't be any reward for the recreational fishing community until the Senate gives some serious consideration as to what the law has done here."

 

RFA last week issued a bulletin with regard to the red snapper fishery in the Gulf of Mexico highlighting how NOAA Fisheries had announced the end of overfishing for that popular species. "However, as the population of red snapper grows and the fish get bigger, recreational fishermen catch their quota faster, resulting in a shorter season," NOAA added in the release, explaining how the 2012 recreational red snapper season was being reduced by 8 days despite the good news on the stock.

 

"From snapper in the Gulf of Mexico to cod in the Gulf of Maine, our recreational fishermen are getting the short end of the stick when it comes to responsible management of both the fish and the fishermen, but the only way to address this issue is going to be through an act of Congress," said RFA executive director Jim Donofrio.

 

"There are a lot of folks who complain about the state commissions and the regional councils, but the real culprit is a federal fisheries law which did not get a proper debate before Congress," Donofrio said, adding "on behalf of coastal anglers in every state in the country, let's hope this opportunity to go before a Senate Committee this fall will finally open up a reasonable dialog on coastal fisheries management in this country."


May 11 Update:

Boycott Walmart Bumper Sticker
 
May 10, 2012 - I Fish, I Vote bumper stickers have been a recognizable symbol of the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) for the past 15 years.
 
Now, just one day after a key vote in the House of Representatives which would defund government efforts to "develop, approve, or implement" any new limited access privilege programs, RFA is proud to offer a new line of bumper stickers which will begin appearing on the back of RFA member vehicles across the country in the form of official 'Boycott Wal-Mart' stickers (Walmart = Save Money, Less Fishing).
Last month, the Walton Family Foundation released their 2011 funding report in which it was announced that a total of $30.54 million in charitable donations were awarded last yeardirectly for marine conservation, which is very much in line with the amounts awarded in 2010 towards the environmental business community's efforts to create marine reserves and catch share programs.
According to the report, most of the money from the heirs to the Wal-Mart corporate empire were awarded to seven major groups, including the Environmental Defense Fund ($9,035,154), Conservation International Foundation ($4,986,457), Marine Stewardship Council ($3,122,500), Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Foundation ($1,934,651), Ocean Conservancy ($1,665,146), Nature Conservancy, Inc. ($1,136,832) and the World WildlifeFund ($992,286). An additional $11.2 million was also given out to Conservation International by Walton for what was disclosed as "unspecified environmental work."
According to the Recreational Fishing Alliance, the three major funding recipients in Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Conservation International and the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) are all directly involved in efforts to promote 'cap and trade' fishing schemes for U.S. coastal fisheries.
"At a time when fisheries managers are starving for improved fisheries data, scientifically sound assessments and increased data collection in the recreational community, it's hard to believe that these black tie environmental business leaders are so focused on efforts to deny the public access to our natural resources," said RFA executive director Jim Donofrio. "Fishermen are the original conservationists, so of course we support environmental awareness, but not at the expense of America's right to open access."
In 2011, RFA announced an official angler boycott of Wal-Mart stores as a result of the corporate donations awarded to efforts to close down and privatize our nation's saltwater resources. Despite receiving cover by industry professionals supportive of Wal-Mart's freshwater bass circuit, RFA said the Walton family's efforts to shut down U.S. coastal waters through marine reserves and catch shares should not be supported by the tackle manufacturers.
"You have EDF stacking the regional councils with support for catch shares, Conservation International staffers hoping to secure big money jobs in onboard observing, and MSC defining which fish stocks should be bought and sold on the free market, it's a complete fix," Donofrio said. "This isn't conspiracy theory, these are cold hard facts."
Donofrio said Conservation International is especially worthy of concern given that they are the biggest recipients of Walton Family Foundation funding. Founded in 1987 by former staffers at Nature Conservancy, Conservation International Foundation is headquartered in Alexandria, VA and has its chairman of the board Wal-Mart's Chairman Rob Walton.
Rob Walton recently was recently quoted by CNN as saying his corporation has been directly involved in the efforts to implement catch shares, "which have become very accepted over these five years or so that we've been working. I don't know how much we've been a catalyst for that but we certainly have been supporting it."
Another senior staffer at Conservation International according to the RFA is Dr. Andrew Rosenberg, who is listed on the organization's website as Senior Vice President of 'Science & Knowledge.' A former NOAA Fisheries staffer, Rosenberg is also one ofthe key members of MRAG Americas which was commissioned to perform a five-year, $2.7 million assessment on the catch shares scheme. In the official EDF Catch Share Manual, MRAG also worked with their client at EDF "in understanding how catch shares might work for the recreational charter boat fleets of the U.S."
"Not only has MRAG Americas been paid to conduct a catch share study to show how catch shares could be steamrolled into the recreational sector, part of their findings have showed how onboard observers are a critical component of this privatization scheme," said RFA managing director Jim Hutchinson, Jr. "It should come as no surprise to anyone then that this same firm that Dr. Rosenberg has helped build also offers a fisheries observer program in their suite of professional services."
Hutchinson said he hopes that RFA members will proudly show off their displeasure with the Walton Family Foundation and Wal-Mart especially for paying their way into the ocean privatization racket. "Our RFA-FL Forgotten Coast Chapter chair Capt. Tom Adams printed up the boycott stickers and will be distributing throughout the RFA-FL network, but folks reading this now who would like to join us in protesting the corporate takeover of our oceans can also purchase one online for just $3 a piece which includes the shipping and handling," he said.
To get your Wal-Mart and Walton Family Foundation bumper sticker as it appears below,click here (or call the office at  888-564-6732 ).

May 10 Update

RFA Ad Banner 2
Recreational Fishing Alliance
Contact: Jim Hutchinson, Jr. /  888-564-6732 
For Immediate Release
May 9, 2012
HOUSE VOTES TO STOP NEW CATCH SHARE FUNDING
RFA To "Rally" Key Senate Allies For Support
(5/9/2012) The House of Representatives last night voted 220-191 to pass the Southerland-Grimm Amendment to close the loophole created by environmental special interest groups to expand Limited Access Privilege Programs or "catch shares," along the Atlantic Coast and Gulf of Mexico.
The amendment was brought to the floor of the House by Rep. Steve Southerland (R-FL) at 10:54 p.m. with the co-authored support of Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY), prompting a five-minute debate amongst bipartisan coastal members of Congress. After picking up the support of key members from across the aisle including Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), the Southerland-Grimm amendment was approved by roll call vote sometime after 11 p.m.
The approved amendment to the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2013 would prohibit use of appropriated funds from being used to develop, approve, or implement a new limited access privilege program that is not already developed, approved, or implemented for any fishery under the jurisdiction of the South Atlantic, Mid-Atlantic, New England, or Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council.
Now that the House has approved the measure, it's up to the U.S. Senate to put forth the measure for final enactment. The Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) is hoping to count on the support of key Senate members who attended the Keep Fishermen Fishing rally on March 21, including Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), and Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC).
"We applaud the efforts of Rep. Grimm and Rep. Southerland, not only for getting this vote to the floor but for their ability to successfully debate this issue with fellow members of Congress to see it get passed," said RFA executive director Jim Donofrio. "There was certainly some partisan opposition to this effort, but for the coastal legislators who understand what's been going on back at home for the past 3-1/2 years, the united efforts of Republicans and Democrats alike was what got this important amendment through."
In a letter to colleagues released before the vote last night, Rep. Grimm and Rep. Southerland explained "catch shares are no different than any other inside-the-Beltway style tactic determined to destroy every aspect of American freedom under the guise of conservation. By capping the amount of fish that may be caught annually and gifting a select few with shares of the annual catch, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is privatizing access to a once open fishery. Make no mistake about it: catch shares are nothing less than a cap-and-trade management system for our oceans."
 
"I am pleased that a strong bipartisan majority of my House colleagues joined me in standing with our fishermen and opposing the federal government's efforts to pick winners and losers in our fisheries," Rep. Southerland said this morning.
Donofrio reinforced information contained in the Southerland-Grimm letter by explaining that the amendment doesn't change current catch share regulations. "The vote last night simply prevents funding within the FY2013 appropriations from developing, approving, or implementing catch share programs that have not already been developed, approved, or implemented," Donofrio said.
"Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina is a great friend to the fishermen who was wrapped up in a primary election yesterday and could not participate in the vote, but he had tried hard to put forth a similar measure in 2011 to stop NOAA from developing and approving these cap and trade fisheries policies," Donofrio said. "The problem with dealing with an arrogant government agency like NOAA is that if you give them a loophole for implementing these programs, they'll completely ignore the spirit and intent of any congressional mandate."
RFA said that NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco, who helped author the official'catch share manual' while working with Environmental Defense Fund prior to her presidential appointment in 2009, has essentially put the power of catch share development and approval into the hands of a few hand-selected appointments to the regional fisheries councils.
"What's happening at the council level however is that the NOAA catch share policy is being herded through the regional process by their plants towards final implementation, and we're happy that key staffers in Rep. Southerland's office have been attending Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council meetings during the past two years to see what's actually happening under this administration," Donofrio said.
RFA is actively encouraging other coastal Members of Congress to consider sending staffers to regional fishery council meetings to gain a better understanding of the process by which this Administration has all but neglected the input of local fishermen. "It's an eye-opener watching NOAA's arrogance at work from a local level," Donofrio said.


April 19 Update

RFA Ad Banner 2
Recreational Fishing Alliance
Contact: Jim Hutchinson, Jr. /  888-564-6732 
For Immediate Release
April 18, 2012
SENATORS CALL FOR OCEANS OVERSIGHT HEARINGS
RFA Praises Legislators For Addressing National Oceans Policy Order
 
(04/18/2012) The Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) today praised a coalition of U.S. Senators for calling on oversight hearings in the Senate to examine the president's new National Oceans Policy. Enacted by executive order in the summer of 2010, the National Oceans Policy has been widely criticized for its over-burdensome bureaucracy which was passed without support of Congress.
On March 20, Senators David Vitter (R-LA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Mike Lee (R-UT), John Barrasso (R-WY), Jim DeMint (R-SC), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Mike Crapo (R-ID), and John Cornyn (R-TX) sent a letter to the chairs of of the Commerce, Science and Transportation committee, the Environment and Public Works Committee, and the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. "Given the many industries and issues captured by the plan and also under the jurisdiction of your committees, we would specifically like to explore under what Congressional authority the Administration has proposed this plan and, additionally, request oversight hearings on the nine national priorities listed by the plan," the letter states.
"While the policy purports to use existing authorities and funding for implementation, we are concerned the absence of Congressional oversight combined with the vastness of the proposal may lead to increased government spending and, ultimately, an expanded bureaucracy," the letter continues. Citing the regulatory uncertainty created by the draft plan as it relates to industries which depend on the ocean (including recreational and commercial fishing), the letter was addressed to Senate committee chairmen John Rockefeller (D-WV), Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) by adding "webelieve rigorous Congressional oversight is necessary."
Last week, the RFA signed on to a group letter of 80 different organizations in support of efforts by Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA) to call for a "pause in policy implementation" through funding appropriations towards President Obama's National Oceans Policy. Enacted by the president through executive privilege on July 19, 2010, the National Oceans Policy is eerily similar to a piece of legislation sponsored by Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) which languished in Congress for nearly a decade due to overall lack of support by democrats and republicans in the House. After several failed attempts to get legislation (Oceans 21) passed out of the House Natural Resources Committee, a National Oceans Policy wasinstead enacted by President Obama through executive order 13547.
In a recent email blast to members, RFA executive director Jim Donofrio called the National Oceans Policy "a complete takeover of our state rights," which he said "should not be supported by either party."
RFA praised the latest effort by the nine signers of the Senate letter to Rockefeller, Boxer and Bingaman and encouraged the committee chairs to give ample consideration to the request. "Some groups are hailing this executive order as a way to curb sea sprawl and regulated ocean industry, but the political reality is that this effort never made it out of a congressional committee in the first place because it essentially awarded complete control of our nation's waters to the federal government and key political appointees in the process," he said.
"Some Beltway insiders are claiming to have the public's interest at heart by participating in this process but most grassroots activists see it as more Washington two-stepping and bureaucratic bungling at the sake of our coastal communities," Donofrio said, adding "this Presidential edict completely bypassed the legislative process and left all congressional debate and concerns at the wayside."
RFA has been bolstered by the fact that many U.S. legislators recognize what the political action fishing organizations has said all along, that well-funded environmental groups have been pushing an agenda-driven no-use policy masked as a multi-use spatial planning initiative.
"If you look at the catalyst for the entire initiative, it comes from the playbook of environmental groups that think the ocean ought to be controlled by the federal government," said Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX). In a recent article by award-winning investigative journalist Audrey Hudson, Flores noted "This one to me could be the sleeping power grab that Americans will wake up to one day and wonder what the heck hit them."
"This administration is more aggressive and left-leaning, and they are going whole hog," added Sen. Vitter. "I think it's clearly a threat, and in terms of negatively impacting jobs, it's a very, very big threat."
Two weeks ago, Rep. Hastings sent official correspondence from his House Natural Resources Committee to the House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers (KY), as well as the Chairperson of each House Appropriations Subcommittee, asking that language be included in all Fiscal Year 2013 appropriations bills that would prohibit the use of funds to implement the new National Ocean Policy. The request was made as part of an effort to achieve a pause in policy implementation that would provide more time for oversight and examination of potential impacts
In supporting the letter, RFA cited Donofrio's testimony before Rep. Hastings' Committee in 2011 in which he said "It seems counterproductive to advance and fund the NOP when it will stifle job growth in the fishing sectors."
"The administration claims that this whole National Ocean Policy is nothing more than an attempt to coordinate federal agencies and make better permitting decisions," said Rep. Don Young (R-AK) at a recent hearing. "Forgive me if I am a little suspicious when the federal government-through an executive order-decides to create a new bureaucracy thatwill 'help' us plan where activities can or cannot take place in our waters and inland."
In the recent letter calling for additional congressional oversight in the Senate, the signors explain "in these tough economic times, it would be unfortunate if Congress chose to ignore responsibility for limiting bureaucratic hurdles to prosperity," the lawmakers said in aMarch 20 letter.
RFA's position is that any formal oceans policy which would lead to new regulations and additional bureaucratic governance must first come from both the House and the Senate, with debate and approval by all congressional committees, prior to becoming the law of the land.
"A lot of folks are calling us to ask what can be done to stop the National Oceans Policy, and outside of overwhelming Congressional support to slow the process through funding measures, the only political solution is to have our next president actually repeal executive order 13547," Donofrio said.
 
 
 


April 6th Update

RFA APPLAUDS CHAIRMAN'S BUDGET ACTION
Rep. Hastings Asks Appropriators To "Pause" Ocean Takeover
(04/04/2012) House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) sent a letter this week to Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) asking that language be included in the appropriations bills prohibiting the use of funds for the implementation of President Obama's ocean zoning and National Ocean Policy.
"The Natural Resources Committee has undertaken oversight over this far-reaching Policy and the lack of information provided by the Administration raises serious concerns - particularly about the funding for the implementation of the Policy and the negative impact on existing activities by agencies implementing the Policy," Chairman Hastings said this week. "The President's Policy is especially alarming due to the fact it will not only affect the oceans and coastal areas, but also stretches far inland following rivers and their tributaries upstream for hundreds of miles."
In a bulletin sent out last week, the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) reminded anglers that the new ocean zoning and National Ocean Policy initiatives enacted by presidential privilege were originally proposed by Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) in the form of the Oceans 21 legislation. Designed to meet the requirements laid out in 2003 by the non-governmental Pew Ocean Commission, Rep. Farr's Oceans 21 bill never made it out of the House Natural Resources Committee because of the overly burdensome bureaucracy written into the bill.
"I find it very strange that the President is complaining how his healthcare bill was passed by majority in the House so it shouldn't even be heard by the U.S Supreme Court, yet with legislation like the Farr bill which never even made it out of Committee, he finds it's perfectly reasonable that an executive order should stand," said RFA executive director Jim Donofrio. "This isn't about partisan politics, this about adhering to the legislative process by which all Americans are bound."
Donofrio said RFA supports efforts by Chairman Hastings and his colleagues on the Committee to slow down the National Oceans Policy process by cutting off appropriations.
"The funding of a complete takeover of our state rights should not be supported by either party," Donofrio said. "It's a direct assault on our freedoms and liberties, particularly given the fact that budget appropriations would be far better suited to funding scientific efforts in our oceans rather than additional councils and committees."
Rep. Hastings added, "the Administration's efforts to impose this Policy across the nation and mandate ocean zoning should be put on pause until the full economic consequences are known and direct answers are given on the specific statutory authority that justifies the construction of this new, regulatory behemoth. This can best be accomplished by putting a halt to the Administration's cloaked funding of this Policy for FY 2013."
"I respectfully request that the Appropriations Committee include language in each Fiscal Year 2013 appropriation bill prohibiting the use of funds to implement this National Ocean Policy," the chairman added.
In an online blog at House Speaker John Boehner's website on October 26, 2011, Donofrio was quoted as saying that President Obama's new National Oceans Policy (NOP) regulations "stifle job growth" and create "too much uncertainty" for America's angling community. "The recreational fishing industry is 'Main Street America' in every sense; it is largely composed of small, family-run, mom and pop businesses," Donofrio said, going on to say that "creating additional levels of bureaucracy" will reduce the overall productivity of his industry.
"It seems counterproductive to advance and fund the NOP when it will stifle job growth in the fishing sectors," Donofrio told Congress in his 2011 testimony before the House Natural Resources Committee.

 


March 25th Update

 



RFA Calls 'Keep Fishermen Fishing' Rally A Win
Members of Congress Pledge to Fix Broken Fisheries Law
The second historic Keep Fishermen Fishing rally in Washington DC was deemed a success by organizers!
 
While the legislative line-up of speakers at yesterday's national fishermen's rally was impressive, the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) said it was the commitments made by those powerful Members of Congress that turned the day into a win for America's coastal fishing communities. (Click here to see one of the earliest reports from the event by News Herald reporter Valerie Garman.)
 
"Key sponsors of Magnuson reform legislation which would right the wrongs contained in a broken federal fisheries law agreed to make this the year that U.S. coastal fishermen were given a fair shot at the political process," said RFA's executive director Jim Donofrio. "Everyone agrees that fish populations have surged in the past decade, but that's been at the expense of America's fishermen, which is now being officially recognized by key members of Congress."
 
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), sponsor of S632 in the Senate called the Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act told rally attendees that great progress has been made on rebuilding coastal fisheries, but explained that a "one-size-fits-all approach to fisheries management" based on bad science won't work. "Today I am calling on Congress to begin hearings on Magnuson reform this year and I will be making a major push to see that that happens, not next year, not 2 years from now but this year," Sen. Schumer said, adding "we need to have an open and honest debate on the flexibility bill."
 
Schumer went on to say the he would be talking to his colleagues on the Commerce Committee about starting a debate on the reauthorization of Magnuson as soon as possible, "so that your voices can be heard, not just outside the Capitol but inside at a hearing table in the Capitol." The senator from New York even returned to Upper Senate Park a second time, after an important Congressional vote, just to greet a late bus arriving from Montauk after 2 p.m.
 
Other Senate supporters of the flexibility legislation speaking at Wednesday's rally included Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC).
 
Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), primary sponsor of HR3061 on the House side called the Flexibility and Access in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act told attendees that his bill would allow fisheries managers to put fish stocks on a sustainable path to a healthy size while allowing fair access and increasing transparency in the scientific process that determines quota levels.
 
"Current fishery rebuilding plans are much too rigid, which hurts fishing communities economically," said Pallone. "The fishing business has been a way of life for generations on the New Jersey shore and is integral to our economy. In New Jersey alone, commercial and recreational fishing supports nearly 50,000 jobs."
 
"I'm proud to join with recreational and commercial fishermen to fight for this bill," said Pallone, adding "I believe it would address burdensome catch limits and protect fishermen jobs, while ensuring that our fisheries remain sustainable for generations to come," he added.
 
HR3061, which would also require better data collection for managing recreational fishing, picked up additional support yesterday when speakers Rep. Sandy Adams (R-FL) and Rep. Allen B. West (R-FL) officially signed on as co-sponsors.
 
"This is a freedom issue," said co-sponsor Rep. Steve Southerland (R-FL) on stage at Upper Senate Park on Wednesday. "You have a God-given right to participate in an activity that your fathers participated in, your grandfathers participated in, the founding fathers participated in."
 
Rep. Southerland who has helped champion the rights of saltwater fishermen along the Gulf Coast during his first term in DC told Florida fishermen at the rally that he was committed to working with fishermen to fix Magnuson "to make the changes to this law that is unjust."
 
Other co-sponsors of HR3061 addressing the crowd on Wednesday included Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY), Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), Rep. Tim Scott (R-SC), Rep. John Tierney (D-MA), and Rep. Robert Turner (R-NY). Rep. Jon Runyan (R-NJ) and Rep. William Keating (D-MA) spoke with regard to their support for Magnuson reform legislation, while other congressmen like Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) and Rep. David Rivera (R-FL) also pledged support for the fishermen.
 
Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) also made a big splash with rally attendees by telling them "I am sorry, and I am angry that you folks have to leave jobs, take time, spend money, come here to Washington to get people to understand how deeply we feel about this issue." Sen. Kerry who last month told the Gloucester Times that additional flexibility is needed to help our fishermen added "We're here to fight for jobs and for justice."
 
Donofrio said more than 30 organizations and businesses from both the commercial and recreational sector spent two months preparing for the national rally at Upper Senate Park in Washington, explaining how those involved in this year's effort took a more unique strategy this time around.
 
"With about 5,000 attendees at the park at any one time in 2010, this year many of our rally attendees branched off to visit Senate and Congressional offices during the actual Upper Senate Park protest, which helped build support for Magnuson reform efforts inside the legislative offices," he said. "Now it's up to each of these organizations to follow-up on those dedicated efforts in Washington DC this week to make sure that Congress understands what's really important to our coastal communities."
 
In the days leading up to the rally, extreme environmental groups funded heavily by the Pew Charitable Trusts and its Pew Environment Group went on the offensive in attacking RFA and supporters of pragmatic Magnuson reform. In an online attack at Outdoorhub.com, Marine Fish Conservation Network's Executive Director Matt Tinning called RFA a "fringe group" like an extremist super PAC that is "underwritten by a single large donor, [and] a few self-appointed leaders hunch over their laptops and bombard us with bile."
 
Donofrio called the hit by Pew's newest hired henchman "a badge of honor" for the entire organization.
 
"The anti-fishing, anti-industry lobbyists from the preservation community are running scared because Congress is finally aware of what they've done to our coastal fishing communities with their hostile takeover attempt of our inshore waters by helping re-write the Magnuson Stevens Act in 2006." He added that House Members are aware that much of the information provided by Pew-funded lobbyists has been erroneous, based solely on doom and gloom scare tactics designed to spur their own recruitment campaigns and donation efforts. "One only needs to look at their now-proven false arguments against the use of the flexibility in the summer flounder fishery back in 2007 to see that they are dead wrong on Magnuson reform," he added.
 
RFA said that Pew attempted to divert attention from the rally through a late legislative effort late last week, but their effort was exposed in a March 20th article in the Gloucester Times. RFA pointed out that Tinning's 11th hour online social media tirades are obviously less about fishing and more about orchestrated political grandstanding on behalf of his employers at Pew.
 
Prior to joining the Pew-funded Marine Fish Conservation Network last year, Tinning was Legislative Director and Vice President of External affairs at Ocean Conservancy and a lobbyist and political analyst for the Australian Government inside their Washington Embassy. Tinning was also a legislative aide to New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman. Before arriving in the United States in the 1990's, Tinning was an attorney in Sydney where he earned his degree in U.S. politics.
 
Five different conservation groups initially united to form the Marine Fish Conservation Network in 1992, including Ocean Conservancy, Greenpeace, National Audubon Society, National Coalition for Marine Conservation, and World Wildlife Fund. Following the 2010 fishermen's rally which helped bring the plight of the recreational and commercial fishing industry to the forefront of the fisheries debate in DC, Pew's Lee Crocket told the Washington based Roll Call newspaper that his organization had "funded advocacy groups, including the Marine Fish Conservation Network and the Ocean Conservancy," to lobby for a policy which privatizes our nation's fisheries in the name of reducing overall fishing participation.
 
"Congress is going to address the problems with the federal fisheries law, or more of our access rights as anglers will be stripped away while coastal tackle shops, charter and party boats, and shoreside businesses will close," Donofrio said. "It seems to me to be a pretty easy choice to make."
 
"I just hope those business owners, like the publishers of Sport Fishing Magazine, who have helped support, promote and encourage Pew and the Marine Fish Conservation Network through ad campaigns and partnerships are proud of what they've done to help destroy our recreational fishing industry," Donofrio added.

 


-------------------------------------


Captain Paul G Forsberg and everyone at the Viking Fleet would like to express our gratitude to all the officials, fishermen and supporters who spoke at the 2012 United We Fish Rally, as well as all of the people who made the long journey to march for everyone's right to fish. Speakers included Gus Bilirakis, Allen West, Steve Southerland of Florida, Frank LoBiondo of New Jersey, Chuck Schumer of New York, John Kerry and Scott Brown from Massachusetts, Tim Scott of South Carolina, Bob Zales of the National Charterboat Association, Tim Jackson of American Alliance of Fishermen and more!

Anthony Jr Darrigo with Sen Chuck Schumer



United We Fish Rally 2012


The Viking Fleet would like to express our gratitude to Capt Len Belcaro, publisher of Big Game Fishing Journal, as well as Jim Hutchinson for continually putting out truthful and awakening articles about the fishing industry and the difficulties we face. Big Game Fishing Journal is the only sports magazine refusing to be pressured by environmentalist advertising. You can subscribe to the magazine and read some of the most recent articles in it HERE.


March 8th- Let's March DC for Our Right to Fish! Bus leaving the Viking Dock Wed March 21st @ 5am. Call  631 668 5700  to book or do so directly online- by clicking HERE

For immediate release:

The Long Island Commercial Fishing Association and the Viking Fleet will co-sponsor a bus charter from Montauk to the Keep Fishermen Fishing (KFF) rally in Washington, DC on Wednesday, March 21, 2012. It is the second national fishing rally uniting all US fishing sectors and their communities from coast to coast and Alaska; the first was held in 2010 under the banner United We Fish. Fishermen will be pressing legislators for reform of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the regulatory law which governs all US fishing.

Bonnie Brady, executive director of LICFA, said the need for reform was crucial. “The ten-year timeline clause added to Magnuson in 1996, which said any fishery if depleted must be rebuilt within ten years, was the nuclear option to US fishing communities,” said Brady, adding “The fallout has been the economic strangulation of those communities without a shred of scientific evidence to support it (the ten-year timeline.) As long as fish populations continue to rebuild, Magnuson and fishery management councils should have the flexibility to create regulations that allow both fish and fishermen to thrive simultaneously.”

Captain Paul Forsberg Sr., of the Viking Fleet concurred. “We took the cutbacks and the fisheries are rebuilt. Now it’s time to let us go fishing and save our jobs.” Forsberg urged Long Islanders to “Get on the bus with us and help us fight for your right to go fishing!”

"I am proud to once again be given the opportunity to address members of fishing communities from across the US," said U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. "As I have said before, you cannot build a regulatory structure around antiquated laws and brush aside the science. I look forward to lending my voice to this important cause and event."

The junior Senator from NY and Congressman Tim Bishop of the first district are scheduled to speak at the bi-partisan KFF rally along with Senators Kerry and Brown from Massachusetts and other coastal members of Congress. Senator Chuck Schumer and Cong. Peter King have also been invited.

The bus will leave the Viking Fleet parking lot at 5 a.m. from Montauk, with a stop in Southampton, and arrive in Washington shortly before noon, returning at approximately 10 p.m. Round-trip ticket cost is $50 and includes a box lunch from Panera. More information and sign-ups can be made by calling the Viking Fleet at  631-668-5700  or at www.vikingfleet.com

Reservations on other buses from New York, including one from Point Lookout with available seats, can be reserved through the www.keepfishermenfishing.com webpage.

The Keep Fishermen Fishing 2012 organizers include the Recreational Fishing Alliance, Southeastern Fisheries Association, Viking Village, Lund’s Fisheries, Fishermen’s Dock, North Carolina Watermen United, Florida Keys Commercial Fishermen's Association, Southern Off Shore Fishing Association, Morro Bay Commercial Fishermen’s Association, Long Island Commercial Fishermen's Association, National Association of Charterboat Operators, Montauk Inlet Seafood, Hull’s Seafood, Panama City Boatmen’s Association, Alliance of Communities For Sustainable Fisheries, Westport Charterboat Association, Garibaldi Charters, Monkfish Defense Fund, Rivercenter Marine, Garden State Seafood Association, Big Game Fishing Journal, New York Fishing Tackle Trades Association, New York Sportfishing Federation, United Boatmen, Save the Summer Flounder Fishery Fund, Atlantic Capes Seafood, West Coast Seafood Processors Association, Lower Columbia Alliance for Sustainable Fisheries, Ocean Isle Fishing Center, Tailwalker Marine, Fishing United & Raffields Fisheries.

For more information contact Bonnie Brady, Exec Director, LICFA  516-527-3099 


March 14 Update:

RFA Ad Banner 2
Recreational Fishing Alliance
"America's Right to Fish Is Under Attack in DC"
SPECIAL NEWS BULLETIN
March 13, 2012
OBAMA'S 'ANTI-STIMULUS' PACKAGE HITS MASS COAST
Behavior Modification Study Aimed At Reducing Angler Participation
What would you be willing to give up in exchange for $500?
 
If the U.S. Department of Education offered you $500 to keep your kid out of school for a few weeks, would you take it? What if the government explained that this was simply a study designed to determine exactly how much you felt your child's education was worth? Would the results of such a study encourage your support for such behavior modification analysis?
 
How about if the Department of Health offered you $500 to give up coffee with sugar for one month? Or, what about a government-funded study where random voters are given the option of accepting $500 in exchange for their right to vote in November? Would you accept a $500 check to read only certain types of books or download specific kinds of songs?
 
If you think about it, such 'willingness-to-pay' research could prove invaluable in providing our state and federal government agencies with important data about the financial line which Americans are willing to cross in exchange for valuable goods, services, rights & privileges. Sociologists love this type of data, and it's arguably an excellent way to determine a financial threshold for changing behavioral habits of American citizens.
 
The problem that most Americans have with studies like these is that it's social engineering at U.S. taxpayer expense. This type of behavior modification might be fine for a grad student working on some Ivy League college campus, but the thought that our own government would freely support such 'willingness to pay' studies through taxpayer funds is one that liberals and conservatives alike should each find quite troubling.
 
Regrettably, our government is actively engaged in just this type of behavior modification study, whereby Massachusetts anglers are being asked to accept $500 in taxpayer funds to give up their right to fish recreational in marine waters there for the rest of 2012. The obvious question is how on earth our Department of Commerce can justify paying Americans to stay at home and not spend their money on items of commerce, notably sportfishing in Massachusetts?
 
In any other American business, this type of government action would be met with quite a bit of disdain and discomfort, worthy of national headlines - for our recreational fishing industry however, it's just another one of a thousand cuts felt by local business people every single day of the year.
 
Here's what we do know; NOAA Fisheries and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) which is managed under the auspice of the Department of Commerce, is currently undertaking a socioeconomic study in conjunction with the state of Massachusetts whereby approximately 700 saltwater anglers have been offered cash in exchange for the anglers' willingness to give up his/her right to fish. Those licensed Massachusetts anglers who accept the offer will receive up to $500 apiece following their willingness to give up their fishing license and all rights to fish in state coastal waters in 2012.
 
In a recent conference call with stakeholders, NOAA Fisheries explained that approximately 25% of those 700 anglers had responded favorably by agreeing to give up their right to fish in 2012 in exchange for cold, hard cash. In agreeing to accept the government's terms, these particular Massachusetts residents are agreeing to not fish this season, which means no need to visit the local tackle shop, giving up any charter/headboat trips this summer and making plans other than those surrounding a saltwater angling trip with family and friends.
 
If NOAA Fisheries' estimates are correct, 175 respondents will actually be giving up their right to fish in saltwater this season. According to socioeconomic data on saltwater angling habits that already exists through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service however, the final economic impact within the Massachusetts coastal fishing community amounts to approximately $201,425 in overall consumer spending.
 
For anglers 16 and older, total trip and equipment expenditures by saltwater anglers averages about $1,151 per person, with $219 spent annually on food & lodging, $137 on transportation expenses, and $795 per angler directly related to fishing equipment and services. It doesn't take too long to figure out that if dad is spending over a thousand bucks a year on fishing for fluke, cod, sea bass or other inshore species, if he sells off his 'fishing privileges' for the season then he's probably not taking the teens and pre-teens on a fishing vacation in 2012 - which means there's more economic loss than even the statistics show.
 
The US Fish and Wildlife Service's data indicates that there are approximately 298,000 saltwater anglers in the state of Massachusetts who in 2006 spent more than $494.6 million on saltwater fishing tackle alone. Approximately 69% of those anglers fished by boat in 2006, meaning that there is also money being spent on boat preparation and docking, fuel, and other services related to the marine industry. If nearly 70% of those 175 respondents and their families keep their boat under wraps in 2012 to take advantage of the government's recreational fisherman buyout study - that too will have a trickle down financial impact within the Massachusetts coastal community.
 
At a time when our Department of Commerce and the entire Obama Administration should be helping spur economic growth in America, it's hard to fathom how the sociologists and economists at NOAA Fisheries can justify such a deplorable study in behavior modification theory. It's essentially the counter-opposite to a federal stimulus package, one which is micromanaged at a state and regional level to see what happens to businesses when customers are lured away to other pursuits.
 
Spending priceless taxpayer dollars on ways of limiting consumer spending in beleaguered coastal communities is the worst kind of social engineering one could possibly imagine, and it provides a perfect example of why this Administration's jobs initiatives have failed miserably.
 
Are you tired of NOAA Fisheries paying $$$ to anglers to not fish, instead of applying these important taxpayer funds towards proper fisheries science and data collection improvements? On Wednesday, March 21, 2012 at noon, several thousand fishermen from around the country will be at Upper Senate Park in Washington DC in support of legislative efforts which would ensure that NOAA Fisheries is living up to its Congressional mandates to fix the recreational data collection. Join the RFA on 3-21-12 - for details, visit www.keepfishermenfishing.com. Or, call  888-564-6732 .
About Recreational Fishing Alliance
The Recreational Fishing Alliance is a national, grassroots political action organization representing recreational fishermen and the recreational fishing industry on marine fisheries issues. The RFA Mission is to safeguard the rights of saltwater anglers, protect marine, boat and tackle industry jobs, and ensure the long-term sustainability of our Nation's saltwater fisheries. If you'd like to tell Washington that your right to fish is NOT FOR SALE, join RFA now at www.joinrfa.org.
 


March 2 2012 update:


Recreational Fishing Alliance
3-21-12 Rally Update
United We Fish Bus Information March 1, 2012
Get On The Bus!
 
 
 
I Fish, I Vote
Join RFA & protect your right to fish!
Recreational Fishing Alliance is a national, grassroots political action organization that represents recreational fishermen and the recreational fishing industry on marine fisheries issues.
The RFA mission is to safeguard the rights of saltwater anglers, protect marine, boat and tackle industry jobs, and ensure the long-term sustainability of our Nation's saltwater fisheries.

United We Fish
United We Fish rally on February 24
3-21-12 Rally Update

Quick Links
::  888-JOIN RFA  (564-6732)
Dear Paul,
 
With just 21 days until the second historic fishermen's rally in Washington DC, transportation efforts along are shaping up as two more buses have been added to ferry coastal anglers to and from the March 21 Keep Fishermen Fishing rally at our nation's capital, with fishermen in coastal South Carolina and Northern New Jersey upping the ante in the attendance race to bring the current total number of buses to 13.
Fix Magnuson Now Button
3-21-12 Rally Closes In
 
According to the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA), by the day of the first United We Fish rally in 2010, there were approximately 40 buses packed with protesters bound for Washington DC. "We didn't start really filling up those seats and ordering new buses until just a couple of weeks before the 2010 rally, so we're entering the homestretch right now," said RFA's Jim Hutchinson, Jr.
 
The March 21, 2012 rally is being held at Upper Senate Park in Washington DC beginning at noon. Similar to the 2010 event at the same location, the Keep Fishermen Fishing rally is historic in that it unites two sectors of fishermen which have traditionally been at odds. According to RFA executive director Jim Donofrio, disagreements between the recreational and commercial fishing sectors will always exist.
 
"I don't expect that our groups will ever fully resolve our conflicts regarding gear type or stock allocation, but the political reality is that coastal fishermen are stronger whenever we can work together under a common goal, which in this case is in support of responsible Magnuson reform," Donofrio said, adding that more than 30 different organizations from both the recreational and commercial fishing sectors have come together to organize the rally.
 
"Regardless of whether one fishes for sport, for money or simply to put food on the table, all coastal fishermen share a common danger in the form of those who would prefer to see us both off the water indefinitely," Donofrio said. "We're essentially crossing party lines on March 21 for the sake of open access, under the law, for all Americans, to healthy and sustainable coastal fisheries, which is exactly what we hope to see from Congress in the next few months in terms of this important coastal jobs issue," he added.
 
FLORIDA
Evidence of the united call for fisheries reform is very apparent along Florida's Gulf Coast, where Raffield Fisheries is sponsoring two buses set to depart Panama City, FL on March 20, returning early morning on March 22. The bus ride is offered free to any fishermen -recreational or commercial - able to make the long trip north to Washington DC for the event. A host of Panama City area fishermen are expected to make the trip, as Rep. Steve Southerland (R-FL) is expected to give a rousing speech at Upper Senate Park on March 21 to those constituents taking the time to attend the event. "As an avid angler myself, I look forward to joining thousands of recreational and commercial fishermen from across America on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol for this year's 'Keep Fishermen Fishing' rally," said Rep. Southerland who encouraged fishermen to "remain united in our fight to secure fair and open access to our seas."
 
Those interested in hopping aboard one of the Florida buses are encouraged to call RFA board member and chairman of the National Association of Charterboat Operators (NACO), Capt. Bob Zales, II at 850-814-8001  or RFA-FL's 'Forgotten Coast Chapter' Chair Tom Adams at  850-381-1313 . Organizers there are asking attendees to respond before March 7.
 
SOUTH CAROLINA
This week, the Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce announced that they will be sponsoring a bus to leave Harborgate Marina in Myrtle Beach, SC at 3 a.m. on March 21. According to Capt. Keith Logan with the RFA-SC chapter, the bus is free but will be limited to the first 56 people who call to sign up for this historic road trip. "We have a great relationship with the folks at the Little River, North Myrtle Beach and Myrtle Beach chambers of commerce, and they've been very active in fighting to protect the rights of our fishermen," Logan said. "The Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring this particular bus on March 21, which means it's a free ride for those fishermen who want to climb onboard for the trip to the rally in Washington." South Carolina coastal are encouraged to call Capt. Keith Logan as soon as possible at  843-907-0064  to reserve a spot (get more at www.southcarolina-offshore.com ).
Several weeks ago, Tailwalker Marine of Georgetown, SC announced that they were sponsoring half the $3,600 cost for the round-trip price of getting fishermen to and from Washington DC on March 21. Anglers in the Georgetown, SC area who are looking to spend the day rallying at Upper Senate Park on behalf of improved recreational fishing access on South Atlantic fisheries can hop aboard the Tailwalker Marine bus for just $35 per person. For details call  843-527-2495  or  800-768-2495 .
 
NORTH CAROLINA
Capt. Brant McMullan of Ocean Isle Fishing Center out of Ocean Isle Beach, NC is sponsoring a bus to transport area fishermen to the 2012 rally, same as they had done in 2010. "Everyone met at the OIFC the morning of the rally at 4:30 a.m. and by noon we were all marching on Washington," said McMullan, adding that now the rally is on again "it is time to band together to show our continued resolve to correct fishery mismanagement." The bus will leave OIFC at 4:30 a.m. on March 21 with a cost of just $35 per person which will help cover bus rental. It is expected to return that same day around 11 p.m., leaving Washington DC not long after the rally finishes up around 3 p.m. "It is a long day, but every voice is needed to make a difference and it is one heck of an experience," McMullan said. Email captbrant@oifc.com or call Ocean Isle Fishing Center at 910-575-FISH.
NEW JERSEY
Organizers from the Save the Summer Flounder Fishery Fund (SSFFF) now have five buses set to leave New Jersey on the morning of the March 21 rally, with two leaving from Bogan's Boat Basin in Brielle, two in South Jersey set to depart from the Wildwood Fishing Center, and one additional bus added this week for departure from and return to Atlantic Highlands Municipal Marina. SSFFF which was instrumental in helping correct the fatal errors contained in recent NOAA Fisheries' summer flounder assessment models is also supportive of responsible reform of the Magnuson Stevens Act to keep fishermen fishing. The coalition partners at SSFFF are sponsoring the full cost of each of the five New Jersey buses, with a small fee of $10 per person is being collected for a beverage, snack and the bus driver's gratuity. New Jersey anglers looking to hop on a bus can purchase tickets at www.ssfff.net.
NEW YORK
Buses are now filling up with support from the party boat fleet from Point Lookout and Sheepshead Bay. The captains and crew of the Marilyn Jean, Brooklyn VI and Ocean Eagle, with support fromFishingUnited.com, have one bus set to leave Pier Number 6 along Emmons Avenue in Brooklyn at 6 a.m. sharp on March 21. Those fishermen in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island interested in hopping aboard one of the New York City area buses should contact Capt. Tony Santella at  917-560-8224 . The Point Lookout bus has been donated by Capt. Tony Joseph of the FV Stirs, and also includesbagels and other breakfast goodies for the trip down including bottle water. All that is being asked is a donation being given for the seat, but again, the seats have been donated.
"All the seats have mostly been furnished, now it's up to the fishing community to fill those seats so that we can get Congress to move on important amendments to our federal fisheries law designed to keep us fishing in the years ahead," said RFA's Jim Hutchinson who added that the national rally in DC also boasts the organizational support of the New York Sportfishing Federation, New York Fishing Tackle Trades Association and United Boatmen. "We have several New York legislators who have expressed interest in addressing the fleet when they arrive in Washington on March 21, what we need now are the rally supporters to show them that we fish and we vote."


Feb 1 2012 update:


Recreational Fishing Alliance
Contact: Jim Hutchinson, Jr. /  888-564-6732 
For Immediate Release
February 1, 2012

NOAA FISHERIES SAYS "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED"

RFA Says That's Up For Congress & Scientists To Decide

Federal officials recently unveiled a revised new method for estimating how many fish are caught by the nation's recreational saltwater fishermen. While the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) remains cautiously optimistic that the improvements required by Congress will be fully incorporated into the angler data collection program sometime in the future, the initial fanfare created by the national media seems a bit disconcerting.

 

"RFA appreciates the work that NOAA Fisheries staff has done to implement some of the mandated improvements to the existing angler survey program in place, particularly project leader Gordon Colvin, but it's far too early to stand on deck and announce 'mission accomplished' without getting a better understanding of what's really been done or how these revised numbers will impact assessment estimates and quota monitoring," said RFA executive director Jim Donofrio.

 

"You certainly can't say the data has been improved if you're simply re-estimating numbers based on the same flawed data which was collected over the past 25 years, information which still relies on angler recall," he added.

 

In response to a phone press conference last Wednesday, several national and local news outlets reported that NOAA is now utilizing a brand new method of compiling angler data to generate overall stock assessments and monitor the annual catch by recreational fishermen. RFA points out that the driving factor motivating NOAA Fisheries to implement this program was the reauthorization of the Magnuson Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) back in 2007.

 

At the request of Congress, the National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academy of Sciences performed a comprehensive review of the Marine Recreational Fishing Statistical Survey, or MRFSS, a program used since 1979 to gauge overall harvest and participation trends in the recreational sector. In presenting the final report to Congress in 2006, NRC committee chair Dr. Patrick Sullivan deemed MRFSS "fatally flawed," a term which has been used by fishermen ever since when referring to the data collection system.

 

"Despite the complexity of the challenge and its importance for fishery management, the MRFSS staff have been severely handicapped in their efforts to implement, operate, and improve the MRFSS, including implementing the recommendations of earlier reviews," the NRC 2006 report stated. "It is not reasonable to expect such a small staff - and one that lacks a Ph.D.-level mathematical statistician - to operate a national survey of such complexity, despite the dedication of the small staff the MRFSS does have."

 

"In addition, the MRFSS is severely limited by the lack of a universal sampling frame for all saltwater anglers, a lack that is not of the MRFSS's own making," the report further stated, adding "To make matters even more difficult, some of the data that the MRFSS depends on are collected by states, which use a variety of data-collection and sampling protocols."

 

According to Donofrio, it was Congress who led the charge and got the NRC to coordinate the 2006 review, not NOAA Fisheries as some of the media outlets have been reporting in the past several days.

 

"I would love to join the rest of the fishing community in celebrating good times ahead, but if the MRFSS staff is using the same effort and participation data coupled with inadequate intercept data generated over the past 33 years, then I'm not so sure that we've turned a corner instead of just running around in more circles," Donofrio said. "Congress mandated that this data collection effort was to have been completed by 2009, and I'm not convinced the job has been fully completed to this day, certainly not to the national standards established under the Magnuson-Stevens Act."

 

In testimony before the House Natural Resources Committee on December 1, 2011, NOAA's Eric Schwaab admitted that his agency had failed to meet their time-specific deadline to replace the "fatally flawed" MRFSS program with a new and improved Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP), acknowledging that any new processes for scientific improvement wouldn't be fully incorporated until at least 2013. Pressed by Committee member Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) about how new hard catch limits and accountability measures could be mandated by NOAA Fisheries before meeting their own mandates to fix the soft data used compiled by random surveys, Schwaab replied by saying "certainly it's suboptimal," while referring to recreational data as "a small portion of the assessment process."

 

"There are two different ways in which recreational data factor into the management process, one is as a component of the assessment process, and certainly recreational effort and landings are considered by the scientific teams that make assessment decisions," Schwaab said, adding "secondly is managing, once a quota is set, the recreational component of the fishery."

 

RFA points to Schwaab's Congressional testimony as an example of how recreational data is used not only to enforce recreational regulations on an annual basis, but also in terms of monitoring the overall health of the stock. "Improved angler data isn't a small portion of the process, it's a huge component of figuring out the total health of our coastal fisheries stock and demands more than just a press conference and a mission accomplished banner," Donofrio added.

 

Legislation introduced by Rep. Pallone called the Flexibility and Access in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act of 2011 (H.R. 3061) would make critical improvements to the way America's fisheries are managed, including a requirement that NRC perform another comprehensive report on improvements made to the recreational fishing data collection. Currently under review by the House Natural Resources Committee, HR3061 is co-sponsored by Rep. Rob Andrews (D-NJ), Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), Rep. Donna Christensen (D-VI), Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-FL), Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY), Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI), Rep. Peter King (R-NY), Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), Rep. Tim Scott (R-SC), Rep. Steve Southerland (R-FL), Rep. John Tierney (D-MA), and Rep. Bob Turner (R-NY).

 

"Mr. Colvin and his staff seem to be stuck in a rut, and RFA and our allies are hoping that HR3061 will help them finally get this statistical monkey off their back," Donofrio said. "These numbers are critically important since they ultimately drive the management of the recreational sector. The best system in my mind needs to be as accurate as possible," Donofrio said.

 

"Even the nicest looking inboard at the boat show isn't worth launching this spring without a good look inside the engine room, which is why we prefer to leave it up to Congress and the National Academy of Sciences to decide it this ship is really ready to sail," he added.

 

 

To review the official NRC findings, download:

http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/ocs/mafac/meetings/2006_07/docs/NRC_MRFSS_2006.pdf

 

To see how Congress responded, turn to page 158 of the following PDF under section 109-479n of Magnuson as it relates to Recreational Fisheries, download:

http://www.nero.noaa.gov/sfd/MSA_amended_20070112_FINAL.pdf

 

About Recreational Fishing Alliance
The Recreational Fishing Alliance is a national, grassroots political action organization representing recreational fishermen and the recreational fishing industry on marine fisheries issues. The RFA Mission is to safeguard the rights of saltwater anglers, protect marine, boat and tackle industry jobs, and ensure the long-term sustainability of our Nation's saltwater fisheries. For more information, call  888-JOIN-RFA  or visit www.joinrfa.org.
 


Jan 24 2012 update:


RFA Ad Banner 2
Recreational Fishing Alliance
Contact: Jim Hutchinson, Jr. /  888-564-6732 
For Immediate Release
January 24, 2012

U.S. COASTAL FISHERMEN TO RALLY IN DC MARCH 21

RFA Helps Organize Efforts To "Keep Fishermen Fishing"

In another historic show of solidarity, U.S. recreational and commercial fishermen will gather near the U.S. Capitol on March 21, 2012 in an organized demonstration supporting sensible reform of the Magnuson Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson Stevens Act). According to the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) which is helping organize this year's event, permitting efforts have been underway for weeks and official details about the organized protest will be made public in the coming days.

 

A rally on February 24, 2010, under a United We Fish™ banner, brought some 5,000 recreational, commercial and party/charter vessel owners and folks in associated businesses from all over the country to Washington. More than two dozen members of the Senate and the House of Representatives took time out from their busy schedules to address the crowd. The March 21 rally is being billed asKeep Fishermen Fishing, and once again will unite the commercial and recreational sectors under one common message, "reform Magnuson now."

 

"Those who didn't attend or perhaps chose not to support the original rally are mostly unaware of the great things which were accomplished in between those two winter storms of 2010," said RFA executive director Jim Donofrio. "Of the two dozen members of Congress who addressed our troops at the rally, several top legislators pushed to have Magnuson reform initiatives prioritized in Congress which is why the House Natural Resources Committee is now reviewing eight different pieces of fisheries reform legislation."

 

"Our coastal fisheries have been getting national headlines in the past two years, and our Keep Fishermen Fishing organizers are hoping to keep that momentum going forward in order to reform Magnuson now," Donofrio said.

 

Signed into law in 1976, NOAA Fisheries describes the 36-year-old federal fisheries law this way, "most notably, the Magnuson-Stevens Act aided in the development of the domestic fishing industry by phasing out foreign fishing." In recent years however, rally organizers claim the Magnuson Stevens Act has been transformed from its original intent into a weapon employed by a handful of mega-foundations and the anti-fishing ENGOs they support to drive fishermen off the water.

 

"Real-time biological overfishing is not occurring in most U.S. fisheries today, as fishermen know it," Donofrio said. "We're being held to a statutory overfishing definition which has nothing to do with science, and that needs to be changed in the law."

 

Citing a continuous stream of regulatory requirements which have led to unnecessary and unacceptable restrictions in demonstrably sustainable fisheries, organizers say the American public is being denied access to the food and fun of this tremendous natural resource. "We've watched access to vital coastal fisheries like cod, summer flounder, black sea bass, red snapper, amberjack, gag grouper and others virtually destroyed during the past 5 years, this is clearly a huge jobs issue which has already been recognized by House Speaker John Boehner," he said referencing the speaker's blog site at www.speaker.gov/Blog/Default.aspx?postid=266385.

 

"We are seeking bipartisan congressional support to fix our law, to put folks to work and specifically to keep our fishermen fishing," Donofrio said.

Most U.S. fisheries are in better shape biologically than they've been for a generation or more. In fact, last year NOAA Fisheries scientists announced that 84% of U.S. fish stocks studied for fishing activity were not experiencing overfishing as of 2010. However, despite the heavy sacrifices on the part of coastal fishermen, the same federal agency in charge of managing the resource has been using a broken law to mete out broken promises upon these constituents to ratchet down regulations as fisheries continue to rebuild.

 

As was the case in 2010, organizers are anticipating foundation-funded ENGO lobbying disguised as a grassroots fishermen's effort aimed at marginalizing theKeep Fishermen Fishing rally. The message that anti-fishing groups will be relaying to Congress is that truly conservation-minded recreational, commercial and party/charter fishermen fully support the Magnuson Stevens Act as it is today and oppose any efforts to amendment it.

 

Keep Fishermen Fishing organizers however say that the truly conservation-minded fishermen won't be those walking the halls of Congress trying to sell their anti-fishing message because of foundation/ENGO funding, they'll be the people who are there on their own dime and who are committed to returning to a federal fisheries management system that recognizes that they and the fishing communities they support are as important as the fish are.

 

While final details of the 2012 Keep Fishermen Fishing rally are still being put in place, state organizers from the New England, Mid-Atlantic, South Atlantic and Gulf regions have already begun coordinated efforts to schedule buses into Washington DC on March 20th and 21st. Those interesting in organizing a bus effort or getting travel information for joining the rally in DC should bookmarkwww.keepfishermenfishing.com.

 

You can also call the RFA headquarters at  888-564-6732  for additional information or to learn how to lend your support for the 3-21-12 rally for fishermen's rights. Follow the rally efforts by typing Keep Fishermen Fishing or Recreational Fishing Alliance into the search bar at Facebook.com (the RFA Facebook group page currently stands at more than 2,300 members and growing!)

 

Click here to donate exclusively towards national rally efforts on March 21, 2012.

About Recreational Fishing Alliance
The Recreational Fishing Alliance is a national, grassroots political action organization representing recreational fishermen and the recreational fishing industry on marine fisheries issues. The RFA Mission is to safeguard the rights of saltwater anglers, protect marine, boat and tackle industry jobs, and ensure the long-term sustainability of our Nation's saltwater fisheries. For more information, call  888-JOIN-RFA  or visit www.joinrfa.org.
 


Dec 21 2011 update:


RFA Ad Banner 2
Recreational Fishing Alliance
Contact: Jim Hutchinson, Jr. /  888-564-6732 
For Immediate Release
December 20, 2011
CONGRESS SET TO GO ON CHRISTMAS BREAK
RFA Hopes For Responsible Magnuson Reform Early In 2012
(12/20/2011) This week, members of Congress hope to avert a federal shutdown before going on a holiday break. After meeting with key members of the House of Representatives, the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) says one thing that shouldn't be expected before 2011 ends is congressional reform of the Magnuson Stevens Act.
 
RFA said that's not necessarily a bad thing either.
 
While the end of 2011 marks an important deadline for full implementation of annual catch limits (ACLs) and the associated recreational paybacks which may result, RFA said the most draconian restrictions have already been put in place by regional management councils since the 2006 reauthorization of Magnuson.
 
Since early in 2007, RFA has spearheaded legislative reform efforts in Congress to incorporate much needed management flexibility into the federal fisheries law in hopes of keeping anglers on the water through a better balance of commerce and conservation. One particular bill of importance has been the Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act, which by 2009 had the support of hundreds of fishing and boating organizations including the National Association of Charterboat Operators, Marine Retailers Association of America, and even the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA).
 
Calls for Magnuson reform culminated in a national protest near the steps of the U.S. Capitol on February 24, 2010, during which more than 20 federal lawmakers joined an estimated 5,000 fishermen from around the country for a three-hour rally supporting national fisheries reform. While the grassroots effort was secured through this historic event, behind the scenes on Capitol Hill other lawmakers were being influenced by opposing political interests who were ardent supporters of the restrictive changes made to Magnuson back in 2006 and who have themselves lobbied against all efforts to reform the federal fisheries law.
 
According to RFA executive director Jim Donofrio, it was the immediate closure of the recreational amberjack fishery in the fall of 2009 which became the final straw in calling for a national rally. "Whether or not the national trades groups wanted individual owner-operators speaking up for their rights in DC didn't really matter to us, nor does it matter to us today. Our local fishermen have grown incensed at the ongoing closures and are willing to fight for legislative reform, with the national trades support or without."
 
"RFA members in the Mid-Atlantic and New England regions would not be fishing on summer flounder today if it weren't for the actions of a few key lawmakers in building extended rebuilding deadline into the 2006 reauthorization, but now we have rebuilt stocks like black sea bass and scup being taken away from those same Mid-Atlantic anglers, cod and haddock in New England, red snapper, grouper and kingfish down south, rockfish off the coast of California. These are the fish species generating support for Magnuson reform in Congress."
 
Donofrio said as these vitally important recreational fisheries were deemed off-limits to anglers, the local fishermen have gotten more active in the process. "As representatives of the individual marine anglers, the local tackle shops which service those customers and the for-hire captains that bus folks out to the fishing grounds, RFA has always been committed to the belief that all politics is local, and we remain dedicated, both publicly and privately, to promoting legislation that protects coastal access to these stocks. Members expect us to stick to our guns on this."
 
In response to the specific issues with species like black sea bass, porgies, summer flounder, cod, haddock, summer flounder, amberjack, gag grouper, kingfish, as well as red snapper and vermillion, among others, Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Rep. Rob Andrews (D-NJ), Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), and Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) re-introduced the Flexibility and Access in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act of 2011, with additional support from Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-FL), Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY), Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI), Rep. Peter King (R-NY), Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), Rep. Tim Scott (R-SC), Rep. John Tierney (D-MA) and Rep. Bob Turner (R-NY).
 
Similar to previous legislation introduced just after the Magnuson reauthorization in 2007, the "Flexibility Bill" (HR3061) calls for extending the authorized time period for rebuilding certain overfished fisheries, while also providing the Secretary of Commerce with authority to suspend annual catch limits (ACLs) if a stock is either rebuilt or deemed not overfished, or when the level of uncertainty in the data is not consistent with National Standard 8 (best available science).
 
While there are eight pieces of Magnuson reform legislation being reviewed in the House Resource Committee, HR3061 is the only bill that specifically addresses those coastal fisheries which have led to angler unrest across the country. RFA's Donofrio called it "critical" that language contained in the Flexibility Bill is incorporated into whatever legislation is ultimately passed out of the Committee for congressional response in 2012.
 
"There's another bill in Committee popular with the national trade associations and the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) that will help suspend ACLs and accountability measures only on those stocks not assessed in the past 5 years like mahi and cobia which is certainly fine, but these aren't the fish stocks creating access problems for our local fishermen right now," Donofrio said. "Some folks can't deal with honest criticism, but trying to steamroll a bill through Congress that doesn't address any real problems is not something that RFA is going to allow happen without criticism."
 
The Flexibility and Access in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act of 2011 contains language which would require NOAA Fisheries' Science and Statistical Committees to provide detailed reports to justify any of their management recommendations while identifying areas where precautionary management approach was applied. HR3061 also calls on regional councils to calculate the socioeconomic impact of their management decisions on an annual basis and report upon what impact management decisions will have on the future socioeconomic value.
 
"This is a jobs bill for our recreational fishing community, which is why RFA has been working so hard with key members of Congress to ensure that this language is included in the final bill," Donofrio said. "We don't need some 'pass this bill now, we'll see what happens later' effort, we need common-sense fisheries reform so that anglers can keep on fishing while local businesses remain solvent."
 
Donofrio said groups who are pushing for one legislative fix over all others are taking dire risks with the future of the recreational fishing community by threatening to disregard any real improvements in the scientific side of fisheries management. "There is clear understanding within our fishing communities that the House and Senate version of the so-called Fisheries Science and Improvement Act pushed by the national trade groups won't apply to the most sought after recreational fisheries nor will they have any direct impact on science, but just because the bills don't do much doesn't mean they're not dangerous."
 
Donofrio called scientific improvement a "top priority of the RFA and the fishing industry," explaining how better science tends to foster better management decisions. "However, if a science bill with no real science is moved through Congress, it makes our already difficult job of lobbying Congress for additional research funds even harder given that legislators may be under the mistaken impression that they've already addressed the science issue with this bill."
 
From a practical standpoint, RFA sees passage of these bills without amendment as potentially stifling of future involvement of the fishing industries in working to improve fisheries science. "Many species such as king mackerel and summer flounder experienced great improvements to their assessment approach due to efforts by the fishing industry, but if Congress were to pass a law that only protects fish stocks not scientifically assessed, fishermen may see the only way to avoid the damage of ACLs is by stopping stock assessments altogether or simply allowing them to run with such poor data that they actually fail peer review."
 
Recreational fishing industry leaders have made frequent requests to NOAA over the years for additional social and economic impact studies, enhanced stock assessments, and significant improvements in the recreational angler participation data. In response to angler requests and concerns, congressional representatives put forth the Flexibility and Access in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act of 2011 to specifically address these science and statistical issues.
 
"HR3061 would charge the National Research Council with performing a comprehensive review of the current recreational data collection systems to determine what changes, if any, were made since their last report in 2006," Donofrio said. "Other bills on the docket don't specifically address NOAA's disregard for their scientific requirements so I really can't fathom why the national trade groups under the direction of CCA lobbyists would oppose these local efforts."
 
In 2008, the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) was asked by coastal organizations to support Congressman Pallone's efforts to amend Magnuson via the original flexibility bill (HR5425). In a letter to industry representatives dated April 30, 2008, ASA vice president Gordon Robertson said "After extensive deliberation by the Government Affairs Committee, ASA neither supports nor opposes HR5425."
 
RFA managing director Jim Hutchinson points out that just three months after ASA voted to take no position on allowing limited deadline flexibility, the tackle and boating trade associations (ASA and NMMA) together introduced former CCA Louisiana staffer Jefferson Anglers as their federal fisheries lobbyist of record at their newly created Center for Coastal Conservation, a political group launched with the expressed support of "ending overfishing by a time certain" and "rebuilding plans for fisheries with time constraints."
 
"I think many manufacturers thought in 2008 that they were getting a political bulldog that would fight for their customers' access rights, but based on the CCC tenants and mission and Mr. Angers' own lobbying efforts, it seems as if all of the industry's political funding has been used to confuse legislators, local anglers and the owners of fishing related businesses," Hutchinson said. "RFA didn't create the conflict between the industry and their own political mouthpiece, we're simply shining a light on an obvious leadership issue."
 
"How does one group without a public position and another group with a public position of support, suddenly create an umbrella organization with an opposing point of view, then expect to be taken seriously," Hutchinson asked. "As an overall policy, we don't criticize organizations that are effective, only those which are clearly being dishonest."
About Recreational Fishing Alliance
The Recreational Fishing Alliance is a national, grassroots political action organization representing recreational fishermen and the recreational fishing industry on marine fisheries issues. The RFA Mission is to safeguard the rights of saltwater anglers, protect marine, boat and tackle industry jobs, and ensure the long-term sustainability of our Nation's saltwater fisheries. For more information, call  888-JOIN-RFA  or visit www.joinrfa.org.
 
 
 

 

 

 

 


RFA Ad Banner 2
Recreational Fishing Alliance
Contact: Jim Hutchinson, Jr. /  888-564-6732 
For Immediate Release
November 30, 2011
HOUSE COMMITTEE TO HOLD MAGNUSON HEARING
Congress To Address Federal Fisheries Reform on December 1
After 5 years of widespread fishing closures, strict seasonal restrictions, diminished angler access and participation, and staged protests and rallies at government offices throughout the country, Congress is finally set to hear debate about problems with the federal fisheries law.
 
This Thursday, December 1, the House Natural Resources Committee will hold a legislative hearing on bills to amend the Magnuson Stevens Act. The full Committee hearing will be held starting at 10 a.m. in Hearing Room 1324 in the Longworth House Office Building in Washington DC and will be broadcast live via the web at http://naturalresources.house. gov/live.
 
According to Jim Donofrio, executive director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA), when the Magnuson Stevens Act (MSA) was reauthorized in 2007, President Bush signed off on a piece of legislation which was never debated before the Senate, a fact which left many of the fishing community's concerns unaddressed.
 
"Senate passed Magnuson by unanimous consent, meaning there was no discussion about what arbitrary deadlines, accountability measures, annual catch limits or statutory fisheries definitions would mean to our coastal fishermen," Donofrio said this morning, adding "on December 1, let's hope our U.S. fishermen will get their chance before a full Committee to finally be heard."
 
RFA has lobbied extensively for the past 4-1/2 years to return the Magnuson debate back to Committee in order to address serious federal fisheries reform, and Donofrio said he's thankful that members of the House Natural Resource Committee are willing to tackle the issues which have left so many boats tied to the dock in the past several seasons.
 
"There are eight different pieces of Magnuson reform legislation being discussed so it's quite clear that Magnuson is broken," he said. "While each bill has its own unique way of addressing specific problems which have arisen during the past 5 years, it is our hope that Committee members will see the need to pass the most comprehensive reform on behalf of all coastal fishermen across many regions."
 
Capt. Bob Zales, II, president of the National Association of Charterboat Operators (NACO) and member of RFA's national Board of Directors agreed that there are plenty of good pieces of Magnuson reform now on the table, but stressed that putting them all together into one sensible package was the most important task at hand.
 
"The current Magnuson overly restrictive requirements are forcing recreational fishermen to seek other forms of recreation and commercial fishermen to seek other jobs," Zales said, adding "this all equates to lost jobs for Americans."
 
Capt. Zales, who has been invited to testify on Thursday on behalf of the recreational fishing community said coastal fisheries are rebounding and continue to be sustainable. "MSA must be amended to ease the regulatory burden and allow the councils to have the flexibility to provide fair and reasonable management measures that allow fishermen to fish while maintaining sustainable fishery stocks. Providing flexibility to the MSA by passing the combined language contained in the eight house proposed bills the current issues of allocation, catch shares, and other restraining measures may become unnecessary."
 
"Overfishing is an arbitrary term created by environmental groups and other forces who want to end fishing," Zales added.
 
Two years ago, RFA posted an article online about overfishing (Overfishing, An Arbitrary "Term of Art," http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?llr=hclmspcab&et=1108885475796&s=7800&e=001iXDueXjxANfKXv7Jf--aum1qCOomh0dCPk6LOAv1EUlp1xrY_Bn6DHC4Yz_P8yKE0uJXldvpynQ7meF3X9f8gg-aVRVZote4xN7rdUqFC_g=) explaining the difference between 'statutory' and 'biological' overfishing definitions and how the term itself has been used to ratchet down new restrictions. Donofrio said rewrites to MSA in 1996 and again in 2006 have essentially taken management authority from members of the regional fisheries management councils, with the threat of 'overfishing' forcing managers into tighter corners.
 
"It's imperative that Congress address the lack of management flexibility in terms of regional fisheries councils managing economically vital coastal fisheries like red snapper, summer flounder, black sea bass, scup, amberjack and king mackerel," Donofrio said. "RFA has worked very hard to ensure that meaningful dialog for fisheries reform was put forth before Congress, it is critical that the final markup coming out of this committee covers the finer points of Thursday's discussion."
 
Since early in 2007, RFA has been lobbying extensively for legislation to incorporate additional management flexibility into MSA, even spearheading a national rally in Washington DC on February 24, 2010 to set the stage for fisheries reform. Earlier this year, Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) reintroduced his own Magnuson reform bill (HR3061) called the Flexibility and Access in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act. Key provisions in the Pallone legislation would allow for an extension of the timeframe for rebuilding a fish stock beyond 10 years under certain circumstances, increased transparency in the process for developing annual maximum fishing levels and requiring fisheries managers to use an improved system of data collection.
 
The bill also will allow the Secretary of Commerce to suspend restrictive fisheries management measures when there isn't the science to back it up and requires the Secretary to mitigate adverse impacts fisheries management is having on coastal communities and businesses.
 
"Our coastal communities need help today because current conditions threaten a way of life for generations of fishermen on the Jersey shore and across the country," said Pallone. "There are many ways we can help these communities by concentrating on the industries that are dependent on the ocean. These are necessary repairs to make the fisheries management process work again."
 
Donofrio praised Rep. Pallone for being the first U.S. legislator to take the lead with attempting to reform MSA as early as the winter of 2007, and said he hopes to see Republicans and Democrats along the coast working together in the coming days to ensure that responsible reform is pushed through Congress.
 
"Partisan politics being what they are in Washington today, what's most important here is that a final piece of legislation gets passed as quickly as possible that addresses the fundamental problems with Magnuson," Donofrio said.
 
"It doesn't matter which side of the aisle it comes from or who gets the credit, just as long as a sensible solution is achieved that keeps our fishermen on the water in the years to come," he added.



 

Latest RFA Press Release Nov 10 2011
GULF COAST LEGISLATORS OPPOSE CATCH SHARE PLAN
Rep. Southerland (FL) Spearheads Efforts To Protect Open Access
Little more than one week after 19 members of the House of Representatives requested language be included in the 2012 appropriations bill to help restrict use of funds for development of new catch share programs in the New England, Mid Atlantic and South Atlantic regions, 25 legislators have responded in kind to help protect access in the Gulf of Mexico.
 
Spearheaded by Rep. Steve Southerland (R-FL), the bipartisan letter sent to House leadership this week sends a clear and concise message to Congress that coastal legislators on both sides of the aisle are not happy with NOAA Fisheries attempt to respond to fisheries management issues through privatization schemes which limit fishing participation. "Just as Members who have Atlantic coastlines in their districts desire to keep new job-killing catch share programs from being implemented, so too do we, the undersigned Gulf Coast members," the letter reads.
 
"We are alarmed by the crippling job losses experienced along Atlantic Coast as a result of these catch share programs. A similar disaster can be avoided in the Gulf of Mexico by preventing the establishment of new programs in our region until several conditions have been met, including requiring the use of better scientific research and data collection from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and economic impact statements. These tools are necessary to accurately measure the economic impact of catch share programs and we believe it is in the best interests of our coastal industries to restrict funding for catch share programs until these common sense conditions are met," the letter continued.
 
 
"I appreciate the support of the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) in working to eliminate the job-crushing impact of new catch share programs on our Gulf Coast fisheries, and I remain committed to doing all I can to empower our coastal industries to grow despite tough economic times," Rep. Southerland said today in an official statement.
 
RFA executive director Jim Donofrio said the Congressional response to protecting open access is very much appreciated by RFA members and coastal allies. "I'm pleased to see such overwhelming support from both sides of the aisle to protect open access fisheries, and I hope that we can rally up this much support to help get the federal fisheries fixed to allow anglers to continue to access rebuilt fish stocks."
 
RFA said the 2006 reauthorization of the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act included language which has allowed NOAA Fisheries to steamroll excessive restrictions on coastal fishing communities through use of arbitrary rebuilding deadlines and statutory definitions. Meanwhile, Congressional mandates placed upon NOAA Fisheries to fix the science in a time-specific deadline have not been met.
 
"We encourage House members to get together, collectively, to fix the problems with the Magnuson Stevens Act to help keep our folks fishing on healthy fish stocks, and stop this ridiculous effort to cap fishing participation by trading away our coastal resource to a privileged few," Donofrio said, adding that he hopes to work with these same legislators in supporting HR3061, the Flexibility and Access in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act of 2011.
 
Those signing the letter noted they are pleased to see the House Appropriations Committee responding to coastal concerns by cutting catch shares funding to $21.956 million, roughly half of the 2011 fiscal year budget, but noted that that reduction will not prevent NOAA from imposing new job-destroying catch share programs in the Gulf of Mexico. "Therefore, we respectfully request that you not only include the language requested by our colleagues in the final FY 2012 CJS bill, but also that you would add the Gulf of Mexico to this language."
 
Calling it a "great letter" Capt. Bob Zales, II, president of the National Association of Charterboat Operators (NACO) and a member of the RFA board of directors said that new groups sprouting up in the region in recent months claiming to represent fishermen are simply puppets of larger non-government organizations like Environmental Defense Fund, which has become much more apparent to legislators in the Gulf region.
 
"It's clear that the vast majority of the fishermen, recreational and commercial alike, have gotten this message across to House members that we don't want to see any more catch share funding," Zales said, adding "We are very appreciative of Representative Southerland's stand for fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico."
 
"NACO and RFA have worked arm in arm on this, when you talk bipartisanship this is clearly an example of numbers," said Zales adding that NACO's membership in the Gulf of Mexico alone numbers close to 1,000. "Numbers matter most, and Environmental Defense isn't fooling anyone at this point with their claims of membership support from within the fishing industry."
 
An email alert sent from Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) to its supporters last week warned that the congressional leaders who were actively working to slow the spread of catch share programs on behalf of their fishing constituents were undertaking "a desperate move to get around the usual process of making a law by banning catch shares under the cover of darkness, without any public debate or even a vote," warning that catch shares would protect "disadvantaged regions of our country even where local fishermen and others are eager to adopt them."
 
"It's a ridiculous work of fiction," Donofrio said about the EDF doomsday warnings. "Here we have Congress reacting to the will of the people, while EDF and its well-heeled ideologues are spinning a yarn about how individual, privatized ownership of fish stocks is going to help save the poor and the downtrodden. Catch shares will make a handful of people very wealthy by reducing fishing participation and commoditizing our public resources, but it could very well bankrupt our coastal fishing communities in the long run."
 
House members signing on to help stem the infusion of catch share funding along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts include Rep. Southerland, Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Rep. John Mica (R-FL), Rep. Sandy Adams (R-FL), Rep. Allen West (R-FL), Rep. Tom Rooney (R-FL), Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Rep. Tim Griffin (R-AR), Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL), Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC), Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS), Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC), Rep. John Fleming (R-LA), Rep. Jeff Landry (R-LA), Rep. David Rivera (R-FL), Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-FL), Rep. Jon Runyan (R-NJ), Rep. Don Young (R-AK), Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC), Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL), Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL), Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Rep. Frank Guinta (R-NH), Rep. Richard Nugent (R-FL), Rep. Mike Ross (D-AR), Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-LA), Rep. John Tierney (D-MA), Rep. Frank Guinta (R-NH), Rep. Timothy Bishop (D-NY), Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT), Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-NC), Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), Rep. Peter King (R-NY), Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Rep. William Keating (D-MA).
 
Click here http://www.house.gov/ representatives to find your representative.

Latest RFA Press Release Nov 3 2011
RFA CALLS ON FISHERMEN TO UNITE

Fluke & Snapper Closures Fan Flames Of Angler Discontent
 
Because of obsolete NOAA harvest statistics and questionable assessment data, summer flounder (fluke) fishermen will take another hit in 2012 - in turn, coastal fishermen are planning to hit back at Washington DC sometime later this winter!
 
A Northeast Fisheries Science Center report indicates that while the summer flounder stock was successfully rebuilt in 2010, angler harvest data compiled through the Marine Recreational Fishing Statistical Survey (MRFSS) and applied to NOAA assessment models predicts fishing mortality rate will be exceeded in 2011, once again causing statutory overfishing to occur. In addition to known flaws with the MRFSS data, independent scientists have also been critical of the assessment models used by the federal fisheries service.
 
Citing new findings, the Mid Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC) warns that harvest limits originally recommended by council members for 2012 are actually too high and may need to be reduced. On top of recent reports from the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico regional fishery management councils that sea bass and red snapper fisheries have also been closed to anglers due to flawed data, the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) said they are moving forward with another rally in Washington DC later this winter like the one held during the winter of 2010.
 
"In conducting stock assessments, NOAA Fisheries is using recreational harvest data deemed fatally flawed and woefully inaccurate by the National Academy of Sciences, which is exactly why Congress told them to stop using MRFSS as of 2009," said Jim Donofrio, RFA's executive director. "Whether it's sea bass, red snapper or fluke, annual or semi-annual stock assessments don't mean squat when you're using illicit data and questionable models."
 
"Five years is long enough to wait for Congress to react, so if they're not coming to us then it looks like we'll be heading back to see them this winter," he added.
 
Reauthorized in 2006 by unanimous consent with support from 'green' groups like Pew Charitable Trusts and their Pew-funded affiliates including Marine Fish Conservation Network and Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, the Magnuson Stevens Act calls for rigid rebuilding deadlines while incorporating annual catch limits (ACLs) and accountability measures like catch shares to help ratchet down regulatory controls on fishermen.
 
"RFA has taken our lumps by some in the industry because we've been so openly vocal about the issues with Magnuson while also rallying for more accountability from our federal government, but who can sit back quietly while this injustice continues," Donofrio asked, adding "this is a jobs issue."
 
Last week, Donofrio appeared before a House Resource Committee hearing on behalf of America's coastal anglers, and specifically brought up the issue of NOAA's inattention to meeting requirements set forth by Congress. "We don't have a data collection program that Congress mandated in the 2007 reauthorization for marine recreational statistics, the new MRIP program, they're still using the MRFSS data and they're shutting down fisheries," Donofrio told committee members," adding "they told the judge we're not using MRFSS data anymore."
 
Two years ago, RFA brought a federal lawsuit against NOAA for closing the black sea bass fishery using data compiled through MRFSS. Based on the NOAA testimony, a federal judge determined that there would no future fishing closures based on MRFSS data given the fact that NOAA was no longer using MRFSS, rendering RFA's lawsuit moot. That's a concern which Donofrio and the RFA have specifically brought to the attention of Congress.
 
"NOAA's legal team essentially showed a copy of the Magnuson reauthorization of 2007 showing where Congress mandated that MRFSS be replaced as of January 1, 2009," Donofrio said. "While NOAA has yet to meet their congressional obligation three full seasons later, our recreational fishing community is being forced to adhere to a broken law enforced by an overzealous and contentious enforcement office."
 
Donofrio told House Resource Committee members that coastal businesses are having a bad enough time staying open in a down economy, but when combined with burdensome regulations based on hopelessly flawed harvest data, many recreational fishing professionals have been getting out of the business entirely. "They're disgusted with federal regulations that are not allowing them to fish on rebuilt stocks and NOAA's not doing a thing about it, what they want to do is add more layers of bureaucracy that costs more money when they're not spending the money to keep us fishing," Donofrio said.
 
In response to a question from Rep. Jon Runyan (R-NJ) Donofrio said issues experienced within the New Jersey congressman's home district were the same as those down in the southeastern United States and throughout the Gulf, "all the way down to Mr. Southerland's district," he added, referencing committee member Rep. Steve Southerland (R-FL) who also took NOAA to task at the recent hearing. "We have people sitting at the dock can't catch red snapper because the stock assessments and the data that NOAA's been using is flawed, we're literally tripping over red snapper, tripping over them" Donofrio said.
 
Since 2007, RFA and their coastal allies have vocally pressed forth with support for legislation to reform the Magnuson Stevens Act to rewrite the fouled language which has allowed NOAA to shirk its responsibilities while punishing coastal fishing communities. Donofrio said it's been an uphill battle because of congressional gridlock and an industry divided. "A handful of legislators were led to believe that Magnuson was just fine back in 2006, but that's obviously not the case," Donofrio said.
 
According to MAFMC chairman Rick Robins, part of the problem with summer flounder is the fact that NOAA Fisheries is taking important scientific funding away from his council and shifting the spending up north. "The current situation is an unfortunate consequence resulting from the redirection of Science Center resources to New England groundfish," Robins said. While the MAFMC is in the process of scheduling meetings with the science and statistical committees to review the information before their December meetings, independent scientists including Brian Rothschild and Mark Maunder have openly challenged the data used by NOAA scientists in their assessments models.
 
"There are scientists in the field who have critical data with regard to summer flounder to challenge the government's unreasonable findings, but the only way to shake some sense into this government bureaucracy is through an act of Congress," Donofrio said. "Without a new benchmark assessment or peer review of the government data, there's no way for individual anglers and independent scientists to challenge the data," he said.
 
Donofrio said the best option for protecting the future of saltwater angling opportunities is to fix a broken law while securing legislative commitments to overhauling a big government bureaucracy which he says "has gone rogue" in the past 3-1/2 years. "Comprehensive reform of the law is the only choice right now, and the quicker the industry realizes that they've been hoodwinked by anti-fishing interests the quicker we can address our coastal access issues in front of Congress," he added.
 
"There are several different Magnuson reform bills in Congress right now, including the more comprehensive version in HR3061," Donofrio said, adding "what we need is get the whole suite of legislation into committee for review and debate so that we can get the law fixed now to protect jobs."

 


Latest RFA Press Release Oct 28 2011

RFA & NOAA IDEOLOGIES CLASH AT CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEE
Lubchenco Takes A Licking, While Donofrio Keeps Ticking Off Bureaucrats

For the second week in a row, Jim Donofrio of the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) and NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco appeared together in a panel discussion concerning national ocean policies. However, while Dr. Lubchenco received a rather warm embrace by last week's hosts at the Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ), she was met with a chillier reception during a much more critical line of questioning by Congressional representatives sitting on a House Natural Resources Committee hearing in Washington DC.
 
In an online blog appearing at House Speaker John Boehner's website, RFA's executive director was quoted as saying that President Obama's new National Oceans Policy regulations "stifle job growth" and create "too much uncertainty" for America's angling community. "The recreational fishing industry is 'Main Street America' in every sense; it is largely composed of small, family-run, mom and pop businesses," Donofrio said, going on to say that "creating additional levels of bureaucracy" will reduce the overall productivity of his industry, and that a time of high unemployment "it seems counterproductive to advance and fund the NOP when it will stifle job growth in the fishing sectors."
 
This week's hearing focused primarily on the President's executive order, an action which bypassed legislative protocol and led to starting headlines in the national news media in 2010 about the future of recreational fishing opportunities. The House Resource Committee which for close to a decade has refused to approve the burdensome oceans policy has been convened twice in the past month to review the presidential edict.
 
Appearing on Wednesday, October 26th at the Longworth House Office Building in Washington were panelists Nancy Sutley and Dr. Lubchenco on behalf of the Obama Administration, Donofrio as representative of the recreational fishing community, Randall Luthi of the National Ocean Industries Association and Michael Conathan of the Center for American Progress.
 
RFA encourages anglers to sit down and view the testimony, archived it its entirety at the House Resource Committee website at
 
For an abbreviated look at NOAA's bad day at Congress, use the scroll bar in the media window to fast-forward ahead to a few of the best parts.
 
1:15 - Committee Chairman Doc Hastings describes lack of response from Obama administration regarding National Ocean Policy bureaucracy.
 
40:20 - Rep. Rush Holt provides single token letter of angler support for the executive order, that of John McMurray, an advisor for Environmental Defense Fund hand-picked by Lubchenco to represent New York fishermen at the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC).
 
1:34:10 - Rep. Don Young (R-AK) grills Dr. Lubchenco on her comments that "quite a few fishermen" support the executive order, though she's unable to produce a name except to say the MAFMC ("same one as you put catch shares involved into," replies Young.)
 
1:42:00 - Rep. Steve Southerland (R-FL) questions the use of new "regulation" under the executive order, though neither Dr. Lubchenco nor Sutley seem willing or capable of appropriately answering the congressman's question about regulations and enforcement.
 
1:54:40 - In his opening five-minute remarks, Donofrio calls executive order "a complete government takeover of our fisheries," while criticizing NOAA for not funding scientific efforts which he calls the "administration's complete disregard of personal liberties and state's rights."
 
2:13:03 - In answering a question from Chairman Hastings about science, Donofrio says NOAA "couldn't run a kindergarten playground," charging the fisheries service with perjuring itself in a recent black sea bass lawsuit, saying "they lied to the judge, yet they're keeping us at the dock based on MRFSS data."
 
2:23:30 - Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX) calls the ocean policy "ideological" and asks Donofrio about how his input as a stakeholder is considered by NOAA. "Dr. Lubchenco's administration has been whacking people off the councils and stacking them with their own people," Donofrio replied. "So of course she throws it back to the council now and said 'okay the councils are going to make the decision.'"
 
2:28:10 - In response to a follow-up question from Rep. Jon Runyan (R-NJ) about the state of the fishing industry, Donofrio said fishermen are "disgusted with federal regulations that are not allowing them to fish on rebuilt stocks and NOAA's not doing a thing about it, what they want to do is add more layers of bureaucracy that costs more money when they're not spending the money to keep us fishing."
 
Following the hearing, Rep. Runyan applauded the Natural Resources Committee for continuing its oversight responsibilities on the National Ocean Policy. "This executive order has the potential to put into place policies that could negatively impact small businesses throughout the state and specifically the state's commercial and recreational fishing industry," Runyan said.
 
"We have bad regulations, we have NOAA not working within their own system there to fix anything and now they're expecting us to buy this additional layer of bureaucracy with additional councils overseeing fishing," Donofrio told Congress on Wednesday morning, warning "I can't imagine our fleet fishing anymore, I really can't."
 
"I was very interested in hearing from Mr. Donofrio regarding his organization's opinion on this policy," said Congressman Runyan, adding "the commercial and recreational fishing industries play a vital role in New Jersey's economy, and I want to be sure that the federal government is working to help small businesses grow and not stifling their growth."
 
Read RFA's complete written testimony at the Natural Resources Committee website at:
 
After watching the video highlights above, ask yourself if you'd rather sit back and let appointed officials dictate your future fishing opportunities, or if you'd prefer to speak up honestly and passionately like many of these elected House members who are justifiably angry at big government? If you're willing to fight for your right to fish, JOIN THE RFA TODAY!
As a registered 501(c)(4) political action organization, the RFA mission is "to safeguard the rights of saltwater anglers, protect marine, boat and tackle industry jobs, and ensure the long-term sustainability of our Nation's saltwater fisheries."
Call  888-JOIN-RFA .

 


Sept 6 2011

RFA SAYS "ENVIRONMENTAL ZEALOTS RULE DC"

Donofrio Gives Candid Interview To Soundings Trade Only

 

Don't miss an explosive interview with Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) executive director Jim Donofrio in the September, 2011 issue of Soundings Trade Only magazine.

 

Soundings Trade Only Cover 9/11The business-to-business publication for marine industry professionals nationwide, Soundings Trade Only monthly magazine breaks news and explores it in depth, through features and columns which help boating professionals understand the news and events that are shaping the industry.

 

In an exclusive one-on-one interview with Soundings Trade Only's Beth Rosenberg, Donofrio shoots from the hip and let's it be known that he and the RFA are not happy about the current state of the political environment in Washington DC, the federal bureaucracy at NOAA, or even our own fishing and boating industry.

 

On President Obama:

"The Obama administration is the worst ever. There's never been anyone worse than Obama's administration because he's hired all the leadership from Environmental Defense (EDF) to work in NOAA."

 

On President Bush

"He started this problem with the environmental people. George Bush threw us to the wolves because he wanted to back off on the Clean Water Act, on the Clean Air Act, and he also wanted to back off on some of the drilling issues that were controversial, and because of that he gave EDF and Pew Environment Group the fisheries."

 

On the fishing and boating industry:

"The recreational fishing industry lacks real leadership. We have people that are more concerned with power, personal power, personal gain for their organizations rather than getting the job done and getting together in a unified voice and fixing the problem and getting us fishing again and getting the industry going again."

 

On NOAA Fisheries and NMFS:

"The National Marine Fisheries Service has actually done a horrible job of managing our fisheries. Their data is incomplete, it's inaccurate and it's being criticized by many members of Congress right now."

 

On political correctness:

"We don't have any principled leadership anymore. We feel we're the only group that does. And we're not politically correct. And if you have principles you're not going to be politically correct, and that's the problem."

 

Never one to shy away from a debate, RFA's Jim Donofrio speaks candidly, one-on-one with Soundings Trade Only on the state of the fishing and boating industry and what needs to be done to get Americans back on the water fishing and boating again. Industry professionals should be on the lookout for their copy of the September 2011 issue of Soundings Trade Only, arriving in mailboxes this week. To find out where to get your copy, call  800-444-7686 .

 

You can also see the complete interview with Donofrio online at http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?llr=hclmspcab&et=1107431063519&s=7800&e=001wg4cS4fFs53Da0YaP2q6eIcUEAVQ6B7YUB0ZVvIWau-P67xD5N8aUZrBc5_J3l8ITWGFNwcY9TDj-Mr4gOyCn8SIkOZTEp4tIpWaTZOAT4qO6t6O5J7D2A== or by clicking here.


Latest RFA Press Release- August 19 2011


WALMART MAY SOON BEGIN TO FEEL ANGLER BACKLASH

RFA Said Nationwide Protests Against Walton Family Are Expected

 

August 19, 2011 - The Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) says angler and business response to the group's call for a nationwide Wal-Mart boycott have been overwhelming, to the point that coastal communities can expect to see some grassroots protest begin very soon outside of their local Wal-Mart corporate chain location.

 

"We've had calls of support from both coasts, even from a few Midwest bass fishermen, our nation's anglers are extremely agitated by the Walton Family Foundation's actions," said RFA executive director Jim Donofrio. "When you spend your hard-earned money on fishing tackle only to learn that the profits are being used to close down fishing access, it gets folks justifiably upset."

 

Earlier this week, RFA called on an angler boycott of Wal-Mart after learning that the Walton Family Foundation had awarded more than $36 million to groups like Ocean Conservancy, Conservation International Foundation, Marine Stewardship Council, World Wildlife Fund and Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), in support of marine protected areas and catch share programs. Coincidentally, the Walton Family Foundation announcement came the same day that Wal-Mart stores' CEO announced to shareholders a 5.5% increase in net sales to $108.6 billion.

 

While RFA said it received hundreds of positive responses literally overnight in support of the national boycott, there was opposition from at least two supporters of blanket marine reserves.

 

"One gentleman emailed to say he'd gladly give up fishing today so that his great-grandkids will know what a fish looks like tomorrow," Donofrio said, adding "the problem of course is that these groups who want to get us off the water today don't want us on the water tomorrow either. The real sacrifice for our future fishermen is from those who are willing to fight right now for open access while it's under direct threat by anti-fishing efforts."

 

"The fishing community supports conservation, but we're not willing to accept preservation, exclusion or privatization," Donofrio added.

 

RFA said the EDF public relations department was also quick to respond in defense of their $7,086,054 Walton Family Foundation donation. According to Tom Lalley, communications director for EDF's Oceans Program (and RFA's newest Twitter follower at http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?llr=hclmspcab&et=1107203681809&s=7800&e=001xWRg0dJM-x6Ds1G40tGsbmVWlNKOU8D5bqta4XoHnAWGsBVdyJY2s6AtOfoYRdo76-XUxfeivRuBEjjwpPPFlmzS0d8E3oOK4HaXcEKODAhWx-FQEQ6ZlbjAirlJLyun), the money being contributed by Wal-Mart to close down oceans and privatize fisheries is actually coming from Wal-Mart's owners and stockholders, not the store itself. "The contribution was made by the Walton Family Fund and not Wal-Mart," Lalley said, calling the two entities different.

 

"The fund's money comes from private holdings of the same Waltons who started and managed Wal-Mart, but none of the money comes from the existing company," Lalley explained, adding "it was the family, and specifically the family's foundation, that made a contribution for sustainable fishing and ocean conservation, and not the store."

 

According to RFA managing director Jim Hutchinson, Jr., the marketing executives at EDF are some of the best in the 'astroturfing' business, but he calls Lalley's claims almost comical. "So I leave you a $1,000 bill in the cereal aisle at Wal-Mart, tucked under a box of sugar coated corn flakes, does that mean that Wal-Mart actually gave you the $1,000, or maybe EDF would argue it was really a contribution from Tony the Tiger himself," Hutchinson laughed.

 

"The heirs to the corporate fortune have spent two decades successfully building back their stake in this publicly held company to the point they now own over 50% of the Wal-Mart operation. The Walton Family Foundation is Wal-Mart, and the Walton family itself is making billions in our local communities, so to say that the two are separate entities is simply ridiculous. Actually expecting us to believe that statement is borderline insanity," Hutchinson said.

 

RFA is reminding anglers who are interested in organizing grassroots protests outside their local Wal-Mart store to consult with local authorities first. "We encourage peaceful protest, but every municipality has its own rules and regulations regarding active protest," said Donofrio.

 

"If you're interested in picketing outside of Wal-Mart to express your anger over their support of anti-fishing efforts, call the local police department first to explain what you're doing and be sure to keep it respectful and follow the law," Donofrio added.

About Recreational Fishing Alliance
The Recreational Fishing Alliance is a national, grassroots political action organization representing recreational fishermen and the recreational fishing industry on marine fisheries issues. The RFA Mission is to safeguard the rights of saltwater anglers, protect marine, boat and tackle industry jobs, and ensure the long-term sustainability of our Nation's saltwater fisheries. For more information, call  888-JOIN-RFA  or visit http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?llr=hclmspcab&et=1107203681809&s=7800&e=001xWRg0dJM-x4EvJnLHWa-xtFC_Q3VSFtfGMn7e7ikEk0XappFy-5GXv4rDIRoIYS-JZPLsC3SpnSTyTdmyq2i51IIikWyPuBhpxGE__lsZu8xql6ySzIgQQ==.


July/August 2011 Update- The Great Conspiracy- Fact or Fiction? by Capt Len Belcaro- Click HERE


June 2011 Update-Read Jim Hutchinson's latest article
- ARE FISHERIES "CAP &TRADE" POLICIES BURIED IN FY2012 BUDGET(click the link below)

http://www.vikingfleet.com/vikingnews/articlefiles/683-Political_Angler_MayJun2011.pdf

 

 

 

 

Breaking News Feb 19
The House of Representatives has voted against funding for the Catch Shares policy by overwhelming majority of 259 to 159. The vote will go to the Senate next week so we need to contact our Senators and tell them to vote against catch shares funding as well! You can find a list of Senators and their contact info right on our website- Click HERE



Also Read:
RFA SAYS ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENSE IS ON THE OFFENSIVE Catch Share Activists Arrive In DC This Week To Spread Anti-American Fishing Propaganda

 

February 16, 2011 - This week, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) activists are visiting the offices of federal legislators claiming erroneously to represent the interests of U.S. fishing communities while selling their plan to privatize our nation's public resources in the name of conservation. According its sources, the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) said EDF campaigners have been arriving in DC by plane the last few days to promote their 'Catch Share' manifesto with Members of Congress in an effort to limit overall public access to coastal fisheries.
"On February 24, 2010, a national coalition of mainstream, grassroots fishing organizations helped unite the fishing industry in a call for fisheries reform, rallying on Capitol Hill and pleading with legislators to just say 'no' to Catch Shares," said RFA Executive Director Jim Donofrio. "We had 5,000 fishermen waving flags and carrying signs at an open public protest last winter, and here it is almost a year to the day and EDF is still responding by slinking around in the shadows in Washington, pretending to represent fishermen," he said.
RFA has already been in contact with members of the House and Senate regarding the renewed lobbying efforts by EDF, which Donofrio calls "preservationist, anti-industry rhetoric" designed solely to limit public access to coastal resources. "Our legislators are going to hear buzzwords like 'overfishing' and 'imperiled' when these activists plead for support of their Catch Share program, but this unnecessary and restrictive policy is the anti-fishing community's answer to a perceived problem in fisheries management. Their lobbying position does not represent the views and opinions of our U.S. fishing communities."
"The public does not want catch shares, recreational charter boats do not want catch shares, the majority of commercial fishermen do not want catch shares and yet Environmental Defense along with their former Vice Chairman Dr. Lubchenco continue to push their agenda even though they have very little support," said Capt. Bob Zales, II of the National Association of Charterboat Operators. In a letter to Members of Congress, Zales urged legislators to "insist this management travesty stop immediately and help us solve this national fishery crisis that has been caused by overzealous environmentalists who do not understand the complexity of fishery management and protecting heritages and jobs from total destruction."
Earlier this week, President Obama unveiled his FY2012 budget request proposing a new National Catch Share Program calling for approximately $17.4 million in catch share funding to be moved out of Fisheries Research and Management Programs and Cooperative Research. The President's budget defines Catch Share as "a general term for several fishery management strategies that allocate a specific portion of the total allowable fishery catch to individuals, cooperatives, communities, or other entities." Those entitled to receive Catch Shares are accountable to cease fishing when specific quota is reached, and the President's budget also cites other programs like limited access privilege (LAP), individual fishing quota (IFQ) programs, and exclusive allocative measures such as Territorial Use Rights Fisheries (TURFs) that grant an exclusive privilege to fish in a geographically designated fishing ground.
"Our fishermen call it the privatization of a public resource, though I believe 'social engineering' is a perfectly good definition," Donofrio said. "Catch Shares by design will cap fishing participation and trade ownership of our fish stocks amongst the privileged few, and we cannot support any type of management program which would put an end to open access fisheries in America." RFA points to a particularly troubling two-year national trend where monies previously designated for science and research have been offloaded towards this program which Donofrio refers to as little more than coastal sharecropping.
"Showroom environmentalists have been working to secure buy-in from a handful of fishermen willing to sell out their friends to corner the market, but this Catch Share scheme that EDF is pushing will ultimately destroy our nation's fishing industry, it will put tens of thousands of fishermen out of work and forcibly deny public access to millions of American fishermen." RFA said that some fishing groups have publicly stated that Catch Shares won't work in 'recreational only' fisheries, a point of view which has actually been supported even by some of the groups openly supporting Catch Shares.
"The problem with that position is that tarpon, bonefish, permit, and a couple of other pure gamefish like largemouth bass are the sole recreational only fisheries in the United States today," Donofrio said. "Red snapper, grouper, summer flounder, black sea bass, striped bass and even Pacific blue marlin are shared commercial and recreational fisheries, so failing to take a more unified and comprehensive stance against Catch Shares amongst both our sectors leaves all fishermen vulnerable to significant loss of access."
The EDF push for Catch Shares has been fueled by the statutory definition of "overfishing" written into the Magnuson Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act which is now being used as a marketing tool to influence federal legislators. "Overfishing is a legislative term which EDF uses interchangeably with the biological term when pressing their agenda with legislators. What they won't be telling our elected politicians this week is that 80% of our nation's fisheries are no longer classified as experiencing overfishing, neither in biological nor statutory terms," Donofrio said. "It's pure preservationist propaganda."
For the past four years, RFA has maintained that the real problem with coastal fisheries management stems from a poorly worded federal fisheries law which includes artful definitions, arbitrary deadlines, antiquated assessment models and inflexible requirements which have led to increased closures of vitally important coastal fisheries. Coupled with "fatally flawed" harvest data and lost research funding through both the FY2011 and FY2012 federal budget, RFA says the concept of Catch Shares has become an easier sell for the environmental business community.
"Catch Shares will only cost more American jobs and lead to the outsourcing of our seafood industry to those foreign nations with no concern for quotas or conservation principles as held by American fishermen," Donofrio said. "This privatization scheme is being sold as a method to end overfishing when all it really does is end open access fishing by placing our nation's marine fisheries into the hands of a select and privileged few."
On April 22, 2010, Donofrio testified before Congress on behalf of the recreational fishing community in vehement opposition to the Catch Share doctrine now being driven by EDF and its allies, openly criticizing fishing organizations which have allowed their leadership to compromise 'open access' through willingness to embrace and accept the privatization concept. "Some groups have suggested limiting the number of recreational anglers to those individuals with the financial resources to pay for access, thereby creating free markets for catch shares," Donofrio said in testimony before a Congressional Subcommittee on Catch Shares. "RFA hopes members of the Committee share our disgust with this notion of selecting recreational participation based on the criteria of money."
NOAA Fisheries Service responded in November with a new National Catch Share Policy which summarily dismissed all angler opposition to the notion of Catch Shares. "We've fought too hard and for too long to keep this catch share policy out of our sector, we cannot let NOAA continue to ramrod this policy through Councils in direct contradiction to the wishes of our fishing community," Donofrio said in November. "Clearly our federal bureaucracy is not listening to the will of the people."

 


We would like to thank Capt. Len Belcaro for his contribution to the fishing community. His Big Game Fishing Journal has many insightful articles which are a must read for any fisherman. Big Game Fishing Journal does not take advertising money from extreme environmental groups. You can access the journal online- http://www.biggamefishingjournal.com/


Most recent Updates Jan 03 2011:

 

Caution: Reading this article PEW THIS STINKS! BY Jim Hutchinson Jr, may make you nauseous:

PEW THIS STINKS
By Jim Hutchinson, Jr.
Sean Treglia is a senior advisor for democracy initiatives at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication where he teaches courses on the First Amendment and ethics in journalism. In his past life, Treglia was a program officer at Pew Charitable Trusts and was responsible for issuing Pew financial grants.

In March of 2004, Treglia gave a speech at his university in which he candidly described Pew’s goal to facilitate campaign finance reform legislation in the mid 1990’s. The trouble with the campaign finance reform movement, according to Treglia’s videotaped presentation (which can be found online at YouTube.com), was that there was no movement — it “didn’t have a constituency.” In order to give legs to that campaign, Treglia said Pew needed to jump start a crusade.

“The idea was to create an impression that a mass movement was afoot — that everywhere they looked, in academic institutions, in the business community, in religious groups, in ethnic groups, everywhere, people were talking about reform,” Treglia said of the Pew Charitable Trust’s quest to create a campaign finance reform constituency. According to investigative journalist Rayn Sager (www.ryansager.com), ultimately, more than $140 million dollars in funding was dispensed by Pew in a 10-year span from 1994 until 2004, with various think-tanks and research foundations on the receiving end of millions in charitable Pew funding.
Through his experience working on Capitol Hill, Treglia knew that if legislators were aware that the campaign finance reform arguments had come from research and lobbying efforts funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts, it would adversely impact his efforts to get legislation off the ground. “If Congress thought this was a Pew effort, it’d be worthless,” Treglia told the audience. “In order, in essence, to convey the impression that this was something coming naturally from outside the beltway, I felt it was best that Pew stay in the background.”
Five years later, Pew doesn’t feel as compelled to simply hide in the shadows, and the lessons learned during the faux campaign finance reform movement of the 90’s has led to a keener awareness of how to function as political puppet-master in the 21st century. In 2010, Pew Charitable Trusts has learned how to navigate around the legalese of campaign finance and lobbying laws, while supporting action, advocacy, public perception and media campaigns nationwide.

Big oil has struck a vein, but most Americans have no idea just how deep the drill has gone.

BLACK GOLD & THE GREEN MOVEMENT
According to their official corporate history, Sun Oil Company was born in 1886 when Joseph Newton Pew and Edward O. Emerson, partners in The Peoples Natural Gas Company in Pittsburgh, Pa., made a bold move to diversify their business, paying $4,500 for two oil leases near Lima, OH. Within a few years the company had acquired pipelines, leases, and storage tanks, emerging as one of Ohio’s leading suppliers of crude oil. Sunoco set up corporate headquarters in Philadelphia, and by their 25th year in business, Joseph Newton Pew had passed the President’s torch to son, J. Howard, while another son, Joseph N. Pew, Jr., took over as Vice President. Not long after J. Howard died in 1971, major restructuring reshaped the company and it was re-organized into 14 operating units, two property companies and a non-operating parent company. The company moved to a major new corporate headquarters in Radnor, PA, and Sun Oil Company (Sunoco) was renamed Sun Company, Inc. in 1976.

The Pew Charitable Trusts, an independent nonprofit, became the sole beneficiary of seven individual charitable funds established between 1948 and 1979 by the children of Sun Oil Company founder Joseph N. Pew and his wife, Mary Anderson Pew. While Pew was said to be politically conservative, the Pew Charitable Trusts has taken a very radical shift in its ideology in the past decade, particularly with the ascension of Rebecca Rimel to the organization’s President and CEO in 1994. Rimel, a former emergency-room nurse and assistant professor in the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Virginia Hospital, became Executive Director of Pew in 1998. Today, she’s in charge of a $4 billion philanthropic endowment organization which doles out in excess of $200 million annually towards a variety of interests including health, arts and the environment.

A 2006 article by the Wharton University of Pennsylvania said that 80 percent of the Pew Charitable Trusts’ funding focuses on pubic policy, specifically the environment, health and human services, and state policy issues. Its environment initiative has three main goals — reducing global emissions, halting the destruction of the marine environment, and protecting intact ecosystems on public lands. “Go back 11 years and think about global warming,” said Rimel. “Most of the public, none of the policy makers and no one in corporate America believed it was real. They thought it was pseudoscience, environmentalists gone berserk.”

Rimel credited her organization with funding the scientists which provided much of the global warming message, and said with that day, she went to work enlisting the support of Fortune 500 CEOs. “They took the position that it is not only a problem, but it is putting us in a non-competitive position in the world market.” These 38, whom a Washington Post editorial at one point described as “38 brave guys,” became Pew’s biggest allies in their roundtable business leaderships group as they moved forward with the global warming movement.
In the Wharton interview, Rimel described Pew as if it was a Fortune ranked company, and with assets in the billions, they very well could be. “We are a business,” Rimel said. “We have to deliver our share and we have a bottom line.” The Pew staff is rewarded as such with employee contracts on what will be delivered. According to the article, if staffers can’t come through on their commitment, budgets are cut and job security can ultimately be adversely affected.

SCIENCE FOR SALE
In 2006, the U.S.Journal Science published a study by a group of Pew-funded researchers who concluded that continued overfishing and coastal water quality degradation were leading to the disintegration of all marine life. “If the long-term trend continues, all fish and seafood species are projected to collapse within my lifetime, by 2048,” said Boris Worm of Dalhousie University in Canada, the lead author of the study. All the major media outlets jumped on the story — the headlines pushed the story to the top of the fold.

“The World’s Fish and Seafood Could Disappear by 2048.”
“Empty Oceans: No More Fish in 40 Years.”
“Seafood Will Likely Be Extinct In 40 Years.“

Just three years prior to the release of Worm’s doomsday story, the Pew Fellows in Marine Conservation got together and signed off on a similar study reporting that 90 percent of the oceans’ large fish including tuna, marlin, swordfish, sharks, cod, halibut, flounder, and skates have been taken from the sea since the early 1990s. This international body of “world-renowned marine conservation experts” released what was known as the Ocean Action Statement for Fisheries Conservation, which was then signed by almost 50 Pew Fellows in Marine Conservation. The late Ransom Myers, lead author of the 2003 study noted, “This isn’t just about one species. The sustainability of fisheries is being severely compromised worldwide.” Nature magazine later revealed, “Myers/Worm research was funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts.”

Five Pew Marine Conservation Fellowships are awarded annually to the tune of $150,000 each, with “Pew Fellows” expected to carry out “innovative, interdisciplinary projects addressing challenges facing our marine environment around the world.” Some of those grant funds have increased in recent years to more than $240,000 per “fellow” and Pew Fellowship awards have also been offered to journalists and media professionals Marla Cone, a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times, was one of the first journalists to break the Worm report in 2006, leading off her story with “All of the world’s fishing stocks will collapse before mid-century, devastating food supplies.” Ms. Cone herself became a Pew Fellow in 1999.

In the 2003 study published in Nature magazine, Pew Fellow Dr. Ellen Pikitch, then Director of Ocean Strategy for the Wildlife Conservation Society said, “This study confirms there is no time left to quibble about whether the glass is half empty or half full. For the large fishes of the world’s oceans, the glass is nearly completely drained. We have no time to waste if we are to have any chance of saving the oceans’ wildlife.” Today, Pikitch is Executive Director of the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science and Professor at the Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences. The Institute at Stony Brook was founded in 2008 by a $4 million endowment by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Another Pew Fellowship Award winner who had been working the marine circuit with Pikitch from the mid 90’s into the early part of the 21st century was Dr. Jane Lubchenco, now head of NOAA and NOAA Fisheries. Before stepping in and taking the brass ring of global marine conservation as a presidential appointment in 2009, Dr. Lubchenco was a member of the U.S. Oceans Commission in 2004 which suggested the creation of an ocean trust fund. “The fund would come from money from leases for offshore activities such as oil and gas exploration and recovery.”

That same report said that other future activities including “bioprospecting, wind farms and aquaculture, could join the list as they develop.” As reported by author David Lincoln in a comprehensive essay on Pew called the Conquest of the Ocean, this pseudo-sharecropping idea has been a recommendation long lobbied for by the oil companies, “because it ultimately ties coastal state revenues to offshore development activities and gives the states a vested interest in removing obstacles to leasing which could accelerate permit approvals.”

THE PEW OCEAN ACTION NETWORK
In 2007, the Pew Charitable Trusts merged with the staff and operations of the National Environmental Trust to form a brand new 800-pound gorilla of conservation. “The consolidated team, to be called the Pew Environment Group, will have a domestic and international staff of more than 80 and estimated annual operating revenue of approximately $70 million, making it one of the nation’s largest environmental scientific and advocacy organizations,” said Pew publicist Justin Kenney. According to Kenney, the scientists, attorneys, public policy experts and campaign professionals at Pew Environment Group would focus the specific mission of advancing environmental policy by supporting top-level scientific research; building, assisting and coordinating broad coalitions of organizations representing diverse constituencies concerned about environmental protection in the United States. Of particular focus according to Kenney was “the destruction of the world’s marine environment, with particular emphasis on global fisheries.” In 2009, Kenney was hired away from Pew by Dr. Lubchenco, with whom he now works as NOAA’s full time director of communications.
At the formation of the new environmental arm of the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Marine Fish Conservation Network (Network) announced that its Executive Director, Lee Crocket, would step down to join Pew Environment Group as federal fisheries policy director. Crockett spent eight years at the Network helping hog-tie the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act with more restrictive anti-fishing language, and joined the new Pew Environment Group to ensure that those restrictions were followed to the letter of the law. As Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post reported at the time, the merger “Highlights a shift among green groups toward campaign-oriented advocacy. Rather than having staffers who work on general environmental issues over time, Pew Environment Group will aim to accomplish a few high-profile goals such as overhauling the 1872 Mining Law and creating several major overseas marine reserves within the next few years.”

Joshua Reichert, managing director of the Pew Environment Group, called it a “coordinated strategy,” and explained how Pew brought Crockett aboard not simply for his fisheries experience, but “for his proven track record of conducting campaigns to advance fisheries management reform.” Before joining Pew, Reichert served as executive director of the National Security Archive in Washington DC; vice president for conservation at Conservation International; regional representative of the Inter-American Foundation, a public corporation that provides assistance to the urban and rural poor in Latin America and the Caribbean; and special assistant to the chairman of the sub-committee on foreign appropriations of the U.S. House of Representatives. Of the goals now set for Pew, Reichert said “We’re integrating a set of skills and talents into a unified campaign.”

Part of the unified campaign was the continued support of the Marine Fish Conservation Network. Five different conservation groups initially united to form the Network in 1992, including the Center for Marine Conservation (now called Ocean Conservancy), Greenpeace, National Audubon Society, National Coalition for Marine Conservation, and World Wildlife Fund. Funding to originally create and further support the Network (according to their website at http://www.conservefish.org/) comes in the form of charitable grants from Curtis and Edith Munson Foundation, Henry Foundation, David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Marisla Foundation, Norcross Wildlife Foundation, Oak Foundation, Ocean Foundation, Patagonia, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Sandler Family Supporting Foundation, Surdna Foundation, Zephyr Charitable Foundation and Pew Charitable Trusts.

According to one of their own mission documents (A Vision For Our Ocean Future), the Network was formed “To help counter industry influence over the fishery management system.” During their first four years, the Network helped persuade Congress to pass the Sustainable Fisheries Act (SFA), but they were also successful in seeing that “Important conservation provisions were included in the federal law,” which specifically included the insertion of rigid, arbitrary and inflexible timelines for reaching rebuilding targets. These are the non-scientific, time-specific deadlines and inflexible management requirements which have led to emergency closures on important recreational fisheries like sea bass, red snapper and amberjack, and which continue to result in draconian regulations on other fisheries.

During U.S. Senate hearings in Washington 10 years later on the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA), Senator Ted Stevens had debated Crockett when he was director of the Network. Stevens, one of the MSA’s authors and namesake indicated his concern over the amount of litigation over fishing issues, explaining “Slowly but surely the court system is entering into the management of the fisheries.”

During one particular exchange, Stevens questioned Crockett about his organization’s financing and membership and asked Crockett directly if the Network was financed by the Pew Charitable Trusts. “Partially,” Crockett replied.

That fiscal connection between Pew and the Network is one that continues to be a major sticking point as the two entities lead the charge in opposition to the Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act, a bill sponsored in the House by Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and in the Senate by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) which would incorporate limited flexibility into the federal fisheries law to provide recreational anglers more open access to rebuilding fisheries while providing the economic opportunity that the Pew study reports is currently being lost. In their 2007-2008 annual report to members, the Network boasted openly of joining “Network Member groups to oppose Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act of 2008 submitted to Congress.”

When the Network’s Board of Directors met in July of 2008, one of the primary points discussed at the meeting were with regard to “Internal discussions are being held within the Pew Environment Group to determine how to best make the transition away from grant giving and still support Network.” The Network continues to put the full-court press in late 2009 and early 2010 to defeat the Pallone/Schumer legislation.

What’s helped the Pew-funded Marine Fish Conservation Network become more successful in their ability to tap into the very “industry” that their initial charter was developed to “counter.” Having pure environmental and preservationist board members in the early 90’s didn’t provide the Network with enough lobbying strength to have all their goals met, and soon after 2000 they began enlisting the help of various fishing organizations to gain more representative juice when pressing legislators for the need to deny access to fisheries. Many American sportfishermen would probably be surprised to learn the Network’s Board of Advisors, which provides the overall policy direction for the organization, boasts the support of the Jersey Coast Anglers Association, National Coalition for Marine Conservation, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Association, United Anglers of California and International Game Fish Association.

Perhaps as some groups have learned, silence is golden.

THE GREENING OF AMERICA
In an effort to undermine the fishing community’s efforts to stave off more restrictive measures on coastal fisheries, the Pew Environment Group in 2009 purchased a new scientific report called Investing in Our Future: The Economic Case for Rebuilding Mid-Atlantic Fish Populations. The Pew-funded paper used retroactive analysis to estimate the amount of money that Pew claims could’ve been generated in commercial and recreational fisheries if the populations of summer flounder, black sea bass, butterfish and bluefish were considered at rebuilt levels back in 2007.

In a press conference last July, Dr. John M. Gates told reporters that he “was asked by Pew to conduct this analysis,” and explained that in order to compile fiscal data from the recreational sector, “we used something called “Willingness to Pay of Recreational Fshermen,” and I had estimates that were done in 1994 by a man by the name of Hicks.” Gates explained that the study assigned a dollar value for what researcher Dr. Robert Hicks originally called an angler’s willingness to pay for the better “opportunity” to catch fish. “If the stock’s recovered, you’d have a higher catch rate,” Gates said, explaining that by multiplying numbers, “I was able to estimate the foregone willingness to pay in the recreational sector.”

The Pew study shows that anglers are willing to pay more for the opportunity to fish, which is exactly how our industry is currently being destroyed. As many fishermen have said all along, American anglers are being denied opportunity to fish on healthy, rebuilding fish stocks, and yet Pew Environment Groups buys the science to support the claims that denied access is having a terrible impact on our coastal communities.

The Pew study finds that rebuilding summer flounder, black sea bass, butterfish and bluefish populations to federally mandated targets by 2007 would have generated an additional $570 million per year in direct economic benefits. Of course, Pew makes no mention of the fact that scientific targets keep changing, which should mandate more flexibility in the management process. In 2007, scientists at the National Marine Fisheries Service were mandating a 197-million pound target for rebuilt summer flounder stocks, until a new best available science target of 132 million pounds was set using 2007 data.

While the research itself shows that denied opportunity is costing business owners dearly within the marine district, the Recreational Fishing Alliance points out issues with the Pew study as treating all facets of the fishery in absolute, inflexible terms. “It makes some broad assumptions,” said RFA research scientist, John DePersenaire. “During extremely low fishing mortality, the size of the commercial and recreational fishing industry remains constant with no attrition, while the amount of fish seems to be more important to the study than the actual access to the fishery in terms in economic activity. We know for a fact that these two assumptions are false,” DePersenaire added.

Daniel Furlong, Executive Director of the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC) pointed out that bluefish was considered rebuilt in 2007, and explains that the best available data on black sea bass shows that fishery is also fully rebuilt. “No doubt there will be some more economic benefit accruing to the Mid-Atlantic when butterfish and summer flounder are fully rebuilt, but I seriously doubt it will equate to $570 million inasmuch as our most valuable fisheries (surf clams and ocean quahog) generate only $60 million annually,” Furlong said.

“Quite frankly, I would have to argue that the recreational bluefish fishery was more economically valuable when it was overfished in the 80’s and early 90’s compared to now when it is fully rebuilt,” DePersenaire added.
“These groups have been trying to stick with too radical of a rebuilding process, and if we had stuck with their model of rebuilding over the past few years we would’ve already been forced out of business,” said Dave Arbeitman, owner of Reel Seat Bait and Tackle in Brielle, NJ. “The longer the public is denied access, the more likely they’re going to leave the fishery and leave the sport for good.”

Arbeitman said it best when he adds “These groups aren’t taking into consideration the fact that many anglers might just never return after having been denied access for so long.”

But of course, minimizing angler effort in the future would fit in nicely with many of Pew’s plans. Limited number of anglers meshes nicely with the preservationist view of the fisheries resource in terms of protecting the sea kittens, while bioprospectors and marine share-croppers would benefit greatly, as David Lincoln put it, “in removing obstacles to leasing which could accelerate permit approvals.”

FOLLOW THE MONEY
The Pew Charitable Trust has invested billions in the environmental movement, and their relatively new Pew Environment Group has been highly effective in getting media play throughout the United States, in turn, gaining influence within the sportfishing community. The San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center (IndyMedia) recently charged Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) with calling itself an environmentalist organization, but conversely is “created by oil money and awash in Pew Charitable Trust funds, the NRDC brings big oil’s agenda wherever it operates.”

“On California’s North Coast, the NRDC is working in tandem with the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation to make sure the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative (MLPAI) gets the Foundation-preferred alternatives enacted on tight schedule,” IndyMedia reported. Those preferred alternatives would almost certainly shut down public access to the oceans on a permanent basis.

“In the North coast, the NRDC and another foundation-funded corporation, the Ocean Conservancy, have hired field agents from the community to promote and advance the MLPAI agenda,” the IndyMedia report claimed, saying that it’s his belief that there is an obvious conflict of interest for those NRDC employees to participate in any of the community “external array” processes now in progress.

According to IndyMedia, NRDC was founded through grant funding from the Tides Foundation, “the first money-laundering foundation, doing ‘donor-advised giving,’ open about where the money goes, but not where it comes from. Other sources show that the Pew Charitable Trusts has poured over $40 million into Tides.”
The Tides Foundation and Tides Center also maintains an interesting relationship with the multi-billion-dollar Pew Charitable Trusts.

Since 1993 Pew has used the Tides Foundation and/or Tides Center to “manage” three high-profile journalism initiatives: the Pew Center for Excellence in Journalism, the Pew Center for Civic Journalism, and the Pew Center for the People and the Press. These Pew “Centers” are set up as for-profit media companies, which means that Pew, as a “private foundation,” is legally prohibited from funding them directly. Tides has no such hurdle, so it has gladly raked in over $95 million from Pew since 1990 — taking the standard eight percent as pure profit.

In practice, the social reformers at the helm of the Pew Charitable Trusts use these media entities to run public opinion polling; to indoctrinate young reporters in “reporting techniques” that are consistent with Pew’s social goals; and to “promote” (read: subsidize) actual reporting and story preparation that meets Pew’s definition of “civic journalism.” Civic journalism, by the way, is defined as reporting that “mobilizes Americans” behind issues that Pew considers important.

Three years ago, Nils Stolpe, a consultant to the commercial fishing industry and columnist for SavingSeafood.org wrote how Pew Charitable Trusts had paid out roughly $40 million to the Tides Center over a 10-year timeframe starting from 1996, funds which were then disseminated to other recipients in a “trickle down” process. Through his research, Stolpe uncovered where Pew had also issued grants of $15 million to various public broadcasting outfits, and approximately $25 million to Columbia University. According to Stolpe, Columbia University professor Cornelia Dean is also Science Editor for the New York Times, and was identified as a session Presenter/Trainer at a Pew Fellows meeting in the resort island of Bonaire in 2002, where one of the key workshop sessions for scientists was titled “Communicating For Results,” a workshop where attendees would learn how to navigate the stormy waters of the media.

As Science Editor of the Times, Dean followed up with a 2003 column in which she noted “I was a panelist at a meeting of the Pew marine fellows, eminent fisheries and ocean scientists whose work is supported by the Pew Charitable Trusts. Nancy Baron, a zoologist and science writer who works with the fellows, organized the panel as part of her longstanding effort to help scientists better communicate their work and its importance to the wider world.” Most striking to any journalism major, Dean wrote the tell-tale lead, “Last summer, the pollster Daniel Yankelovich reported what might seem a strange finding: scientists are distressed by the media’s insistence on presenting both sides.”

One year later, Stolpe said Dean was present at another meeting of the Pew Fellows at the Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo where she was listed as one of the participants in a workshop titled “Bridging the Worlds of Science and Journalism,” in addition to participating in a panel discussion called “Oceans in the Balance: Is Science or Politics Tipping the Scales?”

Perhaps one of the most insidious and egregious examples of Pew’s level of arrogance came to me earlier this winter via email during the final month leading up to the February 24th rally at the Capitol in Washington DC. The Recreational Fishing Alliance and our allies had spent months planning a public rally to call for reform of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and as expected, Pew and their preservationist allies were active behind the scenes in trying to undermine the effort. A hardcore fishing teenager I know on Long Island who’s become a bit of a media sensation in the northeast copied me on an email solicitation he received on January 28 from a guy named Jamie Pollack, the New York Field Representative for Pew’s U.S. fisheries arm.

At the urging of the Network’s Brooks Mountcastle, Pollack contacted the 15-year-old directly in an email that said, “We have a campaign that we are working on to oppose flexibility in the Magnuson Act. I am seeking one or two fisherman that could go with me when I go to DC Feb 9-11 and participate in my meetings with congressional staffers. We will be speaking about staying the course with the MSA, opposing the Rebuilding in Americas Fisheries Act and to introduce a new piece of legislation called Keep Fishermen Working Bill. Pew would pay for hotel and transportation. Would you or would you know of any fishermen that would be interested and who could take some time off of work to go with me to Washington?”

Pew has spent untold millions on influencing the media, pollsters, legislators, non-profit leaders, civic associations, trade groups, and now, yes, even our children. At a Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council meeting back in 2007, Lee Crockett warned that Pew and the Network would continue to radically oppose any efforts to work with Congress to fix the federal fisheries law, stating matter-of-factly “I want to tell you that my group and other groups in the conservation community are going to fight like heck against that.”

Fight like heck is one thing, but the ideologies at the Pew Charitable Trusts have proven they’ll stop at absolutely nothing in their war to advance their preservationist agenda.

Here at the RFA, we’re hoping there are enough American fishermen out there willing to fight back!

 


CONGRESSMAN JONES SLAMS NOAA CATCH SHARE POLICY- Click HERE to read the full article




Captain Paul G Forsberg at the United We Fish March in Washington DC earlier this year.


January 3rd 2010- Tuna Fishermen Take Action. Your right to catch Tuna is going to be taken away.


http://www.savingseafood.org/conservation-environment/american-bluefin-tuna-association-urges-fishermen-to-attend-noaa-nmcs-listening-sessions-on-endangered-species-li-2.html

Tuna Fishermen have one last opportunity to make their case before the Status Review Team (SRT), comprised solely of NOAA and NMFS employees, makes a determination on listing bluefin tuna under the Endangered Species Act. The initial petition was submitted by the Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity, a group known for using the Endangered Species Act to achieve their goals.


NOAA determined in September that listing bluefin tuna under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) might be warranted. As a result Atlantic bluefin tuna are now considered a candidate species and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) must make a final determination by May 2011 as to whether a listing is warranted. If bluefin tuna were to be listed as “endangered”, all commercial and recreational fishing for bluefin would be prohibited. This prohibition would only affect US fishermen and would have no impact on other countries fishing for bluefin. Even scientists are amazed with the biological futility of an action designed to only affect US fishermen given the low mortality they cause on the species (US fishermen caught less than 5% of the bluefin in the Atlantic in 2009)

The petition was originally submitted by the Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity, a group known for using ESA to achieve their goals. NOAA had the opportunity to dismiss this frivolous attack on US bluefin fishermen but, as is consistent with their recent policy decisions in other areas, they chose to support the petition. The positive finding by NOAA is without merit and NOAA should have dismissed the petition. This is another stunning example of NOAA’s intent to destroy the US bluefin industry and to damage the domestic market for bluefin. A listing under ESA only hurts US fishermen whose quota share would be distributed to other countries along with the US jobs that go with it.

Currently the formal review process is underway. The Status Review Team (SRT), comprised solely of NOAA and NMFS employees, is tasked with compiling all available information on bluefin and conducting a threats assessment/extinction risk analysis. Their report will be handed over to NMFS for the final determination. Despite the overwhelming data to the contrary, there is great concern that Dr Lubchenco will once again try to forward her “preservation” agenda to destroy this fishery.

Fishermen have one last opportunity to have input in this process before the SRT makes its report to NMFS. The American Bluefin Tuna Association (ABTA) insisted that fishermen be allowed the opportunity to be heard and NMFS agreed. There are 5 “Listening Sessions” scheduled in January 2011 that will allow fishermen to educate the SRT as to their observations of the fish and their habits, as well as give their opinions of why the current available science may be flawed and insufficient.

It is important that fishermen attend at least one of the 5 listening sessions. It is critical that NMFS hears your comments and insights. The existing science is very weak and a thorough compilation of fishermen’s observations should be influential. ESA is the knock-out punch. Take it seriously and come speak your mind. Let Dr Lubchenco know your feelings about the health of your fishery.

If you plan to attend any of the meetings please contact Kim Damon-Randall at kimberly.damon-randall@noaa.gov or call her at  978-282-8485  in advance. It is necessary to RSVP due to security and space concerns.

Please visit the “Current Actions” section of the ABTA web site at http://www.theabta.com/CurrentActions.html to see “Listening Discussion Topics” and some other documents which will help fishermen understand the ESA process.

The meeting schedule is as follows: (each meeting begins at 10am):

Jan 5 - NMFS Lab in Sandy Hook, NJ

Jan 6 - Mariner's House in Boston, MA

Jan 7 - Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland, ME

Jan 10- NMFS Lab in Pascagoula, MS

Jan 11- NMFS Lab in Beaufort, NC

NMFS has also arranged to have a Web Ex for each session. If you are interested in participating via Web Ex, please contact Kim with the date of the session you are interested in, and she will provide the Web Ex information. Finally, NMFS has reserved an operator assisted conference line for those wishing to call in. The number is  888-455-1634 , and the operator will ask for a verbal pass code which is "bluefin tuna." The operator will ask for your name and affiliation and will help to facilitate those on the call to ensure that anyone wishing to ask a question or provide information has the opportunity to do so.

Also written comments can be sent to Kim via email (or regular mail at NMFS, 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930) no later than close of business on January 18th.



Update Nov 12 2010
CONGRESSMAN JONES SLAMS NOAA CATCH SHARE POLICY


Washington, Nov 8 -

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today U.S. Congressman Walter B. Jones (NC-3) sent a letter to Dr. Jane Lubchenco, Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), opposing NOAA’s recently announced National Catch Share Policy and demanding answers regarding its development. Jones called the policy “totally unnecessary for species protection.” He expressed outrage over NOAA’s announcement of a $2.2 million grant program to advance its catch shares agenda, which will put Americans out of work and is opposed by the vast majority of fishermen. Jones believes that “to the extent that solid science demonstrates that reductions in catch in any given fishery are necessary, there are far better options than catch shares for achieving those reductions.” Jones has long opposed catch shares and is working in Congress to block funding for implementation of new catch share programs.

Click HERE to read the full article


 


Update November 11 2010

Bellow is a letter I have put together, which has been sent to our elected officials, newspapers, radio stations, and fishing organizations. I urge you to read it and to do the same. We need to spread awareness!


Capt Paul G Forsberg

"Let us have our jobs back!"

My name is Paul G Forsberg and I am the owner of Viking Fleet which operates fishing party boats out of Montauk NY, New Bedford MA, Quincy MA, and formerly from Tarpon Springs FL. I would like to bring to your attention an issue which has not been in the media, and has garnered a lot less attention than it deserves. The issue is the unnecessarily harsh fishing regulations imposed on fishermen all along the Southeast and Northeast Atlantic coast line- impacting negatively the recreational sector of the industry as well as the commercial and party boat businesses. Millions of jobs have been lost unnecessarily. Read on to find out more!

The Magnuson- Stevens Fishery conservation and Management Act of 1976 and its two major amendments in 1996 and 2006 is the governing force behind the policies and regulations the fishing communities have been burdened with. The 2006 amendment of the act puts forth a timeline for rebuilding fish stocks which lacks flexibility, thus destroying the fishing industry. The act lays out a plan for rebuilding stocks along the Atlantic coast- many of which are on track, or have already been rebuilt by as much as 200% in the case of the porgy (scup) fisheries.

The agency behind the scientific research conducted in an effort to estimate the fish populations and their health is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and its Fisheries Service. In a report to the US Congress, the agency itself has declared 85% of fisheries examined in 2009 to be rebuilt. Somehow, the numbers are being ignored and the strict regulations implemented are in direct conflict of what we know about the fish stocks. Almost all fisheries are at healthy levels, yet us fishermen are being denied access to those fisheries and our livelihoods and means of supporting our families and communities are being destroyed.

The recent appointment of Jane Lubchenco by President Obama as a head to NOAA's Fisheries Service is another development that has gone under the radar. Dr Lubchenco's past career appointments include serving on the Pew Ocean Commission. She has also received a Pew Fellowship in the amount of $150,000. Pew as an organization pumps some 5 billion dollars into research aimed at promoting extreme environmental ideology and bad science. The fishing industry has no chance of survival- we cannot fight a 5 billion dollar behemoth whose protege currently holds one of the most powerful positions in fisheries management. We need a non-bias, moderate appointee in that position. Her appointment was protested in New England, and her resignation has been asked for by many, including Senator Barney Frank.

One of the proposed policies put forth by Dr Lubchenco's team is that of "Catch Shares". Catch Shares basically convert our oceans and the fish stocks into commodities that will be doled out by the government to fishermen in the form of permits which will allow a preset catch. Fishermen will then be allowed to sell or rent their shares to others in the industry, and the catch shares will be a percent of the so called "Total Allowable Catch" or TAC. The TAC will be mandated by the government. To put it in Dr. Lubchenco's own words, Catch Shares are: "A negotiable stock that fishermen can sell as they go out of business, allowing them to exit with some cash." Catch Shares are a politically correct way of saying fishermen will be forced to take a pitiful severance package as they are made to exit the industry without a chance of survival.

My business employs 50 employees in our Northeast locations during the height of the season. At one point that number was in the 60's. Business has been going downhill and we have lost a number of our employees. We were forced to close our Tarpon Springs, Florida port completely due to the unnecessary and harsh fishing regulations, which has cost the local economy millions of dollars. In addition we were forced to lay off 12 of my employees in Florida, and the situation is looking grimmer every day. This is not isolated to just the fishing industry. It is a catastrophic chain reaction which has hurt tackle shops, restaurants, the hospitality industry and the entire tourism industry as well. These industries employ millions of people. Why can't we put people back to work? If you want to create jobs and get us back on the right track- let us fish! The fish stocks are healthy, but we are told to sit back and watch as we lose our freedom, our right to fish, and our right to support our families and communities.

We need room to breathe. We need to go back to work. We need to preserve our right to fish. We need to pass S. 1255- Flexibility in Rebuilding Fisheries Act of 2009 sponsored by Senator Chuck Schumer-NY and cosponsored by Kristen Gillibrand-NY, and H. R. 1584 originated by Frank Pallone. The two bills aim to introduce flexibility to the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which in its current format is used as a tool to destroy the fishing industry. That will be the first step in reviving our coastal industries and returning some much needed jobs as well as creating new ones!

I was at a meeting in Tampa, FL on Monday Nov 8th, organized by the Gulf Council. The issue discussed was Sector Separation in the Recreational Fishery. It was brought to my attention during that meeting that as far as the government is concerned in the Gulf of Mexico, fishing is no longer a right. It is now a privilege. No one seems to know when our fishing rights were stolen from us by the government and when it became a privilege in the Gulf of Mexico. I have a section of my website dedicated to articles and news pertinent to the plight of our industry. You can visit www.vikingfleet.com to read more about what has been taking place under the radar for over a decade of struggle to preserve our right to fish.

Sincerely,


Capt. Paul G Forsberg



UPDATE NOVEMBER 10:

ASMFC REJECTS COMMERCIAL STRIPER QUOTA INCREASE
RFA Says It's Time To Address Illegal and Un-Reported Harvest

(11/9/2010) - The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASFMC) today rejected a proposed increase in commercial striped bass quota. According to FishingUnited.com, the final vote of 10-4-1 in favor of status quo was supported by Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Sources indicated that states supporting measures to increase the commercial harvest of striped bass included North Carolina, Delaware, Rhode Island and New York. The ASMFC representative from the District of Columbia was absent for the vote and the Potomac River Fisheries Commission voted to abstain.

"We're pleased that there's no commercial increase, but as we've said all along there was no need for any increase in either the commercial or recreational sector, not when there are so many questions with regard to the illegal and unreported harvest we know to be taking place in federal waters," said Jim Donofrio Executive Director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA). Donofrio cited evidence from federal enforcement authorities over the past two seasons of a number of striped bass harvest violations in federal waters off North Carolina in January and February when big breeding size fish are staging several miles off Carolina's Outer Banks. Donofrio notes that it's illegal for any striped bass to be harvested outside of 3 miles from shore, whether commercial or recreational.

"Now that we're done with this debate over increasing commercial harvest of striped bass, it's time for the ASMFC and the federal government to figure out what's going on with the illegal fishery as documented by the U.S. Coast Guard and several Mid-Atlantic state agencies," Donofrio added.

Last month, RFA submitted official comments to the ASMFC on behalf of their national membership as well as the New York Sportfishing Federation, opposing efforts to increase the commercial striped bass harvest based on several issues including the illegal harvest in federal waters while also citing recent stock assessments showing that the 2007 and 2008 striped bass population abundance estimates (in numbers of fish) are the lowest in the past 15 years. The RFA noted that at a time when recreational anglers are asking ASMFC to look at efforts to reduce the number of bigger breeding striped bass harvested, the proposal to kill more fish in the commercial sector was ill-timed.

"There is growing consensus within the recreational sector that our coastal regulations should be modified to minimize harvest on bigger, older fish in the population," said RFA Managing Director and New York Sportfishing Federation president, Jim Hutchinson, Jr. "I'm rather disappointed to learn that our New York delegates failed to listen to the overwhelming opposition to increased striper harvest within our recreational fishing community, but thankfully there's proper reasoning coming from our neighboring ASMFC states."

Hutchinson noted that a series of hearings were held to gauge public comment on the proposal, which he said was overwhelming in New York as being opposed to the increase. "The anglers made it clear that it's time to talk about renewed conservation efforts to protect breeding stock fish, and I don't know if there's anyone I've spoken to in the recreational sector who believed that a quota increase was appropriate at this time, certainly not in New York or New Jersey," Hutchinson said.



Fight for Your Right to Fish- News, Views, and Updates


What can you do? Contact your State Legislators NOW. Let them know how you feel about the issues. We have compiled a list of senators on a state by state basis HERE.


The Viking Fleet would like to extend our gratitude to Senator Chuck Schumer of NY for his continued efforts in supporting the fishing community.


The Viking Fleet supports the Boy Scouts of America. Earn your merit badges fishing on the Viking Fleet. All boy scouts fish half price on any of our trips. Please contact your local representatives and voice your support against a movement to prevent Boy Scouts of America earning their merit badges fishing.


The Recreational Fishing Alliance
The RFA Mission

bullet
Safeguard the rights of saltwater anglers
bullet
Protect marine, boat and tackle industry jobs
bullet
Ensure the long-term sustainability of our nation’s fisheries.

Commercial fishermen and environmentalists are pushing their agenda on marine fisheries issues affecting you. The Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) is in the trenches too, lobbying, educating decision makers and ensuring that the interests of America’s coastal fishermen are being heard loud and clear. Incorporated in 1996 as a 501c4 national, grassroots political action organization, RFA represents recreational fishermen and the recreational fishing industry on marine fisheries issues on every coast, with state chapters established to spearhead the regional issues while building local support.

The RFA has worked tirelessly, fighting for recreational fishermen and bringing latest information and news to everyone interested in keeping their right to fish. Join the RFA by going HERE


October 30 Update



OBAMA ADMINISTRATION SET TO CLOSE ANOTHER FISHERY
"Fishery Tale of Fishery Management Is Destroying Our Industry"

(10/29/2010) - The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) was recently notified by NMFS' Southeast Regional Office that a 4,800-square mile fishing ban is on its way for South Atlantic anglers. A final rule to implement controversial Amendment 17A will likely be published in mid-November, but the U.S. Department of Commerce's announcement will ultimately establish a closed area extending from southern Georgia to Cape Canaveral, FL affecting angler harvest and possession of all snapper-grouper species.

 

The fishing closure affects areas with depths between 98 and 240 feet and is being implemented as part of the Amendment 17-A which indefinitely bans all bottom-fishing for both the commercial and recreational sectors. A blanket ban on red snapper harvest adopted as a temporary measure last year remains in effect in a 200-nautical mile zone off the entire Southeast coast.

 

According to the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA), the closure is based purely on flawed science, inaccurate harvest data and overly restrictive federal fisheries language written into the Magnuson Stevens Fisheries Management and Conservation Act. "There is no biological problem with this fishery," said RFA Executive Director Jim Donofrio, "this is a management and legislative problem, not a fishery issue."

 

"This fishery is rebuilding and that's not even a debate for our fisheries experts, but because it's not rebuilding fast enough according to Magnuson, the government has to shut down access to healthy fisheries," Donofrio said. "How can you defend a law which is so punitive to a uniquely American industry, a law which denies everyday anglers access to a public resource."

 

The plan is forecast to cost area fishermen millions of dollars in lost catch, not only in snapper but grouper, sea bass and other harvests from dozens of species commonly caught through bottom fishing.

 

"It's going to put a lot of people of business," said Capt. Bob Zales, II President of the National Association of Charterboat Operators (NACO). "You'll probably have a lot of small family owned charter operators going out of business, not to mention tackle shops, restaurants, marinas, hotels and every other business that relies on fishing and tourism," he added. According to Zales, who's also a member of the RFA national board of directors, it would be one thing if the fishery was in trouble. However, he explains the strict requirements under Magnuson prevent any flexibility within the fisheries management process to allow fishermen to continue fishing.

 

"The Magnuson Stevens Act dictates that all fisheries are managed by a one-size-fits-all approach, and that just doesn't work," Zales said, adding "Cinderella's slipper doesn't fit on every foot, and this fairy tale of fisheries management is destroying our industry."

 

Fellow RFA board member Tom Putnam of Half-Hitch Bait and Tackle in Panama City said he's concerned for his business associates on the East Coast of Florida and Georgia, and said restrictive measures on the Gulf Coast have had a terrible impact on the recreational fishing industry there. "It's totally changed our business, with snapper season only being 54 days it cut our business by over 30%," Putnam said, adding "I can't imagine what a total closure will do to our friends on the Atlantic Coast."

 

After visiting the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show this week, Putnam said there's a lot of concern in the boating industry now because of these fisheries management issues. "They're making it where people don't want to buy boats," he said of the government restrictions, adding he's also concerned about the next steps proposed for the Gulf grouper fishery as well.

 

In June, the RFA submitted comments to the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) asking that its members not take official action on Amendment 17A based on evidence that the fishery was healthy and rebuilding. "As we said at the time, you can't use fatally flawed harvest data to make overfished and overfishing determinations," Donofrio said.

 

Ongoing fishing bans implemented by the Department of Commerce including that for red snapper and black sea bass in the Mid-Atlantic have kept RFA and allies busily lobbying Congress during the past 3 years since Magnuson was reauthorized with more restrictive statutory definitions. Donofrio said Congressional efforts to counteract these overly-restrictive measures including legislation sponsored by Rep. Frank Pallone to add flexibility to federal rebuilding timelines (HR1584) and Rep. John Mica (HR3307) to limit the authority of the Secretary to prohibit red snapper fishing in the South Atlantic without improved studies have not moved fast enough to protect fishermen.

 

While the Pallone bill had a Senate companion bill sponsored by Sen. Charles Schumer (S1255), efforts to find a Florida Senator to sponsor a companion piece to the Mica bill addressing red snapper closures were unsuccessful.

 

"This new proposed closure is evidence that the priority for the entire fishing industry must be fisheries reform and an overhaul of Magnuson," Donofrio said. "We need a law that allows for access, rebuilding and sustainability, which can all be achieved without complete closures, and we need to prioritize these efforts after the November 2 elections."

 



October 6 Update

Recreational Fishing Alliance

I think it's safe to say that this November's mid-term elections may be the most important in our lifetimes. Over the past few years, our nation's hardcore saltwater sportsmen have watched as radical preservationist ideology - an agenda which has led to a broken and fatally flawed fisheries management system, most of which is not perpetuated by science - has been continually supported by partisan imbalance in the U.S. Senate.

 

During the course of our nation's history, whenever one party gains too much control over the will of the people, the truth of 'right and wrong' will be lost in a cloud of ideological agenda. It doesn't matter if it's the right or the left, something's got to give - and on November 2, 2010, you can help chart the course for the direction our nation takes for the next six years!

 

Make a difference - make sure you vote on November 2!

 

The Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) is a non-partisan, not-for-profit political action organization that represents recreational fishermen and the recreational fishing industry on marine fisheries issues. As a 501c4 organization, the RFA is legally allowed to provide candidate-related information to members, endorse specific candidates, urge the election or defeat of a particular candidate, and encourage contributions to a candidate. That's what makes the RFA unique as an organization, with the stated mission since 1996 "to safeguard the rights of saltwater anglers, protect marine, boat and tackle industry jobs, and ensure the long-term sustainability of our Nation's saltwater fisheries."

 

On behalf of our national membership, the RFA has compiled the following list of Senate recommendations for the upcoming election. True to our mission, RFA is openly supporting both Republican and Democratic candidates in this cycle based on their support of our specific issues within the recreational fishing community.

 

It should be noted that there are some incumbents who've had the chance to work with us in the past, but due to their lack of caring and/or involvement in fisheries issues when they could've helped us most, the RFA has decided to seek out new voices as representatives within those particular states.

 

When you're weighing the U.S. Senate options in the voting booth this November 2, here's where the RFA stands in terms of the coastal candidates, and where they stand on issues regarding your right to fish!


Jim Donofrio Signature
Jim Donofrio -
RFA Executive Director

AL- Richard ShelbyALABAMA

The RFA supports incumbent Republican Senator Richard Shelby over his Democratic challenger William Barnes.

ALASKA

Lisa MarkowskiAs ranking Republican on the House Energy Committee and a friend to the fishing and boating industry, Lisa Murkowski has shown strong leadership worthy of RFA endorsement. Her race as an Independent against Republican Joe Miller and Democrat Scott McAdams will be one to watch.

CALIFORNIA

Carly FiorinaThe U.S. Senate race between Republican challenger Carly Fiorina and incumbent Democrat Barbara Boxer has been heating up, and the RFA believes Fiorina has a good chance to win, particularly if the sportfishing community can respond! Boxer has been completely missing on fishing issues and has wholeheartedly embraced the radical green agenda. Sen. Boxer fails to recognize the significance of California's sportfishing industry, and for that reason RFA supports Republican challenger, Carly Fiorina, in this important race.

CONNECTICUT

Linda McMahonRFA supports the Republican Senate candidate Linda McMahon over the Democrat Richard Blumenthal. Our fishing community has had less-than-stellar experience with Senate Democrats from Connecticut in recent years, and for that reason we're supporting businesswoman Linda McMahon.

DELAWARE

Christine O'DonnellIt's time for a fresh face in the First State, and we believe that Republican Christine O'Donnell is the choice over Democrat Chris Coons. Recent senators from Delaware have done little or next to nothing to help our coastal fishermen along.

FLORIDA

Marco RubioThe three-way U.S. Senate race in Florida is key to helping fix the problems in our federal fisheries law. The RFA is endorsing Republican candidate Marco Rubio over Democrat Kendrick Meek and the Independent challenger, former governor Charlie Crist. Marco Rubio started engaging the fishing industry during the oil crisis and he's very interested in working with our community.

 

GEORGIA

Johnny Isakson

The RFA endorses Republican Johnny Isakson in the race against Democrat Michael Thurmond.

 

 

LOUISIANA

Dave Vitter

Incumbent Republican Senator David Vitter has been a friend to Louisiana Sportsmen since he was in the House of Representatives; the RFA is endorsing David Vitter in the race against Democrat Charlie Melancon the democrat.

 

 

MARYLAND

Eric Wargotz

RFA endorses Dr. Eric Wargotz over incumbent Senator Barbara Mikulski who has ignored frequent pleas from the recreational fishing community. Barbara Mikulski has been in DC for too long; let's hope Maryland sportsmen turn out in droves in November for the Republican challenger, Dr. Wargotz.

 

 

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Kelly Ayotte

Senator Paul Hodes has been MIA on fisheries issues; RFA has been to Mr. Hodes' office on several occasions with no response - except when it comes time to raising funds for the election cycle! It's time for Mr. Hodes to re-enter the private sector! In New Hampshire, the RFA is wholeheartedly supporting Republican Kelly Ayotte in the New Hampshire Senate race.

NEW YORK

Charles Schumer

Kirsten Gillibrand Our good friend Senator Charles Schumer has been a friend of the fishing community for a very long time; the junior Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has also been a vocal supporter of our fishing interests. Both Democrats were in attendance at our February 24th rally and are key signers of the Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act.

NORTH CAROLINA

Richard Burr

RFA is endorsing our good friend Senator Richard Burr the Republican candidate over Democrat Elaine Marshall. Senator Burr has been a friend to fishermen for a long time and is one of the co-sponsors of the Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act.

 

PENNSYLVANIA

Pat Toomey

While the RFA appreciates Democrat Joe Sestak's willingness to go against pure party lines as a PA Congressman, it's time for a change in the Keystone State - as such, the RFA is endorsing the Republican Pat Toomey in this particular Senate race. Since Pennsylvania holds seats on the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and Mid Atlantic Fishery Management Council, RFA hopes to finally see a legislative voice for fishermen coming from the Keystone State in the future.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Jim DeMint

RFA endorses incumbent Republican Jim DeMint over challenger, Alvin Greene, Democrat. This is a no-brainer, particularly since the Senate opponent was a felon before he ever got involved in politics.

WASHINGTON

Dino Rossi

RFA strongly endorses Republican Dino Rossi in the race against Democratic incumbent Senator Patty Murray. The race is a toss-up; sportsmen need to get out and vote and support Rossi in this race. Sen. Murray has been MIA on fishing issues.

 

 

The RFA will release their list of Congressional endorsements on Wednesday, October 13th.



September 30 Update
SPECIAL REPORT: An Iron Triangle based in NOAA is killing the U.S. fishing industry
By: Ron Arnold Examiner Contributor September 28, 2010


Jane Lubchenco, career environmental activist and author of a cap-and-trade plan for America’s fisheries, is the most controversial director ever to run the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

A marine scientist, Lubchenco co-wrote a 2009 paper titled “Oceans of Abundance,” claiming, “the global oceans are being emptied of seafood. Scientists report that 90 percent of large fish — highly sought after species like tuna and swordfish — have been removed from the oceans.”

Other scientists disputed that claim, but President Obama didn’t nominate them to head NOAA.
She is at the center of a classic Washington Iron Triangle that includes wealthy liberal foundations, radical environmental nonprofits and multiple government officials, many of whom, like Lubchenco, came out of the foundations or activist groups.

Lubchenco has done so much to kill the New England fishing industry that 300 angry Gloucester, Mass., citizens protested outside the regional office of the federal fisheries service last October.

They didn’t hang Lubchenco in effigy. Instead, they mounted an ugly mannequin representing her, looming over a gallows where she was the one hanging two fishermen in effigy. The signs pinned to their heavy weather gear read, “Betrayed by government.”

In New England alone, the commercial fishing industry includes more than 35,000 fishermen and boat operators, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. New Bedford, Mass., is the most active of 88 ports listed by NOAA as part of the industry, which caught an estimated $2.9 billion worth of fish in 2009.

In July, two Massachusetts Democratic congressmen, Barney Frank and John Tierney, called for Lubchenco to resign or be fired, not only for her treacherous hostility toward the American fishing industry, but also for harboring a culture of corrupt law enforcement agents that treated fishermen as criminals and systematically sped the culling of the fleet.

The lawmakers were furious at what Commerce Department Inspector General Todd Zinser revealed in a July 1 memo to Lubchenco — a $96 million “Asset Forfeiture Fund,” an account NOAA officers built from enormous fishing fines far out of proportion to the violations.

The fund was being handled like a slush fund to buy 202 vehicles for 172 officers, a $300,000 luxury “undercover” yacht (Lubchenco may not have known about this purchase), and a $109,000 trip to Norway for 15 agents to attend the weeklong Global Fisheries Enforcement Training Workshop, among 83 pages of other irregularities.
Anger against Lubchenco isn’t limited to New England. Fishing fleets operating in Virginia, along the Gulf coast, and in California and Alaska are also being bled despite her Senate confirmation hearing pledge to create “a new climate of trust” in what senators called the “seriously dysfunctional relationship” that had poisoned relations between fishing regulators and fishermen for nearly 10 years.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., introduced his fellow Oregonian (professor of marine biology, Oregon State University) as the “Bionic Woman of Good Science” with many awards — a $500,000 MacArthur “genius grant,” a $150,000 Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation, and a year as president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

She sailed through confirmation, then headed straight to New England and demanded that the local fisheries authority write a plan imposing her new untried program on their fleet.
Lubchenco first came to Washington in 1997 as a board member of the Environmental Defense Fund (2008 income: $112 million), which has been the vanguard for a radical restructuring of the fishing industry, converting the ocean commons into commodities that EDF named “catch shares.”

That’s not “shares” as in splitting up the catch equitably, it’s “shares” as in paper permits for a preset catch, doled out to fishermen by the government in dribbles designed, according to Lubchenco, to remove “a significant fraction” of the industry’s operators.

A fisherman could sell or rent his shares to somebody seeking a bigger catch, but every geographical area and species has a government-mandated cap called a Total Allowable Catch that can’t be exceeded. Each catch share is a percentage of the Total Allowable Catch.

If a fishing boat captain doesn’t get enough shares to survive, he learns the hard way what a Gloucester reporter heard when Lubchenco was asked to define catch shares: “A negotiable stock that fishermen can sell as they go out of business, allowing them to exit with some cash.”

During the 2009 Milken Institute Global Conference in Los Angeles, EDF Vice President David Festa projected a 400 percent return on investment for catch shares. The institute is “junk-bond king” Michael Milken’s think tank that now directs private capital into investments “that serve the public interest.”

But nobody at the conference said anything about big environmental groups buying up shares or driving prices to disastrous levels. Or that catch shares inevitably meant ending a centuries-long American tradition of small-scale operations, leaving fishing communities as graveyards for rotting fishing boats. Milken thus has gone from junk bonds to junk fleets.

Rich foundations have funded the EDF/Lubchenco obsession with government control of the American fishing fleet. The Moore Foundation, based on founder Gordon Moore’s Intel profits, gave EDF $3.5 million from 2005 to 2008 to support catch shares, while the Packard Foundation gave EDF $2.2 million for its Oceans Program between 2002 and 2006. The Pew Charitable Trusts operates its own oceans program.

The Packard Foundation gave $2.1 million for Lubchenco’s Aldo Leopold Leadership Program, which she started in 1997. She says scientists must lead politicians and the public to create a world that is “ecologically sound, economically feasible and socially just.”

Her ALLP trains selected scientists to use talking points with reporters. Following lessons on public relations techniques of role-playing and critique sessions, trainees practice speaking in crisp sound bites. Among the trainers for ALLP are journalists working for the New York Times, Washington Post and National Public Radio, along with White House and congressional staff members.

As NOAA director, however, Lubchenco tells scientists what to say and how to say it via government memos. She knows Obama has her back because he said no when Frank and Tierney demanded her removal.
Her personal staff consists largely of fellow environmentalists. Senior Adviser Monica Medina from the Pew Charitable Trusts headed the Obama NOAA transition team and recommended Lubchenco for director. Medina’s husband is Ron Klain, Vice President Biden’s chief of staff.

Lubchenco’s chief of staff, Margaret Spring, came from the Nature Conservancy, and her communications director, Justin Kenney, from the Pew Charitable Trusts. Her confidential adviser is Amrit Mehra, who worked for Obama in the Senate.

That’s entrenched power.
Ron Arnold is vice president of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, and author of “Freezing in the Dark: Money, Power, Politics and the Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy.”




September 25 Update

ANGLERS SAY EPA LEAD BAN PETITION IS SIMPLY FOR THE BIRDS
September 15 Deadline For Fishermen To Weigh In On Heavy Metal Debate

Capt. Bob Zales, II, president of the National Association of Charterboat Operators (NACO) recently emailed a letter to charter captains encouraging comment on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) petition to ban all lead in fishing tackle. According to Zales, the EPA was recently petitioned by the Center for Biological Diversity and four other organizations to ban all lead in fishing tackle under the Toxic Substances Control Act.
Zales, who was just voted to a three-year term on the national board of directors for the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) urged fishermen to weigh in on the potential ban on lead fishing products, which he said included lead sinkers, jigs, weighted fly line, ballast in lures, spinners, other terminal tackle and even components in reels. “This sweeping proposal would include all tackle that contains lead, so please send your comments,” Zales said.
RFA Executive Director Jim Donofrio said there are legitimate concerns raised by the issue of lost lead- based terminal gear used by anglers, but stressed that other more reasonable approaches to minimize the introduction of lead into the marine environment should be investigated. “Calling for a sudden and complete ban on lead fishing products seems to run well beyond the intent of the original petition,” Donofrio said, adding “the original petition was presented with the aim of reducing bird deaths caused by the ingestion of lead sinkers and jigheads, yet the best available science shows that less than 1% of all waterfowl and other are killed by lead sinker ingestion.” A longtime waterfowler himself, Donofrio said “Banning lead in recreational fishing tackle will have a negligible impact on waterfowl populations.”
Instead of a sudden and complete ban, Donofrio hopes that national manufacturers and their associated trade groups would help defeat the proposal by offering to adopt a responsible stewardship role by committing to a gradual reduction of lead in terminal gear through the use of alternative non-toxic materials. “Individual anglers and small business operators should not be denied access to fishing opportunities if lead-free alternatives aren’t readily available,” Donofrio said. The RFA believes that a lead ban would unfair to the general angling public considering the lack of available alternatives and questionable science.
“At this point, the data does not support a federal ban on lead sinkers for fishing, and we support the efforts of groups like NACO and the Marine Retailers Association of America (MRAA) to have this petition quashed,” Donofrio said. “Overarching restrictions like these need to be based on sound science, not ideological rhetoric. It’s simply more anti-fishing, anti-fisherman, doomsday protectionism in the name of loons and loony extremists,” Donofrio added.
NACO, MRAA and the RFA said that individual recreational anglers and business owners can get involved by visiting www.joinrfa.org/Press/EPACOMMENTSDUE091510.pdf to download a copy of a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. Simply print the letter, sign it, and stick it in an envelope before September 15, 2010.
"It's a well-known fact that government officials generally don't respond to general emails unless you have a personal email address," Donofrio said. "It's been our experience here at the RFA that a full-blown printed mailing campaign lends a much greater impact in these government offices." He encouraged anglers to get involved by printing out letters to mail off to DC by the end of this week.


September 13 Update

NEW PEW PANEL CLAIMS TO HELP ANGLERS
RFA Says Committee Only Helps Bureaucrats Ignore Congressional Mandates
 
(9/9/2010) An email sent recently to members of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Council) from the Senior Policy Analyst from Pew Charitable Trusts' Campaign to End Overfishing in the Southeast shows a disturbing alliance between members of the preservationist community and those from the "fish first" conservation set. Together, the union is being touted as a recreational fishing coalition, although to some angling groups that appears to be a bogus claim.

Pew's Chad Hanson writes "I wanted to provide an update on a collaborative effort between recreational fishing and conservation organizations to examine and recommend alternative methods for improving recreational data collection programs in the US." According to Hanson, a group of fisheries experts, including members of the Gulf Council's Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) were invited to a private workshop to discuss improving the timeliness and accuracy of recreational fishing data.

Hanson says a full report highlighting their self-described Blue Ribbon Panel recommendations is now being finalized and will be issued publicly sometime in September. The Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) received an advance copy of the workshop synopsis, and believes recreational fishermen in America shouldn't hold their breath waiting for any earth-shattering news.

"When the world's top scientists participated in a National Research Council review of the angling data collection methods about 6 years ago, NOAA Fisheries was given very clear direction in how to fix the recreational harvest surveys," said RFA Executive Director, Jim Donofrio. "Congress told NOAA specifically how to fix the data and they told them when to do it." Donofrio said despite the specific NRC instructions, NOAA has failed to address the "fatally flawed" data.

"We don't need more committees, we need federal action," Donofrio said. RFA said conservation groups could have saved a lot of time and effort by simply reviewing the information and research items under section 401 of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. "Every time a new self-proclaimed 'blue ribbon' task force is formed, it just gives federal bureaucrats breathing room to sit back on their office chairs and shuffle more papers around instead of meeting the requirements of our federal fisheries law."

According to the synopsis issued by Pew, the newly formed "Blue Ribbon Panel" was organized and facilitated by the Pew-funded Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP) based on a recommendation from an ad-hoc group of marine conservation and recreational fishing organizations known as the 'Fish Collaborative.' "We're not sure exactly who makes up this Fish Collaborative, but when you look at the co-chairs selected to oversee the panel findings, I don't see how the recreational fishing community is being represented," Donofrio said.

Pew said TRCP's self-titled Blue Ribbon Panel was facilitated by Beltway insider and former CNN Producer George Cooper, with the three co-chairs drawn from within the ambiguous Fish Collaborative comprised of Pew's Hanson, Doug Rader of Environmental Defense Fund, and Dick Brame of the Coastal Conservation Association.

"Saltwater anglers have spent years arguing with stubborn conservationists about our own onwater observations and the deficiencies with their coveted science, but to no avail," said Jim Hutchinson, Jr., Managing Director of the RFA. "Now, nearly six years after the NRC memorialized the data as flawed, these same beltway insiders are forming new alliances with the very groups who've helped lead the charge for marine reserves, fisheries closures and resource privatization through catch shares, which is really hard to comprehend," Hutchinson added.

Hutchinson said groups with a mission only to protect fish typically ignore pleas from the fishermen themselves. "They're quick to punish anglers when they believe we're harvesting too many fish, but they're not as receptive to hearing our real-time opinions concerning the health of the resource." Hutchinson said Mid-Atlantic stocks like summer flounder, black sea bass and porgy are healthier than at any time in recorded management history, while even the red snapper population theories have been publicly called out into question.

"If any of the usual suspects really cared about the interests of our local fishing communities, they'd be calling out NOAA fisheries for failing to meet their congressionally mandated deadlines to fix the data," said Donofrio, adding "and they'd do it with as much passion as they display when they call on fishermen to meet arbitrary rebuilding deadlines."

At the behest of Congress, the NRC convened in 2004/2005 to review the Marine Recreational Fishing Statistical Survey (MRFSS) used by NOAA Fisheries to estimate fishing effort and catch data in the recreational sector. Their official report blasted the methodology of surveying anglers based on random telephone contacts, while recommending "the development of and subsequent sampling from a comprehensive national saltwater angler registry." When the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act was reauthorized by Congress in 2006 and signed into law by the President in 2007, it required the Secretary of Commerce to establish a national saltwater registry program which meets the recommendations of the NRC panel of experts.

"Magnuson required a new survey program be completed as of 2009 using registered angler contact information, increased numbers of dockside intercepts, vessel trip reports from charter vessels, and even requiring a weather-corrective factor for applying to angler catch and effort estimates," said Donofrio. "In 2010, this new MRIP program has not implemented, a clear violation of federal law by our very own federal government," he said.

According to the synopsis issued by Hanson, Pew's new panel of experts will be making new recommendations to "help NOAA take a step forward from what is currently utilized for recreational data (namely MRIP)." RFA believes that looking into the future is always a good thing, but using past performance as a guide, the Pew Charitable Trusts is no ally for today's recreational fishermen.

"The lobbying arm of Pew helped rewrite the federal law to ratchet down limits on our coastal anglers, they've openly lobbied for a system of catch shares, they've pushed for marine protected areas and they've actively led the ideological war against our coastal fishing communities, why on earth would any so-called fishing advocate bed down with these wolves," asked Donofrio. "These conservation groups are doing nothing but providing cover for bureaucrats, while hijacking fisheries management away from seasoned professionals," he added.

According to the RFA, some of the same representative groups working on private panels have also supported national efforts to punish the recreational sector using currently the same flawed data. "Last week the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council became the first to approve recreational accountability measures when annual catch limits are exceeded," Hutchinson said. "I don't believe you can have recreational paybacks based on bad data, but once again these conservation groups are first in line to greet our anglers with the belt," he said.

"Our community is being asked to pay research set-asides to fund data collection, we're even raising funds for trawl surveys and statistical models," noted Donofrio. "It's time to stop covering for the bureaucrats with panels and summits while allowing the recreational fishing community to continually take all the heat."

According to Donofrio, members of the angling community contributed money towards updated benchmark assessments through the Save the Summer Flounder Fishery Fund in 2008, which led to a dynamic new modeling approach to looking at that Mid-Atlantic fishery. "Ironically, these self-described blue ribbon groups have contributed nothing but criticism to efforts by our fishing communities to fix the science," Donofrio said.


August 28 News Article Update on Regulations

Article from Jim Hutchinson of the Recreational Fishing Alliance
COUNCIL VOTES TO INCREASE FLUKE & PORGY LIMITS IN 2011
Mid-Atlantic Representatives Meet In Philly to Discuss Season Ahead

The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Managent Council (MAFMC) today voted to increase the 2011 commercial and recreational harvest levels of both scup and summer flounder, welcome news for a beleaguered Atlantic Coast fishing community.

Following input from the Scup Monitoring Committee, the MAFMC, which met jointly today with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) management boards, voted to increase the total allowable catch for scup (porgy) from this year's 17.09 million pounds of quota to a catch of 24.1 million pounds in 2011. The Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) had recommended an acceptable biological catch as high as 51.7 million pounds, which would've represented a near 200% increase in quota if enacted.
 
Council members heard various recommendations from the monitoring committee, in addition to public comment from recreational and commercial fishing interests who traveled to Philadelphia to attend today's meetings, but voted on a more precautionary 41% increase in total allowable catch for next season. For the recreational sector, the total allowable catch of 24.1 million pounds will result in a 4.4-million-pound harvest for the year.
 
On the summer flounder front, the MAFMC voted to increase the total allowable catch from this season's 25.48 million pounds to an increased quota of 33.95 million pounds in the year ahead. The new total allowable landings for 2011 represent the highest allowable catch debated by the MAFMC today. Recreational fishermen are hopeful that this increase in quota means improved summer flounder regulations for 2011, but that still rests in the hands of the Marine Recreational Fishing Statistical Survey (MRFSS) for 2010.

"The recreational fishermen won't know what this means in terms of regulations until November at the very least," said Capt. Adam Nowalsky, chairman of the Recreational Fishing Alliance's New Jersey Chapter (RFA-NJ). "As anglers have come to recognize year after year, now we have to wait for this season's landings information to come through from MRFSS to forecast how that compares to the 2011 recreational allowable landings."

"Some of the reasons for this success should go to the science that was contributed by the grassroots efforts of the local fishing community," said Ray Bogan, legal counsel for the RFA. "There has been an extraordinary contribution by the anglers, which makes up a significant portion of the scientific effort in the summer flounder assessments," he said. Bogan noted that private funding through the Save the Summer Flounder Fishery Fund, United Boatmen, and RFA, along with non-federal inshore survey analysis by the North East Area Monitoring and Assessment Program (NEAMAP) have helped lead to improved summer flounder assessments, which in turn has led to improved access for anglers.
 
A letter from Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) to the New York council members overnight was distributed amongst MAFMC members, in which the senator urged council members to provide increased access to summer flounder and scup resources for both recreational and commercial fishermen. "As the Council knows, these species are not overfished and overfishing is not occurring," Sen. Schumer said in his letter, adding "Fishermen have patiently waited for these stocks to rebuild and were promised relief when they were healthy again. Now is that time."
 
"The scup biomass is rebuilt by around 200% and yet it seems that our quota is going to be raised only marginally," said Capt. Paul Forsberg of the Viking Fleet out of Montauk, NY, who attended today's meeting. "How high must the biomass go before we can achieve maximum sustainable yield?"

Despite pleas from fishermen to increase the porgy quota by 55% to a total allowable catch of 26-1/2 million pounds, a 9-8 council vote put the porgy limit at a more modest 41% increase. "Given the spirit and intent of Sen. Schumer's letter to recognize the science and support the fishing communities in their quest to see a representative increase in porgy, I'm somewhat dismayed at some council members for not cheerleading a more robust 55% increase," said RFA's Jim Hutchinson. "I am thankful of course that the council voted to go for the total allowable increase in fluke quota in the season ahead, our coastal communities really need this boost for next season."

The MAFMC will reconvene on Thursday morning at 8 a.m. at the Holiday Inn in the Historic District at 400 Arch Street in Philadelphia, with a presentation regarding the recreational data collection status beginning at 8:30 a.m. For details, visit http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?et=1103624267231&s=7800&e=001zCXopcQEVY0IBkcTsRVOndO0x0uHmlH7v6iosIuw6-LcKR1o-bu5-aJW8DZwC83kwzkUTENLtfiuyUCmY2yX3tHv0CIArzQWaTFjeAmIrNA=


Message from Capt Paul G Forsberg

The above press release from RFA clearly outlines the outcome of the meeting held by MAFMC on August 18th. I was in attendance at this meeting and was shocked that the council members voted on a very precautionary increase in the total allowable catch for 2011. The recreational and commercial sectors were given a 24.1 million pound increase even though the SSC had recommended an acceptable biological catch of 51.7 million pounds. At first glance an increase of 24.1 million pounds sounds like a sizeable one. This increase is for both the commercial and recreational sectors and out of this the recreational sector receives 22% of the total increase. Then the 22% rate is decreased a percentage to take the discard rate into account. The data provided by MURF's which is extremely flawed will claim that we overfished during 2010 and we will be cut back further for 2011 to make up for this. After all factors are taken into consideration the increase to the recreational sector will be around 3.1 million pounds. So my dear fisherman your quota will be increased by a half of a porgy or perhaps two more days added to the season. Again this boggles my mind as the fishery is rebuit beyond our wildest dreams. I have never in my fifty plus years fishing these waters seen so many Porgies. At the meeting we tried to have the MAFMC increase their recommendation for 24.1 million pounds to 26.3 million pounds. This motion was voted down by one vote. It has to be noted at this point that four members of the council that were recently appointed directly by Dr. Jane Lubchenco of NOAA voted against the increase. It was also announced that increasing the quota too much would drive the price of Scup down on the open market. I was stunned to hear this as controlling the price of fish or worrying about the effect of the recreational sector receiving a larger quota is not the job of the MAFMC. I can find nothing in their guidelines that gives the MAFMC power to deny a poundage increase to the commercial and recreational sector to prevent a drop in the price of fish at the market. Their mission is to protect the fish biomass and not the market price of Scup. They are overstepping their boundaries to put it mildly and we cannot stand for this. Fish once again are being taken away from the fishermen who simply want to catch fish to feed their families. We need to fight back. Contact your elected officials and let them know you will not be voting for them if they are not going to support us in our fight!
I pleaded to the council members and left them with one final question,
"The scup biomass is rebuilt by around 200% and yet it seems that our quota is going to be raised only marginally." "How high must the biomass go before we can achieve maximum sustainable yield?" The answer I was given was....... SILENCE

Captain Paul Forsberg




June 2010 Update

Capt. Len Belcaro Editorials

 

Below you can read Capt Len Belcaro's spot on commentary about the difficulties recreational fishermen are faced with today. You can find this and other pertinent articles in Capt. Belcaro's Big Game Fishing Journal. Many thanks to Capt Belcaro for writing this insightful and must-read piece, as well as allowing us to publish it.

 

Viking Fleet

 

"OUR GREATEST ADVERSARY THE ENVIRONMENTAL "BUSINESS" COMMUNITY"


"I have been fighting the good fight on the recreational fishing front for many a year. In the past, one of our battles was against corporate ocean dumping. The battle plan was to attack the big corporations’ environmental image which quickly and easily brought the dumping of carcinogens along our continental shelf to an end.
During the same period, an assault on our highly migratory species (hms) was being perpetrated by commercial fishermen using unselective gear types such as longlining, pair-trawling and purse-seining operations—All with the National Marine Fisheries Service’s (NMFS) blessings. The blatant commercial bias of NMFS and its old Bureau of Commercial Fisheries mentality along with the politics that surround that agency were apparent with every proposed rule issued. NMFS was forcing the recreational fisherman to pay the price through excessive regulations while the cause of the problem was allowed to continue mostly unrestricted. Through many lawsuits filed against NMFS, the massive hue and cry of recreational fishermen everywhere, and the hard work of many individuals and organizations, NMFS was forced to do their job and adopt longline time and area closures in spawning areas, eliminate pair-trawling completely, and greatly curtail purse-seine operations.
Today, we as recreational fishermen face a new adversary that is slowly, methodically and legally removing us from fishery after fishery—the environmental business community and their ideology. I use the term “business” because it is one of the most lucrative in the United States today. Their tool is the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA), their methods are infiltration in the fisheries management process, the swaying of public opinion to their cause using bad science, the demand for Marine Protection Areas (MPA), and area closures to both recreational and commercial fishing.
Recreational Fishing Alliance’s (RFA) Jim Hutchinson’s article “Pew This Stinks” in the March/April 2010 issue of The Big Game Fishing Journal clearly explains the modus-operandi of the Pew Charitable Trusts. It is a must read for every fisherman nationwide. The entire article can be found on our website at www.biggamefishingjournal.com.
The MSA’s stock rebuilding policy states, if NOAA Fisheries (NF) deems a fishery overfished, it is required to rebuild the stocks of that fishery to 100-percent sustainable within a 10 year period. In 2000 the summer flounder fishery was deemed overfished by NF. Remarkably today, ten years into the stock rebuilding plan, NF continues to list the fishery as overfished. However, many anglers, both commercial and recreational who are actually in the “trenches,” along with several fishery managers and scientists dispute this assessment. In fact, they contend that the summer flounder stock today is in the healthiest condition it has ever been. The NF decision to continue listing summer flounder stocks as overfished even though many feel they are in great shape is simply due to the bad science being used by NF to determine the health and sustainability of this fishery and many others. The lack of “flexibility” in the MSA’s rebuilding regulations is legally requiring NF to close fishery after fishery in the name of conservation. The environmental community just waits in the background ready to pounce with their team of attorneys if NMFS does not comply with the letter of the law.
In 2006, the MSA was reauthorized with some of the strictest mandates ever seen in fisheries management. At that time, NF added an additional three years into the summer flounder rebuilding process. Prior to reaching the end of the 13 year rebuilding period in 2012, and without flexibility in the MSA, NF is required by law to shutdown the fishery if the exact summer flounder stock numbers deemed by NF to represent a healthy, 100-percent sustainable fishery are not achieved—and this means the exact numbers and not a pound under.
To the delight of the anti-fishing environmental business organizations, this lack of flexibility in the MSA rebuilding policy is a blessing and has already been instrumental in closing the recreational and commercial fishing door to sea bass, red snapper, amberjack and several species of grouper. The environmental business community, with Pew leading the charge is vehemently fighting against Congressman Frank Pallone’s bill HR 1584 and Senator Chuck Schumer’s S1255, which would provide this much-needed flexibility in the rebuilding process. If the bipartisan HR 1584 and S 1255 are adopted, the anti-fishing groups will lose a powerful tool to continue their assault on recreational and commercial fishing.
Let’s take a look at one of the driving forces and decision makers at NOAA Fisheries today. Dr. Jane Lubchenco, current NOAA Administrator has served on the Pew Ocean Commission and received a Pew Fellowship along with an award of $150,000 from the environmental group. As a Pew Fellow, it is my belief that the recipient of the fellowship and monetary award must continue to promote Pew ideology. One of her first appointments made as NOAA Administrator was Justin Kenney as NOAA Director of Communication and External Affairs. While Kenney was a former communications director for NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuary Program in the 90’s, he was most recently the Public Affairs Senior Officer at Pew Charitable Trusts. After switching PR digs from Pew to NOAA, Kenney was soon appointed by Lubchenco to act as an ex-officio member of the federal Catch Share Task Force. Dr. Lubchenco asked another former Pew staffer, Monica Medina, to lead the Catch Share Task Force in order to assist NOAA and the regional fishery management councils as they consider and implement catch-share management programs around the country.
Medina after the appointment, explained, “This task force will engage stakeholders to help ensure that the regional fishery councils and NOAA implement catch shares wherever appropriate.” Catch shares have the very real potential of privatizing the entire harvest of fish stocks in America, putting recreational and commercial quotas into a single pool, and opening up “individual quotas” for purchase by the highest bidder. By taking the public resource away from the public, catch shares by design would constrict fishing participation overall, a primary anti-fishing goal. Before taking over the role of “Catch Share Czar” at NOAA, Medina was the director of the Pew Whale Conservation Project and was previously acting director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). Medina, by the way, is also married to VP Joe Biden’s Chief of Staff Ron Klain, one of the more influential Democratic Party insiders in America today. I will discuss catch shares and their affect on recreational fishing in my July/August 2010 editorial.
Recently, Dr. Lubchenco appointed Russell Dunn as our new National Policy Advisor for Recreational Fishermen. He is required to answer directly to Lubchenco. His previous employer was the National Audubon Society where he worked as their Director of Government Relations, Living Oceans Campaign. He also held the title of Assistant Director of the Ocean’s Wildlife Campaign which is a coalition of six conservation associations. He was on the political advisory committee of the League of Conservation Voters, a conservation organization that grades politicians on their environmental record. He has worked closely with the National Resources Defense Council, Oceana, the Ocean Conservancy, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the World Wildlife Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense, National Parks and Conservation Association, KAHEA, Conservation Law Foundation, American Oceans Campaign, Sierra Club, Marine Conservation Biology Institute, and the Pew Oceans Commission. As you can see, Mr. Dunn’s resume is extensively environmental, but Lubchenco says he is an avid recreational fisherman so he must be perfect for the job. NOAA Fisheries is being infiltrated by the enviros and the “deck” is slowly being stacked against both the recreational and commercial fishermen.
Another front on the environmental business communities’ infiltration into the fisheries management process can be found in a document entitled, “Recommendations For Adoption and Implementation of an Oceans, Coasts, and Great Lakes National Policy” submitted by a coalition of environmental groups to Obama’s Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force which, in the near future, will be making major decisions that will affect both commercial and recreational fishing. Here is a list of the coalition of environmental organizations steering the task force that signed on to the “Recommendations” document. They are the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Environmental Defense Fund, Greenpeace, Marine Conservation Biology Institute, Marine Fish Conservation Network, National Wildlife Foundation, National Resource Defense Council, Ocean Champions, Ocean Conservancy, Oceana, Sierra Club, Seaweb, World Wildlife Fund, and the Pew Environmental Group. Using the arguments that 25-percent of U.S. fisheries are overfished, 80-percent of the world’s fish stocks are depleted and the world’s highly migratory species including tuna, sharks and marlin have declined 90-percent, two of their many recommendations to the task force are the opposition to legislation to “weaken” the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and the need for marine spatial planning (MPAs and area closures). Are we getting the big picture here?
Today, the recreational fisherman has a common plight with the commercial fisherman—The systematic removal from fishery after fishery at the hands of well-organized, and extremely well-funded environmental business organizations that are hell bent on forcing their preservationist ideology on everyone.
Every appointment, every decision being made by Dr.Lubchenco must be carefully scrutinized by recreational and commercial fishing watch dogs. This is becoming the greatest battle for our right to fish ever. Our adversaries have unlimited amounts of cash, and resources. It is no time to continue the petty bickering amongst recreational and commercial fishing interests and the lack of alignment between recreational fishing advocacy groups. In other words, it is time to “bury the hatchet” and join forces to fight this common enemy—There is strength in numbers."

 

Capt. Len Belcaro

 

 

 

 

 

NOAA Investigation

July 10 2010

 

Must-read article!

 

 

March 2010 Update
In recent developments, NOAA is being investigated by the North Carolina IG for its practices. The Committee of Natural Resources has held an oversight hearing in order to review those practices employed by NOAA and their agents. You can watch the video of the hearing HERE. Many of the names of Senators and Representatives will be recognized by those who attended the Fisherman's March in DC. We have momentum and now is the time to keep pressing for the changes we need. Send your letters to your state representatives NOW!


February 2010 Update
United We Fish Rally

The Viking Fleet is back from Washington DC, and the reported turnout of 4000-5000 men, women, and children for the Fisherman's Rally was unprecedented. There were people from as far as Alaska who made the trip, and we are proud that we could be a part of it. The sight of everyone standing united was inspiring and we would like to extend our gratitude to the Senators and Congressmen who spoke with passion to the crowd. Among them were Charles Schumer-NY who is the Sponsor of S. 1255- Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act of 2009, Kristen Gillibrand- NY (Co-Sponsor of S. 1255), Scott Brown- MA, Bruce E. Tarr- MA, Kay Hagen- NC, Barney Frank- MA, Walter Jones- NC, Ann Margaret Ferrante- MA, Frank LoBiondo- NJ, John Mica- FL, and last but not least, Frank Pallone-NJ who is the originator of Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act (H.R. 1584). The bill is currently in the Congress House Committee on Natural Resources which has a total of 49 members and you can visit the following website- GovTrack - to contact members of the committee from your state. The Senate version of the bill (S 1255) has been referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. You can find all members of the committee here- GovTrack

Our work however is not done. We all need to stay focused and increase the pressure on Washington if we want to keep our right to fish. Everyone must contact their respective state lawmakers and let them know just how important amending the Magnuson-Stevens Act is in order to preserve all aspects of the fishing industry and all peripheral industries as well. As you look though the photos of the rally, remember that every voice counts. If you missed the Fisherman's March on DC you can see photos HERE. The Viking Fleet would like to thank everyone that made the long trip on the 2 buses from Montauk to DC. Please remember that this is just the beginning- there's a lot more work to be done, and we all have to unite in order to do it. Many thanks to the RFA and Ray Bogan who did an incredible job with the event. The RFA was instrumental in organizing the rally. You can read more about the Recreational Fishing Alliance and the work that they do HERE.

We implore you to write to your representatives make it clear how important it is to preserve our right to fish, and our right to work!

Click HERE to watch Denny O'Hearn with the Fishing Rights Alliance interview Capt. Paul Forsberg. You can see more videos of the rally HERE as well.

Capt. Paul speaking to the crowd

Capt Paul

Please remember we are much smaller than other sectors and us being under the radar makes it especially important to spread awareness. Each day that goes by your rights to fish are being taken away.

What you can do:
-Join the Recreational Fishing Alliance-http://www.joinrfa.org/
-Contact your respective lawmakers- click HERE for a state by state list
- Remind them that you FISH and you VOTE!
-Aks them to support the two proposed bills S. 1255- Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act of 2009 sponsored by Charles Schumer-NY and Kristen Gillibrand- NY and H.R 1584 originated by Frank Pallone-NJ
-Get out and vote in November for candidates that support your right to fish
-Pass this onto your friends and family

You can do all of the above or you can sit back and do nothing in which case you might as well turn your fishing poles into golf clubs!

Remember that there is strength in numbers!

The above articles will be updated continuously.

Captain Paul G Forsberg

Ohio’s leading suppliers of crude oil. Sunoco set up corporate headquarters in Philadelphia, and by their 25th year in business, Joseph Newton Pew had passed the President’s torch to son, J. Howard, while another son, Joseph N. Pew, Jr., took over as Vice President. Not long after J. Howard died in 1971, major restructuring reshaped the company and it was re-organized into 14 operating units, two property companies and a non-operating parent company. The company moved to a major new corporate headquarters in Radnor, PA, and Sun Oil Company (Sunoco) was renamed Sun Company, Inc. in 1976.

The Pew Charitable Trusts, an independent nonprofit, became the sole beneficiary of seven individual charitable funds established between 1948 and 1979 by the children of Sun Oil Company founder Joseph N. Pew and his wife, Mary Anderson Pew. While Pew was said to be politically conservative, the Pew Charitable Trusts has taken a very radical shift in its ideology in the past decade, particularly with the ascension of Rebecca Rimel to the organization’s President and CEO in 1994. Rimel, a former emergency-room nurse and assistant professor in the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Virginia Hospital, became Executive Director of Pew in 1998. Today, she’s in charge of a $4 billion philanthropic endowment organization which doles out in excess of $200 million annually towards a variety of interests including health, arts and the environment.

A 2006 article by the Wharton University of Pennsylvania said that 80 percent of the Pew Charitable Trusts’ funding focuses on pubic policy, specifically the environment, health and human services, and state policy issues. Its environment initiative has three main goals — reducing global emissions, halting the destruction of the marine environment, and protecting intact ecosystems on public lands. “Go back 11 years and think about global warming,” said Rimel. “Most of the public, none of the policy makers and no one in corporate America believed it was real. They thought it was pseudoscience, environmentalists gone berserk.”

Rimel credited her organization with funding the scientists which provided much of the global warming message, and said with that day, she went to work enlisting the support of Fortune 500 CEOs. “They took the position that it is not only a problem, but it is putting us in a non-competitive position in the world market.” These 38, whom a Washington Post editorial at one point described as “38 brave guys,” became Pew’s biggest allies in their roundtable business leaderships group as they moved forward with the global warming movement.
In the Wharton interview, Rimel described Pew as if it was a Fortune ranked company, and with assets in the billions, they very well could be. “We are a business,” Rimel said. “We have to deliver our share and we have a bottom line.” The Pew staff is rewarded as such with employee contracts on what will be delivered. According to the article, if staffers can’t come through on their commitment, budgets are cut and job security can ultimately be adversely affected.

SCIENCE FOR SALE
In 2006, the U.S.Journal Science published a study by a group of Pew-funded researchers who concluded that continued overfishing and coastal water quality degradation were leading to the disintegration of all marine life. “If the long-term trend continues, all fish and seafood species are projected to collapse within my lifetime, by 2048,” said Boris Worm of Dalhousie University in Canada, the lead author of the study. All the major media outlets jumped on the story — the headlines pushed the story to the top of the fold.

“The World’s Fish and Seafood Could Disappear by 2048.”
“Empty Oceans: No More Fish in 40 Years.”
“Seafood Will Likely Be Extinct In 40 Years.“

Just three years prior to the release of Worm’s doomsday story, the Pew Fellows in Marine Conservation got together and signed off on a similar study reporting that 90 percent of the oceans’ large fish including tuna, marlin, swordfish, sharks, cod, halibut, flounder, and skates have been taken from the sea since the early 1990s. This international body of “world-renowned marine conservation experts” released what was known as the Ocean Action Statement for Fisheries Conservation, which was then signed by almost 50 Pew Fellows in Marine Conservation. The late Ransom Myers, lead author of the 2003 study noted, “This isn’t just about one species. The sustainability of fisheries is being severely compromised worldwide.” Nature magazine later revealed, “Myers/Worm research was funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts.”

Five Pew Marine Conservation Fellowships are awarded annually to the tune of $150,000 each, with “Pew Fellows” expected to carry out “innovative, interdisciplinary projects addressing challenges facing our marine environment around the world.” Some of those grant funds have increased in recent years to more than $240,000 per “fellow” and Pew Fellowship awards have also been offered to journalists and media professionals Marla Cone, a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times, was one of the first journalists to break the Worm report in 2006, leading off her story with “All of the world’s fishing stocks will collapse before mid-century, devastating food supplies.” Ms. Cone herself became a Pew Fellow in 1999.

In the 2003 study published in Nature magazine, Pew Fellow Dr. Ellen Pikitch, then Director of Ocean Strategy for the Wildlife Conservation Society said, “This study confirms there is no time left to quibble about whether the glass is half empty or half full. For the large fishes of the world’s oceans, the glass is nearly completely drained. We have no time to waste if we are to have any chance of saving the oceans’ wildlife.” Today, Pikitch is Executive Director of the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science and Professor at the Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences. The Institute at Stony Brook was founded in 2008 by a $4 million endowment by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Another Pew Fellowship Award winner who had been working the marine circuit with Pikitch from the mid 90’s into the early part of the 21st century was Dr. Jane Lubchenco, now head of NOAA and NOAA Fisheries. Before stepping in and taking the brass ring of global marine conservation as a presidential appointment in 2009, Dr. Lubchenco was a member of the U.S. Oceans Commission in 2004 which suggested the creation of an ocean trust fund. “The fund would come from money from leases for offshore activities such as oil and gas exploration and recovery.”

That same report said that other future activities including “bioprospecting, wind farms and aquaculture, could join the list as they develop.” As reported by author David Lincoln in a comprehensive essay on Pew called the Conquest of the Ocean, this pseudo-sharecropping idea has been a recommendation long lobbied for by the oil companies, “because it ultimately ties coastal state revenues to offshore development activities and gives the states a vested interest in removing obstacles to leasing which could accelerate permit approvals.”

THE PEW OCEAN ACTION NETWORK
In 2007, the Pew Charitable Trusts merged with the staff and operations of the National Environmental Trust to form a brand new 800-pound gorilla of conservation. “The consolidated team, to be called the Pew Environment Group, will have a domestic and international staff of more than 80 and estimated annual operating revenue of approximately $70 million, making it one of the nation’s largest environmental scientific and advocacy organizations,” said Pew publicist Justin Kenney. According to Kenney, the scientists, attorneys, public policy experts and campaign professionals at Pew Environment Group would focus the specific mission of advancing environmental policy by supporting top-level scientific research; building, assisting and coordinating broad coalitions of organizations representing diverse constituencies concerned about environmental protection in the United States. Of particular focus according to Kenney was “the destruction of the world’s marine environment, with particular emphasis on global fisheries.” In 2009, Kenney was hired away from Pew by Dr. Lubchenco, with whom he now works as NOAA’s full time director of communications.
At the formation of the new environmental arm of the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Marine Fish Conservation Network (Network) announced that its Executive Director, Lee Crocket, would step down to join Pew Environment Group as federal fisheries policy director. Crockett spent eight years at the Network helping hog-tie the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act with more restrictive anti-fishing language, and joined the new Pew Environment Group to ensure that those restrictions were followed to the letter of the law. As Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post reported at the time, the merger “Highlights a shift among green groups toward campaign-oriented advocacy. Rather than having staffers who work on general environmental issues over time, Pew Environment Group will aim to accomplish a few high-profile goals such as overhauling the 1872 Mining Law and creating several major overseas marine reserves within the next few years.”

Joshua Reichert, managing director of the Pew Environment Group, called it a “coordinated strategy,” and explained how Pew brought Crockett aboard not simply for his fisheries experience, but “for his proven track record of conducting campaigns to advance fisheries management reform.” Before joining Pew, Reichert served as executive director of the National Security Archive in Washington DC; vice president for conservation at Conservation International; regional representative of the Inter-American Foundation, a public corporation that provides assistance to the urban and rural poor in Latin America and the Caribbean; and special assistant to the chairman of the sub-committee on foreign appropriations of the U.S. House of Representatives. Of the goals now set for Pew, Reichert said “We’re integrating a set of skills and talents into a unified campaign.”

Part of the unified campaign was the continued support of the Marine Fish Conservation Network. Five different conservation groups initially united to form the Network in 1992, including the Center for Marine Conservation (now called Ocean Conservancy), Greenpeace, National Audubon Society, National Coalition for Marine Conservation, and World Wildlife Fund. Funding to originally create and further support the Network (according to their website at http://www.conservefish.org/) comes in the form of charitable grants from Curtis and Edith Munson Foundation, Henry Foundation, David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Marisla Foundation, Norcross Wildlife Foundation, Oak Foundation, Ocean Foundation, Patagonia, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Sandler Family Supporting Foundation, Surdna Foundation, Zephyr Charitable Foundation and Pew Charitable Trusts.

According to one of their own mission documents (A Vision For Our Ocean Future), the Network was formed “To help counter industry influence over the fishery management system.” During their first four years, the Network helped persuade Congress to pass the Sustainable Fisheries Act (SFA), but they were also successful in seeing that “Important conservation provisions were included in the federal law,” which specifically included the insertion of rigid, arbitrary and inflexible timelines for reaching rebuilding targets. These are the non-scientific, time-specific deadlines and inflexible management requirements which have led to emergency closures on important recreational fisheries like sea bass, red snapper and amberjack, and which continue to result in draconian regulations on other fisheries.

During U.S. Senate hearings in Washington 10 years later on the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA), Senator Ted Stevens had debated Crockett when he was director of the Network. Stevens, one of the MSA’s authors and namesake indicated his concern over the amount of litigation over fishing issues, explaining “Slowly but surely the court system is entering into the management of the fisheries.”

During one particular exchange, Stevens questioned Crockett about his organization’s financing and membership and asked Crockett directly if the Network was financed by the Pew Charitable Trusts. “Partially,” Crockett replied.

That fiscal connection between Pew and the Network is one that continues to be a major sticking point as the two entities lead the charge in opposition to the Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act, a bill sponsored in the House by Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and in the Senate by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) which would incorporate limited flexibility into the federal fisheries law to provide recreational anglers more open access to rebuilding fisheries while providing the economic opportunity that the Pew study reports is currently being lost. In their 2007-2008 annual report to members, the Network boasted openly of joining “Network Member groups to oppose Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act of 2008 submitted to Congress.”

When the Network’s Board of Directors met in July of 2008, one of the primary points discussed at the meeting were with regard to “Internal discussions are being held within the Pew Environment Group to determine how to best make the transition away from grant giving and still support Network.” The Network continues to put the full-court press in late 2009 and early 2010 to defeat the Pallone/Schumer legislation.

What’s helped the Pew-funded Marine Fish Conservation Network become more successful in their ability to tap into the very “industry” that their initial charter was developed to “counter.” Having pure environmental and preservationist board members in the early 90’s didn’t provide the Network with enough lobbying strength to have all their goals met, and soon after 2000 they began enlisting the help of various fishing organizations to gain more representative juice when pressing legislators for the need to deny access to fisheries. Many American sportfishermen would probably be surprised to learn the Network’s Board of Advisors, which provides the overall policy direction for the organization, boasts the support of the Jersey Coast Anglers Association, National Coalition for Marine Conservation, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Association, United Anglers of California and International Game Fish Association.

Perhaps as some groups have learned, silence is golden.

THE GREENING OF AMERICA
In an effort to undermine the fishing community’s efforts to stave off more restrictive measures on coastal fisheries, the Pew Environment Group in 2009 purchased a new scientific report called Investing in Our Future: The Economic Case for Rebuilding Mid-Atlantic Fish Populations. The Pew-funded paper used retroactive analysis to estimate the amount of money that Pew claims could’ve been generated in commercial and recreational fisheries if the populations of summer flounder, black sea bass, butterfish and bluefish were considered at rebuilt levels back in 2007.

In a press conference last July, Dr. John M. Gates told reporters that he “was asked by Pew to conduct this analysis,” and explained that in order to compile fiscal data from the recreational sector, “we used something called “Willingness to Pay of Recreational Fshermen,” and I had estimates that were done in 1994 by a man by the name of Hicks.” Gates explained that the study assigned a dollar value for what researcher Dr. Robert Hicks originally called an angler’s willingness to pay for the better “opportunity” to catch fish. “If the stock’s recovered, you’d have a higher catch rate,” Gates said, explaining that by multiplying numbers, “I was able to estimate the foregone willingness to pay in the recreational sector.”

The Pew study shows that anglers are willing to pay more for the opportunity to fish, which is exactly how our industry is currently being destroyed. As many fishermen have said all along, American anglers are being denied opportunity to fish on healthy, rebuilding fish stocks, and yet Pew Environment Groups buys the science to support the claims that denied access is having a terrible impact on our coastal communities.

The Pew study finds that rebuilding summer flounder, black sea bass, butterfish and bluefish populations to federally mandated targets by 2007 would have generated an additional $570 million per year in direct economic benefits. Of course, Pew makes no mention of the fact that scientific targets keep changing, which should mandate more flexibility in the management process. In 2007, scientists at the National Marine Fisheries Service were mandating a 197-million pound target for rebuilt summer flounder stocks, until a new best available science target of 132 million pounds was set using 2007 data.

While the research itself shows that denied opportunity is costing business owners dearly within the marine district, the Recreational Fishing Alliance points out issues with the Pew study as treating all facets of the fishery in absolute, inflexible terms. “It makes some broad assumptions,” said RFA research scientist, John DePersenaire. “During extremely low fishing mortality, the size of the commercial and recreational fishing industry remains constant with no attrition, while the amount of fish seems to be more important to the study than the actual access to the fishery in terms in economic activity. We know for a fact that these two assumptions are false,” DePersenaire added.

Daniel Furlong, Executive Director of the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC) pointed out that bluefish was considered rebuilt in 2007, and explains that the best available data on black sea bass shows that fishery is also fully rebuilt. “No doubt there will be some more economic benefit accruing to the Mid-Atlantic when butterfish and summer flounder are fully rebuilt, but I seriously doubt it will equate to $570 million inasmuch as our most valuable fisheries (surf clams and ocean quahog) generate only $60 million annually,” Furlong said.

“Quite frankly, I would have to argue that the recreational bluefish fishery was more economically valuable when it was overfished in the 80’s and early 90’s compared to now when it is fully rebuilt,” DePersenaire added.
“These groups have been trying to stick with too radical of a rebuilding process, and if we had stuck with their model of rebuilding over the past few years we would’ve already been forced out of business,” said Dave Arbeitman, owner of Reel Seat Bait and Tackle in Brielle, NJ. “The longer the public is denied access, the more likely they’re going to leave the fishery and leave the sport for good.”

Arbeitman said it best when he adds “These groups aren’t taking into consideration the fact that many anglers might just never return after having been denied access for so long.”

But of course, minimizing angler effort in the future would fit in nicely with many of Pew’s plans. Limited number of anglers meshes nicely with the preservationist view of the fisheries resource in terms of protecting the sea kittens, while bioprospectors and marine share-croppers would benefit greatly, as David Lincoln put it, “in removing obstacles to leasing which could accelerate permit approvals.”

FOLLOW THE MONEY
The Pew Charitable Trust has invested billions in the environmental movement, and their relatively new Pew Environment Group has been highly effective in getting media play throughout the United States, in turn, gaining influence within the sportfishing community. The San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center (IndyMedia) recently charged Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) with calling itself an environmentalist organization, but conversely is “created by oil money and awash in Pew Charitable Trust funds, the NRDC brings big oil’s agenda wherever it operates.”

“On California’s North Coast, the NRDC is working in tandem with the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation to make sure the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative (MLPAI) gets the Foundation-preferred alternatives enacted on tight schedule,” IndyMedia reported. Those preferred alternatives would almost certainly shut down public access to the oceans on a permanent basis.

“In the North coast, the NRDC and another foundation-funded corporation, the Ocean Conservancy, have hired field agents from the community to promote and advance the MLPAI agenda,” the IndyMedia report claimed, saying that it’s his belief that there is an obvious conflict of interest for those NRDC employees to participate in any of the community “external array” processes now in progress.

According to IndyMedia, NRDC was founded through grant funding from the Tides Foundation, “the first money-laundering foundation, doing ‘donor-advised giving,’ open about where the money goes, but not where it comes from. Other sources show that the Pew Charitable Trusts has poured over $40 million into Tides.”
The Tides Foundation and Tides Center also maintains an interesting relationship with the multi-billion-dollar Pew Charitable Trusts.

Since 1993 Pew has used the Tides Foundation and/or Tides Center to “manage” three high-profile journalism initiatives: the Pew Center for Excellence in Journalism, the Pew Center for Civic Journalism, and the Pew Center for the People and the Press. These Pew “Centers” are set up as for-profit media companies, which means that Pew, as a “private foundation,” is legally prohibited from funding them directly. Tides has no such hurdle, so it has gladly raked in over $95 million from Pew since 1990 — taking the standard eight percent as pure profit.

In practice, the social reformers at the helm of the Pew Charitable Trusts use these media entities to run public opinion polling; to indoctrinate young reporters in “reporting techniques” that are consistent with Pew’s social goals; and to “promote” (read: subsidize) actual reporting and story preparation that meets Pew’s definition of “civic journalism.” Civic journalism, by the way, is defined as reporting that “mobilizes Americans” behind issues that Pew considers important.

Three years ago, Nils Stolpe, a consultant to the commercial fishing industry and columnist for SavingSeafood.org wrote how Pew Charitable Trusts had paid out roughly $40 million to the Tides Center over a 10-year timeframe starting from 1996, funds which were then disseminated to other recipients in a “trickle down” process. Through his research, Stolpe uncovered where Pew had also issued grants of $15 million to various public broadcasting outfits, and approximately $25 million to Columbia University. According to Stolpe, Columbia University professor Cornelia Dean is also Science Editor for the New York Times, and was identified as a session Presenter/Trainer at a Pew Fellows meeting in the resort island of Bonaire in 2002, where one of the key workshop sessions for scientists was titled “Communicating For Results,” a workshop where attendees would learn how to navigate the stormy waters of the media.

As Science Editor of the Times, Dean followed up with a 2003 column in which she noted “I was a panelist at a meeting of the Pew marine fellows, eminent fisheries and ocean scientists whose work is supported by the Pew Charitable Trusts. Nancy Baron, a zoologist and science writer who works with the fellows, organized the panel as part of her longstanding effort to help scientists better communicate their work and its importance to the wider world.” Most striking to any journalism major, Dean wrote the tell-tale lead, “Last summer, the pollster Daniel Yankelovich reported what might seem a strange finding: scientists are distressed by the media’s insistence on presenting both sides.”

One year later, Stolpe said Dean was present at another meeting of the Pew Fellows at the Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo where she was listed as one of the participants in a workshop titled “Bridging the Worlds of Science and Journalism,” in addition to participating in a panel discussion called “Oceans in the Balance: Is Science or Politics Tipping the Scales?”

Perhaps one of the most insidious and egregious examples of Pew’s level of arrogance came to me earlier this winter via email during the final month leading up to the February 24th rally at the Capitol in Washington DC. The Recreational Fishing Alliance and our allies had spent months planning a public rally to call for reform of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and as expected, Pew and their preservationist allies were active behind the scenes in trying to undermine the effort. A hardcore fishing teenager I know on Long Island who’s become a bit of a media sensation in the northeast copied me on an email solicitation he received on January 28 from a guy named Jamie Pollack, the New York Field Representative for Pew’s U.S. fisheries arm.

At the urging of the Network’s Brooks Mountcastle, Pollack contacted the 15-year-old directly in an email that said, “We have a campaign that we are working on to oppose flexibility in the Magnuson Act. I am seeking one or two fisherman that could go with me when I go to DC Feb 9-11 and participate in my meetings with congressional staffers. We will be speaking about staying the course with the MSA, opposing the Rebuilding in Americas Fisheries Act and to introduce a new piece of legislation called Keep Fishermen Working Bill. Pew would pay for hotel and transportation. Would you or would you know of any fishermen that would be interested and who could take some time off of work to go with me to Washington?”

Pew has spent untold millions on influencing the media, pollsters, legislators, non-profit leaders, civic associations, trade groups, and now, yes, even our children. At a Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council meeting back in 2007, Lee Crockett warned that Pew and the Network would continue to radically oppose any efforts to work with Congress to fix the federal fisheries law, stating matter-of-factly “I want to tell you that my group and other groups in the conservation community are going to fight like heck against that.”

Fight like heck is one thing, but the ideologies at the Pew Charitable Trusts have proven they’ll stop at absolutely nothing in their war to advance their preservationist agenda.

Here at the RFA, we’re hoping there are enough American fishermen out there willing to fight back!

 


CONGRESSMAN JONES SLAMS NOAA CATCH SHARE POLICY- Click HERE to read the full article




Captain Paul G Forsberg at the United We Fish March in Washington DC earlier this year.


January 3rd 2010- Tuna Fishermen Take Action. Your right to catch Tuna is going to be taken away.


http://www.savingseafood.org/conservation-environment/american-bluefin-tuna-association-urges-fishermen-to-attend-noaa-nmcs-listening-sessions-on-endangered-species-li-2.html

Tuna Fishermen have one last opportunity to make their case before the Status Review Team (SRT), comprised solely of NOAA and NMFS employees, makes a determination on listing bluefin tuna under the Endangered Species Act. The initial petition was submitted by the Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity, a group known for using the Endangered Species Act to achieve their goals.


NOAA determined in September that listing bluefin tuna under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) might be warranted. As a result Atlantic bluefin tuna are now considered a candidate species and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) must make a final determination by May 2011 as to whether a listing is warranted. If bluefin tuna were to be listed as “endangered”, all commercial and recreational fishing for bluefin would be prohibited. This prohibition would only affect US fishermen and would have no impact on other countries fishing for bluefin. Even scientists are amazed with the biological futility of an action designed to only affect US fishermen given the low mortality they cause on the species (US fishermen caught less than 5% of the bluefin in the Atlantic in 2009)

The petition was originally submitted by the Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity, a group known for using ESA to achieve their goals. NOAA had the opportunity to dismiss this frivolous attack on US bluefin fishermen but, as is consistent with their recent policy decisions in other areas, they chose to support the petition. The positive finding by NOAA is without merit and NOAA should have dismissed the petition. This is another stunning example of NOAA’s intent to destroy the US bluefin industry and to damage the domestic market for bluefin. A listing under ESA only hurts US fishermen whose quota share would be distributed to other countries along with the US jobs that go with it.

Currently the formal review process is underway. The Status Review Team (SRT), comprised solely of NOAA and NMFS employees, is tasked with compiling all available information on bluefin and conducting a threats assessment/extinction risk analysis. Their report will be handed over to NMFS for the final determination. Despite the overwhelming data to the contrary, there is great concern that Dr Lubchenco will once again try to forward her “preservation” agenda to destroy this fishery.

Fishermen have one last opportunity to have input in this process before the SRT makes its report to NMFS. The American Bluefin Tuna Association (ABTA) insisted that fishermen be allowed the opportunity to be heard and NMFS agreed. There are 5 “Listening Sessions” scheduled in January 2011 that will allow fishermen to educate the SRT as to their observations of the fish and their habits, as well as give their opinions of why the current available science may be flawed and insufficient.

It is important that fishermen attend at least one of the 5 listening sessions. It is critical that NMFS hears your comments and insights. The existing science is very weak and a thorough compilation of fishermen’s observations should be influential. ESA is the knock-out punch. Take it seriously and come speak your mind. Let Dr Lubchenco know your feelings about the health of your fishery.

If you plan to attend any of the meetings please contact Kim Damon-Randall at kimberly.damon-randall@noaa.gov or call her at  978-282-8485  in advance. It is necessary to RSVP due to security and space concerns.

Please visit the “Current Actions” section of the ABTA web site at http://www.theabta.com/CurrentActions.html to see “Listening Discussion Topics” and some other documents which will help fishermen understand the ESA process.

The meeting schedule is as follows: (each meeting begins at 10am):

Jan 5 - NMFS Lab in Sandy Hook, NJ

Jan 6 - Mariner's House in Boston, MA

Jan 7 - Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland, ME

Jan 10- NMFS Lab in Pascagoula, MS

Jan 11- NMFS Lab in Beaufort, NC

NMFS has also arranged to have a Web Ex for each session. If you are interested in participating via Web Ex, please contact Kim with the date of the session you are interested in, and she will provide the Web Ex information. Finally, NMFS has reserved an operator assisted conference line for those wishing to call in. The number is  888-455-1634 , and the operator will ask for a verbal pass code which is "bluefin tuna." The operator will ask for your name and affiliation and will help to facilitate those on the call to ensure that anyone wishing to ask a question or provide information has the opportunity to do so.

Also written comments can be sent to Kim via email (or regular mail at NMFS, 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930) no later than close of business on January 18th.



Update Nov 12 2010
CONGRESSMAN JONES SLAMS NOAA CATCH SHARE POLICY


Washington, Nov 8 -

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today U.S. Congressman Walter B. Jones (NC-3) sent a letter to Dr. Jane Lubchenco, Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), opposing NOAA’s recently announced National Catch Share Policy and demanding answers regarding its development. Jones called the policy “totally unnecessary for species protection.” He expressed outrage over NOAA’s announcement of a $2.2 million grant program to advance its catch shares agenda, which will put Americans out of work and is opposed by the vast majority of fishermen. Jones believes that “to the extent that solid science demonstrates that reductions in catch in any given fishery are necessary, there are far better options than catch shares for achieving those reductions.” Jones has long opposed catch shares and is working in Congress to block funding for implementation of new catch share programs.

Click HERE to read the full article


 


Update November 11 2010

Bellow is a letter I have put together, which has been sent to our elected officials, newspapers, radio stations, and fishing organizations. I urge you to read it and to do the same. We need to spread awareness!


Capt Paul G Forsberg

"Let us have our jobs back!"

My name is Paul G Forsberg and I am the owner of Viking Fleet which operates fishing party boats out of Montauk NY, New Bedford MA, Quincy MA, and formerly from Tarpon Springs FL. I would like to bring to your attention an issue which has not been in the media, and has garnered a lot less attention than it deserves. The issue is the unnecessarily harsh fishing regulations imposed on fishermen all along the Southeast and Northeast Atlantic coast line- impacting negatively the recreational sector of the industry as well as the commercial and party boat businesses. Millions of jobs have been lost unnecessarily. Read on to find out more!

The Magnuson- Stevens Fishery conservation and Management Act of 1976 and its two major amendments in 1996 and 2006 is the governing force behind the policies and regulations the fishing communities have been burdened with. The 2006 amendment of the act puts forth a timeline for rebuilding fish stocks which lacks flexibility, thus destroying the fishing industry. The act lays out a plan for rebuilding stocks along the Atlantic coast- many of which are on track, or have already been rebuilt by as much as 200% in the case of the porgy (scup) fisheries.

The agency behind the scientific research conducted in an effort to estimate the fish populations and their health is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and its Fisheries Service. In a report to the US Congress, the agency itself has declared 85% of fisheries examined in 2009 to be rebuilt. Somehow, the numbers are being ignored and the strict regulations implemented are in direct conflict of what we know about the fish stocks. Almost all fisheries are at healthy levels, yet us fishermen are being denied access to those fisheries and our livelihoods and means of supporting our families and communities are being destroyed.

The recent appointment of Jane Lubchenco by President Obama as a head to NOAA's Fisheries Service is another development that has gone under the radar. Dr Lubchenco's past career appointments include serving on the Pew Ocean Commission. She has also received a Pew Fellowship in the amount of $150,000. Pew as an organization pumps some 5 billion dollars into research aimed at promoting extreme environmental ideology and bad science. The fishing industry has no chance of survival- we cannot fight a 5 billion dollar behemoth whose protege currently holds one of the most powerful positions in fisheries management. We need a non-bias, moderate appointee in that position. Her appointment was protested in New England, and her resignation has been asked for by many, including Senator Barney Frank.

One of the proposed policies put forth by Dr Lubchenco's team is that of "Catch Shares". Catch Shares basically convert our oceans and the fish stocks into commodities that will be doled out by the government to fishermen in the form of permits which will allow a preset catch. Fishermen will then be allowed to sell or rent their shares to others in the industry, and the catch shares will be a percent of the so called "Total Allowable Catch" or TAC. The TAC will be mandated by the government. To put it in Dr. Lubchenco's own words, Catch Shares are: "A negotiable stock that fishermen can sell as they go out of business, allowing them to exit with some cash." Catch Shares are a politically correct way of saying fishermen will be forced to take a pitiful severance package as they are made to exit the industry without a chance of survival.

My business employs 50 employees in our Northeast locations during the height of the season. At one point that number was in the 60's. Business has been going downhill and we have lost a number of our employees. We were forced to close our Tarpon Springs, Florida port completely due to the unnecessary and harsh fishing regulations, which has cost the local economy millions of dollars. In addition we were forced to lay off 12 of my employees in Florida, and the situation is looking grimmer every day. This is not isolated to just the fishing industry. It is a catastrophic chain reaction which has hurt tackle shops, restaurants, the hospitality industry and the entire tourism industry as well. These industries employ millions of people. Why can't we put people back to work? If you want to create jobs and get us back on the right track- let us fish! The fish stocks are healthy, but we are told to sit back and watch as we lose our freedom, our right to fish, and our right to support our families and communities.

We need room to breathe. We need to go back to work. We need to preserve our right to fish. We need to pass S. 1255- Flexibility in Rebuilding Fisheries Act of 2009 sponsored by Senator Chuck Schumer-NY and cosponsored by Kristen Gillibrand-NY, and H. R. 1584 originated by Frank Pallone. The two bills aim to introduce flexibility to the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which in its current format is used as a tool to destroy the fishing industry. That will be the first step in reviving our coastal industries and returning some much needed jobs as well as creating new ones!

I was at a meeting in Tampa, FL on Monday Nov 8th, organized by the Gulf Council. The issue discussed was Sector Separation in the Recreational Fishery. It was brought to my attention during that meeting that as far as the government is concerned in the Gulf of Mexico, fishing is no longer a right. It is now a privilege. No one seems to know when our fishing rights were stolen from us by the government and when it became a privilege in the Gulf of Mexico. I have a section of my website dedicated to articles and news pertinent to the plight of our industry. You can visit www.vikingfleet.com to read more about what has been taking place under the radar for over a decade of struggle to preserve our right to fish.

Sincerely,


Capt. Paul G Forsberg



UPDATE NOVEMBER 10:

ASMFC REJECTS COMMERCIAL STRIPER QUOTA INCREASE
RFA Says It's Time To Address Illegal and Un-Reported Harvest

(11/9/2010) - The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASFMC) today rejected a proposed increase in commercial striped bass quota. According to FishingUnited.com, the final vote of 10-4-1 in favor of status quo was supported by Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Sources indicated that states supporting measures to increase the commercial harvest of striped bass included North Carolina, Delaware, Rhode Island and New York. The ASMFC representative from the District of Columbia was absent for the vote and the Potomac River Fisheries Commission voted to abstain.

"We're pleased that there's no commercial increase, but as we've said all along there was no need for any increase in either the commercial or recreational sector, not when there are so many questions with regard to the illegal and unreported harvest we know to be taking place in federal waters," said Jim Donofrio Executive Director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA). Donofrio cited evidence from federal enforcement authorities over the past two seasons of a number of striped bass harvest violations in federal waters off North Carolina in January and February when big breeding size fish are staging several miles off Carolina's Outer Banks. Donofrio notes that it's illegal for any striped bass to be harvested outside of 3 miles from shore, whether commercial or recreational.

"Now that we're done with this debate over increasing commercial harvest of striped bass, it's time for the ASMFC and the federal government to figure out what's going on with the illegal fishery as documented by the U.S. Coast Guard and several Mid-Atlantic state agencies," Donofrio added.

Last month, RFA submitted official comments to the ASMFC on behalf of their national membership as well as the New York Sportfishing Federation, opposing efforts to increase the commercial striped bass harvest based on several issues including the illegal harvest in federal waters while also citing recent stock assessments showing that the 2007 and 2008 striped bass population abundance estimates (in numbers of fish) are the lowest in the past 15 years. The RFA noted that at a time when recreational anglers are asking ASMFC to look at efforts to reduce the number of bigger breeding striped bass harvested, the proposal to kill more fish in the commercial sector was ill-timed.

"There is growing consensus within the recreational sector that our coastal regulations should be modified to minimize harvest on bigger, older fish in the population," said RFA Managing Director and New York Sportfishing Federation president, Jim Hutchinson, Jr. "I'm rather disappointed to learn that our New York delegates failed to listen to the overwhelming opposition to increased striper harvest within our recreational fishing community, but thankfully there's proper reasoning coming from our neighboring ASMFC states."

Hutchinson noted that a series of hearings were held to gauge public comment on the proposal, which he said was overwhelming in New York as being opposed to the increase. "The anglers made it clear that it's time to talk about renewed conservation efforts to protect breeding stock fish, and I don't know if there's anyone I've spoken to in the recreational sector who believed that a quota increase was appropriate at this time, certainly not in New York or New Jersey," Hutchinson said.



Fight for Your Right to Fish- News, Views, and Updates


What can you do? Contact your State Legislators NOW. Let them know how you feel about the issues. We have compiled a list of senators on a state by state basis HERE.


The Viking Fleet would like to extend our gratitude to Senator Chuck Schumer of NY for his continued efforts in supporting the fishing community.


The Viking Fleet supports the Boy Scouts of America. Earn your merit badges fishing on the Viking Fleet. All boy scouts fish half price on any of our trips. Please contact your local representatives and voice your support against a movement to prevent Boy Scouts of America earning their merit badges fishing.


The Recreational Fishing Alliance
The RFA Mission

bullet
Safeguard the rights of saltwater anglers
bullet
Protect marine, boat and tackle industry jobs
bullet
Ensure the long-term sustainability of our nation’s fisheries.

Commercial fishermen and environmentalists are pushing their agenda on marine fisheries issues affecting you. The Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) is in the trenches too, lobbying, educating decision makers and ensuring that the interests of America’s coastal fishermen are being heard loud and clear. Incorporated in 1996 as a 501c4 national, grassroots political action organization, RFA represents recreational fishermen and the recreational fishing industry on marine fisheries issues on every coast, with state chapters established to spearhead the regional issues while building local support.

The RFA has worked tirelessly, fighting for recreational fishermen and bringing latest information and news to everyone interested in keeping their right to fish. Join the RFA by going HERE


October 30 Update



OBAMA ADMINISTRATION SET TO CLOSE ANOTHER FISHERY
"Fishery Tale of Fishery Management Is Destroying Our Industry"

(10/29/2010) - The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) was recently notified by NMFS' Southeast Regional Office that a 4,800-square mile fishing ban is on its way for South Atlantic anglers. A final rule to implement controversial Amendment 17A will likely be published in mid-November, but the U.S. Department of Commerce's announcement will ultimately establish a closed area extending from southern Georgia to Cape Canaveral, FL affecting angler harvest and possession of all snapper-grouper species.

 

The fishing closure affects areas with depths between 98 and 240 feet and is being implemented as part of the Amendment 17-A which indefinitely bans all bottom-fishing for both the commercial and recreational sectors. A blanket ban on red snapper harvest adopted as a temporary measure last year remains in effect in a 200-nautical mile zone off the entire Southeast coast.

 

According to the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA), the closure is based purely on flawed science, inaccurate harvest data and overly restrictive federal fisheries language written into the Magnuson Stevens Fisheries Management and Conservation Act. "There is no biological problem with this fishery," said RFA Executive Director Jim Donofrio, "this is a management and legislative problem, not a fishery issue."

 

"This fishery is rebuilding and that's not even a debate for our fisheries experts, but because it's not rebuilding fast enough according to Magnuson, the government has to shut down access to healthy fisheries," Donofrio said. "How can you defend a law which is so punitive to a uniquely American industry, a law which denies everyday anglers access to a public resource."

 

The plan is forecast to cost area fishermen millions of dollars in lost catch, not only in snapper but grouper, sea bass and other harvests from dozens of species commonly caught through bottom fishing.

 

"It's going to put a lot of people of business," said Capt. Bob Zales, II President of the National Association of Charterboat Operators (NACO). "You'll probably have a lot of small family owned charter operators going out of business, not to mention tackle shops, restaurants, marinas, hotels and every other business that relies on fishing and tourism," he added. According to Zales, who's also a member of the RFA national board of directors, it would be one thing if the fishery was in trouble. However, he explains the strict requirements under Magnuson prevent any flexibility within the fisheries management process to allow fishermen to continue fishing.

 

"The Magnuson Stevens Act dictates that all fisheries are managed by a one-size-fits-all approach, and that just doesn't work," Zales said, adding "Cinderella's slipper doesn't fit on every foot, and this fairy tale of fisheries management is destroying our industry."

 

Fellow RFA board member Tom Putnam of Half-Hitch Bait and Tackle in Panama City said he's concerned for his business associates on the East Coast of Florida and Georgia, and said restrictive measures on the Gulf Coast have had a terrible impact on the recreational fishing industry there. "It's totally changed our business, with snapper season only being 54 days it cut our business by over 30%," Putnam said, adding "I can't imagine what a total closure will do to our friends on the Atlantic Coast."

 

After visiting the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show this week, Putnam said there's a lot of concern in the boating industry now because of these fisheries management issues. "They're making it where people don't want to buy boats," he said of the government restrictions, adding he's also concerned about the next steps proposed for the Gulf grouper fishery as well.

 

In June, the RFA submitted comments to the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) asking that its members not take official action on Amendment 17A based on evidence that the fishery was healthy and rebuilding. "As we said at the time, you can't use fatally flawed harvest data to make overfished and overfishing determinations," Donofrio said.

 

Ongoing fishing bans implemented by the Department of Commerce including that for red snapper and black sea bass in the Mid-Atlantic have kept RFA and allies busily lobbying Congress during the past 3 years since Magnuson was reauthorized with more restrictive statutory definitions. Donofrio said Congressional efforts to counteract these overly-restrictive measures including legislation sponsored by Rep. Frank Pallone to add flexibility to federal rebuilding timelines (HR1584) and Rep. John Mica (HR3307) to limit the authority of the Secretary to prohibit red snapper fishing in the South Atlantic without improved studies have not moved fast enough to protect fishermen.

 

While the Pallone bill had a Senate companion bill sponsored by Sen. Charles Schumer (S1255), efforts to find a Florida Senator to sponsor a companion piece to the Mica bill addressing red snapper closures were unsuccessful.

 

"This new proposed closure is evidence that the priority for the entire fishing industry must be fisheries reform and an overhaul of Magnuson," Donofrio said. "We need a law that allows for access, rebuilding and sustainability, which can all be achieved without complete closures, and we need to prioritize these efforts after the November 2 elections."

 



October 6 Update

Recreational Fishing Alliance

I think it's safe to say that this November's mid-term elections may be the most important in our lifetimes. Over the past few years, our nation's hardcore saltwater sportsmen have watched as radical preservationist ideology - an agenda which has led to a broken and fatally flawed fisheries management system, most of which is not perpetuated by science - has been continually supported by partisan imbalance in the U.S. Senate.

 

During the course of our nation's history, whenever one party gains too much control over the will of the people, the truth of 'right and wrong' will be lost in a cloud of ideological agenda. It doesn't matter if it's the right or the left, something's got to give - and on November 2, 2010, you can help chart the course for the direction our nation takes for the next six years!

 

Make a difference - make sure you vote on November 2!

 

The Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) is a non-partisan, not-for-profit political action organization that represents recreational fishermen and the recreational fishing industry on marine fisheries issues. As a 501c4 organization, the RFA is legally allowed to provide candidate-related information to members, endorse specific candidates, urge the election or defeat of a particular candidate, and encourage contributions to a candidate. That's what makes the RFA unique as an organization, with the stated mission since 1996 "to safeguard the rights of saltwater anglers, protect marine, boat and tackle industry jobs, and ensure the long-term sustainability of our Nation's saltwater fisheries."

 

On behalf of our national membership, the RFA has compiled the following list of Senate recommendations for the upcoming election. True to our mission, RFA is openly supporting both Republican and Democratic candidates in this cycle based on their support of our specific issues within the recreational fishing community.

 

It should be noted that there are some incumbents who've had the chance to work with us in the past, but due to their lack of caring and/or involvement in fisheries issues when they could've helped us most, the RFA has decided to seek out new voices as representatives within those particular states.

 

When you're weighing the U.S. Senate options in the voting booth this November 2, here's where the RFA stands in terms of the coastal candidates, and where they stand on issues regarding your right to fish!


Jim Donofrio Signature
Jim Donofrio -
RFA Executive Director

AL- Richard ShelbyALABAMA

The RFA supports incumbent Republican Senator Richard Shelby over his Democratic challenger William Barnes.

ALASKA

Lisa MarkowskiAs ranking Republican on the House Energy Committee and a friend to the fishing and boating industry, Lisa Murkowski has shown strong leadership worthy of RFA endorsement. Her race as an Independent against Republican Joe Miller and Democrat Scott McAdams will be one to watch.

CALIFORNIA

Carly FiorinaThe U.S. Senate race between Republican challenger Carly Fiorina and incumbent Democrat Barbara Boxer has been heating up, and the RFA believes Fiorina has a good chance to win, particularly if the sportfishing community can respond! Boxer has been completely missing on fishing issues and has wholeheartedly embraced the radical green agenda. Sen. Boxer fails to recognize the significance of California's sportfishing industry, and for that reason RFA supports Republican challenger, Carly Fiorina, in this important race.

CONNECTICUT

Linda McMahonRFA supports the Republican Senate candidate Linda McMahon over the Democrat Richard Blumenthal. Our fishing community has had less-than-stellar experience with Senate Democrats from Connecticut in recent years, and for that reason we're supporting businesswoman Linda McMahon.

DELAWARE

Christine O'DonnellIt's time for a fresh face in the First State, and we believe that Republican Christine O'Donnell is the choice over Democrat Chris Coons. Recent senators from Delaware have done little or next to nothing to help our coastal fishermen along.

FLORIDA

Marco RubioThe three-way U.S. Senate race in Florida is key to helping fix the problems in our federal fisheries law. The RFA is endorsing Republican candidate Marco Rubio over Democrat Kendrick Meek and the Independent challenger, former governor Charlie Crist. Marco Rubio started engaging the fishing industry during the oil crisis and he's very interested in working with our community.

 

GEORGIA

Johnny Isakson

The RFA endorses Republican Johnny Isakson in the race against Democrat Michael Thurmond.

 

 

LOUISIANA

Dave Vitter

Incumbent Republican Senator David Vitter has been a friend to Louisiana Sportsmen since he was in the House of Representatives; the RFA is endorsing David Vitter in the race against Democrat Charlie Melancon the democrat.

 

 

MARYLAND

Eric Wargotz

RFA endorses Dr. Eric Wargotz over incumbent Senator Barbara Mikulski who has ignored frequent pleas from the recreational fishing community. Barbara Mikulski has been in DC for too long; let's hope Maryland sportsmen turn out in droves in November for the Republican challenger, Dr. Wargotz.

 

 

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Kelly Ayotte

Senator Paul Hodes has been MIA on fisheries issues; RFA has been to Mr. Hodes' office on several occasions with no response - except when it comes time to raising funds for the election cycle! It's time for Mr. Hodes to re-enter the private sector! In New Hampshire, the RFA is wholeheartedly supporting Republican Kelly Ayotte in the New Hampshire Senate race.

NEW YORK

Charles Schumer

Kirsten Gillibrand Our good friend Senator Charles Schumer has been a friend of the fishing community for a very long time; the junior Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has also been a vocal supporter of our fishing interests. Both Democrats were in attendance at our February 24th rally and are key signers of the Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act.

NORTH CAROLINA

Richard Burr

RFA is endorsing our good friend Senator Richard Burr the Republican candidate over Democrat Elaine Marshall. Senator Burr has been a friend to fishermen for a long time and is one of the co-sponsors of the Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act.

 

PENNSYLVANIA

Pat Toomey

While the RFA appreciates Democrat Joe Sestak's willingness to go against pure party lines as a PA Congressman, it's time for a change in the Keystone State - as such, the RFA is endorsing the Republican Pat Toomey in this particular Senate race. Since Pennsylvania holds seats on the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and Mid Atlantic Fishery Management Council, RFA hopes to finally see a legislative voice for fishermen coming from the Keystone State in the future.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Jim DeMint

RFA endorses incumbent Republican Jim DeMint over challenger, Alvin Greene, Democrat. This is a no-brainer, particularly since the Senate opponent was a felon before he ever got involved in politics.

WASHINGTON

Dino Rossi

RFA strongly endorses Republican Dino Rossi in the race against Democratic incumbent Senator Patty Murray. The race is a toss-up; sportsmen need to get out and vote and support Rossi in this race. Sen. Murray has been MIA on fishing issues.

 

 

The RFA will release their list of Congressional endorsements on Wednesday, October 13th.



September 30 Update
SPECIAL REPORT: An Iron Triangle based in NOAA is killing the U.S. fishing industry
By: Ron Arnold Examiner Contributor September 28, 2010


Jane Lubchenco, career environmental activist and author of a cap-and-trade plan for America’s fisheries, is the most controversial director ever to run the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

A marine scientist, Lubchenco co-wrote a 2009 paper titled “Oceans of Abundance,” claiming, “the global oceans are being emptied of seafood. Scientists report that 90 percent of large fish — highly sought after species like tuna and swordfish — have been removed from the oceans.”

Other scientists disputed that claim, but President Obama didn’t nominate them to head NOAA.
She is at the center of a classic Washington Iron Triangle that includes wealthy liberal foundations, radical environmental nonprofits and multiple government officials, many of whom, like Lubchenco, came out of the foundations or activist groups.

Lubchenco has done so much to kill the New England fishing industry that 300 angry Gloucester, Mass., citizens protested outside the regional office of the federal fisheries service last October.

They didn’t hang Lubchenco in effigy. Instead, they mounted an ugly mannequin representing her, looming over a gallows where she was the one hanging two fishermen in effigy. The signs pinned to their heavy weather gear read, “Betrayed by government.”

In New England alone, the commercial fishing industry includes more than 35,000 fishermen and boat operators, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. New Bedford, Mass., is the most active of 88 ports listed by NOAA as part of the industry, which caught an estimated $2.9 billion worth of fish in 2009.

In July, two Massachusetts Democratic congressmen, Barney Frank and John Tierney, called for Lubchenco to resign or be fired, not only for her treacherous hostility toward the American fishing industry, but also for harboring a culture of corrupt law enforcement agents that treated fishermen as criminals and systematically sped the culling of the fleet.

The lawmakers were furious at what Commerce Department Inspector General Todd Zinser revealed in a July 1 memo to Lubchenco — a $96 million “Asset Forfeiture Fund,” an account NOAA officers built from enormous fishing fines far out of proportion to the violations.

The fund was being handled like a slush fund to buy 202 vehicles for 172 officers, a $300,000 luxury “undercover” yacht (Lubchenco may not have known about this purchase), and a $109,000 trip to Norway for 15 agents to attend the weeklong Global Fisheries Enforcement Training Workshop, among 83 pages of other irregularities.
Anger against Lubchenco isn’t limited to New England. Fishing fleets operating in Virginia, along the Gulf coast, and in California and Alaska are also being bled despite her Senate confirmation hearing pledge to create “a new climate of trust” in what senators called the “seriously dysfunctional relationship” that had poisoned relations between fishing regulators and fishermen for nearly 10 years.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., introduced his fellow Oregonian (professor of marine biology, Oregon State University) as the “Bionic Woman of Good Science” with many awards — a $500,000 MacArthur “genius grant,” a $150,000 Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation, and a year as president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

She sailed through confirmation, then headed straight to New England and demanded that the local fisheries authority write a plan imposing her new untried program on their fleet.
Lubchenco first came to Washington in 1997 as a board member of the Environmental Defense Fund (2008 income: $112 million), which has been the vanguard for a radical restructuring of the fishing industry, converting the ocean commons into commodities that EDF named “catch shares.”

That’s not “shares” as in splitting up the catch equitably, it’s “shares” as in paper permits for a preset catch, doled out to fishermen by the government in dribbles designed, according to Lubchenco, to remove “a significant fraction” of the industry’s operators.

A fisherman could sell or rent his shares to somebody seeking a bigger catch, but every geographical area and species has a government-mandated cap called a Total Allowable Catch that can’t be exceeded. Each catch share is a percentage of the Total Allowable Catch.

If a fishing boat captain doesn’t get enough shares to survive, he learns the hard way what a Gloucester reporter heard when Lubchenco was asked to define catch shares: “A negotiable stock that fishermen can sell as they go out of business, allowing them to exit with some cash.”

During the 2009 Milken Institute Global Conference in Los Angeles, EDF Vice President David Festa projected a 400 percent return on investment for catch shares. The institute is “junk-bond king” Michael Milken’s think tank that now directs private capital into investments “that serve the public interest.”

But nobody at the conference said anything about big environmental groups buying up shares or driving prices to disastrous levels. Or that catch shares inevitably meant ending a centuries-long American tradition of small-scale operations, leaving fishing communities as graveyards for rotting fishing boats. Milken thus has gone from junk bonds to junk fleets.

Rich foundations have funded the EDF/Lubchenco obsession with government control of the American fishing fleet. The Moore Foundation, based on founder Gordon Moore’s Intel profits, gave EDF $3.5 million from 2005 to 2008 to support catch shares, while the Packard Foundation gave EDF $2.2 million for its Oceans Program between 2002 and 2006. The Pew Charitable Trusts operates its own oceans program.

The Packard Foundation gave $2.1 million for Lubchenco’s Aldo Leopold Leadership Program, which she started in 1997. She says scientists must lead politicians and the public to create a world that is “ecologically sound, economically feasible and socially just.”

Her ALLP trains selected scientists to use talking points with reporters. Following lessons on public relations techniques of role-playing and critique sessions, trainees practice speaking in crisp sound bites. Among the trainers for ALLP are journalists working for the New York Times, Washington Post and National Public Radio, along with White House and congressional staff members.

As NOAA director, however, Lubchenco tells scientists what to say and how to say it via government memos. She knows Obama has her back because he said no when Frank and Tierney demanded her removal.
Her personal staff consists largely of fellow environmentalists. Senior Adviser Monica Medina from the Pew Charitable Trusts headed the Obama NOAA transition team and recommended Lubchenco for director. Medina’s husband is Ron Klain, Vice President Biden’s chief of staff.

Lubchenco’s chief of staff, Margaret Spring, came from the Nature Conservancy, and her communications director, Justin Kenney, from the Pew Charitable Trusts. Her confidential adviser is Amrit Mehra, who worked for Obama in the Senate.

That’s entrenched power.
Ron Arnold is vice president of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, and author of “Freezing in the Dark: Money, Power, Politics and the Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy.”




September 25 Update

ANGLERS SAY EPA LEAD BAN PETITION IS SIMPLY FOR THE BIRDS
September 15 Deadline For Fishermen To Weigh In On Heavy Metal Debate

Capt. Bob Zales, II, president of the National Association of Charterboat Operators (NACO) recently emailed a letter to charter captains encouraging comment on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) petition to ban all lead in fishing tackle. According to Zales, the EPA was recently petitioned by the Center for Biological Diversity and four other organizations to ban all lead in fishing tackle under the Toxic Substances Control Act.
Zales, who was just voted to a three-year term on the national board of directors for the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) urged fishermen to weigh in on the potential ban on lead fishing products, which he said included lead sinkers, jigs, weighted fly line, ballast in lures, spinners, other terminal tackle and even components in reels. “This sweeping proposal would include all tackle that contains lead, so please send your comments,” Zales said.
RFA Executive Director Jim Donofrio said there are legitimate concerns raised by the issue of lost lead- based terminal gear used by anglers, but stressed that other more reasonable approaches to minimize the introduction of lead into the marine environment should be investigated. “Calling for a sudden and complete ban on lead fishing products seems to run well beyond the intent of the original petition,” Donofrio said, adding “the original petition was presented with the aim of reducing bird deaths caused by the ingestion of lead sinkers and jigheads, yet the best available science shows that less than 1% of all waterfowl and other are killed by lead sinker ingestion.” A longtime waterfowler himself, Donofrio said “Banning lead in recreational fishing tackle will have a negligible impact on waterfowl populations.”
Instead of a sudden and complete ban, Donofrio hopes that national manufacturers and their associated trade groups would help defeat the proposal by offering to adopt a responsible stewardship role by committing to a gradual reduction of lead in terminal gear through the use of alternative non-toxic materials. “Individual anglers and small business operators should not be denied access to fishing opportunities if lead-free alternatives aren’t readily available,” Donofrio said. The RFA believes that a lead ban would unfair to the general angling public considering the lack of available alternatives and questionable science.
“At this point, the data does not support a federal ban on lead sinkers for fishing, and we support the efforts of groups like NACO and the Marine Retailers Association of America (MRAA) to have this petition quashed,” Donofrio said. “Overarching restrictions like these need to be based on sound science, not ideological rhetoric. It’s simply more anti-fishing, anti-fisherman, doomsday protectionism in the name of loons and loony extremists,” Donofrio added.
NACO, MRAA and the RFA said that individual recreational anglers and business owners can get involved by visiting www.joinrfa.org/Press/EPACOMMENTSDUE091510.pdf to download a copy of a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. Simply print the letter, sign it, and stick it in an envelope before September 15, 2010.
"It's a well-known fact that government officials generally don't respond to general emails unless you have a personal email address," Donofrio said. "It's been our experience here at the RFA that a full-blown printed mailing campaign lends a much greater impact in these government offices." He encouraged anglers to get involved by printing out letters to mail off to DC by the end of this week.


September 13 Update

NEW PEW PANEL CLAIMS TO HELP ANGLERS
RFA Says Committee Only Helps Bureaucrats Ignore Congressional Mandates
 
(9/9/2010) An email sent recently to members of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Council) from the Senior Policy Analyst from Pew Charitable Trusts' Campaign to End Overfishing in the Southeast shows a disturbing alliance between members of the preservationist community and those from the "fish first" conservation set. Together, the union is being touted as a recreational fishing coalition, although to some angling groups that appears to be a bogus claim.

Pew's Chad Hanson writes "I wanted to provide an update on a collaborative effort between recreational fishing and conservation organizations to examine and recommend alternative methods for improving recreational data collection programs in the US." According to Hanson, a group of fisheries experts, including members of the Gulf Council's Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) were invited to a private workshop to discuss improving the timeliness and accuracy of recreational fishing data.

Hanson says a full report highlighting their self-described Blue Ribbon Panel recommendations is now being finalized and will be issued publicly sometime in September. The Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) received an advance copy of the workshop synopsis, and believes recreational fishermen in America shouldn't hold their breath waiting for any earth-shattering news.

"When the world's top scientists participated in a National Research Council review of the angling data collection methods about 6 years ago, NOAA Fisheries was given very clear direction in how to fix the recreational harvest surveys," said RFA Executive Director, Jim Donofrio. "Congress told NOAA specifically how to fix the data and they told them when to do it." Donofrio said despite the specific NRC instructions, NOAA has failed to address the "fatally flawed" data.

"We don't need more committees, we need federal action," Donofrio said. RFA said conservation groups could have saved a lot of time and effort by simply reviewing the information and research items under section 401 of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. "Every time a new self-proclaimed 'blue ribbon' task force is formed, it just gives federal bureaucrats breathing room to sit back on their office chairs and shuffle more papers around instead of meeting the requirements of our federal fisheries law."

According to the synopsis issued by Pew, the newly formed "Blue Ribbon Panel" was organized and facilitated by the Pew-funded Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP) based on a recommendation from an ad-hoc group of marine conservation and recreational fishing organizations known as the 'Fish Collaborative.' "We're not sure exactly who makes up this Fish Collaborative, but when you look at the co-chairs selected to oversee the panel findings, I don't see how the recreational fishing community is being represented," Donofrio said.

Pew said TRCP's self-titled Blue Ribbon Panel was facilitated by Beltway insider and former CNN Producer George Cooper, with the three co-chairs drawn from within the ambiguous Fish Collaborative comprised of Pew's Hanson, Doug Rader of Environmental Defense Fund, and Dick Brame of the Coastal Conservation Association.

"Saltwater anglers have spent years arguing with stubborn conservationists about our own onwater observations and the deficiencies with their coveted science, but to no avail," said Jim Hutchinson, Jr., Managing Director of the RFA. "Now, nearly six years after the NRC memorialized the data as flawed, these same beltway insiders are forming new alliances with the very groups who've helped lead the charge for marine reserves, fisheries closures and resource privatization through catch shares, which is really hard to comprehend," Hutchinson added.

Hutchinson said groups with a mission only to protect fish typically ignore pleas from the fishermen themselves. "They're quick to punish anglers when they believe we're harvesting too many fish, but they're not as receptive to hearing our real-time opinions concerning the health of the resource." Hutchinson said Mid-Atlantic stocks like summer flounder, black sea bass and porgy are healthier than at any time in recorded management history, while even the red snapper population theories have been publicly called out into question.

"If any of the usual suspects really cared about the interests of our local fishing communities, they'd be calling out NOAA fisheries for failing to meet their congressionally mandated deadlines to fix the data," said Donofrio, adding "and they'd do it with as much passion as they display when they call on fishermen to meet arbitrary rebuilding deadlines."

At the behest of Congress, the NRC convened in 2004/2005 to review the Marine Recreational Fishing Statistical Survey (MRFSS) used by NOAA Fisheries to estimate fishing effort and catch data in the recreational sector. Their official report blasted the methodology of surveying anglers based on random telephone contacts, while recommending "the development of and subsequent sampling from a comprehensive national saltwater angler registry." When the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act was reauthorized by Congress in 2006 and signed into law by the President in 2007, it required the Secretary of Commerce to establish a national saltwater registry program which meets the recommendations of the NRC panel of experts.

"Magnuson required a new survey program be completed as of 2009 using registered angler contact information, increased numbers of dockside intercepts, vessel trip reports from charter vessels, and even requiring a weather-corrective factor for applying to angler catch and effort estimates," said Donofrio. "In 2010, this new MRIP program has not implemented, a clear violation of federal law by our very own federal government," he said.

According to the synopsis issued by Hanson, Pew's new panel of experts will be making new recommendations to "help NOAA take a step forward from what is currently utilized for recreational data (namely MRIP)." RFA believes that looking into the future is always a good thing, but using past performance as a guide, the Pew Charitable Trusts is no ally for today's recreational fishermen.

"The lobbying arm of Pew helped rewrite the federal law to ratchet down limits on our coastal anglers, they've openly lobbied for a system of catch shares, they've pushed for marine protected areas and they've actively led the ideological war against our coastal fishing communities, why on earth would any so-called fishing advocate bed down with these wolves," asked Donofrio. "These conservation groups are doing nothing but providing cover for bureaucrats, while hijacking fisheries management away from seasoned professionals," he added.

According to the RFA, some of the same representative groups working on private panels have also supported national efforts to punish the recreational sector using currently the same flawed data. "Last week the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council became the first to approve recreational accountability measures when annual catch limits are exceeded," Hutchinson said. "I don't believe you can have recreational paybacks based on bad data, but once again these conservation groups are first in line to greet our anglers with the belt," he said.

"Our community is being asked to pay research set-asides to fund data collection, we're even raising funds for trawl surveys and statistical models," noted Donofrio. "It's time to stop covering for the bureaucrats with panels and summits while allowing the recreational fishing community to continually take all the heat."

According to Donofrio, members of the angling community contributed money towards updated benchmark assessments through the Save the Summer Flounder Fishery Fund in 2008, which led to a dynamic new modeling approach to looking at that Mid-Atlantic fishery. "Ironically, these self-described blue ribbon groups have contributed nothing but criticism to efforts by our fishing communities to fix the science," Donofrio said.


August 28 News Article Update on Regulations

Article from Jim Hutchinson of the Recreational Fishing Alliance
COUNCIL VOTES TO INCREASE FLUKE & PORGY LIMITS IN 2011
Mid-Atlantic Representatives Meet In Philly to Discuss Season Ahead

The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Managent Council (MAFMC) today voted to increase the 2011 commercial and recreational harvest levels of both scup and summer flounder, welcome news for a beleaguered Atlantic Coast fishing community.

Following input from the Scup Monitoring Committee, the MAFMC, which met jointly today with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) management boards, voted to increase the total allowable catch for scup (porgy) from this year's 17.09 million pounds of quota to a catch of 24.1 million pounds in 2011. The Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) had recommended an acceptable biological catch as high as 51.7 million pounds, which would've represented a near 200% increase in quota if enacted.
 
Council members heard various recommendations from the monitoring committee, in addition to public comment from recreational and commercial fishing interests who traveled to Philadelphia to attend today's meetings, but voted on a more precautionary 41% increase in total allowable catch for next season. For the recreational sector, the total allowable catch of 24.1 million pounds will result in a 4.4-million-pound harvest for the year.
 
On the summer flounder front, the MAFMC voted to increase the total allowable catch from this season's 25.48 million pounds to an increased quota of 33.95 million pounds in the year ahead. The new total allowable landings for 2011 represent the highest allowable catch debated by the MAFMC today. Recreational fishermen are hopeful that this increase in quota means improved summer flounder regulations for 2011, but that still rests in the hands of the Marine Recreational Fishing Statistical Survey (MRFSS) for 2010.

"The recreational fishermen won't know what this means in terms of regulations until November at the very least," said Capt. Adam Nowalsky, chairman of the Recreational Fishing Alliance's New Jersey Chapter (RFA-NJ). "As anglers have come to recognize year after year, now we have to wait for this season's landings information to come through from MRFSS to forecast how that compares to the 2011 recreational allowable landings."

"Some of the reasons for this success should go to the science that was contributed by the grassroots efforts of the local fishing community," said Ray Bogan, legal counsel for the RFA. "There has been an extraordinary contribution by the anglers, which makes up a significant portion of the scientific effort in the summer flounder assessments," he said. Bogan noted that private funding through the Save the Summer Flounder Fishery Fund, United Boatmen, and RFA, along with non-federal inshore survey analysis by the North East Area Monitoring and Assessment Program (NEAMAP) have helped lead to improved summer flounder assessments, which in turn has led to improved access for anglers.
 
A letter from Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) to the New York council members overnight was distributed amongst MAFMC members, in which the senator urged council members to provide increased access to summer flounder and scup resources for both recreational and commercial fishermen. "As the Council knows, these species are not overfished and overfishing is not occurring," Sen. Schumer said in his letter, adding "Fishermen have patiently waited for these stocks to rebuild and were promised relief when they were healthy again. Now is that time."
 
"The scup biomass is rebuilt by around 200% and yet it seems that our quota is going to be raised only marginally," said Capt. Paul Forsberg of the Viking Fleet out of Montauk, NY, who attended today's meeting. "How high must the biomass go before we can achieve maximum sustainable yield?"

Despite pleas from fishermen to increase the porgy quota by 55% to a total allowable catch of 26-1/2 million pounds, a 9-8 council vote put the porgy limit at a more modest 41% increase. "Given the spirit and intent of Sen. Schumer's letter to recognize the science and support the fishing communities in their quest to see a representative increase in porgy, I'm somewhat dismayed at some council members for not cheerleading a more robust 55% increase," said RFA's Jim Hutchinson. "I am thankful of course that the council voted to go for the total allowable increase in fluke quota in the season ahead, our coastal communities really need this boost for next season."

The MAFMC will reconvene on Thursday morning at 8 a.m. at the Holiday Inn in the Historic District at 400 Arch Street in Philadelphia, with a presentation regarding the recreational data collection status beginning at 8:30 a.m. For details, visit http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?et=1103624267231&s=7800&e=001zCXopcQEVY0IBkcTsRVOndO0x0uHmlH7v6iosIuw6-LcKR1o-bu5-aJW8DZwC83kwzkUTENLtfiuyUCmY2yX3tHv0CIArzQWaTFjeAmIrNA=


Message from Capt Paul G Forsberg

The above press release from RFA clearly outlines the outcome of the meeting held by MAFMC on August 18th. I was in attendance at this meeting and was shocked that the council members voted on a very precautionary increase in the total allowable catch for 2011. The recreational and commercial sectors were given a 24.1 million pound increase even though the SSC had recommended an acceptable biological catch of 51.7 million pounds. At first glance an increase of 24.1 million pounds sounds like a sizeable one. This increase is for both the commercial and recreational sectors and out of this the recreational sector receives 22% of the total increase. Then the 22% rate is decreased a percentage to take the discard rate into account. The data provided by MURF's which is extremely flawed will claim that we overfished during 2010 and we will be cut back further for 2011 to make up for this. After all factors are taken into consideration the increase to the recreational sector will be around 3.1 million pounds. So my dear fisherman your quota will be increased by a half of a porgy or perhaps two more days added to the season. Again this boggles my mind as the fishery is rebuit beyond our wildest dreams. I have never in my fifty plus years fishing these waters seen so many Porgies. At the meeting we tried to have the MAFMC increase their recommendation for 24.1 million pounds to 26.3 million pounds. This motion was voted down by one vote. It has to be noted at this point that four members of the council that were recently appointed directly by Dr. Jane Lubchenco of NOAA voted against the increase. It was also announced that increasing the quota too much would drive the price of Scup down on the open market. I was stunned to hear this as controlling the price of fish or worrying about the effect of the recreational sector receiving a larger quota is not the job of the MAFMC. I can find nothing in their guidelines that gives the MAFMC power to deny a poundage increase to the commercial and recreational sector to prevent a drop in the price of fish at the market. Their mission is to protect the fish biomass and not the market price of Scup. They are overstepping their boundaries to put it mildly and we cannot stand for this. Fish once again are being taken away from the fishermen who simply want to catch fish to feed their families. We need to fight back. Contact your elected officials and let them know you will not be voting for them if they are not going to support us in our fight!
I pleaded to the council members and left them with one final question,
"The scup biomass is rebuilt by around 200% and yet it seems that our quota is going to be raised only marginally." "How high must the biomass go before we can achieve maximum sustainable yield?" The answer I was given was....... SILENCE

Captain Paul Forsberg




June 2010 Update

Capt. Len Belcaro Editorials

 

Below you can read Capt Len Belcaro's spot on commentary about the difficulties recreational fishermen are faced with today. You can find this and other pertinent articles in Capt. Belcaro's Big Game Fishing Journal. Many thanks to Capt Belcaro for writing this insightful and must-read piece, as well as allowing us to publish it.

 

Viking Fleet

 

"OUR GREATEST ADVERSARY THE ENVIRONMENTAL "BUSINESS" COMMUNITY"


"I have been fighting the good fight on the recreational fishing front for many a year. In the past, one of our battles was against corporate ocean dumping. The battle plan was to attack the big corporations’ environmental image which quickly and easily brought the dumping of carcinogens along our continental shelf to an end.
During the same period, an assault on our highly migratory species (hms) was being perpetrated by commercial fishermen using unselective gear types such as longlining, pair-trawling and purse-seining operations—All with the National Marine Fisheries Service’s (NMFS) blessings. The blatant commercial bias of NMFS and its old Bureau of Commercial Fisheries mentality along with the politics that surround that agency were apparent with every proposed rule issued. NMFS was forcing the recreational fisherman to pay the price through excessive regulations while the cause of the problem was allowed to continue mostly unrestricted. Through many lawsuits filed against NMFS, the massive hue and cry of recreational fishermen everywhere, and the hard work of many individuals and organizations, NMFS was forced to do their job and adopt longline time and area closures in spawning areas, eliminate pair-trawling completely, and greatly curtail purse-seine operations.
Today, we as recreational fishermen face a new adversary that is slowly, methodically and legally removing us from fishery after fishery—the environmental business community and their ideology. I use the term “business” because it is one of the most lucrative in the United States today. Their tool is the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA), their methods are infiltration in the fisheries management process, the swaying of public opinion to their cause using bad science, the demand for Marine Protection Areas (MPA), and area closures to both recreational and commercial fishing.
Recreational Fishing Alliance’s (RFA) Jim Hutchinson’s article “Pew This Stinks” in the March/April 2010 issue of The Big Game Fishing Journal clearly explains the modus-operandi of the Pew Charitable Trusts. It is a must read for every fisherman nationwide. The entire article can be found on our website at www.biggamefishingjournal.com.
The MSA’s stock rebuilding policy states, if NOAA Fisheries (NF) deems a fishery overfished, it is required to rebuild the stocks of that fishery to 100-percent sustainable within a 10 year period. In 2000 the summer flounder fishery was deemed overfished by NF. Remarkably today, ten years into the stock rebuilding plan, NF continues to list the fishery as overfished. However, many anglers, both commercial and recreational who are actually in the “trenches,” along with several fishery managers and scientists dispute this assessment. In fact, they contend that the summer flounder stock today is in the healthiest condition it has ever been. The NF decision to continue listing summer flounder stocks as overfished even though many feel they are in great shape is simply due to the bad science being used by NF to determine the health and sustainability of this fishery and many others. The lack of “flexibility” in the MSA’s rebuilding regulations is legally requiring NF to close fishery after fishery in the name of conservation. The environmental community just waits in the background ready to pounce with their team of attorneys if NMFS does not comply with the letter of the law.
In 2006, the MSA was reauthorized with some of the strictest mandates ever seen in fisheries management. At that time, NF added an additional three years into the summer flounder rebuilding process. Prior to reaching the end of the 13 year rebuilding period in 2012, and without flexibility in the MSA, NF is required by law to shutdown the fishery if the exact summer flounder stock numbers deemed by NF to represent a healthy, 100-percent sustainable fishery are not achieved—and this means the exact numbers and not a pound under.
To the delight of the anti-fishing environmental business organizations, this lack of flexibility in the MSA rebuilding policy is a blessing and has already been instrumental in closing the recreational and commercial fishing door to sea bass, red snapper, amberjack and several species of grouper. The environmental business community, with Pew leading the charge is vehemently fighting against Congressman Frank Pallone’s bill HR 1584 and Senator Chuck Schumer’s S1255, which would provide this much-needed flexibility in the rebuilding process. If the bipartisan HR 1584 and S 1255 are adopted, the anti-fishing groups will lose a powerful tool to continue their assault on recreational and commercial fishing.
Let’s take a look at one of the driving forces and decision makers at NOAA Fisheries today. Dr. Jane Lubchenco, current NOAA Administrator has served on the Pew Ocean Commission and received a Pew Fellowship along with an award of $150,000 from the environmental group. As a Pew Fellow, it is my belief that the recipient of the fellowship and monetary award must continue to promote Pew ideology. One of her first appointments made as NOAA Administrator was Justin Kenney as NOAA Director of Communication and External Affairs. While Kenney was a former communications director for NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuary Program in the 90’s, he was most recently the Public Affairs Senior Officer at Pew Charitable Trusts. After switching PR digs from Pew to NOAA, Kenney was soon appointed by Lubchenco to act as an ex-officio member of the federal Catch Share Task Force. Dr. Lubchenco asked another former Pew staffer, Monica Medina, to lead the Catch Share Task Force in order to assist NOAA and the regional fishery management councils as they consider and implement catch-share management programs around the country.
Medina after the appointment, explained, “This task force will engage stakeholders to help ensure that the regional fishery councils and NOAA implement catch shares wherever appropriate.” Catch shares have the very real potential of privatizing the entire harvest of fish stocks in America, putting recreational and commercial quotas into a single pool, and opening up “individual quotas” for purchase by the highest bidder. By taking the public resource away from the public, catch shares by design would constrict fishing participation overall, a primary anti-fishing goal. Before taking over the role of “Catch Share Czar” at NOAA, Medina was the director of the Pew Whale Conservation Project and was previously acting director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). Medina, by the way, is also married to VP Joe Biden’s Chief of Staff Ron Klain, one of the more influential Democratic Party insiders in America today. I will discuss catch shares and their affect on recreational fishing in my July/August 2010 editorial.
Recently, Dr. Lubchenco appointed Russell Dunn as our new National Policy Advisor for Recreational Fishermen. He is required to answer directly to Lubchenco. His previous employer was the National Audubon Society where he worked as their Director of Government Relations, Living Oceans Campaign. He also held the title of Assistant Director of the Ocean’s Wildlife Campaign which is a coalition of six conservation associations. He was on the political advisory committee of the League of Conservation Voters, a conservation organization that grades politicians on their environmental record. He has worked closely with the National Resources Defense Council, Oceana, the Ocean Conservancy, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the World Wildlife Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense, National Parks and Conservation Association, KAHEA, Conservation Law Foundation, American Oceans Campaign, Sierra Club, Marine Conservation Biology Institute, and the Pew Oceans Commission. As you can see, Mr. Dunn’s resume is extensively environmental, but Lubchenco says he is an avid recreational fisherman so he must be perfect for the job. NOAA Fisheries is being infiltrated by the enviros and the “deck” is slowly being stacked against both the recreational and commercial fishermen.
Another front on the environmental business communities’ infiltration into the fisheries management process can be found in a document entitled, “Recommendations For Adoption and Implementation of an Oceans, Coasts, and Great Lakes National Policy” submitted by a coalition of environmental groups to Obama’s Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force which, in the near future, will be making major decisions that will affect both commercial and recreational fishing. Here is a list of the coalition of environmental organizations steering the task force that signed on to the “Recommendations” document. They are the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Environmental Defense Fund, Greenpeace, Marine Conservation Biology Institute, Marine Fish Conservation Network, National Wildlife Foundation, National Resource Defense Council, Ocean Champions, Ocean Conservancy, Oceana, Sierra Club, Seaweb, World Wildlife Fund, and the Pew Environmental Group. Using the arguments that 25-percent of U.S. fisheries are overfished, 80-percent of the world’s fish stocks are depleted and the world’s highly migratory species including tuna, sharks and marlin have declined 90-percent, two of their many recommendations to the task force are the opposition to legislation to “weaken” the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and the need for marine spatial planning (MPAs and area closures). Are we getting the big picture here?
Today, the recreational fisherman has a common plight with the commercial fisherman—The systematic removal from fishery after fishery at the hands of well-organized, and extremely well-funded environmental business organizations that are hell bent on forcing their preservationist ideology on everyone.
Every appointment, every decision being made by Dr.Lubchenco must be carefully scrutinized by recreational and commercial fishing watch dogs. This is becoming the greatest battle for our right to fish ever. Our adversaries have unlimited amounts of cash, and resources. It is no time to continue the petty bickering amongst recreational and commercial fishing interests and the lack of alignment between recreational fishing advocacy groups. In other words, it is time to “bury the hatchet” and join forces to fight this common enemy—There is strength in numbers."

 

Capt. Len Belcaro

 

 

 

 

 

NOAA Investigation

July 10 2010

 

Must-read article!

 

 

March 2010 Update
In recent developments, NOAA is being investigated by the North Carolina IG for its practices. The Committee of Natural Resources has held an oversight hearing in order to review those practices employed by NOAA and their agents. You can watch the video of the hearing HERE. Many of the names of Senators and Representatives will be recognized by those who attended the Fisherman's March in DC. We have momentum and now is the time to keep pressing for the changes we need. Send your letters to your state representatives NOW!


February 2010 Update
United We Fish Rally

The Viking Fleet is back from Washington DC, and the reported turnout of 4000-5000 men, women, and children for the Fisherman's Rally was unprecedented. There were people from as far as Alaska who made the trip, and we are proud that we could be a part of it. The sight of everyone standing united was inspiring and we would like to extend our gratitude to the Senators and Congressmen who spoke with passion to the crowd. Among them were Charles Schumer-NY who is the Sponsor of S. 1255- Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act of 2009, Kristen Gillibrand- NY (Co-Sponsor of S. 1255), Scott Brown- MA, Bruce E. Tarr- MA, Kay Hagen- NC, Barney Frank- MA, Walter Jones- NC, Ann Margaret Ferrante- MA, Frank LoBiondo- NJ, John Mica- FL, and last but not least, Frank Pallone-NJ who is the originator of Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act (H.R. 1584). The bill is currently in the Congress House Committee on Natural Resources which has a total of 49 members and you can visit the following website- GovTrack - to contact members of the committee from your state. The Senate version of the bill (S 1255) has been referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. You can find all members of the committee here- GovTrack

Our work however is not done. We all need to stay focused and increase the pressure on Washington if we want to keep our right to fish. Everyone must contact their respective state lawmakers and let them know just how important amending the Magnuson-Stevens Act is in order to preserve all aspects of the fishing industry and all peripheral industries as well. As you look though the photos of the rally, remember that every voice counts. If you missed the Fisherman's March on DC you can see photos HERE. The Viking Fleet would like to thank everyone that made the long trip on the 2 buses from Montauk to DC. Please remember that this is just the beginning- there's a lot more work to be done, and we all have to unite in order to do it. Many thanks to the RFA and Ray Bogan who did an incredible job with the event. The RFA was instrumental in organizing the rally. You can read more about the Recreational Fishing Alliance and the work that they do HERE.

We implore you to write to your representatives make it clear how important it is to preserve our right to fish, and our right to work!

Click HERE to watch Denny O'Hearn with the Fishing Rights Alliance interview Capt. Paul Forsberg. You can see more videos of the rally HERE as well.

Capt. Paul speaking to the crowd

Capt Paul

Please remember we are much smaller than other sectors and us being under the radar makes it especially important to spread awareness. Each day that goes by your rights to fish are being taken away.

What you can do:
-Join the Recreational Fishing Alliance-http://www.joinrfa.org/
-Contact your respective lawmakers- click HERE for a state by state list
- Remind them that you FISH and you VOTE!
-Aks them to support the two proposed bills S. 1255- Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act of 2009 sponsored by Charles Schumer-NY and Kristen Gillibrand- NY and H.R 1584 originated by Frank Pallone-NJ
-Get out and vote in November for candidates that support your right to fish
-Pass this onto your friends and family

You can do all of the above or you can sit back and do nothing in which case you might as well turn your fishing poles into golf clubs!

Remember that there is strength in numbers!

The above articles will be updated continuously.

Captain Paul G Forsberg

-CA) which languished in Congress for nearly a decade due to overall lack of support by democrats and republicans in the House. After several failed attempts to get legislation (Oceans 21) passed out of the House Natural Resources Committee, a National Oceans Policy wasinstead enacted by President Obama through executive order 13547.
In a recent email blast to members, RFA executive director Jim Donofrio called the National Oceans Policy "a complete takeover of our state rights," which he said "should not be supported by either party."
RFA praised the latest effort by the nine signers of the Senate letter to Rockefeller, Boxer and Bingaman and encouraged the committee chairs to give ample consideration to the request. "Some groups are hailing this executive order as a way to curb sea sprawl and regulated ocean industry, but the political reality is that this effort never made it out of a congressional committee in the first place because it essentially awarded complete control of our nation's waters to the federal government and key political appointees in the process," he said.
"Some Beltway insiders are claiming to have the public's interest at heart by participating in this process but most grassroots activists see it as more Washington two-stepping and bureaucratic bungling at the sake of our coastal communities," Donofrio said, adding "this Presidential edict completely bypassed the legislative process and left all congressional debate and concerns at the wayside."
RFA has been bolstered by the fact that many U.S. legislators recognize what the political action fishing organizations has said all along, that well-funded environmental groups have been pushing an agenda-driven no-use policy masked as a multi-use spatial planning initiative.
"If you look at the catalyst for the entire initiative, it comes from the playbook of environmental groups that think the ocean ought to be controlled by the federal government," said Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX). In a recent article by award-winning investigative journalist Audrey Hudson, Flores noted "This one to me could be the sleeping power grab that Americans will wake up to one day and wonder what the heck hit them."
"This administration is more aggressive and left-leaning, and they are going whole hog," added Sen. Vitter. "I think it's clearly a threat, and in terms of negatively impacting jobs, it's a very, very big threat."
Two weeks ago, Rep. Hastings sent official correspondence from his House Natural Resources Committee to the House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers (KY), as well as the Chairperson of each House Appropriations Subcommittee, asking that language be included in all Fiscal Year 2013 appropriations bills that would prohibit the use of funds to implement the new National Ocean Policy. The request was made as part of an effort to achieve a pause in policy implementation that would provide more time for oversight and examination of potential impacts
In supporting the letter, RFA cited Donofrio's testimony before Rep. Hastings' Committee in 2011 in which he said "It seems counterproductive to advance and fund the NOP when it will stifle job growth in the fishing sectors."
"The administration claims that this whole National Ocean Policy is nothing more than an attempt to coordinate federal agencies and make better permitting decisions," said Rep. Don Young (R-AK) at a recent hearing. "Forgive me if I am a little suspicious when the federal government-through an executive order-decides to create a new bureaucracy thatwill 'help' us plan where activities can or cannot take place in our waters and inland."
In the recent letter calling for additional congressional oversight in the Senate, the signors explain "in these tough economic times, it would be unfortunate if Congress chose to ignore responsibility for limiting bureaucratic hurdles to prosperity," the lawmakers said in aMarch 20 letter.
RFA's position is that any formal oceans policy which would lead to new regulations and additional bureaucratic governance must first come from both the House and the Senate, with debate and approval by all congressional committees, prior to becoming the law of the land.
"A lot of folks are calling us to ask what can be done to stop the National Oceans Policy, and outside of overwhelming Congressional support to slow the process through funding measures, the only political solution is to have our next president actually repeal executive order 13547," Donofrio said.
 
 
 

 


April 6th Update

RFA APPLAUDS CHAIRMAN'S BUDGET ACTION
Rep. Hastings Asks Appropriators To "Pause" Ocean Takeover
(04/04/2012) House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) sent a letter this week to Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) asking that language be included in the appropriations bills prohibiting the use of funds for the implementation of President Obama's ocean zoning and National Ocean Policy.
"The Natural Resources Committee has undertaken oversight over this far-reaching Policy and the lack of information provided by the Administration raises serious concerns - particularly about the funding for the implementation of the Policy and the negative impact on existing activities by agencies implementing the Policy," Chairman Hastings said this week. "The President's Policy is especially alarming due to the fact it will not only affect the oceans and coastal areas, but also stretches far inland following rivers and their tributaries upstream for hundreds of miles."
In a bulletin sent out last week, the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) reminded anglers that the new ocean zoning and National Ocean Policy initiatives enacted by presidential privilege were originally proposed by Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) in the form of the Oceans 21 legislation. Designed to meet the requirements laid out in 2003 by the non-governmental Pew Ocean Commission, Rep. Farr's Oceans 21 bill never made it out of the House Natural Resources Committee because of the overly burdensome bureaucracy written into the bill.
"I find it very strange that the President is complaining how his healthcare bill was passed by majority in the House so it shouldn't even be heard by the U.S Supreme Court, yet with legislation like the Farr bill which never even made it out of Committee, he finds it's perfectly reasonable that an executive order should stand," said RFA executive director Jim Donofrio. "This isn't about partisan politics, this about adhering to the legislative process by which all Americans are bound."
Donofrio said RFA supports efforts by Chairman Hastings and his colleagues on the Committee to slow down the National Oceans Policy process by cutting off appropriations.
"The funding of a complete takeover of our state rights should not be supported by either party," Donofrio said. "It's a direct assault on our freedoms and liberties, particularly given the fact that budget appropriations would be far better suited to funding scientific efforts in our oceans rather than additional councils and committees."
Rep. Hastings added, "the Administration's efforts to impose this Policy across the nation and mandate ocean zoning should be put on pause until the full economic consequences are known and direct answers are given on the specific statutory authority that justifies the construction of this new, regulatory behemoth. This can best be accomplished by putting a halt to the Administration's cloaked funding of this Policy for FY 2013."
"I respectfully request that the Appropriations Committee include language in each Fiscal Year 2013 appropriation bill prohibiting the use of funds to implement this National Ocean Policy," the chairman added.
In an online blog at House Speaker John Boehner's website on October 26, 2011, Donofrio was quoted as saying that President Obama's new National Oceans Policy (NOP) regulations "stifle job growth" and create "too much uncertainty" for America's angling community. "The recreational fishing industry is 'Main Street America' in every sense; it is largely composed of small, family-run, mom and pop businesses," Donofrio said, going on to say that "creating additional levels of bureaucracy" will reduce the overall productivity of his industry.
"It seems counterproductive to advance and fund the NOP when it will stifle job growth in the fishing sectors," Donofrio told Congress in his 2011 testimony before the House Natural Resources Committee.

 


March 25th Update

 



RFA Calls 'Keep Fishermen Fishing' Rally A Win
Members of Congress Pledge to Fix Broken Fisheries Law
The second historic Keep Fishermen Fishing rally in Washington DC was deemed a success by organizers!
 
While the legislative line-up of speakers at yesterday's national fishermen's rally was impressive, the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) said it was the commitments made by those powerful Members of Congress that turned the day into a win for America's coastal fishing communities. (Click here to see one of the earliest reports from the event by News Herald reporter Valerie Garman.)
 
"Key sponsors of Magnuson reform legislation which would right the wrongs contained in a broken federal fisheries law agreed to make this the year that U.S. coastal fishermen were given a fair shot at the political process," said RFA's executive director Jim Donofrio. "Everyone agrees that fish populations have surged in the past decade, but that's been at the expense of America's fishermen, which is now being officially recognized by key members of Congress."
 
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), sponsor of S632 in the Senate called the Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act told rally attendees that great progress has been made on rebuilding coastal fisheries, but explained that a "one-size-fits-all approach to fisheries management" based on bad science won't work. "Today I am calling on Congress to begin hearings on Magnuson reform this year and I will be making a major push to see that that happens, not next year, not 2 years from now but this year," Sen. Schumer said, adding "we need to have an open and honest debate on the flexibility bill."
 
Schumer went on to say the he would be talking to his colleagues on the Commerce Committee about starting a debate on the reauthorization of Magnuson as soon as possible, "so that your voices can be heard, not just outside the Capitol but inside at a hearing table in the Capitol." The senator from New York even returned to Upper Senate Park a second time, after an important Congressional vote, just to greet a late bus arriving from Montauk after 2 p.m.
 
Other Senate supporters of the flexibility legislation speaking at Wednesday's rally included Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC).
 
Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), primary sponsor of HR3061 on the House side called the Flexibility and Access in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act told attendees that his bill would allow fisheries managers to put fish stocks on a sustainable path to a healthy size while allowing fair access and increasing transparency in the scientific process that determines quota levels.
 
"Current fishery rebuilding plans are much too rigid, which hurts fishing communities economically," said Pallone. "The fishing business has been a way of life for generations on the New Jersey shore and is integral to our economy. In New Jersey alone, commercial and recreational fishing supports nearly 50,000 jobs."
 
"I'm proud to join with recreational and commercial fishermen to fight for this bill," said Pallone, adding "I believe it would address burdensome catch limits and protect fishermen jobs, while ensuring that our fisheries remain sustainable for generations to come," he added.
 
HR3061, which would also require better data collection for managing recreational fishing, picked up additional support yesterday when speakers Rep. Sandy Adams (R-FL) and Rep. Allen B. West (R-FL) officially signed on as co-sponsors.
 
"This is a freedom issue," said co-sponsor Rep. Steve Southerland (R-FL) on stage at Upper Senate Park on Wednesday. "You have a God-given right to participate in an activity that your fathers participated in, your grandfathers participated in, the founding fathers participated in."
 
Rep. Southerland who has helped champion the rights of saltwater fishermen along the Gulf Coast during his first term in DC told Florida fishermen at the rally that he was committed to working with fishermen to fix Magnuson "to make the changes to this law that is unjust."
 
Other co-sponsors of HR3061 addressing the crowd on Wednesday included Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY), Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), Rep. Tim Scott (R-SC), Rep. John Tierney (D-MA), and Rep. Robert Turner (R-NY). Rep. Jon Runyan (R-NJ) and Rep. William Keating (D-MA) spoke with regard to their support for Magnuson reform legislation, while other congressmen like Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) and Rep. David Rivera (R-FL) also pledged support for the fishermen.
 
Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) also made a big splash with rally attendees by telling them "I am sorry, and I am angry that you folks have to leave jobs, take time, spend money, come here to Washington to get people to understand how deeply we feel about this issue." Sen. Kerry who last month told the Gloucester Times that additional flexibility is needed to help our fishermen added "We're here to fight for jobs and for justice."
 
Donofrio said more than 30 organizations and businesses from both the commercial and recreational sector spent two months preparing for the national rally at Upper Senate Park in Washington, explaining how those involved in this year's effort took a more unique strategy this time around.
 
"With about 5,000 attendees at the park at any one time in 2010, this year many of our rally attendees branched off to visit Senate and Congressional offices during the actual Upper Senate Park protest, which helped build support for Magnuson reform efforts inside the legislative offices," he said. "Now it's up to each of these organizations to follow-up on those dedicated efforts in Washington DC this week to make sure that Congress understands what's really important to our coastal communities."
 
In the days leading up to the rally, extreme environmental groups funded heavily by the Pew Charitable Trusts and its Pew Environment Group went on the offensive in attacking RFA and supporters of pragmatic Magnuson reform. In an online attack at Outdoorhub.com, Marine Fish Conservation Network's Executive Director Matt Tinning called RFA a "fringe group" like an extremist super PAC that is "underwritten by a single large donor, [and] a few self-appointed leaders hunch over their laptops and bombard us with bile."
 
Donofrio called the hit by Pew's newest hired henchman "a badge of honor" for the entire organization.
 
"The anti-fishing, anti-industry lobbyists from the preservation community are running scared because Congress is finally aware of what they've done to our coastal fishing communities with their hostile takeover attempt of our inshore waters by helping re-write the Magnuson Stevens Act in 2006." He added that House Members are aware that much of the information provided by Pew-funded lobbyists has been erroneous, based solely on doom and gloom scare tactics designed to spur their own recruitment campaigns and donation efforts. "One only needs to look at their now-proven false arguments against the use of the flexibility in the summer flounder fishery back in 2007 to see that they are dead wrong on Magnuson reform," he added.
 
RFA said that Pew attempted to divert attention from the rally through a late legislative effort late last week, but their effort was exposed in a March 20th article in the Gloucester Times. RFA pointed out that Tinning's 11th hour online social media tirades are obviously less about fishing and more about orchestrated political grandstanding on behalf of his employers at Pew.
 
Prior to joining the Pew-funded Marine Fish Conservation Network last year, Tinning was Legislative Director and Vice President of External affairs at Ocean Conservancy and a lobbyist and political analyst for the Australian Government inside their Washington Embassy. Tinning was also a legislative aide to New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman. Before arriving in the United States in the 1990's, Tinning was an attorney in Sydney where he earned his degree in U.S. politics.
 
Five different conservation groups initially united to form the Marine Fish Conservation Network in 1992, including Ocean Conservancy, Greenpeace, National Audubon Society, National Coalition for Marine Conservation, and World Wildlife Fund. Following the 2010 fishermen's rally which helped bring the plight of the recreational and commercial fishing industry to the forefront of the fisheries debate in DC, Pew's Lee Crocket told the Washington based Roll Call newspaper that his organization had "funded advocacy groups, including the Marine Fish Conservation Network and the Ocean Conservancy," to lobby for a policy which privatizes our nation's fisheries in the name of reducing overall fishing participation.
 
"Congress is going to address the problems with the federal fisheries law, or more of our access rights as anglers will be stripped away while coastal tackle shops, charter and party boats, and shoreside businesses will close," Donofrio said. "It seems to me to be a pretty easy choice to make."
 
"I just hope those business owners, like the publishers of Sport Fishing Magazine, who have helped support, promote and encourage Pew and the Marine Fish Conservation Network through ad campaigns and partnerships are proud of what they've done to help destroy our recreational fishing industry," Donofrio added.

 


-------------------------------------


Captain Paul G Forsberg and everyone at the Viking Fleet would like to express our gratitude to all the officials, fishermen and supporters who spoke at the 2012 United We Fish Rally, as well as all of the people who made the long journey to march for everyone's right to fish. Speakers included Gus Bilirakis, Allen West, Steve Southerland of Florida, Frank LoBiondo of New Jersey, Chuck Schumer of New York, John Kerry and Scott Brown from Massachusetts, Tim Scott of South Carolina, Bob Zales of the National Charterboat Association, Tim Jackson of American Alliance of Fishermen and more!

Anthony Jr Darrigo with Sen Chuck Schumer



United We Fish Rally 2012


The Viking Fleet would like to express our gratitude to Capt Len Belcaro, publisher of Big Game Fishing Journal, as well as Jim Hutchinson for continually putting out truthful and awakening articles about the fishing industry and the difficulties we face. Big Game Fishing Journal is the only sports magazine refusing to be pressured by environmentalist advertising. You can subscribe to the magazine and read some of the most recent articles in it HERE.


March 8th- Let's March DC for Our Right to Fish! Bus leaving the Viking Dock Wed March 21st @ 5am. Call  631 668 5700  to book or do so directly online- by clicking HERE

For immediate release:

The Long Island Commercial Fishing Association and the Viking Fleet will co-sponsor a bus charter from Montauk to the Keep Fishermen Fishing (KFF) rally in Washington, DC on Wednesday, March 21, 2012. It is the second national fishing rally uniting all US fishing sectors and their communities from coast to coast and Alaska; the first was held in 2010 under the banner United We Fish. Fishermen will be pressing legislators for reform of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the regulatory law which governs all US fishing.

Bonnie Brady, executive director of LICFA, said the need for reform was crucial. “The ten-year timeline clause added to Magnuson in 1996, which said any fishery if depleted must be rebuilt within ten years, was the nuclear option to US fishing communities,” said Brady, adding “The fallout has been the economic strangulation of those communities without a shred of scientific evidence to support it (the ten-year timeline.) As long as fish populations continue to rebuild, Magnuson and fishery management councils should have the flexibility to create regulations that allow both fish and fishermen to thrive simultaneously.”

Captain Paul Forsberg Sr., of the Viking Fleet concurred. “We took the cutbacks and the fisheries are rebuilt. Now it’s time to let us go fishing and save our jobs.” Forsberg urged Long Islanders to “Get on the bus with us and help us fight for your right to go fishing!”

"I am proud to once again be given the opportunity to address members of fishing communities from across the US," said U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. "As I have said before, you cannot build a regulatory structure around antiquated laws and brush aside the science. I look forward to lending my voice to this important cause and event."

The junior Senator from NY and Congressman Tim Bishop of the first district are scheduled to speak at the bi-partisan KFF rally along with Senators Kerry and Brown from Massachusetts and other coastal members of Congress. Senator Chuck Schumer and Cong. Peter King have also been invited.

The bus will leave the Viking Fleet parking lot at 5 a.m. from Montauk, with a stop in Southampton, and arrive in Washington shortly before noon, returning at approximately 10 p.m. Round-trip ticket cost is $50 and includes a box lunch from Panera. More information and sign-ups can be made by calling the Viking Fleet at  631-668-5700  or at www.vikingfleet.com

Reservations on other buses from New York, including one from Point Lookout with available seats, can be reserved through the www.keepfishermenfishing.com webpage.

The Keep Fishermen Fishing 2012 organizers include the Recreational Fishing Alliance, Southeastern Fisheries Association, Viking Village, Lund’s Fisheries, Fishermen’s Dock, North Carolina Watermen United, Florida Keys Commercial Fishermen's Association, Southern Off Shore Fishing Association, Morro Bay Commercial Fishermen’s Association, Long Island Commercial Fishermen's Association, National Association of Charterboat Operators, Montauk Inlet Seafood, Hull’s Seafood, Panama City Boatmen’s Association, Alliance of Communities For Sustainable Fisheries, Westport Charterboat Association, Garibaldi Charters, Monkfish Defense Fund, Rivercenter Marine, Garden State Seafood Association, Big Game Fishing Journal, New York Fishing Tackle Trades Association, New York Sportfishing Federation, United Boatmen, Save the Summer Flounder Fishery Fund, Atlantic Capes Seafood, West Coast Seafood Processors Association, Lower Columbia Alliance for Sustainable Fisheries, Ocean Isle Fishing Center, Tailwalker Marine, Fishing United & Raffields Fisheries.

For more information contact Bonnie Brady, Exec Director, LICFA  516-527-3099 


March 14 Update:

RFA Ad Banner 2
Recreational Fishing Alliance
"America's Right to Fish Is Under Attack in DC"
SPECIAL NEWS BULLETIN
March 13, 2012
OBAMA'S 'ANTI-STIMULUS' PACKAGE HITS MASS COAST
Behavior Modification Study Aimed At Reducing Angler Participation
What would you be willing to give up in exchange for $500?
 
If the U.S. Department of Education offered you $500 to keep your kid out of school for a few weeks, would you take it? What if the government explained that this was simply a study designed to determine exactly how much you felt your child's education was worth? Would the results of such a study encourage your support for such behavior modification analysis?
 
How about if the Department of Health offered you $500 to give up coffee with sugar for one month? Or, what about a government-funded study where random voters are given the option of accepting $500 in exchange for their right to vote in November? Would you accept a $500 check to read only certain types of books or download specific kinds of songs?
 
If you think about it, such 'willingness-to-pay' research could prove invaluable in providing our state and federal government agencies with important data about the financial line which Americans are willing to cross in exchange for valuable goods, services, rights & privileges. Sociologists love this type of data, and it's arguably an excellent way to determine a financial threshold for changing behavioral habits of American citizens.
 
The problem that most Americans have with studies like these is that it's social engineering at U.S. taxpayer expense. This type of behavior modification might be fine for a grad student working on some Ivy League college campus, but the thought that our own government would freely support such 'willingness to pay' studies through taxpayer funds is one that liberals and conservatives alike should each find quite troubling.
 
Regrettably, our government is actively engaged in just this type of behavior modification study, whereby Massachusetts anglers are being asked to accept $500 in taxpayer funds to give up their right to fish recreational in marine waters there for the rest of 2012. The obvious question is how on earth our Department of Commerce can justify paying Americans to stay at home and not spend their money on items of commerce, notably sportfishing in Massachusetts?
 
In any other American business, this type of government action would be met with quite a bit of disdain and discomfort, worthy of national headlines - for our recreational fishing industry however, it's just another one of a thousand cuts felt by local business people every single day of the year.
 
Here's what we do know; NOAA Fisheries and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) which is managed under the auspice of the Department of Commerce, is currently undertaking a socioeconomic study in conjunction with the state of Massachusetts whereby approximately 700 saltwater anglers have been offered cash in exchange for the anglers' willingness to give up his/her right to fish. Those licensed Massachusetts anglers who accept the offer will receive up to $500 apiece following their willingness to give up their fishing license and all rights to fish in state coastal waters in 2012.
 
In a recent conference call with stakeholders, NOAA Fisheries explained that approximately 25% of those 700 anglers had responded favorably by agreeing to give up their right to fish in 2012 in exchange for cold, hard cash. In agreeing to accept the government's terms, these particular Massachusetts residents are agreeing to not fish this season, which means no need to visit the local tackle shop, giving up any charter/headboat trips this summer and making plans other than those surrounding a saltwater angling trip with family and friends.
 
If NOAA Fisheries' estimates are correct, 175 respondents will actually be giving up their right to fish in saltwater this season. According to socioeconomic data on saltwater angling habits that already exists through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service however, the final economic impact within the Massachusetts coastal fishing community amounts to approximately $201,425 in overall consumer spending.
 
For anglers 16 and older, total trip and equipment expenditures by saltwater anglers averages about $1,151 per person, with $219 spent annually on food & lodging, $137 on transportation expenses, and $795 per angler directly related to fishing equipment and services. It doesn't take too long to figure out that if dad is spending over a thousand bucks a year on fishing for fluke, cod, sea bass or other inshore species, if he sells off his 'fishing privileges' for the season then he's probably not taking the teens and pre-teens on a fishing vacation in 2012 - which means there's more economic loss than even the statistics show.
 
The US Fish and Wildlife Service's data indicates that there are approximately 298,000 saltwater anglers in the state of Massachusetts who in 2006 spent more than $494.6 million on saltwater fishing tackle alone. Approximately 69% of those anglers fished by boat in 2006, meaning that there is also money being spent on boat preparation and docking, fuel, and other services related to the marine industry. If nearly 70% of those 175 respondents and their families keep their boat under wraps in 2012 to take advantage of the government's recreational fisherman buyout study - that too will have a trickle down financial impact within the Massachusetts coastal community.
 
At a time when our Department of Commerce and the entire Obama Administration should be helping spur economic growth in America, it's hard to fathom how the sociologists and economists at NOAA Fisheries can justify such a deplorable study in behavior modification theory. It's essentially the counter-opposite to a federal stimulus package, one which is micromanaged at a state and regional level to see what happens to businesses when customers are lured away to other pursuits.
 
Spending priceless taxpayer dollars on ways of limiting consumer spending in beleaguered coastal communities is the worst kind of social engineering one could possibly imagine, and it provides a perfect example of why this Administration's jobs initiatives have failed miserably.
 
Are you tired of NOAA Fisheries paying $$$ to anglers to not fish, instead of applying these important taxpayer funds towards proper fisheries science and data collection improvements? On Wednesday, March 21, 2012 at noon, several thousand fishermen from around the country will be at Upper Senate Park in Washington DC in support of legislative efforts which would ensure that NOAA Fisheries is living up to its Congressional mandates to fix the recreational data collection. Join the RFA on 3-21-12 - for details, visit www.keepfishermenfishing.com. Or, call  888-564-6732 .
About Recreational Fishing Alliance
The Recreational Fishing Alliance is a national, grassroots political action organization representing recreational fishermen and the recreational fishing industry on marine fisheries issues. The RFA Mission is to safeguard the rights of saltwater anglers, protect marine, boat and tackle industry jobs, and ensure the long-term sustainability of our Nation's saltwater fisheries. If you'd like to tell Washington that your right to fish is NOT FOR SALE, join RFA now at www.joinrfa.org.
 


March 2 2012 update:


Recreational Fishing Alliance
3-21-12 Rally Update
United We Fish Bus Information March 1, 2012
Get On The Bus!
 
 
 
I Fish, I Vote
Join RFA & protect your right to fish!
Recreational Fishing Alliance is a national, grassroots political action organization that represents recreational fishermen and the recreational fishing industry on marine fisheries issues.
The RFA mission is to safeguard the rights of saltwater anglers, protect marine, boat and tackle industry jobs, and ensure the long-term sustainability of our Nation's saltwater fisheries.

United We Fish
United We Fish rally on February 24
3-21-12 Rally Update

Quick Links
::  888-JOIN RFA  (564-6732)
Dear Paul,
 
With just 21 days until the second historic fishermen's rally in Washington DC, transportation efforts along are shaping up as two more buses have been added to ferry coastal anglers to and from the March 21 Keep Fishermen Fishing rally at our nation's capital, with fishermen in coastal South Carolina and Northern New Jersey upping the ante in the attendance race to bring the current total number of buses to 13.
Fix Magnuson Now Button
3-21-12 Rally Closes In
 
According to the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA), by the day of the first United We Fish rally in 2010, there were approximately 40 buses packed with protesters bound for Washington DC. "We didn't start really filling up those seats and ordering new buses until just a couple of weeks before the 2010 rally, so we're entering the homestretch right now," said RFA's Jim Hutchinson, Jr.
 
The March 21, 2012 rally is being held at Upper Senate Park in Washington DC beginning at noon. Similar to the 2010 event at the same location, the Keep Fishermen Fishing rally is historic in that it unites two sectors of fishermen which have traditionally been at odds. According to RFA executive director Jim Donofrio, disagreements between the recreational and commercial fishing sectors will always exist.
 
"I don't expect that our groups will ever fully resolve our conflicts regarding gear type or stock allocation, but the political reality is that coastal fishermen are stronger whenever we can work together under a common goal, which in this case is in support of responsible Magnuson reform," Donofrio said, adding that more than 30 different organizations from both the recreational and commercial fishing sectors have come together to organize the rally.
 
"Regardless of whether one fishes for sport, for money or simply to put food on the table, all coastal fishermen share a common danger in the form of those who would prefer to see us both off the water indefinitely," Donofrio said. "We're essentially crossing party lines on March 21 for the sake of open access, under the law, for all Americans, to healthy and sustainable coastal fisheries, which is exactly what we hope to see from Congress in the next few months in terms of this important coastal jobs issue," he added.
 
FLORIDA
Evidence of the united call for fisheries reform is very apparent along Florida's Gulf Coast, where Raffield Fisheries is sponsoring two buses set to depart Panama City, FL on March 20, returning early morning on March 22. The bus ride is offered free to any fishermen -recreational or commercial - able to make the long trip north to Washington DC for the event. A host of Panama City area fishermen are expected to make the trip, as Rep. Steve Southerland (R-FL) is expected to give a rousing speech at Upper Senate Park on March 21 to those constituents taking the time to attend the event. "As an avid angler myself, I look forward to joining thousands of recreational and commercial fishermen from across America on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol for this year's 'Keep Fishermen Fishing' rally," said Rep. Southerland who encouraged fishermen to "remain united in our fight to secure fair and open access to our seas."
 
Those interested in hopping aboard one of the Florida buses are encouraged to call RFA board member and chairman of the National Association of Charterboat Operators (NACO), Capt. Bob Zales, II at 850-814-8001  or RFA-FL's 'Forgotten Coast Chapter' Chair Tom Adams at  850-381-1313 . Organizers there are asking attendees to respond before March 7.
 
SOUTH CAROLINA
This week, the Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce announced that they will be sponsoring a bus to leave Harborgate Marina in Myrtle Beach, SC at 3 a.m. on March 21. According to Capt. Keith Logan with the RFA-SC chapter, the bus is free but will be limited to the first 56 people who call to sign up for this historic road trip. "We have a great relationship with the folks at the Little River, North Myrtle Beach and Myrtle Beach chambers of commerce, and they've been very active in fighting to protect the rights of our fishermen," Logan said. "The Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring this particular bus on March 21, which means it's a free ride for those fishermen who want to climb onboard for the trip to the rally in Washington." South Carolina coastal are encouraged to call Capt. Keith Logan as soon as possible at  843-907-0064  to reserve a spot (get more at www.southcarolina-offshore.com ).
Several weeks ago, Tailwalker Marine of Georgetown, SC announced that they were sponsoring half the $3,600 cost for the round-trip price of getting fishermen to and from Washington DC on March 21. Anglers in the Georgetown, SC area who are looking to spend the day rallying at Upper Senate Park on behalf of improved recreational fishing access on South Atlantic fisheries can hop aboard the Tailwalker Marine bus for just $35 per person. For details call  843-527-2495  or  800-768-2495 .
 
NORTH CAROLINA
Capt. Brant McMullan of Ocean Isle Fishing Center out of Ocean Isle Beach, NC is sponsoring a bus to transport area fishermen to the 2012 rally, same as they had done in 2010. "Everyone met at the OIFC the morning of the rally at 4:30 a.m. and by noon we were all marching on Washington," said McMullan, adding that now the rally is on again "it is time to band together to show our continued resolve to correct fishery mismanagement." The bus will leave OIFC at 4:30 a.m. on March 21 with a cost of just $35 per person which will help cover bus rental. It is expected to return that same day around 11 p.m., leaving Washington DC not long after the rally finishes up around 3 p.m. "It is a long day, but every voice is needed to make a difference and it is one heck of an experience," McMullan said. Email captbrant@oifc.com or call Ocean Isle Fishing Center at 910-575-FISH.
NEW JERSEY
Organizers from the Save the Summer Flounder Fishery Fund (SSFFF) now have five buses set to leave New Jersey on the morning of the March 21 rally, with two leaving from Bogan's Boat Basin in Brielle, two in South Jersey set to depart from the Wildwood Fishing Center, and one additional bus added this week for departure from and return to Atlantic Highlands Municipal Marina. SSFFF which was instrumental in helping correct the fatal errors contained in recent NOAA Fisheries' summer flounder assessment models is also supportive of responsible reform of the Magnuson Stevens Act to keep fishermen fishing. The coalition partners at SSFFF are sponsoring the full cost of each of the five New Jersey buses, with a small fee of $10 per person is being collected for a beverage, snack and the bus driver's gratuity. New Jersey anglers looking to hop on a bus can purchase tickets at www.ssfff.net.
NEW YORK
Buses are now filling up with support from the party boat fleet from Point Lookout and Sheepshead Bay. The captains and crew of the Marilyn Jean, Brooklyn VI and Ocean Eagle, with support fromFishingUnited.com, have one bus set to leave Pier Number 6 along Emmons Avenue in Brooklyn at 6 a.m. sharp on March 21. Those fishermen in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island interested in hopping aboard one of the New York City area buses should contact Capt. Tony Santella at  917-560-8224 . The Point Lookout bus has been donated by Capt. Tony Joseph of the FV Stirs, and also includesbagels and other breakfast goodies for the trip down including bottle water. All that is being asked is a donation being given for the seat, but again, the seats have been donated.
"All the seats have mostly been furnished, now it's up to the fishing community to fill those seats so that we can get Congress to move on important amendments to our federal fisheries law designed to keep us fishing in the years ahead," said RFA's Jim Hutchinson who added that the national rally in DC also boasts the organizational support of the New York Sportfishing Federation, New York Fishing Tackle Trades Association and United Boatmen. "We have several New York legislators who have expressed interest in addressing the fleet when they arrive in Washington on March 21, what we need now are the rally supporters to show them that we fish and we vote."


Feb 1 2012 update:


Recreational Fishing Alliance
Contact: Jim Hutchinson, Jr. /  888-564-6732 
For Immediate Release
February 1, 2012

NOAA FISHERIES SAYS "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED"

RFA Says That's Up For Congress & Scientists To Decide

Federal officials recently unveiled a revised new method for estimating how many fish are caught by the nation's recreational saltwater fishermen. While the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) remains cautiously optimistic that the improvements required by Congress will be fully incorporated into the angler data collection program sometime in the future, the initial fanfare created by the national media seems a bit disconcerting.

 

"RFA appreciates the work that NOAA Fisheries staff has done to implement some of the mandated improvements to the existing angler survey program in place, particularly project leader Gordon Colvin, but it's far too early to stand on deck and announce 'mission accomplished' without getting a better understanding of what's really been done or how these revised numbers will impact assessment estimates and quota monitoring," said RFA executive director Jim Donofrio.

 

"You certainly can't say the data has been improved if you're simply re-estimating numbers based on the same flawed data which was collected over the past 25 years, information which still relies on angler recall," he added.

 

In response to a phone press conference last Wednesday, several national and local news outlets reported that NOAA is now utilizing a brand new method of compiling angler data to generate overall stock assessments and monitor the annual catch by recreational fishermen. RFA points out that the driving factor motivating NOAA Fisheries to implement this program was the reauthorization of the Magnuson Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) back in 2007.

 

At the request of Congress, the National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academy of Sciences performed a comprehensive review of the Marine Recreational Fishing Statistical Survey, or MRFSS, a program used since 1979 to gauge overall harvest and participation trends in the recreational sector. In presenting the final report to Congress in 2006, NRC committee chair Dr. Patrick Sullivan deemed MRFSS "fatally flawed," a term which has been used by fishermen ever since when referring to the data collection system.

 

"Despite the complexity of the challenge and its importance for fishery management, the MRFSS staff have been severely handicapped in their efforts to implement, operate, and improve the MRFSS, including implementing the recommendations of earlier reviews," the NRC 2006 report stated. "It is not reasonable to expect such a small staff - and one that lacks a Ph.D.-level mathematical statistician - to operate a national survey of such complexity, despite the dedication of the small staff the MRFSS does have."

 

"In addition, the MRFSS is severely limited by the lack of a universal sampling frame for all saltwater anglers, a lack that is not of the MRFSS's own making," the report further stated, adding "To make matters even more difficult, some of the data that the MRFSS depends on are collected by states, which use a variety of data-collection and sampling protocols."

 

According to Donofrio, it was Congress who led the charge and got the NRC to coordinate the 2006 review, not NOAA Fisheries as some of the media outlets have been reporting in the past several days.

 

"I would love to join the rest of the fishing community in celebrating good times ahead, but if the MRFSS staff is using the same effort and participation data coupled with inadequate intercept data generated over the past 33 years, then I'm not so sure that we've turned a corner instead of just running around in more circles," Donofrio said. "Congress mandated that this data collection effort was to have been completed by 2009, and I'm not convinced the job has been fully completed to this day, certainly not to the national standards established under the Magnuson-Stevens Act."

 

In testimony before the House Natural Resources Committee on December 1, 2011, NOAA's Eric Schwaab admitted that his agency had failed to meet their time-specific deadline to replace the "fatally flawed" MRFSS program with a new and improved Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP), acknowledging that any new processes for scientific improvement wouldn't be fully incorporated until at least 2013. Pressed by Committee member Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) about how new hard catch limits and accountability measures could be mandated by NOAA Fisheries before meeting their own mandates to fix the soft data used compiled by random surveys, Schwaab replied by saying "certainly it's suboptimal," while referring to recreational data as "a small portion of the assessment process."

 

"There are two different ways in which recreational data factor into the management process, one is as a component of the assessment process, and certainly recreational effort and landings are considered by the scientific teams that make assessment decisions," Schwaab said, adding "secondly is managing, once a quota is set, the recreational component of the fishery."

 

RFA points to Schwaab's Congressional testimony as an example of how recreational data is used not only to enforce recreational regulations on an annual basis, but also in terms of monitoring the overall health of the stock. "Improved angler data isn't a small portion of the process, it's a huge component of figuring out the total health of our coastal fisheries stock and demands more than just a press conference and a mission accomplished banner," Donofrio added.

 

Legislation introduced by Rep. Pallone called the Flexibility and Access in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act of 2011 (H.R. 3061) would make critical improvements to the way America's fisheries are managed, including a requirement that NRC perform another comprehensive report on improvements made to the recreational fishing data collection. Currently under review by the House Natural Resources Committee, HR3061 is co-sponsored by Rep. Rob Andrews (D-NJ), Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), Rep. Donna Christensen (D-VI), Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-FL), Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY), Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI), Rep. Peter King (R-NY), Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), Rep. Tim Scott (R-SC), Rep. Steve Southerland (R-FL), Rep. John Tierney (D-MA), and Rep. Bob Turner (R-NY).

 

"Mr. Colvin and his staff seem to be stuck in a rut, and RFA and our allies are hoping that HR3061 will help them finally get this statistical monkey off their back," Donofrio said. "These numbers are critically important since they ultimately drive the management of the recreational sector. The best system in my mind needs to be as accurate as possible," Donofrio said.

 

"Even the nicest looking inboard at the boat show isn't worth launching this spring without a good look inside the engine room, which is why we prefer to leave it up to Congress and the National Academy of Sciences to decide it this ship is really ready to sail," he added.

 

 

To review the official NRC findings, download:

http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/ocs/mafac/meetings/2006_07/docs/NRC_MRFSS_2006.pdf

 

To see how Congress responded, turn to page 158 of the following PDF under section 109-479n of Magnuson as it relates to Recreational Fisheries, download:

http://www.nero.noaa.gov/sfd/MSA_amended_20070112_FINAL.pdf

 

About Recreational Fishing Alliance
The Recreational Fishing Alliance is a national, grassroots political action organization representing recreational fishermen and the recreational fishing industry on marine fisheries issues. The RFA Mission is to safeguard the rights of saltwater anglers, protect marine, boat and tackle industry jobs, and ensure the long-term sustainability of our Nation's saltwater fisheries. For more information, call  888-JOIN-RFA  or visit www.joinrfa.org.
 


Jan 24 2012 update:


RFA Ad Banner 2
Recreational Fishing Alliance
Contact: Jim Hutchinson, Jr. /  888-564-6732 
For Immediate Release
January 24, 2012

U.S. COASTAL FISHERMEN TO RALLY IN DC MARCH 21

RFA Helps Organize Efforts To "Keep Fishermen Fishing"

In another historic show of solidarity, U.S. recreational and commercial fishermen will gather near the U.S. Capitol on March 21, 2012 in an organized demonstration supporting sensible reform of the Magnuson Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management