Do I have your attention now? I gotta be honest and admit that I am only going to talk about one of the issues in the title. But I see how much attention my fellow blogger Capt. John McMurray gets by simply mentioning striped bass in the title of a post. I also know how much attention the other issues generate. So I thought I’d try it as well. We will see.
What I am going to talk about is something I have harped on before: Money! I’ll be a little more specific – federal disaster funds being handed out by the government to help mitigate the impact of the New England groundfish disaster declaration. This should be old news by now, but amazingly the government is a lot quicker to invade our wallets for tax dollars than it is to hand back some of those bucks in emergency funding. Maybe that should make me happy? What will never make me happy is the fact that our government officials continually ignore the recreational fishing industry. See my post from a month or so ago. (http://www.reel-time.com/articles/conservation/really-care/)
As I said before, our federal fisheries managers have touted what they are doing to address the groundfish fisheries disaster. More than $32 million has been allocated to NOAA Fisheries to re-distribute through the coastal New England states. I have asked whether the impact to the recreational party/charter industry was considered when the financial impact of the disaster was calculated. The answer was “No!” What I never got was any reasons why the impact to this user group had not been calculated. I suspect that it was due to the fact that this industry did not camp out at NOAA’s Greater Atlantic Region Fisheries Office front door. No matter what anyone says, the squeaky wheel gets the grease well before the silent one.
After I got an unsatisfactory response to my questions, another GARFO press release was issued on this very subject. Titled “Commonly Asked Questions About Groundfish Disaster Funding,” it was a fairly comprehensive Q&A on the distribution of the disaster funding. However, the word “recreational” was never mentioned, amazing when the regional administrator of GARFO has publicly affirmed the substantial economic impact of the recreational fishery. If the powers to be at GARFO thought that the recreational party/charter sector did not deserve to get any funding or did not feel that a good case for them receiving the funding was made, why would they not state it? Instead they simply pretended that this user group did not exist. Being ignored is the worst possible outcome. Let me emphatically state at this point that I am not trying to ignore the impact to the private recreational angler. I understand that there is some impact, but I openly admit that I am and would be at a loss as to how to calculate the dollar value of this impact.
What I do hope is happening is that recreational fishing participants all across the country are making their thoughts heard as part of the effort to get input into the national saltwater recreational fisheries policy. See http://www.reel-time.com/articles/conservation/time-show/ This effort to gather stakeholder input is one way to make sure that NOAA Fisheries pays attention to recreational fishing issues. If they do not hear from us in a big way, it tells them that they can continue to ignore us and get away with it. I do not want that, and hopefully you do not, either.
I have said it before, but I will harp on it again. The recreational fishing industry should be treated exactly the same as the commercial fishing industry. Whatever assistance or benefits the commercial sector gets, the recreational industry should receive a proportional share. However, the recreational fishing industry should be managed using a different policy and philosophy. And to be perfectly blunt, the managers are not going to figure that out by themselves. We need to help them.