On RFA and Managing for Abundance

Seriously? Are these guys really against abundant fish stocks?

A Montauk Blitz - photo by Capt. John McMurray

A Montauk Blitz – photo by Capt. John McMurray

A couple of days ago someone emailed me a response to a blog post I had recently written on the development of NOAA’s Recreational Fishing Policy. If you didn’t get a chance to read my blog, you may find it here: On NOAA’S Recreational Fishing Policy.

Here’s the Recreational Fishing Alliance’s response. Environmental Defense Fund: Another ‘Abundance of Crap’. It’s actually a pretty funny read. It’s full of wild accusations and black-helicopter/ boogieman-under-the-bed-stuff. I highly suggest giving it a read … if you wanna laugh.

So, let’s take a look at some of RFA’s crazy assumptions and then at the larger issue of why anyone claiming to represent recreational fishermen would be against managing for abundance, which is something that so obviously benefits anglers.

But first, a couple of clarifying comments. The piece contends that in my blog I’m somehow trying to keep anglers from attending the town-hall style meetings NOAA is hosting to get public input on the developing recreational fishing policy. Huh? There are some out of context quotes added like “irritating meetings,” “too much like work,” likely because the author assumes his followers are too lazy to actually read my blog, but the point I was making is that I understand why those meetings are sparsely attended. And so I encouraged those people to comment online. Read for yourself.

The author then goes on to call me a “full-time environmental grant administrator and anti-industry leader.” Errr, um … yes, in addition to being a charter captain/small business owner, I’m also the director of grant programs with the Norcross Wildlife Foundation. It’s an awesome job. I get to help a lot of grassroots organizations, many of which work on marine fisheries issues.

Of course the author would like you to believe that I’m working for some extreme environmental organization, or providing funding for such groups, but that’s not the case. I’ve had the great pleasure of providing equipment funding support for, let’s see, the Coastal Conservation Association, Jersey Coast Anglers Association, Trout Unlimited, Hudson River Fisherman’s Association, Fish America Foundation, Atlantic Salmon Federation, just about all of the Water/Riverkeepers, Clean Ocean Action, American Fisheries Society … I could go on and on here. We’ve even funded equipment for the New York Sport Fishing Federation, the organization the author of the RFA piece happens to be the president of.

Another Montauk Blitz - photo by Capt. John McMurray

Another Montauk Blitz – photo by Capt. John McMurray

In case you didn’t get the point, it’s all tied together. What I do in my other job(s) indirectly effects what happens on the water. And I think that’s pretty cool. To infer that I’m some sort of anti-fishing enviro is just stupid. My entire work life revolves around fishing. My wife would argue that my personal life does, too.

As for the “anti-industry” stuff? Seriously? I am industry! A good portion of my income comes from my charter business, which of course depends on abundant fish stocks. The author apparently – and wrongly – believes that “industry” solely consists of people that simply wanna kill more shit/fill up coolers. And that just isn’t true. There are a shitload of us, anglers and recreational industry leaders (e.g. ASA, CCA, CCC, TRCP etc.) who want, and in many cases need abundant fish stocks to survive.

Yeah, maybe I’m “anti” to those industry folks who don’t want or care about abundant fish stocks, ’cause that hurts me. It hurts my business. And it hurts most anglers. But really, how am I “demonizing those who earn profit in some way, shape or form from the harvest of fish”? I earn profit from harvesting fish! The entire point is leaving enough fish in the water so we can all catch them and so some of us can make money off them! And that means managing for abundance!

The blog goes on to call me or anyone who vocally supports abundant fish populations “environmental hipsters masquerading as nuts and bolts fishermen.” LMAO (laughing my ass off, an acronym us hipsters use)… I spend anywhere from 120 to 150 days (depending on the weather) on the water every year, busting my ass to make ends meet. And it’s a lot harder to do that, and may prove impossible in the end, when we don’t have “abundance.” What we’re currently experiencing with striped bass is a pretty damn good example. I’d like to know how many days the hack who wrote that RFA piece spent on the water. I bet it wasn’t many. And speaking of striped bass, why haven’t we seen a position from RFA? I suspect I know why. Because despite what 90 percent of striped bass anglers want, they are philosophically against managing for abundance. Maybe I’m wrong here, but I suspect that I’m not.

I gotta say, when author calls me “a well-heeled light tackle and fly guy,” that pisses me off a little bit. While I’m certainly not poor, I bust my rear end every day – as noted, working more than one job – so I can feed my kids and pay my mortgage. Idiots like this, who fight to deplete stocks, make doing that so much harder. But I do appreciate being grouped with “well-spoken, hip conservationists who claim to be friend to both fish and fisherman.” Because I’d like to believe that’s true.

A third Montauk Blitz - photo by Capt. John McMurray

A third Montauk Blitz – photo by Capt. John McMurray

The author makes a huge leap and tries desperately but in vain to associate “managing for abundance” with an old Environmental Defense Fund report titled Oceans of Abundance, which supports catch share strategies. Uhm… WTF!? Other than the use of the term “abundance,” there’s no connection between the two. Managing for abundance simply means managing fisheries with precaution, so that there are more fish in the water for us to encounter. That has absolutely nothing to do with catch shares. How stupid does he think his readers are?

Lastly, the author either clearly doesn’t understand the concept of “managing for abundance” or is consciously misleading readers in order to support a pro-harvest (read “less fish in the water”) platform when he insinuates that, if the recreational sector manages for abundance, the commercial sector will take advantage of us and harvest all those fish we are trying to keep in the water. What I and the rest of the recreational fishing community that isn’t crazy is really saying is that we need simply to manage fish populations for abundance. In doing so, the total allowable catch for both the recreational and commercial sectors would be set conservatively, so that there are enough fish in the water to prosecute recreational fisheries successfully. It’s pretty simple. Does the author really not understand?

The bottom line is this: RFA always has and probably always will support a pro-harvest/pro-overfishing platform. They have been and are fighting hard so that their small, special-interest constituency of party boats, etc., can kill more fish. And again, let’s keep striped bass in mind here (gotta link in this blog post: And We Continue Down That Road.)

RFA has made it very clear in its response to my post that it doesn’t support an abundance of fish. RFA would rather there be fewer fish in the water despite the cost to probably 90 percent of the saltwater recreational fishing public who need abundant fish stocks to be successful. Ask yourself a question. Which would you rather have? An abundance of fish, distributed over a broad area, even if size and bag limits might be more restrictive? Or depleted stocks, where your chances of catching anything at all are much, much slimmer, but you can keep just about anything you might happen to catch?

As blogger Charlie Witek points out in a recent blog: Adamantly Opposed to Abundance, just about every reputable angling organization supports managing for abundance. Charlie notes that if the author had attended the NOAA Recreational Fishing Summit this spring he would have understood that “managing for abundance was anything but a sinister plot to chase anglers off the water; it was one of the central talking points at the Summit, clearly supported by the leaders of the fishing tackle and boatbuilding communities, as well as by spokesmen for the anglers.”

The American Sportfishing Association, Coastal Conservation Association, Center for Coastal Conservation, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, etc. all support managing for abundance. It’s just intuitively right. If there are more fish in the water, there’s more opportunity to catch them. To steal Dick Brame’s analogy, if Bubba tells his friends that he caught a lot of fish and/or some big fish, his friends wanna go fishing also. And with all the digital information-sharing platforms these days, the number of anglers going fishing and spending money increases exponentially when there is an abundance of fish to be caught. And thus angling related businesses like, um, mine, do better.

But the folks over at RFA just don’t get it. They, just like many commercial fishing organizations, want to go back to the old days where councils had the freedom to allow overfishing when stocks were depleted.

But I have to admit, their ad hominem attacks at those who try and shed light on things, especially when they are as colorful as this one, are pretty entertaining, not to mention flattering. They let me know that I’m on the right side of the issues. So I do hope they keep coming.









After obtaining an undergraduate degree in Political Science from Loyola College in Maryland, Captain John McMurray served in the US Coast Guard for four years as a small-boat coxswain and marine-fisheries law enforcement officer. He was then recruited to become the first Executive Director of the Coastal Conservation Association New York. He is currently the Director of Grants Programs at the Norcross Wildlife Foundation in New York. He is the owner and primary operator of “One More Cast” Charters. John is a well known and well published outdoor writer, specializing in fisheries conservation issues. In 2006 John was awarded the Coastal Conservation Association New York Friend of Fisheries Conservation Award.

Posted in Conservation
4 comments on “On RFA and Managing for Abundance
  1. avatar c brian moran says:

    thank you for putting clarity into the rfa issue, I went through the late seventies and into the early 80s with the crash in stocks and the closure. lucky for us some but not enough measures were taken to bring back the bass, and they did come back ,here in the western sound we could plug cast barbless hooks, and in a morning see any where between 25 to 50 bass from school to almost bragging, now we don’t see much at all, id rather throw them back which we do any way, than fill coolers ..I understand harvest philosophy and im cool with that but when the fishery is in the crapper we have to take measures to protect the fishery, common sense must prevail,, as to the point of you being well heeled,,, any body who knows you and your commitment to the industry will tell you is just plain nonsense
    just my two cents thanks

  2. avatar JET III says:

    Keep up the good work, even if you do make a living off the environment you are on the right side of things. There are just too many people and everyone wants to eat fish. Too many people making livings off the sea. To eat fish you should have to catch it yourself, no commercial fishing would be great, but there is too much money involved. Governments are funding themselves with the profits from fishing. Party boats are a form of commercial fishing and are raping the oceans too, Catch and release would be a good rule for them.

  3. avatar Ken says:

    John, thank you, for calling the Recreational fishing Alliance on their self-serving con game.
    True sustainably yield should be the target , with this comes abundances and profit for both sport and commercial fishermen.

  4. avatar Ranjith says:

    You’re right! “But honey I’ll only be gone for a couple of hours and I’ll be brinnigg home a fish for you to clean, gut, and cook.. Doesn’t that sound grand!” Hooray Irene! Are your sister’s back from Barbados yet?

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