#OurOcean Will Endure If Fishing Access Isn’t Cut Off

Another sweeping move to “protect” marine life disguised as conservation has just passed, as denoted by the trending hashtag #OurOcean.

This comes at the heels of the Our Oceans Summit currently taking place in Washington, D.C.–which announced the designation of the first marine monument off the coast of New England:

The United Kingdom also announced that it’ll ban fishing from one million square kilometers of ocean:

The UK is to ban commercial fishing from a million square kilometres of ocean around British overseas territories, the government said on Thursday.

In total, the government is creating marine protected areas around four islands in the Pacific and Atlantic, including the designation this week of one of the world’s biggest around the Pitcairn Islands.

Commercial fishing will be banned in all of Pitcairn’s zone and half of the 445,390 sq km Ascension protected area. Fishing will be allowed in the other areas, but activities such as oil drilling will be prohibited.

This sweeping action from Britain’s government can incur serious problems for those whose livelihoods depends on commercial fishing since they are already burdened by E.U. fishing restrictions.

The question beckons: Why weren’t commercial fishermen consulted and invited to engage in dialogue? How come voters couldn’t decide on this? Why the haste to pass this?

 

This radical policy proposal shouldn’t surprise you. After all, there’s a sister law in effect stateside in California. The Marine Life Protection Act was first enacted in 1999 on the pretext of protecting and conserving marine life and habitats–boasting 120 protected areas that cover 16% of California. Here’s more about California’s Marine Life Protection Act:

This Act aims to protect California’s marine natural heritage through establishing a statewide network of marine protected areas (MPAs) designed, created, and managed using sound science and stakeholder input.

MPAs protect the diversity and abundance of marine life, the habitats they depend on, and the integrity of marine ecosystems. The Marine Life Protection Act recognizes that a combination of MPAs with varied amounts of allowed activities and protections (marine reserves, marine conservation areas, and marine parks) can help conserve biological diversity, provide a sanctuary for marine life, and enhance recreational and educational opportunities. MPAs can also provide scientific reference points to assist with resource management decisions, and protect a variety of marine habitats, communities, and ecosystems for their economic and intrinsic value, for generations to come.

As a result, anglers feel targeted and alienated. California Sportfishing League Executive Director Marko Mlikotin believes MLPA is hurting the relationship once held between anglers and the Department of Fish and Wildlife. He called the law the biggest “bait and switch” ever. (Emphasis is bolded):

 

There is no question that the passage of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) has been the most controversial environmental issue California’s angling community has ever faced. It signaled the state’s shift from a shared philosophy of conserving California’s natural resources to outright protectionism, with little regard to the interests of outdoor recreation, tourism and all of their economic benefits.

The bottom line is the state did not recruit recreational anglers to serve on stakeholder groups to seek their advice on how best to deny them access to some of California’s finest fishing, permanently. That would have been a none-starter. Rather, stakeholders were assured that environmental mitigation was required to protect the ocean’s natural resources, and their participation aimed to balance the interests of responsible environmental stewardship and outdoor recreation.

The commission would be wise to abandon their current course of action of denying the truth, thereby enshrining the Marine Life Protection Act’s legacy as the greatest bait and switch act ever. It will only further damage their relationship with those who were once their partners in conserving our state’s natural resources. What’s more, their actions have economic consequences. Recreational fishing contributes over $4.9 billion in economic activity each year, and its economic value will only decrease as the state continues to deny access to some of the nation’s finest fishing.

Fishing and protection of marine species should co-exist, not be at odds. However, pushing preservation over conservation will ultimately hurt both parties. In my January 2016 interview with Wicked Tuna star Dave Marciano, he stressed the important role commercial fishermen play in protecting the ocean :

I’ve been a commercial fisherman my entire life. It’s one of the most highly regulated things in the world…It’s a cool little thing to put a face on the fishing industry. In the past, the environmental community at times working against us to get their message out and obviously sometimes I tend to disagree with. They can paint a pretty harsh picture of what commercial fisherman are. So it’s nice to kind of be able to put a face on that commercial fishing industry so people can start to understand where their seafood comes from because folks like me and others, as many guys like me out there, simply make a living from the sea–similar to farming except we’re out there in the ocean. We do care about the resources. We do care about the health of the ocean. We do care about our kids having a future in fishing.

The majority of people–fishermen included–desire to protect and preserve the ocean. In fact, fishermen are the biggest advocates for clean oceans and continual preservation of marine life. Restricting access to fishing may protect the environment in the short term, but will have devastating economic AND environmental effects long-term.

Fishermen are not the enemy of conservation; big government is.