Pump the Brakes
The Fishing Community Deserves A Voice
AFTCO applauds the spirit behind We Are One Ocean. We believe the World Surf League is trying to do what they feel is best for surfers. We also believe an essential voice is missing from this campaign. The We Are One Ocean campaign has not included the largest ocean stakeholder – the fishing community – in their quest to improve our resources.
The fishing community understands that many surfers either fish themselves or at least enjoy sustainably caught seafood. That’s why all of us at AFTCO were so surprised to see the WSL and its platform of 3.7 million Instagram followers get behind a very vague 30×30 petition. As a starting point, we urge anyone who defines themselves as a conservation-minded angler to not sign this petition in it’s current form.
30×30 appears to be coming to U.S. waters (30% of our waters protected by 2030). That 30% includes a growing push to add blanketed “no fishing” zones. A stated goal of those who support 30×30 is that “we must set a national goal of protecting and restoring 30 percent of our lands and ocean by 2030 to stem the collapse of our natural world.” While we applaud conservation efforts and understand the need for biodiversity, we must also insist that U.S. anglers are included in this dialogue. With 46 million anglers in the U.S., we contribute over $48 billion into the economy and employ over 800,000 Americans. Our community has been working to protect our fisheries from the time we first picked up a rod and reel. It is imperative that the sport fishing community, as the largest single recreational user of our ocean resource, is included in these conversations.
A Vague Petition. Why Is This a Problem?
After receiving initial backlash, the We Are One Ocean campaign has offered this further clarification:
“We Are One Ocean Supports the creation of Marine Protected Areas (also known as MPAs) that allow low impact fishing. The WSL is not associated with any specific legislation around 30×30 in California, Florida, the US, or in any other country.”
While a great start, this message remains overly vague. For example, does the We Are One Ocean campaign guarantee that your signature will only be used to influence potential legislation that is devoid of blanketed recreational fishing closures? If so, we request that the petition state as much. The fishing community has good reason to be skeptical. While the We Are One Ocean wasn’t around to support prior blanketed fishing closures that banned both recreational fishing and sustainable rod and reel commercial harvest, current We Are One Ocean supporters that also supported California’s now defeated AB3030 Bill include: Marine Conservation Institute, Patagonia, Plastic Pollution Coalition, and most notably the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC).
Additionally, anglers remain leery of the Surfrider Foundation after their very vocal support of California’s MLPA process that shut down around 15% of our coastline to any kind of fishing. Their support of setting “aside for full protection where fishing and the removal or disturbance of living and nonliving material is prohibited” remains intact. The Surfrider Foundation has claimed both publicly and in our communication that “we’ve led to the establishment of MPAs in several states over the last 20 years-working with community groups including fishermen/women in alliances like CCA.” We do not believe that claim to be true. We have requested that Surfriders CEO send us proof of cooperation with the CCA and are still waiting to receive it.
Many of the approximately 46 million anglers in the U.S. use our saltwater resource. The question we must ask is why did the WSL and Surfrider intentionally leave out the single largest user of the ocean resource?
What Can You Do To Help the WSL and Surfrider Amend Their Petition?
- View this Instagram post and tag 3 friends to help amplify the message.
- View this Facebook post to share on your feed and tag friends.
Recommended Guidelines for We Are One Ocean in Their Approach To 30×30
Anglers are the original stewards of the seas. While our offshore fisheries remain challenged by foreign fleets (we agree with We Are One Ocean’s goal to place focus on this area), the reality is that a vast majority of inshore saltwater species that can be managed in US waters are in better shape today than they were ten years ago. This is largely in thanks to the efforts of the recreational fishing community who contributes well over $1 billion dollars annual to the effort through licenses, permits, Sportfish Restoration Account funds and other fees.
When it comes to marine protected areas, the first question to ask is “What are we protecting this area from?” In some cases, it makes sense to protect an area from certain commercial activities. However, it is far more difficult to make a rational case that preventing a parent from taking their son or daughter recreational fishing is really going to protect much of anything. As a rule, we are not against protected areas when there is a real need for them. In fact, the sportfishing community is currently leading the effort in Florida to create a four-month closure and protected area at the Western Dry Rocks of Key West. This protection of 1.3-square-miles of reef will prevent all fishing—both recreational and commercial—during the spawning season. We are for science, the real need over emotion.
Broad closures to recreational fishing access is not the answer. Instead, there are proven practical and successful resource solutions that fishery managers have had in place for years. These include size and catch limits, seasonal closures, and the elimination of destructive gear. Fish population successes from these management practices include white seabass and various bottom fish in California, redfish and red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico, and striped bass on the East Coast.
We believe you can make your own assessment on supporting 30 by 30’s overarching goals. However, if you decide to support a 30×30 initiative, we recommend you only support a 30×30 petition that specifically acknowledges current protected areas will count towards the 30%. In addition, any 30×30 guidance must also specifically define what is meant by a protected area, and only ban sportfishing if there is a real and defined scientific reason do so. Specifics on that should be defined in advance.
As AFTCO’s chairman I spend much of my time working on fishing conservation and fishing rights issues. I encourage you to reach out to AFTCO at [email protected] with any questions that myself or our team can help answer. – Bill Shedd
- Sign up to receive updates from Keep America Fishing – it’s free! Their goal is to keep you informed.
- We recommend you join the CCA through one of their local chapters.
Most coastal communities in the U.S. have an established CCA Chapter. Membership levels start at $35 annually and fund both conservation efforts (building of artificial reefs, hatchery efforts, etc.) and issues pertaining to fishing rights.
Additional 30×30 Resources: