By Barry Gibson
A slick, tri-fold mailing piece crossed our desk the other day.
On one side are illustrations of a tackle box with slogans that read
"Don’t Take The Bait, Oppose the Freedom To Fish Act" and "Fishing:
Support Access, Not Excess." The headline on the flip side proclaims
"The Freedom To Fish Act: When 99% of the Ocean Just Isn’t Enough,"
and is followed by a diatribe vehemently opposing the FFA. Who sent
out the mailer, you ask? We were surprised, as you may be, to find
that it was none other than the million-member Audubon Society, most
likely in response to our June editorial, "Environmentalists
Threaten Sport Fishing," which also ran in dozens of other outdoor
Audubon starts out by claiming it supports recreational fishing,
but says that recreational access to 100 percent of our waters would
"unfairly penalize commercial fishermen"(huh?), and that the FFA
"undermines a balanced approach to managing our ocean fisheries."
Then it goes on to sniff (with nose high in the air, no doubt, and a
ruler in hand to rap our knuckles) that "reasonable access for
recreational angling does not mean fishing everywhere all the time."
But wait. It gets even more bizarre. Audubon claims that
recreational fishermen are "dominating the fishery management
councils in key angling regions" and points out that landings by
anglers exceed commercial landings for seven out of the ten most
popular recreational species, as if this is a problem that somehow
needs to be fixed. And, they warn that catch-and-release "is not a
panacea" because up to 100 percent of released red grouper die (oh,
depending on the size and depth at which they are caught, that
is—and they neglect to say whether these are recreationally caught
grouper). Audubon further opines that the FFA would "effectively
eliminate the use of an essential ocean stewardship tool" by
blocking managers from closing waters to recreational fishing, that
it would somehow gut Executive Order 13158, and that it would
"undermine the National Marine Sanctuaries System."
It appears that Audubon believes that the FFA is one insidious
piece of proposed legislation, for all the reasons their
front-office folks have dreamed up. But clearly the reaction reveals
the organization’s true agenda—it wants no-fishing-by-anyone zones,
regardless of whether there’s an adverse impact. If Audubon were
truly interested in fair and balanced marine management, as it
claims to be, it would support the FFA, which simply says that all
other avenues of restriction on the recreational public must be
explored before anglers are closed out of an area. If angler
activity isn’t hurting anything, let people fish. And if there is a
negative impact, close that area. No problem. Is this concept so
difficult to grasp?
Nope. Audubon grasps it all right. It’s just that the FFA, which
is designed to protect you, gets in the way of their objective of
creating no-fishing zones. If you can’t take your family fishing at
your favorite spot because it has become a Marine Protected Area,
hey, that’s your problem. Find somewhere else to fish. Or take up
If you’re a member of Audubon and a salt water angler, we suggest
you take your annual dues and buy a bag of birdseed instead.