I'd like to thank Barry Gibson, Editor of Saltwater Sportsman for all the great work they do in behalf of our fisheries. The following editorial is re-printed courtesy of Saltwater Sportsman Magazine and certainly emphasizes our need for diligence on the issue of "Marine Protected Areas".

Capt. Charlie

For the Birds

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 magazines.

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 bowling.

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.

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