May 5, 2013 – The third Managing Our Nation’s Fisheries conference is being held on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, May 7-9, 2013 in Washington, DC. Conference organizers boast how the “conference follows up on the highly successful Managing Our Nation’s Fisheries conferences held in 2003 and 2005,” which Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) translates as more of the same boring, tedious and self-aggrandizing doublespeak presented at previous conferences where nothing was ever accomplished.
“Saltwater anglers don’t see anything successful about fisheries management in the last few years, not with losing so many fishing days on red snapper and black sea bass, and watching the New England groundfishery collapse,” said RFA executive director Jim Donofrio.
“But this is after all a Pew Charitable Trusts event and they just love what they’ve done to our coastal fishing community,” Donofrio added.
RFA said the 2013 show’s organizing sponsors like Pew Charitable Trusts and the Walton Family Foundation actually helped finance and direct the rewriting of the 2007 law (Magnuson Stevens Act) which has led to widespread economic collapse in the recreational industry due to reduced angler access; these are the same organizations heavily funding global initiatives to privatize marine fisheries through individually assigned quotas and catch shares, while pushing for ‘no-access’ and ‘no-take’ marine reserves.
RFA members and supporters have been asking if our national organization is sending delegates to Washington DC for this event – our official response is no.
“We’ve attended the previous dog and pony shows and watched the usual suspects giving world view presentations about successful fisheries management in the United States, and in all honesty it would be a waste of our supporters’ hard-earned cash to sit in on yet another national vision quest supported by special interests which are not are own,” Donofrio said.
“The current administration does not want political activists like RFA representing our members at important fisheries meetings like HMS (Highly Migratory Species) or ICCAT (International Commission for the Conservation of AtlanticTunas), and they certainly don’t want to hear our view about the present management of our coastal fisheries either,” he added.
Donofrio and the RFA were longtime delegates at HMS and ICCAT representing the best interests of America’s saltwater anglers. That all ended on inauguration day of 2009 whenPresident Obama signed an executive order banning lobbyists from working on regulations directly related to any specific employer. Since RFA employs Donofrio who only lobbies in Washington DC on issues related exclusively to saltwater fisheries and recreational anglers, the Obama administration edict has ramifications that sometimes preclude RFA from working with certain committees that govern coastal fisheries.
“It sounds good to some people when you attack certain special interests, but when you allow certain exclusions and waivers to allow some hand-picked lobbyists to work the system while giving groups like Pew and the heirs to the Wal-Mart throne the keys the kingdom, it leads directly to the type of economic collapse we’ve seen in the past five years within our coastal communities,” Donofrio said. “It’s no secret to anyone in the recreational sector that things have gotten progressively worse for us during the past five years, and certainly since the last national back-slapping conference in 2005.”
Managing director Jim Hutchinson, Jr. said RFA did not pony up sponsorship support of theManaging Our Nation’s Fisheries conference as some of the environmental non-government organizations (ENGO) had done, but he was still planning to send staff to the event until the official sponsorship list was released.
“When we looked at the line-up of ENGO speakers and the stacked audience of Pew and EDF (Environmental Defense Fund) activists, we didn’t see much benefit for RFA members to spend money on endorsing such an event, certainly not at a time when our access to fisheries like red snapper and black sea bass is being stripped away due to a broken law and government neglect,” Hutchinson said.
The 500-member attendee list – currently at capacity with no new registrants being accepted – includes over 60 attendees from the ENGO sector, including 23 individual representatives from Pew Charitable Trusts and at least nine from EDF and their funded organizations. There are also 112 participants from regional fisheries councils and commissions and just 39 staff members from NOAA Fisheries and the Department of Commerce. Due to budget restrictions resulting from the federal sequestration, many NOAA Fisheries representatives were not told if they were being allowed to attend this now closed meeting until the end of last week.
“Let’s just hope that the dozen or so congressional staffers attending this event will realize that they’re being shuffled along through a stacked deck,” Hutchinson said. “These are some of the wealthiest groups and individuals in the environmental industry hosting this event while simultaneously blocking all congressional efforts to provide relief to our hard-working, middle-class fishermen, it’s really tragic.”
RFA is continuing to work with key Members of Congress to address the inflexibility in the federal fisheries law which is up for reauthorization in 2013, while also hoping to push for improved funding and better accountability in science and data collection out of the Commerce Department which oversees NOAA Fisheries.
“The President just made his top priorities known with his recent Commerce Secretary nomination, to grow the economy, create good middle-class jobs and to make sure that the next generation prospers, and current fishery policy which the ENGO’s will be bragging about this week do not reconcile with those principles,” Donofrio added.
PLAY FISH BUZZ BINGO!!!
If you’re being forced to attend this three-day dogfish and pony show – whether by kidnap, corporate mandate, bureaucratic expense account, or simply because you drew the short straw at your fishing club – be sure to bring along a few boards of Fish Buzz Bingo to add a little zip to this three-day circus!
“I’ve sat through enough of these events in the past 17 years to tell you honestly, it’s going to get pretty frustrating, particularly with all the board room catch phrases and acronyms these speakers are going to toss around,” said Donofrio. “Pass a Fish Buzz Bingo card to the guy at your left and right, and this whole useless government exercise will get a lot more exciting when you hear someone yell BINGO in the middle of a presentation on free markets, angling opportunity, barotrauma and capacity reduction.”
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