May 7, 2013 – With the first day of the three-day Managing Our Nation’s Fisheries conference ending in Washington DC today, many attendees are now on their way to an evening reception in the East-State Room at the Mayflower Renaissance Hotel presented by Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).
According to the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA), the first day of the conference, presented in part by Pew Charitable Trusts and the Walton Family Foundation, put many of the environmental sponsors in an uncomfortable position early in the day.
“We heard from a few insiders that some of the Pew activists were very unhappy at hearing how fisheries managers were looking for incorporation of some additional flexibility in the federal fisheries law,” said RFA executive director Jim Donofrio. “While the show sponsors are working hard to undermine the need for management flexibility, the actual council members in attendance and giving presentations have completely contradicted the position held by the conference sponsors.”
Announcements by the Department of Commerce praising the healthy status of many U.S. fish stocks has put many of the environmental non government organizations (ENGO’s) like Pew and EDF on shaky ground on Capitol Hill in recent years, as it becomes harder and harder to justify their pleas for more drastic harvest cutbacks on the recreational fishing community. Donofrio said that a series of regional fishery management council perspectives delivered at the conference this morning further evidenced the longstanding position by the RFA.
“Even the chairman of the New England Fishery Management Council, who has been a frequent critic of RFA and the hundreds of different recreational and commercial organizations who have united in a plea to revise the federal fisheries law to incorporate some limited flexibility, shocked a few of the ENGO’s today by admitting that flexibility would be helpful,” Donofrio said. “It would seem that many of the folks who make decisions at the regional management council level are all supportive of fixing the Magnuson Stevens Act this year.”
According to conference insiders, there’s been plenty of buzz about President Obama’s recent nomination of Penny Pritzker for the Secretary of Commerce appointment too, particularly as the president made clear his top priorities “to grow the economy, create good middle-class jobs [and] make sure that the next generation prospers.” Donofrio said that the present fisheries policy don’t reconcile with the President’s stated priorities.
“Fishing communities throughout the U.S. are largely made up of the middle class, and yet the current fishery management policy being prosecuted by the administration and our Commerce Department is indisputably destroying many of the businesses and communities that have sacrificed to help rebuild those stocks,” Donofrio said. “The Gulf of Mexico’s recreational red snapper fishery is a prime example where onerous regulations have undermined the ability of local fishing families to support themselves.”
“We have coastal economies shrinking on a monthly basis, while the fish populations that support them are growing or even completely rebuilt in many cases, that’s why RFA has waged this ongoing campaign to counterattack the ENGO rhetoric,” Donofrio said.
On Sunday, RFA sent out a critical bulletin which satirized this week’s Pew-sponsored fisheries conference, posting a Fish Buzz Bingo card with fishy corporate buzz words and acronyms apt to be heard at workshops and presentations in DC this week. Donofrio said it didn’t take long for someone to yell out ‘bingo’ at this morning’s conference.
“One of the presenters made reference to Fish Buzz Bingo this morning, right before launching into his own board-clearing presentation of management lingo, but we’ve posted a new version today for folks who plan on attending tomorrow’s sessions on fishery management essentials, ecosystem-based decision making or fishing community stability,” Donofrio said.
To download a new Fish Buzz Bingo gameboard, go to:
RFA lampooned this week’s Managing Our Nation’s Fisheries Conference because of what they long ago tabbed the ‘hijacking’ of the fisheries management process by well-heeled advocates from the environmental community. Many of the same groups who helped spearhead radical changes to the 2006 reauthorization of Magnuson-Stevens resulting in devastating impact to the recreational fishing industry are also key sponsors and presenters at this week’s DC event.
“Middle class fishermen aren’t attending this conference, but none of the conference organizers or sponsors really care much what that guy has to think anyway,” Donofrio said. “This is an event presented by the environmental industry, whose staff makes up a significant portion of the conference attendees and continues to grow significantly with huge budgets, while the fishing communities over which they have gained so much control are shrinking and hemorrhaging money.”
“Some of the wealthiest groups in the environmental industry have pledged massive resources to block efforts to bring relief to these working fishing communities through meaningful reform of our federal fisheries law, but if the President and Congress can incorporate their priorities for socioeconomic growth into sound fishery policies, maybe a few of our middle-class jobs can be saved, and fishing communities and families can prosper,” he said.