U.S. Coastal Fishermen to Rally in Washington DC Mar. 21
In another historic show of solidarity, U.S. recreational and commercial fishermen will gather near the U.S. Capitol on March 21, 2012 in an organized demonstration supporting sensible reform of the Magnuson Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson Stevens Act). According to the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) which is helping organize this year’s event, permitting efforts have been underway for weeks and official details about the organized protest will be made public in the coming days.
A rally on February 24, 2010, under a United We Fish banner, brought some 5,000 recreational, commercial and party/charter vessel owners and folks in associated businesses from all over the country to Washington. More than two dozen members of the Senate and the House of Representatives took time out from their busy schedules to address the crowd. The March 21 rally is being billed as Keep Fishermen Fishing, and once again will unite the commercial and recreational sectors under one common message, “reform Magnuson now.”
“Those who didn’t attend or perhaps chose not to support the original rally are mostly unaware of the great things which were accomplished in between those two winter storms of 2010,” said RFA executive director Jim Donofrio. “Of the two dozen members of Congress who addressed our troops at the rally, several top legislators pushed to have Magnuson reform initiatives prioritized in Congress which is why the House Natural Resources Committee is now reviewing eight different pieces of fisheries reform legislation.”
“Our coastal fisheries have been getting national headlines in the past two years, and our Keep Fishermen Fishing organizers are hoping to keep that momentum going forward in order to reform Magnuson now,” Donofrio said.
Signed into law in 1976, NOAA Fisheries describes the 36-year-old federal fisheries law this way, “most notably, the Magnuson-Stevens Act aided in the development of the domestic fishing industry by phasing out foreign fishing.” In recent years however, rally organizers claim the Magnuson Stevens Act has been transformed from its original intent into a weapon employed by a handful of mega-foundations and the anti-fishing ENGOs they support to drive fishermen off the water.
“Real-time biological overfishing is not occurring in most U.S. fisheries today, as fishermen know it,” Donofrio said. “We’re being held to a statutory overfishing definition which has nothing to do with science, and that needs to be changed in the law.”
Citing a continuous stream of regulatory requirements which have led to unnecessary and unacceptable restrictions in demonstrably sustainable fisheries, organizers say the American public is being denied access to the food and fun of this tremendous natural resource. “We’ve watched access to vital coastal fisheries like cod, summer flounder, black sea bass, red snapper, amberjack, gag grouper and others virtually destroyed during the past 5 years, this is clearly a huge jobs issue which has already been recognized by House Speaker John Boehner,” he said referencing the speaker’s blog site at www.speaker.gov/Blog/Default.aspx?postid=266385.
“We are seeking bipartisan congressional support to fix our law, to put folks to work and specifically to keep our fishermen fishing,” Donofrio said.
Most U.S. fisheries are in better shape biologically than they’ve been for a generation or more. In fact, last year NOAA Fisheries scientists announced that 84% of U.S. fish stocks studied for fishing activity were not experiencing overfishing as of 2010. However, despite the heavy sacrifices on the part of coastal fishermen, the same federal agency in charge of managing the resource has been using a broken law to mete out broken promises upon these constituents to ratchet down regulations as fisheries continue to rebuild.
As was the case in 2010, organizers are anticipating foundation-funded ENGO lobbying disguised as a grassroots fishermen’s effort aimed at marginalizing the Keep Fishermen Fishing rally. The message that anti-fishing groups will be relaying to Congress is that truly conservation-minded recreational, commercial and party/charter fishermen fully support the Magnuson Stevens Act as it is today and oppose any efforts to amendment it.
Keep Fishermen Fishing organizers however say that the truly conservation-minded fishermen won’t be those walking the halls of Congress trying to sell their anti-fishing message because of foundation/ENGO funding, they’ll be the people who are there on their own dime and who are committed to returning to a federal fisheries management system that recognizes that they and the fishing communities they support are as important as the fish are.
While final details of the 2012 Keep Fishermen Fishing rally are still being put in place, state organizers from the New England, Mid-Atlantic, South Atlantic and Gulf regions have already begun coordinated efforts to schedule buses into Washington DC on March 20th and 21st. Those interesting in organizing a bus effort or getting travel information for joining the rally in DC should bookmark www.keepfishermenfishing.com.
You can also call the RFA headquarters at 888-564-6732 for additional information or to learn how to lend your support for the 3-21-12 rally for fishermen’s rights. Follow the rally efforts by typing Keep Fishermen Fishing or Recreational Fishing Alliance into the search bar at Facebook.com (the RFA Facebook group page currently stands at more than 2,300 members and growing!)