Time to Shed a Little Light

Posted on May 12, 2011 by Ted Venker, Conservation Director, CCA

Fishermen are notorious for having a little trouble with the truth. Whether it’s adding a few pounds to the fish you caught last week or misdirecting a buddy away from your favorite spot or calling in sick on a beautiful day with a green tide, anglers can bend the truth when they need to.

It’s all part of the game.
Unfortunately, the truth in fisheries management often gets bent and twisted until it is an unrecognizable, smoking heap of wreckage, and that is the subject of a very good column in the May 2011 issue of SaltWater Sportsman Magazine entitled, “The Great Conspiracy Theory.” Rip Cunningham traces the origins of the great catch share conspiracy theory and offers a blunt assessment: “The true conspiracy may be the effort of a few in the shadows to maintain the status quo by creating a perceived conspiracy,” he writes. “The most insidious conspiracy of all may be the effort to invent one where none exists.”
We’ve had to do our share of debunking myths about catch shares as well, and published an article called “Caught Up in Catch Shares” back in February to tell our side of the tale once and for all. Rip’s analysis is right on the mark.
The thing about conspiracies is that you never really know who is behind them or what their motives are. To be functional and effective, organizations can’t be overly concerned with that end of the equation, though. You can chase shadows and whispers all day long and accomplish exactly nothing. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “”It behooves every man to remember that the work of the critic is of altogether secondary importance, and that, in the end, progress is accomplished by the man who does things.”
If you want to know about an organization, look at the work it is actually doing on issues that matter to you.
If you care about the impact of destructive fishing gear like longlines, trawls and gillnets, CCA has game fish legislation in play right now in the North Carolina General Assembly, has launched a net-ban effort in the Pacific Northwest, is pushing to end longlining in the Gulf of Mexico, and is leading the charge against rampant poaching of striped bass in the Chesapeake Bay.
If you care about habitat, CCA’s Building Conservation Habitat Program will pour $1.5 million into marsh and reef restoration and creation over the next three years. In the inaugural project of this national program, four acres of artificial reef are set to splash down in Louisiana’s Barataria Bay in the next few weeks. The habitat projects undertaken over the last year by individual CCA state chapters are too numerous to mention here, but cover everything from oyster recycling to seagrass planting to ghost crab trap removal programs.
If you care about enforcement and research, CCA state chapters have donated hundreds of thousands dollars of equipment to state wildlife enforcement agencies. CCA is also working to defeat short-sighted efforts in New York and New Jersey to roll back saltwater recreational saltwater licenses that will de-fund those state management agencies and open the door to commercial abuses and neglect of marine resources. CCA North Carolina is fighting the commercial industry to secure a Joint Enforcement Agreement to secure federal funding that will allow state officers to enforce federal law.  And CCA Texas funded $700,000 for a marine larviculture laboratory to study recreational fish species for hatchery programs in partnership with the University of Texas Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas.
If you are concerned about the potential negative impacts of catch shares, CCA is the only recreational fishing group in the country that is engaged in a lawsuit over catch shares against both the federal government and the Environmental Defense Fund.
And if you care about absurd fishing regulations, like the recently announced 48-day season for red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico, CCA is pursuing a strategy for reallocation at every level of federal management in an effort to have fisheries allocated based on current economic, social and conservation criteria rather than outdated past catch history.
There are many challenges in fisheries management, and unfortunately one of them is, as Rip says, the efforts of a few in the shadows to maintain the status quo by spreading mistruths. The next time a hazy shadow on a fishing chatroom whispers something that sounds outrageous, be sure to ask them where their group stands on things that matter to you, like game fish status, fishing licenses, destructive fishing gear, habitat restoration and resource conservation.
Nothing makes a hazy shadow go away like a little sunlight.
Chris Scola says:
May 14, 2011 at 4:01 pm
It looks to me like the key members of the conspiracy are trying to deflect attention away from the truth.The fact is that corporate interests are using fake enviromentalists to wrestle control of our nations commercial fisheries away from small mom and pop operations.CCA,EDF,PEW,and Oceana are all creating a fisheries crisis where it does not exist.Rip Cunningham is a key member of this conspiracy.If there was ever a fisherman who was liar it is Rip Cunningham and Ted Venker.
Ted Venker says:
May 16, 2011 at 6:51 am
Yes, because the only people who tell the truth are the ones who believe in the conspiracy, right?
Chris Scola says:
May 24, 2011 at 6:56 am
I find it ironic that a person who works for the oil industry would accuse others of being less than honest.
Ted Venker says:
May 24, 2011 at 7:47 am
Fascinating. The oil industry is always at the heart of a good conspiracy theory, isn’t it? I suspect that this is going to be another one of those “facts” floated by an anonymous poster somewhere that you’re hoping will become true if you repeat it often enough. As long as we’re playing games, I would guess that you are a commercial fisherman who recently dumped several thousand striped bass over the side off the coast of North Carolina and is upset that CCA North Carolina has launched a bill to make striped bass game fish.
Chris Scola says:
June 2, 2011 at 8:27 am
Actually,I am a commercial fisherman ,but I am from Montauk New York not North Carolina.I dont support gamefish status for any fish that has value as a foodfish.Fish belong to all the citizens of this country.Gamefish status steals access to the resource from the non fishing public.These people have as much right to the fish as you and I do.And it is people like me who provide that oppurtunity.While people like yourself try to hoard the recource for recreational purposes.By the way,I am not against the Oil industry.I need access to affordable fuel to make a living.I dont agree with the presidents ban on drilling.It is costing to many vital jobs and driving up fuel prices.However,big Oil has a well earned reputation for being less than honest.As far as conspiracies are concerned even unbiased casual observers can see that some major corporations are using enviromentalists to manipulate control of some our more important fisheries into corporate hands.Do you beleive that large fishing corporations would be better stewards of the resource than smaller operations?I certainly dont.Wall Street is destroying this country.If given the oppurtunity they will destroy all of our fisheries,including vital sport fish.Think about how many of your precious striped bass a wall street owned factory boat would kill compared to a shitty old shrimp boat with a ragged out net.There are enough fish in the ocean for all user groups to utilize.There is no legitimate reason for one group to deny access to others.
Ted Venker says:
June 2, 2011 at 10:38 am
The one point in your post that I would not debate is that some environmentalists are attempting to manipulate management of fisheries that are of great importance to recreational anglers. I don’t think anyone would argue that the Environmental Defense Fund is using its very deep pockets to push catch share programs into every fishery it can. Is their success so far due to some wild conspiracy that ties $$$ from Pew/EDF to every other group out there involved in fisheries management? No. Their success is due to them having extraordinary resources and putting them to work. They are following the same philosophy that puts the New York Yankees into the World Series every other year. EDF doesn’t need a conspiracy any more than George Steinbrenner or Jerry Buss needed a conspiracy to build sports dynasties.
The sooner people realize we are simply getting our behinds kicked by an enviro group with lots of money and a game plan, and stop trying to further their own agenda by dreaming up conspiracies to paint everyone but themselves as complicit, the more effective we would be in derailing catch share programs aimed at recreational fisheries.
Chris Scola says:
June 4, 2011 at 5:57 pm
If for example,the Walton foundation provides resources to EDF to further their catch share agenda,wouldn’t you agree that this comprise’s a conspiracy.By definition a conspiracy is a secret plan to do something unlawful or harmful.While catch shares are not illegal,I think CCA agrees that they are harmful.
Ted Venker says:
June 6, 2011 at 6:50 am
I won’t debate that that is exactly how EDF is pursuing its catch share agenda.
However, if the Garden State Seafood Association, for example, had tens of millions of dollars to give to commercial fishing groups so that they could influence NOAA Fisheries (which has indeed been dominated by commercial fishing agendas for decades, by the way) and drive the management system to benefit industrial fishing and get bigger allocations and use any kind of gear it wanted whenever it wanted, is that a conspiracy? I can assure you that as a recreational fisherman, I would probably find that just as harmful as the catch shares that are being pushed by the enviro groups but you wouldn’t think that was a conspiracy, would you? I wouldn’t.
The enviros in question, primarily EDF, have made no secret that catch shares are what they are after. If acting in secret is part of the definition of a conspiracy, then your analysis breaks down right there.
The conspiracy thing is a cop-out, pushed by groups who can’t bring themselves to admit they are just flat-out getting their asses beat. You can object to catch shares (CCA does) and you can fight against catch shares (CCA is) but to dream up conspiracies like Joe McCarthy so you don’t have to explain your own incompetence is wasted effort. Get on the field and play the game better than EDF is playing it if you want to do something about catch shares.


Issues: CCA Blogs