Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Should Fishing Be Protected?

So here is an interesting topic, which is bound to produce anger and anxieties on both sides of the fence. Today (Nov. 2) voters in Arizona, Arkansas, South Carolina, and Tennessee are going to the polls to decide whether hunting and fishing should be protected under each states constitution. When something is protected then it becomes very difficult for the courts to take that right away from you. So by doing this today it is ensuring that fishermen will have a right to catch fish for future generations. 

This has largely come about because recreational fishermen have become fearful of recent attacks by PETA (People For The Ethical Treatment Of Animals) who have campaigns against fishing - viewing it as cruel and unnecessary. PETA are nothing to be ignored, and honestly, if I were a fishermen I would be concerned too. By implementing these laws they protect their 'right' to fish. I think that both hunting and fishing should be allowed if it is undertaken responsibly. 

The problem is that PETA have made this into an animal cruelty issue when it should be a conservation issue. With these laws in place it would be very difficult for any government agency to reduce fishing if this action was resulting in a significant reduction in fish populations. It is already difficult for these agencies to enforce current regulations to stop recreational fishers from overfishing, and the last thing we need is to make this job even harder! For example, what if fish stocks were depleted in an area and the government agency wanted to stop fishing in that area to help them recover? Fishermen might argue that it is their constitutional right to fish there. Recreational fishermen tend to be very resistant, maybe even a bit touchy, when it comes to other people telling them what they can do with their fish. This can sometimes be despite mounting evidence that that fish stock may be in trouble. One only needs to remember the arguments commercial fishermen made when the scientists told them the cod stocks were running out. 

In the end people need to remember that we all want the same thing. I want to be able to go diving and see fish in their natural environment. Fishermen want to be able to go out and fish. The emphasis should not be on protecting the right of the fishermen, or even PETA's animal cruelty agenda, the focus should be on protecting fish stocks so we can all enjoy them. 



  1. Daniel,

    I live in SC and saw that measure on the ballot today. I interpreted a "yes" vote as saying that the right to fish is protected under state law and therefore Federal-level conservation measures would be more difficult to stick. Is that wrong?

  2. Im sure the federal laws would be a completely kettle of fish (yip nice pun). But my issue as I read this was more to do with the fact that no one is even mentioning that fish should be protected for conservations sake rather than because of animal cruelty etc. Also, what if the problem is regional and needs to be dealt with by the state? Having dealt with many recreational fishermen I just don't think it is wise to give them more ammo to prevent someone from stopping them from their 'right'. Surly the fish is the main thing that should be protected.

    Having said that you probably no more about this than I do since you are from the area. What are your thoughts on the matter? I would love to hear what you have to say and/or if I have missed something here.

  3. I live in a fishing village in Ireland (Killybegs). My feeling is that fishermen and scientists don't talk to one another nearly enough to develop ideas to their mutual benefit on fishery conservation.

    Fishermen themselves do have some good ideas about conservation, especially when you talk to them individually in private, but are rarely asked for them. Also, the current system that pits them against one another with the highest short term gains for the boats that catch the most the quickest militates against fishermen taking the long-term, fishery conservation view, even though it makes economic sense to protect the source of your income. Each fisherman would have to be convinced that a more conservationist fishery protection policy would not put them at an unfair advantage against one another.

    But at bottom, fishermen themselves stand to gain the most from fishery conservation and need to be intimately involved in designing fair and effective tools to do this.

    Meanwhile, scientists (at least the ones around here) appear to talk mainly to one another and to governments, without taking on board the human dimension of the fishery communities most affected by their findings. I looked at the proceedings of a recent academic conference on fishery policy held at an Irish university, and there was not one single speaker who was an actual fisherman, or who would be speaking from the perspective of a fishing community.

    PS, sorry if off-topic geographically, but I presume the tensions between fishermen and fishery conservation efforts have a similar dynamic in different countries.

  4. Thats a really well made point Scotlyn, and I think this problem is a worldwide one. I also agree that in terms of conservation the best way forward would be to include all stakeholders so everyone has contributed and feels they have invested in any actioned conservation programme. I think fishermen would be an integral part of this.

    I will defend the academic conference having no fishermen though. The nature of the conference was obviously of a scientific nature, and therefore it would be fair to only have scientists. I have been to some conferences where non-scientists were allowed to talk and it generally has ended in crazy ideas been pushed forward with no data to back them up. In short it was embarrassing. But I hear your point!