Minn. Rep. Collin Peterson introduces "Freedom To

spectr17

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Minnesota legislator introduces 'Freedom to Fish' bill.

Todd Milbourn, Minneapolis Star Tribune

Mar 6, 2002

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Countering efforts by environmental groups to ban fishing in some coastal spots, Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., has introduced the "Freedom to Fish Act," which would make it more difficult to establish no-fishing zones.

In his bill, Peterson, chairman of the Congressional Sportsman's Caucus, calls access to fishing areas "the single most important element of recreational fishing."

The bill would permit closing of a sport fishing area only if recreational anglers are found to be the cause of specific conservation problems and if no alternative exists. The bill also would allow anglers greater say in the regulatory process.

"We're concerned that fishing areas will be closed down because it sounds like a good idea, even when we didn't cause the problem," said Forbes Darby, a spokesman for the American Sportfishing Association, which helped draft the bill.

Environmentalists say that fishing interests already have a large say in the regulatory process and that Peterson's bill would exclude other concerns.

"The bill starts from the premise that no area can be closed to fishing because of some inalienable right to fish," said Jack Sobel, an angler and the director of the ecosystem program at the Ocean Conservancy, an environmental group in Washington, D.C. "I don't think that right exists or should exist. There's also a right to protect our natural heritage."

Last year, the federal government established no-fishing zones off the Florida Keys to help fish populations. But Connie Barclay, a spokeswoman for the National Marine Fisheries Service, said that overall, few restrictions have been placed on sport fishing in coastal waters in recent years.

Peterson's office estimates that nationwide there are more than 1.2 million jobs related to recreational fishing and that the industry pumps about $108 billion annually into the U.S. economy.

Sens. John Breaux, D-La., and Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, have introduced a similar bill in the Senate.

Minnesota debate

While environmental groups are pushing for bans in the oceans, an animal rights group wants anglers out of Minnesota's state parks.

Dan Shannon, a spokesman for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals' (PETA) campaign, said that fish experience fear, and that impaling them on a hook is tantamount to torture.

"Fishing is just hunting in water," he said. "It's a needless and cruel activity that doesn't have a place in a civilized society."

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources isn't planning to consider PETA's proposal, said Dennis Stauffer, a DNR spokesman. He said most anglers take care to treat fish with respect.

"The Department of Natural Resources supports fishing and does not believe that anglers or their activities are harming Minnesota's state parks. We have no intention of banning fishing in state parks," Brad Moore, assistant commissioner for operations, wrote in a Jan. 18 letter to PETA.

Peter Sorenson, a fish neurobiologist at the University of Minnesota, said that if a fish is hurt it will try to escape, but that doesn't necessarily mean it experiences fear.

"To fear something implies that you understand what your normal emotional state is, and that you've got some expectation of what the future might bring for you. Sure, a fish can react with stress and even alarm. But, fear? I don't see any evidence of that," he said.

Sorenson said fish lack the brain structures that allow humans to experience emotions.

"The areas of the human brain that are associated with all this emotional, higher-level awareness, that's pretty much found in an area called the neo-cortex. Fish do not have any neo-cortex," he said. "They're very different from us but, we should still treat them with respect."

-- Todd Milbourn is at tmilbourn@mcclatchydc.com .
 

Kernhuntr

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It's good to know that there are still some rational thinking politicians in our country.

If those PETA goons were'nt so dangerous they would be a laugh a minute. The words "civilized society" and PETA do not belong together with their militant activities and funding of others who do the same.

Kernhuntr
 

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