Political battle lines are drawn for anglers

spectr17

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Political battle lines are drawn for anglers

March 12, 2002

By DAVE STREGE, The Orange County Register

LONG BEACH -- As if he were making a campaign stop, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher stood in front of a large group of anglers Saturday and essentially declared war in an effort to prevent unjustifiable fishing closures by the federal government.

Fishermen ate it up.

"The ocean belongs to us, not the government," Rohrabacher told the crowd at the Fred Hall Show in Long Beach.

"We don't need a bunch of bureaucrats to control our lives."

"We have a government so big that it feels like it has to give you orders. ... When you're telling us we can't even go fishing, you cross the line. We have to stand together."

Anglers applauded repeatedly, happy to hear a politician join their cause in fighting proposed fishing closures at the Channel Islands and other coastal areas under the Marine Life Protection Act.

For United Anglers of Southern California, the Sportfishing Association of California and even the Long Beach Neptunes dive club, which recruited the congressman into the battle, this newfound support is huge.

As important is the new bill - HR 3547, the Freedom to Fish Act - Rohrabacher is co-sponsoring.

It was introduced by Congressman Colin Peterson (D-Minnesota), and Rohrabacher is confident it will pass during this session.

The bill is aimed at amending President Clinton's executive order to establish a network of ocean conservation areas, prompting the proposed MLPA closures.

The bill ensures that:

The government promotes open access for recreational fishing to the maximum extent practicable.

Recreational anglers will be involved in any regulatory procedures that contemplate restrictions on fishing areas.

Whenever access to fishing areas is restricted, that those areas be as small as are scientifically necessary to provide for the conservation of the fishery resource.

Essentially, the bill would make it a law that closures be based on science and be as small an area as possible.

"It says unless you can develop scientific evidence that clearly points out that recreational anglers are causing the problems, we don't want you closing the ocean to them," SAC president Bob Fletcher said.

"While it doesn't affect state waters (and the proposed Channel Islands closures), it's going to put a tremendous amount of pressure on the MLPA process to gather the kind of science and economic analysis to be able to prove there is a problem and justifies a closure is needed."

At another Fred Hall news conference two days earlier, the American Sportfishing Association claimed state officials underestimated the economic impact on the proposed closures at Channel Islands by 90 percent.

The ASA claims the economic impact would be up to $100 million.

Rohrabacher isn't a fisherman, but he does surf and scuba dive, so he relates to sportsmen.

"That's what this is all about," he said, "solidarity between people that enjoy the natural resources of our country."
 

D Sea

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Guys,

This is an issue that is very important to the Southern California Sportfishermen.  Many of the areas that we fish frequently are currently being threatened with closures.  I have been following this issue very closely and have attended meeting throughout the state.  We face a financially strong enemy who is extremely organized.  Sportfishermen have started to band together to fight this, but our resources are not as vast as those we oppose.  Writing letters to you elected officials telling them how you feel on this issue is very important as is a strong anti-closure presence at the Fish and Game Commission meetings.

Right now, the battle is to prevent closures of the Channel Islands, but this is just the tip of the iceberg.  The rest of California is next.  

Please visit http://www.savefishing.com/ for more information.  
 
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