Saturday, August 7, 2010

On the federal ban

I'm a commercial fisherman. Even so, I understand that there are many jobs that are supported by recreational fishing. I understand that the corresponding revenue is enormous. But I don’t sell sunglasses and I sure as hell don’t guide tourists to the best fishing spots. I fish. My job, my revenue, come from commercial fishing. In the grand state of New Jersey, I’m not allowed to include Atlantic striped bass in my catch. My support for or opposition to lifting the ban on fishing striped bass in federal waters, then, depends on whether or not commercial fishing will be allowed there.

Since the total annual quota for striped bass won’t increase, the quota for federal waters will have to come from state quotas. New Jersey doesn’t allow commercial fishing, so that means one thing: in New Jersey, at least, the reduction will come straight from the fish allotted to recreational fishermen. And I like that. It gets better- most of New Jersey’s recreational fishermen are shore-based, or close to it. So if federal waters are opened, their quota goes down, and if they want to compliment their reduced allotment with fish from the federal quota, they’ll finally have to work for it. I'll have to work for it too, but hey- I already do.

So I support lifting the ban on fishing for Atlantic striped bass in federal waters- as long as the federal quota includes an allotment for commercial fishermen like me. If commercial fishing would be banned in federal waters, however, I'm firmly against it: the federal quota would come partly from commercial fishermen in other states, and would go straight to recreational fishermen.

As a real-life non-fisher(wo)man, I don't support or oppose lifting the ban on fishing in federal waters. If "I don't care" is too squishy an answer, I'll say that I support lifting the ban. I don't think there will be any negative repercussions in terms of striped bass ecology. The quota won’t change, and I don’t think the actual number of fish (or pounds of fish) taken will increase significantly: Regardless of where they catch the fish, people who respect the fish, the sport, or generally the law, will continue to respect the quota; those who don’t, won’t, and not a whole lot will change except where, exactly, you are allowed to cast your line (or drop your net).

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