Politics & Policy

Gone, Fishing?

Will Obama's ocean-policy task force remain in lockstep with radical greens?

So Pres. Barack Obama’s “Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force” has decided that the opinions of America’s 60 million anglers aren’t worthy of its consideration.

This task force, headed by the chair of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), was charged with drafting a national ocean policy of marine spatial planning to manage U.S. ocean territory and the Great Lakes. Its recommendations — due out later this month — could be enacted by executive order.

Here’s why anglers, and freedom-loving Americans, should be alarmed: Without input from recreational anglers and the conservation groups that represent them — such as Trout Unlimited, the U.S. Recreational Fishing & Boating Coalition, and the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies — decisions made under this new national oceans policy could be used to close saltwater and freshwater recreational-fishing areas.

#ad#On December 9, 2009, President Obama’s task force released its Interim Framework for Marine Spatial Planning. Soon thereafter, a coalition of ten leading recreational fishing and boating organizations submitted joint comments to the task force. The angling groups wanted to be sure the recommendations sent to the president took the guys with the bass rods and flyboxes into consideration.

After all, America’s anglers are widely credited with saving countless streams, reintroducing and managing fish species, and sounding the alarm when they see a fish species in decline. In fact, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service just announced that $862 million was raised from taxes on hunting, shooting, and fishing equipment in 2009. These funds, which don’t even include monies raised from fishing licenses, will be redistributed to the states for conservation and education programs, as they are every year.

But never mind who’s paying for the conservation of these resources (green-activist groups that style themselves “preservationists” don’t pay these taxes); the task force has made it clear that it is no longer interested in the fishing groups’ input.

The White House task force’s top priority isn’t finding out what’s best for these natural resources, and it isn’t the people who use these waters. Its primary interest is advancing an agenda of federal control and environmentalist ideology. That’s why the Detroit News recently observed that “the task force effectively authorizes the feds to take over jurisdiction of one of the remaining linchpins of Michigan’s economy, our multibillion-dollar fishing industry that generates over 27,000 jobs.” It’s why the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation says this executive order could affect over one million fishery-related jobs nationwide.


The groups that have the task force’s ear are preservationist and anti–resource-management groups such as Defenders of Wildlife, the World Wildlife Fund, and Greenpeace — groups that don’t think humans have a right to catch fish or kill deer in the first place. These groups collaborated on a document entitled “Transition Green,” published in late 2008. This paper doesn’t differentiate commercial fishermen from America’s anglers — the environmental groups act as if commercial long-liners fishing miles off shore are the same as people who buy a state fishing license and tote a tackle box to the nearby lakeshore. And, as it turns out, everything this White House task force is doing precisely mirrors what the greens’ position paper outlined.

#ad#This federal takeover could cut out on-the-ground state game and fish department biologists, as well as the anglers who’ve worked to remove dams to benefit spawning fish and made sure their states are doing all they can to control invasive species such as Asian carp. Instead, it would throw a wet green blanket on local economies and conservation.

Preservationist groups, such as the Sierra Club and the World Wildlife Fund, have been trying to create “no-fishing zones” in marine areas for more than a decade. They’ve always met stiff resistance from wildlife biologists and conservation groups. But now, they see this task force as their big chance to get their way with one stroke of President Obama’s pen.

The preservationists have the same view of hunting and fishing as Swiss attorney Antoine F. Goetschel, who recently made headlines by “representing” a pike. Goetschel argued that an angler who hooked and played the fish for ten line-stretching minutes was guilty of animal cruelty. To add insult to injury, the fisherman then ate his catch. Apparently the Swiss judicial system didn’t have a problem with Goetschel representing his deceased client (even if the Swiss people are unwilling to have him do it on the public’s dime). But ultimately, the judge didn’t buy Goetschel’s argument. As funny as it may seem, it illustrates the common preservationist belief that fishing is an illegitimate pastime.

Meanwhile, President Obama is considering using the same anti–resource-management, preservationist ideology with lands in the western United States. A 21-page document, marked “Internal Draft — NOT FOR RELEASE,” was leaked by Rep. Robert Bishop (R., Utah) in an effort to shed light on another upcoming preservationist takeover. The document names 14 different lands President Obama could completely close to development by unilaterally designating them as “monuments” under the 1906 Antiquities Act.

Goetschel, defender of pikes, is obviously more radical than the wildlife groups that have been given near-exclusive influence over the Ocean Policy Task Force, but Goetschel and those groups have one big thing in common: the conviction that green ideology trumps ordinary human freedoms. And, as this task force seems poised to prove, the Obama administration is all too willing to turn that conviction into national policy.

Frank Miniter is the author of The Ultimate Mans Survival Guide and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Hunting.

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