Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force: A Debate

The Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force: A Debate

I guess one of the perks of running your own fishing blog is you get to meet some intelligent people. This is certainly the case here at Fishing for History -- I've been blessed by the number of really smart individuals I've come in contact with over the past three years.

This is why when news of the White House's Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force hit the web I sent out queries to some of the most intelligent people I know so that they could help me -- and hopefully you -- make some sense of what is going on. I'll let others have their say, and then way in later with my own opinion.

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We begin with Jim Fleming, a noted publisher and writer as well as the editor of The NFLCC Gazette, the oldest publication dedicated to preserving fishing history in the world. Jim has waded through the issue and writes the following comments:

Our current administration wants to push through the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force Interim Report. They have given a 180 day window to get this done. This seems like another another set of policy changes that they can and will enact without giving adequate time or specific definitions to the issues. This is an Administrative directive with no oversight, no public input, no accountability and no measures to stop them once it is enacted.

As fisherman we need to be very concerned about how much power they are asking for. There is no clear definition between Recreational fishing and Commercial fishing, the plan simply calls it fishing. It is impossible to have uniform standards without clear definitions of who this will effect and how it will effect them. It is very conceivable that this plan could end recreational fishing on your favorite waterway.

The plan wants to enact a blanket policy across the entire country that simply will not work.

Each region has different needs and concerns. The "one size fits all" approach is not realistic. This plan will take away individual states ability to control their own water resources, conservation, and environmental issues and give it to the Feds. Who is better qualified to manage these recourses, the people on the ground or a pencil pusher in DC. All to often the Federal government makes their decisions based on economic growth of a particular area and not what is best for the entire region.

A perfect example of how well the feds can manage a resource can be found in their approach to controlling the Spiny Dogfish off the north east coast. They can't even accurately estimate the numbers of Dogfish yet they can dictate the harvest. All the while these eating machines are depleting the Haddock and Bluefish populations that help keep the ecosystem in balance.

The truth is the federal government is responsible for much of the loss of our countries fisheries and wetlands. In the interest of Economic Growth and flood control our rivers were re-routed and dredged for years before anyone on the federal level would admit that it was a huge mistake for the environment. It did not work well for flood control either.

Do we really want to give the federal government the freedom to dictate our recreational fishing activities on lakes like Dale Hollow, Erie, and Okeechobee? Lets not give them an inch and let them take a mile. The mile they take could be the mile of water you are fishing on.

Jim Fleming, Editor
The NFLCC Gazette

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The next commentary comes courtesy of Robert A. Miller. R.A. Miller is a geologist who has formerly taught at Vanderbilt, UT-Nashville, and Tennessee State University. The former Assistant Supervisor of the Tennessee Oil and Gas Board, Miller served as a Research Geologist with the Tennessee Geological Survey as well as the Chief of the Environmental Geology Section. He has authored numerous works on environmental geology, geomorphology, mineral resource geology, and several books on American angling history.

Comments on the Interim Report of the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force

This recommendation for a national policy for controlling the use and development of our sea coasts and the Great Lakes is fraught with serious implications, not the least of which relate to recreational fishing. In fact, only the broad term “recreational opportunities” is mentioned, not sport fishing directly. The overwhelming theme in the report is that of addressing climate change, a term which appears in it no less than twenty nine times, and with as many climate-related terms also mentioned. Also found throughout the report is an emphasis that all planning and recommended actions be “science-based”, or “ecosystem-based”. It is certainly wise enough that such consideration always be a part of coastal management, but not to the exclusion of economic factors and individual ownership rights which received only cursory mention in the report. The question must also be asked “Whose science?”. If there are views that are in disagreement with current or future Federal policy and goals, are they going to be seriously considered?

Other terms and phrases include “stronger linkages between management and science”, “ecosystem-based management”, and “coastal and marine spatial planning”. There is also general reference to the overall problem of “non-point source pollution” stemming from a great variety of activities in the interior. This raises the possibility that rivers and tributaries and all impacting activities would also come under the purview of the NOC and might involve widespread federal control of fresh water sport fishing as well.

“Spatial planning” is taken to mean “land use” and little is said in this report about individual and corporate property rights. There is the recommendation for “expansion of a national framework for coastal spatial planning”. This has the potential for greatly impacting business and private coastal interests, including sport fishing.

There is also a recommendation for the United States to join the Law of the Sea Convention, whose edicts would take precedence over our national interests. This has the potential for imposing others’ proposals and plans on our sea coasts which may be contrary to the rights of landowners and sport fishing interests in the United States.

Although there is general mention of “collaboration with state and local governments” in planning it is highly unlikely that such agencies would have much influence over Federal recommendations relating to the broad range of its involvement in coastal planning and management in the future. It appears that this report outlines the basis for establishing a government entity, of what future specific form it is indefinite, that will constitute the quintessential bureaucracy, one with wide-ranging powers that are mandated and favored by and which reports to the President, not Congress, and that has the potential to disenfranchise individual, State and local government, and business rights.

R. A. Miller, Independent Consulting Geologist

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Our third contributor is David Pfeiffer, noted angler and conservationist who is also the President of the Shimano American Corporation. Dave contributes the following notes:

There are six key points in the July 1 joint submission to the White House Task Force from the recreational fishing community ( ASA / CSF / CCA / CCC / BASS). These organizations include Shimano. They are as follows:

1) The need for clear differentiation between commercial and recreational fishing in any strategy dealing with oceans and Great Lakes conservation.

2) A new national ocean policy should recognize the unique contributions of the recreational fishing community and re-affirm President Bill Clinton's Executive Order #12962 and amended by President Bush (E.O. 13474) on recreational fishing, which requires that recreational fishing be managed as a sustainable activity in federal waters.

3) A successful and balanced national ocean policy would promote a balanced-multiple use approach to ocean resource management which focuses on compatible uses. It would recognize the beneficial economic and societal role of sustainable fisheries, as well as other uses, and deem them just as important as conservation-not any less.

4) Responsibly regulated recreational fishing is a highly compatible activity with most, if not all, potential ocean uses.

5) Efforts should be made to attain all necessary scientific information (biological, statistical, socio-economic) prior to making management decisions that would unjustifiably impact coastal economies and the uses on which they depend. This scientific information should then be used as part of an adaptive management model.

6) Anglers play a critical role in fish and habitat conservation efforts in salt and fresh water. In the Task Force interim report, none of the substantive oral and written contributions of the recreational fishing community were included. At the CEQ meeting last Thursday with ASA / CCA / BASS / CSF, Task Force Chairperson Nancy Sutley acknowledged the absence of recreational fishing reference in the report, and described it as an ‘omission’ not a ‘commission’. ( I see the difference as purely semantic. ) She did not make any specific commitment to rectify the situation going forward.

Additionally, there are five key points from the White House Task Force Report of September 10, 2009:

1) The process by which coastal, ocean and inland fishery policy is determined and implemented will be dramatically changed to fall under the direct authority of the President, as recommended to him by a new National Ocean Council comprised of 23 federal agencies at Secretary / Deputy Secretary level. No Congressional oversight or involvement is mentioned or indicated.

2) The implications in the report suggest that ‘ecosystem management’ of aquatic resources and the permitted uses will extend into coastal and Great Lakes tributaries as part of ‘one global sea’, essentially including all waters in the U.S. other than farm ponds and water bodies with no flow. State jurisdiction is potentially placed in jeopardy.

3) The June 12 White House Memo creating the Task Force and the September report make repeated references to proceeding with the new ocean, coastal and Great Lakes strategy in keeping with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea treaty (UNCLOS). The U.S. has never signed this 300 plus pages treaty, but the report proceeds as if this is a fait accomplis. This treaty has potential jurisdiction and economic fee structure issues associated with it that could directly affect Congressional and state jurisdiction, state fish and wildlife agency funding, and we are uncertain what this would mean for Wallop-Breaux and Magnuson-Stevens in the future.

4) Submissions from the Big Green environmental groups (mainly PEW) were adopted into the Task Force report verbatim, in contrast to the failure to include any of the substantive points submitted by the rec fishing community.

5) As ordered by the President, the Task Force was given two mandates to be completed in 90 and 180 days. The first is the new policy / strategy direction as reflected in the Sept. 10 Task Force report. The second is to deal with ‘spatial planning’ – aka zoning of future uses of these waters – coastal, ocean, Great Lakes, tributaries. Marine reserves and permanent closures are expected to play a cornerstone role. NOAA Director Dr. Lubchenco is on the record advocating a minimum 20% permanent closure for all extractive uses in coastal regions – coincidentally the same arbitrary figure being promoted by PEW and the other Big Green groups.

I recommend the following actions:

The only way to slow the White House race to complete this new policy direction is for Congress to apply oversight to the issue. For that to happen, members of Congress in the House and Senate need to hear from constituents directly and immediately. The simple way to accomplish this is for people to visit:

And click on Ocean Policy Task Force to send an e-letter to the administration, the Senate Commerce Committee ( authority for NOAA) and their own members of the House and Senate.

Additionally, people can write or call their Senators and Congressmen / women and ask that Congress take action to restore accountability, due diligence and transparency to this process, and insist that the administration include recreational fishing as a significant priority in any new policy.

People should also be in touch with their state officials to raise questions over how state jurisdiction may be threatened in this new direction.

David Pfeiffer, President
Shimano American Corporation

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Thanks to Jim Fleming, R.A. Miller, and David Pfeiffer for taking the time to help us illuminate what is clearly an important issue. I hope by reading this, and doing some research on your own, you'll arrive at your own conclusions.

-- Dr. Todd

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