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Fish, Shmish, You Call That Fishing?

February 14, 2011

Dr. Louis Daniel, Director
North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries
3441 Arendell Street
Morehead City, NC 28557

Dear Dr. Daniel,

By now you know well that many people are justifiably upset by the wasteful netting practices of the North Carolina commercial bass fishermen, and you can count me among them. The videos and photos are proof that North Carolina is not managing its share of our commonly held striped bass stocks in a professional way. This is bad fishing and bad species management. It is not sustainable, and it damages the sustainable tourism and recreational fisheries up and down the entire coast. Those coastal tourism and recreational fisheries are worth far more annually than the short-term catches by the commercial industry.

To make the situation worse, many people are disturbed by the image of a NC MFC board member (Mikey Daniels) voting to extend his own commercial season. This is bad government, plain and simple. It is hard to understand how in this day and age we have an industry regulating itself, as your commercial fishing industry does. Your current arrangement creates an obvious conflict of interest between the regulators and the beneficiaries of regulation, and it should end.
Additionally, striped bass depend to a great extent on bunker (menhaden), and after viewing the recent ASMFC graph on that species, it is clear that Omega Protein is unsustainably harvesting more than that species can withstand, as well. That too impacts the striped bass population.
I respectfully request that:
a) North Carolina change the way its striped bass are commercially harvested, going from net to hand-held hook and line and requiring gentle catch and release practices for fish under 28 inches, with a set number of fish over 28 inches and no culling allowed;
b) North Carolina reduce the commercial harvest amounts for both striped bass and bunker;
c) North Carolina change its fisheries management, and put self-interested parties like Mikey Daniels on an advisory board, with only impartial scientists making the final decision about seasons and limits, based on what is scientifically sustainable.
Thank you for considering my comments. I can be reached at (717) 232-8335, if someone from your staff would like to speak to me further.

Josh First
cc: John Arway; Curt Schroder; ASMFC;
Gene Kray; CCA


February 24, 2011

Hon. Joe Martens, Acting Commissioner
New York State DEC
625 Broadway
Albany, NY 12233-1011

Dear Commissioner Martens,

This letter’s purpose is to express my strong opposition to recent proposals that would allow any trawl fishery at all for striped bass in New York, and also to express my concern about the declining populations of striped bass and menhaden, upon which so many other fish depend, including striped bass.

Several reasons account for my opposition to netting striped bass: 1) The size of the bass population is declining, 2) the menhaden (bunker) population is staggeringly low due to Omega Protein’s rapacious over-fishing, 3) recent striped bass breeding success has been low, meaning that fewer young fish are “in the pipeline” for both recreational and commercial fishing, and 4) commercial netting results in culling and a tremendous waste of striped bass and “bycatch.” These are all conditions similar to the 1980s, when the striped bass population crashed. Additionally, by all appearances striped bass are not being managed sustainably by any state, and North Carolina’s enormous bass-kills in early 2011 support concerns that present commercial quotas are impacting far more fish than previously believed.

Given these conditions, this should be a time when responsible resource managers take a step back, and consider ways to increase the bass population. Ways to stabilize or increase the population include increasing recreational and commercial size limits (presently 28 inches) even just an inch or two, eliminating or dramatically decreasing commercial harvest amounts and seasons, and switching commercial harvesting to a hand-held hook and line operation only, with no culling allowed. Implementing all or some of these methods will benefit a species that generates much more economic development as a recreational fish than it does as an over-harvested commercial fish.

Treated responsibly, striped bass generate sustainable, renewable economic development year after year. Treated irresponsibly, with only short-term commercial quotas getting serious consideration, the bass will be exterminated, and many coastal communities will see their otherwise-stable tourist revenues diminish substantially. And the commercial fishermen, who have behaved in egregiously greedy and wasteful ways, will also be out of luck. They, too, need your help; they need to be saved from themselves.

Please stop the unsustainable commercial race for the last dregs of a dwindling migratory species, and help keep it as a recreational and economic mainstay along our coast. Incidentally, I fish extensively around New York City as well as New Jersey, and I have similarly urged Pennsylvania’s representatives to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to eliminate or greatly reduce commercial harvests of striped bass, or at the very least eliminate all netting and try different ways of allowing a hand-held hook and line commercial fishery, which when combined with lower daily limits could then convert recreational fishermen into a more sustainable commercial function. Thank you for considering my comments.

Yours Truly,

Josh First

Libya: Land of the Free, Home of the Brave, Maybe

Libya: Land of the Free, Home of the Brave, Maybe
Are we Americans now entering Round Two of the Great Recession?
Just when money had begun to slowly change hands again and the jointly-held shares of economic success were looking a bit brighter, the Middle East suddenly gets religion. In the vernacular, that is, Democracy being the religion of western, secular Republics and democracies.
While it’s never too late nor too soon to become a democratic polity, and we all applaud Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen et. al. for their nascent freedom fights, the timing is a wee bit of a challenge.
Underlining how volatile energy supplies affect American jobs and family bank accounts, world oil prices have erupted since Libya entered a period of civil war 26 days ago.
That popular uprising could sweep iconic dictator Moamar Gaddafi (Qaddafi, Kaddafi, The Flake, etc.) out of power. Yet, he is kept in place by his air power, which has managed to turn things around in the day since this column was begun.
He, Kadaffy, Mr. “Friend of Louis Farrakhan,” could have reasonably been brought under control within the past seven days, which is when American mobile air power anchored off of the Libyan coast. Establishing a no-fly zone over Libya gives America and its supporters, such as Britain and France, the ability to shoot down all Libyan jets and many helicopters, depriving Gaddafi of his only military advantage over the rebels.
Setting aside whether or not Barack Hussein Obama, president of the USA, believes in the kind of America that made America great and created our quality of life, and assuming that a Libya without Qadaffi is better than one with him, every day that president Obama does not intercede militarily in Libya is another day that Americans pay an extra hundreds of millions of dollars in artificially high gasoline prices.
At an estimated average of 21 million barrels of oil being consumed daily in America, the 30-dollar-per-barrel increase since Libyan troubles began has put an albatross with an anchor around America’s economic neck to the tune of $900 million per day. That’s nearly a billion dollars more in increased cost every single day. Most of that increased cost is borne by gas consumers, who are mostly car owners, which is to say, Middle-Class Americans.
These are the same middle-class taxpayers who are struggling to keep their homes and investments in the face of a protracted economic malaise known as the “Recession of the Century.” We thought that Round One of the Great Recession was slowly but perceptibly ending. Now….?
Libyan rebels, whoever they are, are at least anti-Gaddafi. Gaddafi is a friend of Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez, and both are ferociously anti-American. Chavez has actually been able to damage American interests in material ways. Knocking the Libyan air force around will at least make the country more stable, less prone to a see-saw of military violence, and less of a threat to its neighbors. It will also cause oil prices to decline dramatically, possibly back to pre-uprising prices. If that decrease happens, then America stops hemorrhaging that additional billion dollars per day more than we were spending a month ago.
Many say that America should stay out of Libya and other foreign entanglements. But if we do not intervene, then what happens next? Is Round Two the knock-out punch, that will leave “America’s cities burning,” as one academic said today in a meeting?