March 26, 2012

Guest Column: A message every American can understand


On March 21, North Carolina Watermen United sponsored two busloads of working watermen who made a long day’s journey to Washington, D.C.  Leaving from both Carteret County and Dare County well before sunrise, the fishermen and women made their way to Washington to protest the burdensome regulations that are slowly but surely destroying America’s oldest, most self-sufficient and least government-dependent industry. 

And what a day it was!  We were joined by other fishermen from as far away as Alaska and California, and the East and Gulf Coast fishermen from Florida to Massachusetts. All gathered on the Capitol grounds to make their voices heard to those who write our laws. The group was addressed by a large contingent of legislators, both Senators and Congressmen, from both parties.

With our nation’s capitol building as the backdrop, what unfolded should have stunned any casual observer!

The event was organized by a recreational fishing organization named the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) -- and commercial fishing interests, charter and headboat interests and recreational interests were all equally presented.  How bad must the regulatory climate be when these three groups are united in a common cause?

The demands of the group of protesters were as follows: 

  • First, an expectation of science-based fisheries management decisions.  And the sad thing is that this would be a radical change.  Ouch!
  • Second, the group also had the audacity to request that fisheries managers be given flexibility in their management plans.  (In simple terms for landlubbers, since gerbils and elephants do not reproduce and grow at the same rate, then fisheries managers should be allowed by law to acknowledge that different species of fish also grow at different rates.)  Boy, that’s radical! 
  • And third, there was a request that National Marine Fisheries follow the law as well as they enforce it.  Imagine, NOAA was asked to follow the provision of Magnuson-Stevens Act that requires NOAA to give creditable weight to the economic impact their decisions have on the fishermen they are so intent on regulating.  Wow!  We all should follow the law, not just the fishermen.  Boy, is that extreme!

What a day.  The above paragraph contains a lot of sarcasm, but there is no other way to write it.  Circumstances are so bad that those in attendance were witness to the truly remarkable. 

More than 20 Senators and Congressmen addressed the crowd.  Our lawmakers, Sen. Kay Hagan and Congressman Walter Jones, spoke. 

Speaker after speaker made passionate speeches and the truly remarkable part, the part that that gives me great hope, the part that gives me the motivation to keep on fishing is this:  Every speaker from Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., to Congressman Walter Jones, R-N.C., spoke the same language.  It was as though they sang the same hymn from the same book.  Each of them clearly outlined the absurdities listed in the above paragraph and spoke forcefully of the need for change. Democrat or Republican, North or South, the overarching demands were the same -- Let America’s Fishermen Fish!

I’ll stop with this observation.  When you see Florida Congressman Allen West of the Tea Party and Congressman Barney Frank, the liberal Democrat from Massachusetts, on the same stage saying the same things about the need to protect America’s fishermen, be they recreational, charter/headboat, or commercial, it is a message every American can understand. 

And that was the message that was sent out loud and clear last Wednesday in Washington, D.C.  I was proud to be there.

(Ernie Foster of Hatteras village owns and operates The Albatross Fleet of charter boats.)


See a related story on the rally on the Fishing Page or click here.

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