Guest Column: A message every American can understand
By ERNIE FOSTER
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
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:
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
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
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.)
FOR MORE INFORMATION
See a related story on the rally on the Fishing Page or click here.