Are our fish going the way of the Buffalo?                                       

Buffalo, whales, ducks, pigeons, white herons, roseate spoonbills, ibises; all are examples of wildlife that was so plentiful 100 years ago or so that they "blanketed the earth", "blacked out the sun when they flew", and were "so over-abundant that we can never kill them all".  These statements were used over and over again to keep the conservationists of the day at bay so that the lucrative harvest of publicly owned natural resources by a few individuals could continue unimpeded.

The catch phrases of today are "more study is needed", or "there is no data to substantiate the claims of stock depletion".  The people most frequently using these phrases are the same people that have been charged with the responsibility of preserving our natural resources, particularly the National Marine Fisheries Service(NMFS), their staff, the scientists that have been "studying " our marine resources, the regional councils, and the advisory councils.  All of these people are collecting our tax dollars in the form of salaries, per diem, and grants to further their own interests instead of doing the job they were hired or chosen for.

It is obvious to observers that the commercial fishing industry wields more power than even the congress of the United States.

One example of this at the state level was in the late 1970's when Spanish and king mackerel stocks were being depleted by the gill nets that were beginning to proliferate in both Florida and federal waters.  The stocks of these fish were being depleted so quickly that the millions of both recreational and commercial hook and line fishermen began inundating the governor, cabinet, and legislature with demands that the slaughter be stopped.

 In Florida, the governments' response was quick in coming.  The "Saltwater Study and Advisory Committee" was formed with commercial netters, recreational and commercial hook and line fishermen and biologists as part of the committee to "STUDY" the problem and "RECOMMEND" to the lawmakers what steps should be taken.  During the two years that the committee was in business, they held thirteen meetings which accomplished nothing for the resource, but did keep the netters in business with no restrictions because the legislature refused to entertain any motions for marine resource laws during this period.  The mackerel and kingfish stocks collapsed, the federal government acted to place some restrictions on catches and then the state  finally enacted bag limits and landing restrictions. Too little, too late.  It has been over twenty years now, and the stocks of these fish are still depressed thanks to NMFS refusal to eliminate the gill nets in the Florida Bay wintering grounds of the king mackerel stocks. The kings have been netted to near depletion again, all thanks to the NMFS scientists that insist that the stocks are rebuilding. Our fishing trips into the Gulf prove otherwise during the last four seasons. We are catching less and less every season and the average size of the kings in our area is getting smaller and smaller!

In other words, for the commercial seafood industry, it is BUSINESS AS USUAL at the expense of our natural resources.

If we are to stop the senseless waste of our resources for the profit of a few, you must contact your legislators, the Secretary of the Dept. of Commerce, the administrator of NOAA, the director of the NMFS, and each of the regional directors, your newspaper editors and all your friends and insist that the NMFS be held accountable for the destruction of  fisheries for the benefit of the commercial industry and that they begin immediately to follow the guidelines of the 1996 Sustainable Fisheries Act even if we have to buy out the commercial fishermen in the fisheries that are most depleted. 

Capt. Charles Walker

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