Wetland Riders
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Author Robert Fritchey
Author Robert Fritchey

    NEW MOON PRESS - Wetland Riders - PART IV


The “Con” in Conservation, pp. 275-290. In the early 1990s, sportsmen lobby the U.S. Congress to give them all of the striped bass on the entire Atlantic Coast. To gain the general public’s support for their initiative, a major media corporation targets 30 million readers in the first nationwide fish-propaganda campaign.

     By attempting to enlist the support of its readership against the traditional coastal finfishermen, Times Mirror took a calculated risk. It’s safe to assume that few, if any readers of, say, Popular Science, are acquainted with either the intricacies of fishery management or the lifestyle of the coastal fisherman.
     Scapegoating by a larger group against a smaller is always dependent on a lack of identification with the minority. Times Mirror’s massive efforts to mobilize the public-at-large--the pearl in these expanding fish fights--could succeed in helping to establish and build the momentum leading to the extermination of the fishermen.
     But, then again, when apprised of what he or she is being persuaded to assist, the objective Times Mirror magazine reader may recoil.

The Recreational Fishing Industry, Something of Value?, pp. 291-301. An analysis of the sport and commercial industries. Publicly employed natural resource economists state that the economic value of our publicly owned fishery resources is maximized by sharing them between the commercial and recreational industries. Sharing also has environmental benefits: The commercial producers harvest food and export it from their rural communities, bringing in, simply, money. The recreational industry brings in people, spurring coastal real estate development and pollution.

     By their failure to control, or even consider, limits on “growth,” those in tourist-based industries, including recreational fishing, frequently profane and destroy that which made a location attractive initially. In this case, the attraction is the abundance of fish reared in Louisiana’s lightly populated expanse of coastal wetlands.

It's Not Me, It's Him!, pp. 303-320. Private sport fishermen number in the millions with each angler allowed to bring in relatively few fish. Professional commercial fishermen number in the hundreds, but as food providers, they can each bring in a boatload. Contrary to popular perception, the cumulative harvest of recreational fishermen is frequently far greater than that of the food fishermen.

     While the recreationals introduced their 1991 gamefish bill to the Senate Natural Resources Committee, a commercial fisherman and an elderly Lake Charles angler argued outside in the hallway. The angler sported a GCCA redfish nametag.
“How can you say we have anything to do with it?” he asked incredulously. “Where do they get those figures? I’ve fished 50 years and never been checked by a biologist….Only one in 10, one in 100, one in 1000 sport fishermen catch any fish. Hardly anybody catches their limit….Huh? The fishin’ out my way? My wife and I once caught 1,250 pounds of redfish without even movin’! One on every cast. We was just athrowin’ them big fish in the boat.”

Roy Lee Yeomans, pp. 321-337. In his own words, an old-timer talks about his youth in the Everglades, re-locating to Louisiana and putting a lot of fish on our tables, until government destroyed his industry.

     A lot o’ people just don’t understand what the law people are tryin’ to do to the poor people. They just don’t understand at all.
     But if you explain it to ‘em, how they’re takin’ it all away from you, and you can’t make a day’s wages, I wouldn’t be up there lookin’ for your danged job. I’d be down here, I wouldn’t ask nobody for nothin’. If you’d just leave me alone, I’d go trout fishin’, come back, sell my fish, come home, go to bed and go to sleep, and that’s how I’d live the rest o’ my life. That’s all I’d ever do, because that’s a good livin’. But I can’t even do that.
     Now I got to turn around and horn in on some o’ your crabbin’. Now, whenever this crabbin’ gets bad I got to go and try to get me a boat for oysters and dredge ‘em. I’ve got to try to accumulate enough money to get in on your oysterin’, ‘cause that’s the onliest thing I know to do, is to make it out o’ the water.

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