Wetland Riders
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Author Robert Fritchey
Author Robert Fritchey

    NEW MOON PRESS - Wetland Riders - PART V


Conservation Through Use, pp. 341-361. When sport and commercial fishermen fished down East Coast striped bass, Maryland closed the fishery to both groups. When the state re-opened the fishery, it allocated the annual crop of stripers equitably among various user groups, with private sport fishermen receiving 42.5%, commercial net fishermen and consumers 42.5%, and charterboat fishermen 15%.
     The author presents this highest-road approach as a model for the allocation of Louisiana’s redfish, when biologists are confident that its harvest can be increased. He also proposes a severance tax on the harvest of red drum and other coastal species, with the proceeds to support a local effort to slow the loss of the fishes’ wetland habitat, which is shrinking at the rate of about 25 square miles each year.


(Addendum to second, and later editions)
1998: New Players, Same Game, pp. 395-401.
Ironically, the first edition of WETLAND RIDERS comes off the press in October, 1994, the same year that state biologists announce that the redfish harvest can safely be expanded to allow a sustainable commercial catch of up to 3.2 million pounds per year.

 But there would be no high-road approach to the allocation of Louisiana’s plentiful fishery resources. Nor would the state’s inadequate efforts to save its rapidly eroding coastline be bolstered at the local level.

Instead, petroleo-foundations in the early 1990s hire national environmental groups to carry out the most expensive and elaborate “environmental education” campaign in the nation’s history. The Global Fish Crisis Campaign of the Pews and Rockefellers equates commercial fishing with “extinction,“ while universally failing to mention the impact of an exploding recreational fishery.

Amid this once-in-a-lifetime backdrop, sportsmen go to work. Rather than targeting individual species as “gamefish,“ they demonize the fishermen’s harvesting equipment--the net--and go for all of the fish.
Caught between the moral indignation spawned by “The Environmentalists”
on the Left, and the raw political and financial power of “The Sportsmen” on the Right, family fishermen are, in many cases, crushed.

In a 1994 referendum, Floridians vote 7:3 to add an amendment to their state’s constitution that outlaws fishing with nets; also in 1994, sportsmen prod Pennsylvania‘s legislature to quietly shut down the state’s 300-year-old commercial fishery in Lake Erie; in 1995, Alabama reaches a compromise between the two factions that is hailed as a “New Age” in fishery management while Mississippi sportsmen destroy that state’s net fishery and, in the same year, the Louisiana Legislature bans the use of nets for the harvest of virtually all coastal finfish.

In the six years from 1989 through 1994 commercial fishermen harvested no reds, while sport fishermen landed more than 30 million pounds, an annual average of five million pounds.

During 1995, as they clamored to “Ban the Nets!,” anglers took an all-time record number of red drum: 2.4 million fish weighing 10 million pounds.

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