In 2010, marine recreational fishers spent 85,780,000 days on the water pursuing their sport. Ask most recreational fishermen about their impact on the environment and they quickly point out that they consider themselves conservationists and with their light touch have little or no adverse impacts. However, ask a marine biologist the same question and the focus is on the cumulative effect of such a huge numbers of fish hooks in the water.
Recreational fishing’s impacts on marine resources are misunderstood by both fishermen and by fisheries scientists. In fact large numbers of recreational fishermen can have dramatic negative impacts on resources. Employing simple changes in their approach to fishing, these same individuals may instead play a vital role in the sustainability of at-risk resources. Additionally, by initiating such a regimen of “Best Practices,” these anglers will have a profound positive impact on the future of their sport.
For generations, sport fishing techniques were handed on from parent to child. Lessons included not only how to catch fish, but essential conservation ethics as well. Today’s digital age has done away with much of this personal interaction, instead relying on technical advances to improve chances for fishing success. “Best Practices” are about how we can still have a very successful day on the water yet by employing scientifically vetted conservation friendly fishing techniques substantially reduce sportfishing’s footprint.
"So simple a caveman can . . . . "
For me, if I don't get out fishing, Sundays offer a chance to glance at some NASCAR on television while I gear up for the coming week. Recently, one ad in particular caught my attention: I suspect most of you have seen the GEICO commercial featuring a couple of 20th century outfitted Neanderthals riding Harleys and wincing as the announcer booms the punch line "so simple a caveman can do it". Not sure where GEICO is going with this except as a vehicle to remember their name, but the spot got me thinking about how our ancestors might actually appreciate the realities of today.
This past Sunday I spent an incredibly normal afternoon and evening at home. To ward off the chill of an (unusual) late spring rain, I put a couple of logs in the fireplace and with help from the hearth's gas jet, had a comfortable fire going in no time. Along with the television, electric lights went on for reading, my laptop for emails, a micro filled in for dinner, and a little later I turned in for a dry, warm, restful night's sleep. Today we consider this normal and natural - a far cry from the caves and lean-to's that our distant ancestors called home. In terms of our own habitat, I think most of us would agree that "constructed" can be a really good thing.
In that same vein, I suspect that even the most extreme environmentalists live not in caves, but condos or other human engineered habitat. Much like you and I, I suspect that they have a roof over their heads and an engineered source of energy for heat and cooking. Remember, even passive solar requires precise and often intricate engineering and construction. Just because something is man-made and wasn't here in California before the Europeans arrived doesn't make it bad. On the contrary, most of us have gotten accustomed to living indoors and except for an occasional backpacking trip, cannot imagine turning back the clock on this welcome progress. When we talk about our living accommodations, constructed habitat and indoor plumbing are realities that we share with even the most ardent environmentalists.
It was about 15 years ago that we recreational anglers started the Rigs to Reefs effort in California. During the intervening decade and a half, we and our partners have garnered the science backing up what we fishermen knew all along: offshore platforms perform beautifully as constructed marine habitat and not only attract, but produce marine life. Incredible arrays of marine organisms from sea anemones to salmon grouper call these wonderful reefs home. While we are making substantial progress getting this message out, a broader public audience still needs to hear that much like our terrestrial homes, constructed habitat creates a viable, positive alternative especially in less productive areas of the ocean floor. Truth be told, even much of the most strident in the environmental community have begun to realize this value and are cautiously, quietly coming along.
Today The Sportfishing Conservancy and our partners continue to promote the value of these offshore structures as incredibly assets and are helping to educate a conservation minded public on the value of enhanced habitat. While the job of keeping these structures in place may be taxing, their value is so clear that "even a caveman could see it".
For information and a chance to volunteer, join us at sportcon.org.