Thursday, January 18, 2018

Big on Fishing Boats

Michelle Malkin has started an investigation of the intrusion of the Federal government into commercial fishing operations, it's in the Ammoland News this week.  She starts in "the northeast" but much of what she talks about rings true down here in central Florida.

The story starts with, well, what you'd think if you've watched federal overreach into everything else in the country for the last 20 years.
The plague on the commercial fishing industry isn't “overfishing,” as environmental extremists and government officials claim. The real threats to Northeastern groundfishermen are self-perpetuating bureaucrats, armed with outdated junk science, who've manufactured a crisis that endangers a way of life older than the colonies themselves.
How often have you heard that the seas are overfished and that they're virtually deserts empty of life?  As Michelle says, generations of schoolchildren were indoctrinated with the belief that stocks of fish have been depleted by greedy commercial fishermen, and there actually was a period when foreign factory fishing vessels overfished places around the US.  But that was in the 60s and 70s; when the domestic fishing industry regained control of our waters, stocks rebounded.  Could it be an effort to shift control to big governments instead of people whose lives and livelihoods depend on managing the resource?  How could anyone, any group, know the populations of fishes everywhere?  Nobody is capable of counting them all, so it obviously has to be by sampling and estimates based on how many fish are collected. 
Meghan Lapp, a lifelong fisherwoman and conservation biologist, points out that government surveyors use a “net that's not the right size for the vessel,” which produces “a stock assessment that shows artificially low numbers. The fishing does not match what the fishermen see on the water.”

Instead of fixing the science, top-down bureaucrats have cracked down on groundfishermen who fail to comply with impossible and unreasonable rules and regulations. The observer program, which was intended to provide biological data and research, was expanded administratively (not by Congress) to create “At Sea Monitors” who act solely as enforcement agents.

Yes, Big Brother dispatches a fleet of spies to track and ticket commercial fishing families while they work. And the biggest slap in the face? New England groundfishermen have to pay for it. A study done by the National Marine Fisheries Service estimates the program costs about $710 per day or $2.64 million per year.
Does she mean they literally put agents on board every fishing boat to monitor their compliance?  As she says, yes, NOAA calls the program their At Sea Monitors.
“Before we sail, we have to do declarations on our boat tracks, which is a vessel monitoring system,” Tom Jr. explained. “We have to declare what areas we're going to be fishing in. We also have to submit a sector-trip start hail and operator's permit number. … (Then) you have to submit a daily task report, what area you were in, and all the species that you caught.”

On top of all that, an at-sea observer boards the Williams' boats and bunks in tight quarters with the crew, looking over their shoulders at every turn. Over the years, the expanding reach of regulators has become overbearing and, as brother Aaron described it, “humiliating.”
I don't know the commercial fishing world here in Florida, but I assume it's under the same rules as these folks are.  As I'm sure the northeast states do, we have state waters out to 3 nautical miles from shore in the Atlantic or 9 miles from shore in the Gulf of Mexico, with and federal waters beyond that.  It's not unusual for state and Federal rules to be different, putting us in the awkward position of legally taking a fish in Federal waters that would be illegal if caught in state waters and vice versa.  The state and the feds tend to mimic each other, but it does happen.  The fishing rules and regulations are so complex and frequently changing that the only reasonable way to keep up with them is to carry a summary with you at all times, and update that summary.  I keep an app on my phone with the rules, updated whenever I open it. 

For example, in this part of the state, we're told that a well known fish sought as a delicacy, the red snapper, is in trouble.  At the moment, it's legal to take two per day in state waters, but not legal at all in Federal waters, and the species is almost exclusively caught in Federal waters (in this part of Florida).  It's legal and believable that an angler could stop at a shallow reef in state waters, catch a legal red snapper, then go farther offshore and now have an illegal fish.  I've heard stories from several guys that they had gone to a deep reef in search of another species, but couldn't get a bait past the "protected" red snapper.  Once caught, they have to be released, but like most deepwater species, their swim bladder inflates as they're being brought to the surface causing what's referred to as barotrauma and making a safe release more difficult.   You can't simply just let them over the side.
Michelle Malkin onboard a groundfishing boat.  Photo from Michelle Malkin Investigates and Conservative Review.

“Fishing Wars: Drowning in Regulations” debuts on’s “Michelle Malkin Investigates” program this week. To find out more about Michelle Malkin and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at


  1. "And then, on "Bloody Sunday", as it was later dubbed, all the "fishing monitors" fell overboard at between 3 and 4 AM, and none of them were wearing life jackets. No one had seen anything, and no trace was found.

    Local fishermen said it was the damnedest thing they ever didn't see, and local prosecutors couldn't find a grand jury in two hundred miles that would even entertain an indictment on any charges.

    1. I hold voters responsible for their choices. If the fishermen tolerate Soviet-type political officers straight out of _Hunt for Red October_, then they deserve Soviet-type political officers. These fisherman are human beings with independently-operating brains. They are free to choose to obey their government along every step of the path into the gulag. Or not.

  2. I've been a Marine fisheries biologist on the west coast for 27 years, and this article couldn't be further from the truth. I could tear this apart paragraph by paragraph, but I'd be repeating myself.
    Government involvement is a result of "The Tragedy of The Commons". I am related by marriage to a commercial trawl fisher, and he told me one time, that if he could catch every last fish in the ocean, he would. The current state of the fishery on the west coast is improving, after cooperation by fishery managers, the commercial fishing industry, and other sectors as well.
    I also know several fishery observers who have saved the lives of fishing crews when involved in potentially catastrophic vessel failures. Observers are not fish cops. They monitor catch and bycatch, to ensure that take is documented for everyone to make more informed and wise management decisions.
    Just my two cents... and 25 years of seeing the west coast groundfish fishery pull itself out of a most certain death spiral.

    1. Thanks for that input. Input from people involved in something is always better than people who just poke in and leave.

      Is it possible that the two groups of fishermen are that different? Some Bing searches for the NOAA fisheries service made it seem like they don't do this ASM program everywhere.

    2. well, crap. I just somehow deleted about 500 words of reply, and I'm too tired to try and re write it now.
      In any case, I'm involved in work that uses video surveys of fish populations coupled with SONAR technology to evaluate what is going on. It used to be that us researchers were responsible for a "piece" of the pie so to speak, when it comes to allowable take. Now we are moving to allow that piece of the pie to the rest of the folks out there. I now get to do a lot of that video work. Which is good for me, because I'm getting too old to be out at sea, or getting all slimy at the docks. Fish are still sampled from commercial and sport landings to determine the age structure of populations, and that coupled with recent advances in technology, we can get a better idea of what is really out there. A colleague of mine once coined the phrase, "counting fish is like counting trees, except they are invisible, and they move". I was in a management position for awhile and the politics was too disturbing for me to take for long. So now I'm doing pure biology, which is what I wanted to do in the first place. much for being too tired.. Heh.

    3. There is no known solution to the Tragedy of The Commons. In particular, "government" is not a solution; that creates a legislature or monarchy which owns everything, which makes the commons expand to contain everything. Then the tragedy
      becomes bigger and worse. Communism still doesn't work.

      If ocean fisherman want to free-range fish like cattle, they should brand representative fish with radio tags to create a property right. That might work.

  3. There really is a problem with the fisheries. More fishermen than in the past, more effective fishing methods and technology have allowed larger catches. Also foreign nations fishing in our waters (outside the 12 mile limit but our waters traditionally) who do not follow sustainable catch rules. Yes the rules are complex, yes there are more enforcers and this seems/is harassing, yes individual fishermen are feeling the effects (mostly because the numbers are increasing while the total catch is not). There is another factor as well that most people won't talk about, and that is "Americans" who are immigrants or children of immigrants who never really assimilated who have a different philosophy about obeying laws and sustainable fishing and they cheat. They catch under sized fish/shellfish, exceed limits, fudge location and times of fishing, etc. They can be hard to catch and when they are caught claim ignorance even though they have been caught before and they use their lack of English skills as a defense.

  4. I know one fish biologist and several groundwater/aquifer geologists. From their coworkers' perspective, they're Republican conservatives, because they advocate policies that would help the human species be fruitful and multiply, rather than die guilt-wracked from self-loathing of disease in cold dark caves at age 30. From my perspective these government employee biologists are liberals, because they are stalwart supporters of a huge edifice which doesn't perform as advertised: government. I eagerly look forward to worldwide recognition of the American government bankruptcy in the next few years. If the cost growth of Medicare doesn't do it, President Oprah will institute wage and price controls, and that will finish it off in a hyperinflation from stimulation the following month.

    And then what will Sarthurk do to keep the fish from being exterminated by fisherman who view them as a gold rush?

    1. We're way ahead of ya pal. case in point. Canary rockfish were one of the 7 rockfish species in peril back in 2001. Fishing on them was seriously reduced for commercial fishers (mixed stock fisheries are hard to manage). But draconian measures were put into place, including the prohibition of canary retention by sport anglers, with a target date to assumed rebuilding of the stock to sustainable levels in I believe 2017. The Stock rebounded in 2015, and now sport fishers can keep some, and the commercial fleet has a quata again. With 100% observer coverage, you can't cheat anymore. And by the way, The buyer has to cheat with them, and that rarely happens anymore. There's a lot of incentives to avoid bycatch of prohibited species, like a time out for example in the whiting fishery. I your boat land more of a prohibited fish stock, the fisher has to tie up the boat for a time depending on how badly they went over, and they don't make any money. Sometimes it's accidental, and everybody know it might and will happen. It's a risk and a cost of doing business. Some folks are habitual, and either don't care, or are just unskilled. So, no gold rush going on. For some fun, try looking for video of the Bristol bay combat sardine fishery. It's a hell of a rodeo.
      One thing folks forget about is the cyclic nature of fish populations. They all don't go up and down at the same time, so the shootin' match can change in the middle of a season. Yes it's complicated. For everyone. But hey, that's America.
      And besides, Anon, I got out of that part of it awhile ago. Just being a biologist is good enough for me.

    2. With 100% observer coverage, you can't cheat anymore.

      I'm sure 100% observer coverage would also work great at catching lawbreakers who want to imbibe the wrong intoxicant, love the wrong race or sex, worship the wrong god. This medicine has no side effects. Next, they'll propose to put a tax stamp on every commercial contract, required for it to be recognized as legal and enforceable by the court system. With 100% observer coverage, no one will ever make the wrong business deal. No one would object to this arrangement, which is merely efficient law enforcement.