To fish, or not, that is the question

Yet another example of federal government and nonprofit environmental meddlers appears in a press article, which illustrates why we should always be suspicious of the propaganda and regulations that increasingly engulf us.

According to a Wilmington StarNews story by Kate Queram, fish populations (“stock”) in the South Atlantic Ocean, which laps against coastal North Carolina, “continue to struggle.” (link)

Questions: Who says? What does “struggle” mean (all living things at times struggle)? How do we know the truth? Why do we trust the puny efforts of government bureaucrats to “manage” anything?

Ms. Queram announces a recent report released by the activist, lawyer-laden Natural Resources Defense Council—an unofficial official-sounding gang presuming to defend natural resources, that don’t need defending. Actually, the NRDC defends its real interest: money and power. (link)

These people don’t deserve the credibility given them by the press. But rarely do journalists pursue serious investigative work. Queram did, however, serve the public interest by getting closer to the truth in an interview with Michelle Duval with the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries. (link)

The NRDC report benignly titled “Bringing Back The Fish,” claims that despite federal “rebuilding plans” overfishing in the South Atlantic “continues to be a chronic problem.” So says Brad Sewell, a NRDC senior attorney and author of the report—two reasons to suspect deception. Ms. Duval uses the word “misleading” to describe the report.

Duval explains that only a “handful” of many kinds of fish populations in these waters have been assessed. It’s difficult to monitor fish catches. Tactics vary and complete census is impossible. She seems to acknowledge that vast ocean fish populations can’t be managed.

Mr. Sewell admits that not knowing how to manage recreational fishing is the “big problem”; yet insists that overfishing occurs. Ignorantly, he proclaims that it “just needs to end.”

State Marine Fisheries staff make phone surveys every two months based on fishing trip reports. Results are “extrapolated” statewide (I imagine these small samples spread over a large census of fishermen have a big margin of error).

Other than imposing questionable size and catch limits on anglers, bureaucrats can’t do much to change fish populations. They expand and contract in response to dynamic, always changing physical, chemical and biological conditions. Duval simply says it’s “up to Mother Nature.” Further, based on her experience with fishermen, sea bass, for example are in “far greater abundance” than agency assessments show. Which is more credible, office calculations by remote lawyers or field experience by state biologists?

In addition to the NRDC report, the StarNews print copy editorially labeled, “Report: fish stocks still lagging” mislead.

In my opinion, state agency people usually can be trusted more than federal agencies and their supportive nonprofit operatives. Why? Because they have closer contact with the local public, they are more accountable for service and they can be closely monitored by the citizen’s political representatives.

Fishing is only one relatively minor part of our personal freedoms. But it’s true, freedom isn’t free. We must always be on guard against those who would unreasonably restrict our rights. Government intrusions in our lives must be limited—and constantly monitored.


About R. E. Smith Jr.

Mr. Smith writes essays and commentary on politics, American history, environment, higher education and culture. He's been published in print media and at blog sites for about 25 years. Smith's formal education includes B.S. and M.S. degrees from the State University of New York and Syracuse University. He has earned a 21-credit hour Certificate in Professional Writing from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. Training/work experience: NYS Ranger School; U. S. Army, Corp of Engineers; soil scientist and forester with USDA; Assoc. Professor at SUNY; real estate agent; small business owner.
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