Another way to look at HB 1660 from a Charter operator and PFMC representative.
Last week an op-ed was published in the Aberdeen Daily World that solicited support for a legislative bill that would transfer fishing opportunity from commercial fisheries to recreational fisheries, basically for purely economic gain. I would like to counter that proposal. My opinion is my own and does not necessarily represent the views of all of the folks I work for.
To begin with, there are volumes of reasons not to embark on the path that House Bill 1660 would lead into. I will deal with just a few here.
First, salmon and our other fishery resources are public property. They don’t belong to any particular subset of the public. They are managed by the state and the tribes. Tribal fishing rights are settled by federal law. The federal government manages in matters relating to the Endangered Species Act and fisheries that occur in the ocean outside state waters. The state works with their co-managers, the tribes, to set seasons and allocations that are allowed by federal law, specifically in the federal Magnuson Act governing fisheries and fair allocation principles on a national scale.
The state also allocates harvest among non-tribal harvesters that have been developed over decades of negotiations and participatory government in the fishery arena. These were developed using principles that include not just economics but social and cultural considerations. Recreational fisheries provide economic, social, and cultural benefits. So do commercial fisheries. Some of the public choose to catch and consume the harvest individually. Others choose to share in the resource benefits by going to the market or a restaurant. To argue, based solely on economics, that one mode of participation is superior to another and that the other mode should be severely constrained or eliminated leads toward privatizing the resource for a small subset of the public.
Second, the economic values and tax revenue claims made by the authors of the op-ed are misleading at best. Numerous economic studies have been done over the years. The conclusions drawn are various and usually leave out important contrary information that might compromise the results sought by the sponsors/financiers of a particular study. Many times I’ve heard the argument that “I’m more valuable than you, therefore you should be eliminated and what you have given to me.” That’s a rather myopic mindset that lacks consideration of a host of other important considerations related to social and cultural values, particularly in the coastal communities that the legislators sponsoring the sport priority profess to benefit. Those considerations are too numerous to expand upon here. Additionally, there is the “law of unintended consequences” that so often rears its ugly head after the fact, particularly for policies that are not well thought out, and negates any benefits of the action.
Third, I would propose a more sensible alternative to a sport fishing priority policy. I have been party to many endeavors where the allocation combatants have joined together to work toward increasing the size of the “pie” rather that battling over diminishing opportunity. The success of a campaign to produce more resource, which is an attainable goal, is maximized when fishery resource harvesters unite to enhance the resource for everyone as opposed to the strife of an allocation battle. Higher resource abundance tends to dampen debate over who gets to catch it. I’ve always wondered how the outcome of a quest to fully fund fish production, engaged in by those who are usually at odds with each other, would be received by those who control the purse strings. Maybe we’ll never know.
I would submit that one thing is for sure. The passage of House bill 1660 (Senate companion bill SB 5844) would do far more damage to fishery management, coastal communities, and ultimately the fishery resource than any of us can currently imagine. I would urge the public to contact their Washington state legislators at 1-800-562-6000 and urge them to oppose both HB 1660 and SB 5844.
Mark Cedergreen has been the executive director of the Westport Charterboat Association since 1995. Prior to that he and his family were engaged in the charter boat business in Westport since 1956. He has also served on various fishery advisory boards, state and federal, including nine years as a voting member of the Pacific Fishery Management Council. - See more at: http://thedailyworld.com/opinion/columnist/mark-cedergreen-more-sensible-alternative-sport-fishing-priority-washington#sthash.zaePt7sk.dpuf
Posted on Wed, February 11, 2015
by Dave Hamilton