Thursday, July 19, 2012

Southerland's God Given Freedom to Fish

Ocean activists are campaigning against the re-election of Representative Steve Southerland (FL) becasue he is directly endangering the health of the oceans. 

But don't listen to me, listen to a fisherman, John Schmidt, in a recent editorial.  This is someone who relies on healthy oceans for his livelihood.  Here he is telling us why Southerland is so dangerous:

"As someone who has been fishing in the Gulf of Mexico for more than 25 years, I’m exasperated by the actions of some in Congress like Rep. Steve Southerland who are working to destroy the livelihoods of myself and hundreds of other hardworking Gulf fishermen.

Earlier this month, Southerland, a Republican who represents Florida’s eastern Panhandle, wrote in The Hill newspaper about his God-given freedom to fish.

God-given freedoms in civilized societies come with responsibilities.  Sport fishermen want more fish, and so do the 97.3 percent of Americans who are simply consumers.  Healthy fisheries are the only way that this can happen. Our country should be celebrating the innovative management in recent years that finally has reversed depletion and began rebuilding our fisheries. But Rep. Southerland wants to stop that and its economic benefits in its tracks.

As someone who relies on the God-given resources in our oceans to make a living, I have seen first-hand that healthy fisheries are essential.

In his essay, Rep. Southerland expressed his support for defunding catch share programs. This innovative management system has proven vital to rebuilding our fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico. Equally important is that we now have systems in place to assure our fisheries stay healthy.  These are among the best fishery management success stories in our nation’s history. Twenty years ago we would never had dreamed that we could provide fresh domestic seafood year-round while rebuilding our fisheries and our jobs at the same time

The catch share system was the fairest solution that didn’t force fishermen out. We worked with federal managers and the regional Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council to establish our own program.  At the local level — not through federal mandate or expanded regulations — we established individual fishing quotas (IFQs) that would enable us to spread out our fishing season and rebuild our fishery at the same time. In 2009, 81 percent of qualified fishermen voted in favor of an active fishery management program that was focused on rebuilding our grouper stocks. In 2010 the Grouper catch share program took effect as a companion to the red snapper catch share program.

Now, for the first time in history we have year-round sustainable fishing jobs and no closed season. The fishery is more valuable because we provide fresh grouper throughout the year.  The product is the best it has ever been.  Fresh fish has become a reality again in our region.  Competition from foreign imports is down, and restaurants are putting fresh Gulf Grouper back on the menu.

The solution that fishermen forged locally is working better than anyone visualized. In spite of this success, Rep. Southerland is determined to prevent fishermen and regional councils from considering this solution for foundering fisheries. He wants to micromanage fishermen from his office in Washington.

Rep. Southerland should leave fisheries management in the hands of fishermen and regional councils."

John Schmidt is a commercial fisherman from Palm Harbor and a member of the Gulf Fishermen’s Association.

Here's 3 things you can do to prevent people like Southerland from doing more damage:

1. Be aware of the issues
2. Be aware of where your representatives stand
3. Vote for healthy oceans and clean energy

As Ocean Champions say: Elections Matter.

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