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Friday, March 26, 2010
Thursday, April 15, 2010

The excitement could be felt throughout cyberspace — Capitol Hill was finally paying attention to recreational fishermen and major media sources ran stories on the very real threats facing both a way of life and the sportfishing industry.

Sure, some of the right-wing bloggers used the occasion to blow things out of proportion and indulge in another round of Obama bashing, but what mattered was the truth was out in the open.

Or was it?

The uproar started when Robert Montgomery, Senior Writer for BASS Publications (ESPN owns BASS and the BASSMaster Tour), wrote the article “Culled Out” for, one in a series of articles following the progress of the president’s Ocean Policy Task Force, which has been under the direction of NOAA’s Dr. Jane Lubchenco. In the article, Montgomery reported that the Task Force was in the process of finalizing a plan that would create ocean zoning that would necessarily include no fishing areas, that the public comment period had ended, and indications were that President Obama planned to use the Monuments Act to implement the marine spatial planning, which would in effect bypass the normal legislative process and create a finished package. Done deal, no more comment, no more input, no chance for sportfishing proponents to safeguard their rights or economic interests.

Which was factual.

What wasn’t true was the translation and paraphrasing of the bloggers: Obama to ban recreational fishing.

What followed, however, does not reflect well on ESPN (which is part of ABC and owned by Disney) or the Freedom of the Press in America.

Almost at the same time the uproar was reaching its peak, Montgomery was told he could not represent himself as a writer for ESPN and that he was not to honor any of the many requests for radio interviews he received. He was also told ESPN would not post any more of his articles until after the Task Force decision was reached.

But worse followed. went beyond the gag order, and Executive Editor Steve Bowman discredited Montgomery’s work: “Regrettably, we made several errors in the editing and presentation of this installment… while our series overall has examined several sides of the topic, this particular column was not properly balanced and failed to represent contrary points of view.”
WON examined all the articles in the series and the article in question and found no difference in approach or viewpoint. The only “error in presentation” ESPN made was allowing the voice of fishermen to be heard.

The fact the company went to such extraordinary lengths to distance ESPN from Montgomery’s piece shows how much influence and money there is behind the movement to restrict access to America’s fisheries. NOAA’s Dr. Jane Lubchenco has deep-rooted ties and documented associations with the principals behind the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative process in California, which has closed hundreds of square miles to fishing and is on the way to closing more. Forget the rhetoric, more Federal fishing closures are coming.

We say shame on ESPN for crumbling to outside pressure and smearing the reputation of a writer who has worked hard to protect the interests of fishermen. Then again, it doesn’t look like ESPN gives a damn.

BLOGGER's NOTE: The above is slated to be the editorial in the 4/9 issue of WON. Here's some background. As a journalist and columnist for an "enthusiast's" publication, the weekly tabloid Western Outdoor News, this blogger is more than aware that all forms of media have their own editorial slant. You would expect our publication to promote the rights of fishermen and hunters, especially when it comes to access to a managed resource.

So we (and I) have been vocal in our opposition to the Marine Life Protection Act process that is using questionable science to close big chunks of the California coastline to all fishing. As close as I've studied the process, I was amazed I had somehow overlooked what I can only call a "fun fact." That is that Dr. Jane Lubchenco, the Under-Secretary of Commerce and head of NOAA, is related by marriage to Dr. Steve Gaines of the University of California, Santa Barbara (he married her sister). It is Gaines who came up with the size and spacing guidelines for both the closures at the Channel Islands and those created by the MLPA Initiative. I already knew that Lubchenco had associations with the Packard Foundation and the Monterey Bay Aquarium and was good friends with MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force member Meg Caldwell of Stanford's School of Environmental Law and with Mike Sutton, who works for the Aquarium (owned by Julie Packard) and is a member of the California Fish and Game Commission. So it was no surprise to me when one of the first things NOAA did was kick into high gear the Ocean Policy Task Force's plan for marine spatial planning, otherwise known as ocean zoning. Caldwell (as a source author) and Lubchenco (speaker) were part of a symposium last spring at the International Marine Conservation Congress. The title? THREE STAGES IN THE EVOLUTION OF MARINE ECOSYSTEM-BASED MANAGEMENT: “EXPLOITATION EVERYWHERE,” MARINE RESERVES, AND COMPREHENSIVE ECOSYSTEM-BASED OCEAN ZONING So judge for yourself. Is there reason for recreational anglers and the sportfishing industry to fear the current administration will restrict access to ocean waters, deltas and watersheds that are currently taken for granted by fishermen? It's not like the action would be unprecedented. President George W. Bush used the Monument Act to create two giant reserves in the Pacific Ocean, but those are remote in both distance and current use. And there's no doubt there are some very wealthy and influential individuals who would like to see it happen. So why hide the truth?

Reader Comments
WOW!? The hits just keep coming, sorry to hear Rich. You've done good work breaking down the process & keeping people informed, hope you continue the good fight. Josh

This is such a bummer, for all our kids. My now 11 year old, is at least getting an education in how dirty politics is. He's an avid fishermen and loves being in the hunt,he has spoken four times at MLPA meetings in southern California. He may be 11 but he's learned how corrupted the system is with the lobbyists and dirty money feeding the Obama administration. I feel sad for our kids. God help us! Bowery

After fishing the socal waters (Del Mar kelp to Cornado islands and outer banks) my whole life, its obvious 'we need some new rules pronto'. Maybe we could make stricter limits &/or add slot sizes to help with the larger breeding populations. Do we really need to be able to keep, 10 yellowtail & 10 Kelp bass a day on those rare occasions that the Yellows are chow'n down? Not to mention the ancient regulations on albacore, skipjack, and Bluefin tuna that allows me to keep a daily 10 of each OVER my daily 20 fish limit ... Sh!T is out of whack, Besides BIG moves like the Ban on Gill nets in the early 90's OR the millions of dollars spent trying to revive the seabass population, the steady decline of our fish populations continues. Whats gonna be left for our kids if WE keep up our pace? I'm into way into fishing/sportfishing, but the large commercial pressure as well as OUR take, is damaging and appears to be unsustainable. Are we really gonna blame Obama for our overfishing ?
Franke Stains

You offer up a lot of misinformation. There are currently no overfished stocks in Southern California or along the entire West Coast, for that matter, according to a report from NOAA just released last week. We do have a ton of development, runoff and just plain shit in our water. As for limits, which of course have helped rebuild the rockfish stocks that were hammered by unfettered commercial fishing, proponents of closed zones do not even accept catch and release, zero limit fishing as an alternative to complete closures. Albacore until recently were on the unlimited take list, since they are so highly migratory and so heavily fished by commercial boats. Just recently the limit was set at 10. Bluefin have been at 10 fish a day for many years, but neither is in ADDITION to the 20 fish daily bag. Instead they make up part of the bag. I like the Mexican limits myself, 5 a day of any species up to 15 for a day. Again, that is outside the current process. Reserves mean no fishing.  On the other hand, once all the closures, state and federal, are in place, there will undoubtedly have to be tighter limits on what we can keep in order to preserve fishing in the zones left open.
Rich Holland
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