|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 ESPNOutdoors.com, 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. ESPNOutdoors.com 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?