Some people assume that environmentalists and sport fishermen cannot see eye to eye when it comes to protecting the oceans. I know this is not the case, because I count myself a member of both groups.
I have fished ever since I was a girl. My father took me and my siblings fishing for striped bass and bluefish on Cape Cod each and every summer when I was a young girl.
I joined my college fishing team and that brought me to the waters off Nova Scotia. Since those early days, I have fished off Florida, in the Caribbean, and even the Indian Ocean.
I also like to fly fish the cold rivers of Montana and Idaho and the clear lakes and ponds around my family’s home in the Adirondacks.
I am well acquainted with the thrill of feeling the tug on the line. I am also aware of the enthusiasm sport fishermen have for the sea.
Most of us want to share the same pleasures with our children and grandchildren—the way my father did when he introduced me to fishing. But as we think about the long-term future of the sport, we have to figure out how to maintain a healthy marine environment so other generations can experience these joys as well.
Because let’s face it. Things have changed since I started fishing as a girl. Back then, 70,000 people lived on Cape Cod; now it has a year-round population of 230,000 and tens of thousands more visitors in the summer.
Many more pressures are bearing down on coastal waters these days, from water quality problems to destructive commercial fishing practices. To keep our oceans healthy—and sport fishing vibrant—in the face of these pressures, we need active, thoughtful management.
We support marine protected areas as a part of sound management because they help safeguard the health of the ocean. Research shows that, with careful design, marine protected areas can contribute to healthy oceans: they harbor more and bigger fish, more resilient habitat, and more diverse life than unprotected areas. Many scientists also believe that marine protected areas are good for sport fishing.
Yet some groups have opposed the creation of marine protected areas, pitting sport fishermen and environmental groups against one another. For example, Shimano, the fishing gear and bike-part manufacturer, has sought to postpone or suspend implementation of California’s popular Marine Life Protection Act.
We greatly value our alliances with recreational fishermen in fighting for clean water, restoring salmon habitat and working for sustainable fishery management. NRDC and Shimano, along with other recreational fishing interests, have agreed to meet to discuss our different perspectives. We look forward to that.
After all, we share a goal: keeping oceans healthy and fish abundant. We may not always have the same vision of how to achieve that goal, but we hope to find common cause—starting with the pleasure of sitting out on the open water, waiting to catch a big one.