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Commercial Fishermen Battle for Their Right to Exist

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This article was written by guest contributor Nicole Revels.

U.S. commercial fishermen say that for decades now, their industry has been on the brink of extinction due to excessive regulatory action often driven by environmentalist sport-fishing groups.

Former fishermen from Texas, Louisiana, and Florida, states in which commercial net fishing has been eliminated following the adoption of environmentalist-driven regulations, have been vocal in warning other coastal states of an interest group called the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA).

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A 2007 video from a Florida-based fishing advocacy & research group asserts that the CCA operates under the guise of environmentalism, but is actually funded and controlled by big oil interests wishing to remove fishermen from the water in order to lessen their own liability for practices leading to environmental harm. The group’s members are currently taking part in a lawsuit aimed at reviewing the legitimacy of Florida’s gill net ban and reinstating commercial fishing capabilities.

Former commercial fisherman Robert Fritchey authored the 1994 book Wetland Riders as a warning to others in the industry after the CCA began advocacy to ban fishing nets in his home state of Louisiana.

“Here in Louisiana, when CCA went for (banning gill nets), Chevron helped them by distributing their membership literature in retail outlets i.e. gas stations,” says Fritchey, who provided a photograph he captured of one such display.  “Our marshes, starting in the 1930s, were chewed up by oil companies, mostly Texaco. So when Chevron bought Texaco, they inherited the marshes. Doing away with fishing makes the wetlands less valuable, less worth saving, and also decreases liability for Chevron.”

Now, North Carolina commercial fishermen say that after decades of defending their industry’s right to exist, they are going on the offensive in order to protect their livelihood. Several of them went on the record with me in a recently released documentary, disclosing issues they’ve been combating. The fishermen describe regulations that they say do not serve the interests of environmental conservation, pointing out that the CCA’s arguments for “game fish” designations (making a particular breed of fish illegal to catch and sell to the public) are not biological in nature, but economic.

 

The NC fishermen say, though, that the blame for their industry’s troubles does fall on the CCA, but on the elected officials who push the CCA’s agenda, and that they will be taking further measures to assert their rights accordingly. Several CCA sport fishermen have expressed opposition to the documentary by making their own counter-video and leaving numerous comments on articles related to the video, though the North Carolina CCA has not responded to requests for an official comment from the organization.

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