Mail Buoy: Trust fishermen to observe themselves

It’s taken me a couple of weeks to calm down enough to write this letter.

As a subscriber, I look forward to receiving National Fisherman each month to get a general view of what’s going on in the fishing industry across the United States, Canada and the world.

I’ve been fishing for over 40 years. What I’m not interested in seeing is the self-serving hogwash that Liz Mitchell spewed across your pages! (See “In defense of observers,” NF May ’18, p. 8). The observer programs that have been rammed down the fishing industry’s throats are completely parasitic and self-perpetuating.

There is only so much data necessary to successfully run any fishery. In most fisheries in the United States, there is enough historical data for managers to set appropriate seasons and quotas. If more data is needed, various count type surveys can fill in the gap.

Nowhere, no how, no way is forcing an observer on an unwilling boat helping to manage fish! We have observers because Big Brother doesn’t trust us. Plain and simple. They are government mandated cops there to look over our shoulder and make sure we’re doing the right thing. We are all considered untrustworthy, unless some flunky is following us around being our conscience. This is total BS.

Why aren’t mandatory observers put on charter boats or sport fishing boats? Both sectors’ record of violating fishing regulations is larger than the commercial sector. Ask any enforcement officer!

My rant here though is not to get more folks observed. It’s to point out what it feels like to have someone forced onto your private property to observe your behavior. Should we assign observers onto people’s cars for their daily commute? What about mandatory observers in your home? You might be doing something unsafe, you know! And god forbid you might even do something illegal in there! Would you act the same at home or in your vehicle with an observer? Would you feel good about it? Happy? Secure in your person?

At this point, folks will say, “Well that’s different, Robert, you’re in a fishing boat.” BS.

A fisherman’s boat is his private property, like your home. When on fishing trips it is the skipper and crew’s home. All the same amenities. There are many owners out there who have more money invested in their boats, not to mention their fishing business as a whole, than their homes. Why should that personal space be forcibly violated by an observer?

The next wearisome argument is that we’re taking a public resource and can’t possibly be trusted to do that in a responsible manner! Once again BS. The fisheries in the United States are open to anyone who wants to ante up the cash for permits, quota, boats and gear. I’ve had to buy it all. Just like anyone else can. Which is another big reason that we’re not all the untrustworthy, rulebreaking, heathens were made out to be. You’re not going to find me or 99.9 percent of the fishermen out there knowingly breaking any fisheries laws, because we have way too much to lose! Because of this huge investment, no one cares more about the health of the fisheries than the fishermen involved in them.

To crash the stock is to lose your income, your future income and your investment! I have a huge dog in the fight to keep all the fisheries I’m involved in viable and healthy — way more than any bureaucrat, manager, observer, or what have you.

It’s time for this observer insanity to go away. If managers need more detailed logbooks or observations, just ask! How about offering to pay us for the extra work? I’m sure guys would do it for less than the observer program! If managers feel the need to have one of their own on a boat, how about asking? And pay the boat for the inconvenience.

My grandmother always said you can get more flies with honey than vinegar. I guess the people designing these programs didn’t have that sort of logic passed on to them.

In closing, I think we could probably discover more mischief and mayhem if we put observers onto the feds and lawyers that designed this craziness, than the beleaguered fishermen trying to make living with everyone looking over their shoulder.

Robert T. Mosher

F/V Patience

Auke Bay, Juneau, Alaska

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