Fish Wife on a tear

Four years of California crabbers’ work on the whale entanglement committee has been thrown out the window. The Center for Biological Diversity sued the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (in my opinion, legalized harassment), and a “settlement” was reached.

The lawsuit was based on the fact that the Department of Fish and Wildlife had failed to obtain a whale incidental take permit. The judge in the case indicated that she would side with the Center for Biological Diversity if this case went to court.

That means pretty much all the good work toward solutions to whale entanglements by commercial fishermen was wasted. The crabbers spent a lot of time away from their boats and families, while taking a lot of crap from other fishermen. Time that was spent in good faith was wasted; we were cut off at our knees by CBD and Fish and Wildlife. This “settlement” has created a crisis in our fishing communities and has lifelong friends arguing and threatening each other.

The April 15 statewide closure of the California Dungeness fishery WILL bankrupt some of our younger fishermen who have no other fisheries to back them up. Losing 40 percent of our season will hurt needlessly. We’ve planned our finances both for the boats and personal, around a full season. We’ve paid for our expensive pot tags with the new format so that the authorities could read the tags from both sides. How are our crews going to get by? Will they be there next season with this kind of volatility in the crab fishery? How is this going to affect our communities and our infrastructure?

Well we all know the answer to that one, but these are consequences that never need be considered by the NGO Gods. And why should they consider the consequences? Their reign will continue unabated. All the while, they are receiving their full paychecks, experiencing no discomfort or shame at the havoc they have wrought. Next year the season will close on April 1 if there is determination of entanglement risk.

“They” say this early closure will be in place until Fish and Wildlife receives their Incidental Take Permit. Have you ever known an agency to give back what they have taken? Yeah me neither.

Considering the fact that fishermen have bent over backward for the last four years to do everything possible to avoid the whales, well this is just a stab in the back. The FACT is in 2019 there have been no entanglements for three states. ZERO. The FACT is ship strikes do more damage to the whale populations. No one seems to care about that. Why should they, when the fishermen can be made out to be the bad guys in the eyes of the public?

Question: Why is it only the commercial fleet is taking the brunt of closure while recreational fishermen will be allowed to continue fishing? Do whales know the difference between a rec line and a commercial line?

FACT: the whale population is growing by an estimated 8 percent a year. I ask you what is wrong with this entire picture?

Another FACT: Crab is one of the state’s oldest commercial fisheries. It has been held to high standards and has remained strong as a direct result of many industry innovations, including escape rings and cottons. This continues today with the innovations that fishermen on the Whale Working Group have worked tirelessly on.

FACT: this closure will put more pressure on the salmon season. Over the years, the management style has gone to closing fisheries right and left and forcing us into the same puddle. Gone is any lateral fishing. That’s not management.

Fact: There was no thought put into emergency funding in the form of unemployment benefits or job replacement strategies by either CBD or Fish and Wildlife.

We’ve come to a time when NGOs are making the policies for the state (and feds) through lawsuits and threats. The truth, as I see it, is crises are being fabricated and “solved” by big-business environmentalists, and the livelihoods of families are being destroyed. Then the NGOs move on to their next fabricated crisis. It’s very easy to make regulations while you are receiving your $100,000-plus paycheck, never mind that you are taking food out of fishing families’ mouths. I am truly disgusted.

Being forced to bring in our crab gear will add to the dangers of this fishery. We crabbers plan our stack out over periods of time. Springtime conditions like intensified northwest winds and ocean current will play hell with gear retrieval for smaller boats. We will be forced to take chances that we normally would not take in order to meet this deadline. That’s not management either. Although promises were made not to send the enforcement out if the gear was not out of the water by April 15, can we really take any management’s word as good?

About the author

Lori French

Lori French is the founder of the Faces of California Fishing in Morro Bay, Calif.

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