Who Gets the Fish?

Dear Bay Weekly:
    It seems that your columnist, Dennis Doyle, is once again using your paper as a forum for his advocacy against commercial fishing and for the Coastal Conservation Association and Maryland Saltwater Sport Fishing Association (week of March 13). It is no secret that both of these groups would like to put commercial watermen out of business so that they can have all the fish for themselves. Thus Doyle’s endorsement of a commercial net ban.
    When Florida put in a constitutional amendment to ban nets years ago, with thanks to the CCA, it wasn’t all that effective in building up stocks. But it was very effective in killing small businesses and putting commercial fishermen out of work, according to Florida Sea Grant. Robert P. Jones, executive director of the Southeastern Fisheries Association, wrote a good, thorough paper on the issue.
    Jones’ conclusion: “The Florida Net Ban issue can be defined as Who gets the fish? This is a situation where both sides are intransigent because of the economic and cultural considerations. Therefore, I conclude that the U.S. Supreme Court is the only authority that can mandate the fair and equitable allocation of America’s fishery resources for the benefit of all the people and not just one user group.”
    I don’t think we will put in a constitutional amendment in Maryland to ban fishing nets despite Mr. Doyle’s desires. If we did, it would be another nail in the coffin of our commercial fishing industry and equitable seafood for all.
    I challenge Mr. Doyle and his colleagues from CCA to not eat one fish, crab or oyster meal unless caught by themselves. After all, it would be hypocritical for them to condemn watermen and at the same time eat their commercial catch.

–Mick Blackistone, Fairhaven

Editor’s note: Blackistone is editor of the Waterman’s Gazette, the newspaper of the Maryland Watermen’s Association.