A Conservationist Speaks Out on the RFA

This from a close friend of mine who is one of the best anglers and dedicated conservationists I know. As far as I’m concerned, he’s right on: So now the RFA has filed a lawsuit, and wants to overfish summer flounder. The NMFS scientists told them how many they could safely take, and they want more. So what else is new? The summer flounder lawsuit shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows anything about RFA. It’s just like one they filed in five or six years ago. RFA and some of the same characters, the United Boatmen and the New York Fishing Tackle and Trade Association, challenged a regulation establishing a 3 fish PER PERSON limit for yellowfin tuna and a 1 per boat limit for sharks. They made the same claims that the regulations didn’t manage the fishery for optimum yield, weren’t based on the best available science and hurt fishing communities. The judge threw it out of court on a summary judgment motion before trial, which means that even if you interpreted every fact in the manner most favorable to the plaintiff, they still didn’t have a case. Don’t be surprised if the same thing happens here. I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t. Lately, when I read or hear about the RFA, I think of the Wizard of Oz. There’s a lot of smoke and mirrors out there designed to create the illusion of majesty and power, but when you look behind the curtain, you’re looking at something that’s not very big or strong at all. You’re also looking at something that’s not very nice. Down here in New Jersey, if you say anything public against RFA, you’re going to get harassed, and that’s why I’m staying anonymous now. I have to live with these guys. But I’ve been watching them for a lot of years, and I see what they are. The RFA website says that they want to safeguard the rights of saltwater anglers, protect marine, boat and tackle industry jobs and ensure the long-term sustainability of our Nation’s fisheries, but the only thing they really care about is the second point, taking care of the industry. Take a look at who runs the organization, and who sits on their board, and try to find somebody who doesn’t make a buck out of killing a fish in one way or another. That’s what this lawsuit is all about. They’re boatbuilders and party boats and outdoor writers looking out for their advertisers. No one else. Let them be honest and call themselves what they are, a trade association, and stop hiding behind the blanket of conservation and stop duping innocent anglers into thinking the RFA is working for them. RFA says that they want to ensure the long-term sustainability of fisheries, but then they go and try to take the teeth out of the overfishing and rebuilding parts of the Sustainable Fisheries Act. That’s one of the things that they’re complaining about with the fluke suit. They don’t think the 10-year rebuilding deadline or making a management plan have at least a 50-50 chance of actually meeting its goal should apply to fluke, because the stock isn’t overfished anymore. What an ass-backwards way to read the law! If they had their way, stocks would NEVER have to be completely rebuilt, because once they weren’t overfished, the rules wouldn’t apply. Want to know what RFA really thinks about sustainable fisheries? I’ve still got an old article that I cut out of the Asbury Park Press, that shows what these guys are about. Donofrio is up in Massachusetts with the commercials, saying that protecting codfish—What’s a codfish off New Jersey these days, there’s so few around anymore?—is a bad idea, and the law has to be changed. “We have to get the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act amended as soon as possible,” he says. “The system is flawed now. There is no flexibility…We have to amend the Magnuson Act before more people are hurt. You’re talking about a $2 billion industry here in New Jersey alone.” Sustainable fishery my ass. It’s only sustainable profits that those boys care about. And look at the way they handled the bass law down here. There was a big fuss about changing the slot limits and going to 2 28 inch fish, like they have everywhere else. A lot of the boats around Cape May wanted to be able to keep the little fish, and about a year ago, RFA puts out a press release that says “RFA will not seek to change NJ striper law in 2005.” But what do I read in the APP last month? Donofrio saying that “"The new rules are in place," he said. "We worked hard to get this law passed, and our thanks go to the legislature and Gov. Codey.” Which is it Jimmy? You’re not going to work for the new rules, or you worked “real hard” for 2 at 28? You can’t have it both ways. At times like this, it seems like RFA could hang on to an eel easier than hang on to the real story. Of course, that’s not the biggest way RFA is unbelievable. When they get up at a hearing, they talk like they represent every fisherman in New Jersey. But somebody gave me a copy of their fluke complaint—like I said, I know these people—and it says that they’ve got only 5,000 members in New Jersey and New York COMBINED! FIVE THOUSAND! If that’s all they got here, close to their home where every fisherman knows about them, what do they have in the whole country? 8,000? MAYBE 10,000? And I’ll bet close to half of them work on boats and tackle shops. Everybody else that’s “associated,” it looks like a club pays a few bucks a year, and RFA claims everybody in the club as members, even if they don’t know they belong. Like I said, smoke and mirrors. Wizard of Oz. I didn’t mean to rant so long, but these guys with their hypocritical BS and doubletalk turned me off the minute they showed up on the Jersey shore. They don’t represent me, and if you take a good look at who’s running the place, you’ll see that they’re not doing much to represent anyone but themselves. It’s just too bad that they’ve got their pet writers in the magazines brainwashing all the anglers, so nobody takes a good look at what’s really going on.