Southerland Schooled At Fish Hearing

Posted by: Mike Dunmyer

Last Saturday, the House Natural Resources Committee held a field hearing in Panama City (at Cong. Steve Southerland’s request) ironically titled, ““Fishing = Jobs: How Strengthening America’s Fisheries Strengthens Our Economy.” The irony comes from the fact that Southerland’s agenda is to dismantle conservation tenets in our nation’s fisheries law (Magnuson-Stevens) that are strengthening fisheries today.  However, even though Southerland stacked the witness panel with his plants, he couldn’t stop the truth from coming out: Magnuson-Stevens and catch shares are working for fish and for fishermen.

As Don Waters, the one unbiased witness to testify made clear, the overfishing limits in Magnuson-Stevens combined with catch shares management have taken Gulf fisheries from threatened to thriving, and have saved fishing businesses and jobs in the process.  Waters said,

“With all due respect, we don’t need Congress taking us back to the failures of the past. We need you to help us address the changes of the future. . . . Do not turn back the clock, help us conserve our fisheries and jobs for tomorrow.”

“We have a system that is working, or else we wouldn’t be here fighting.”

After Waters testified, a huge group of Gulf commercial fisherman (all wearing orange shirts that read, “Keep catch-shares on the table, Keep fish on the table”) cheered heavily.  One of their group shouted, “We got our word in,” a clear reference to the the panel’s uneven representation.

All this begs the question, “Who is Congressman Southerland trying to help?” He claims to represent fishermen, but commercial fishermen from his own district are telling him to stop messing around with the rules that are allowing their businesses (and the fisheries) to thrive.  Commercial fisherman Russell Underwood makes this clear in his Panama City News Herald Op Ed:

“Under Magnuson-Stevens, our fisheries are rebuilding and are healthier than they’ve been in a long time. Our jobs are stable and more secure than they were before we were held accountable to each other through annual catch limits and accountability measures… We’re closer than ever to making overfishing a thing of the past. Why would we want to change the rules just when we’re starting to win the game?”

Well, maybe Southerland only wants to represent recreational fishermen, but as this Op Ed from Tommy Warren, a Gulf rec fisherman shows, he doesn’t represent all of them.  Warren says,

“As a longtime recreational fisherman who supported changes in our nation’s fishery law to address decades of overfishing, I see Southerland’s field hearing as more about rolling back the clock to those bad ol’ days.”

Maybe Southerland is just out of touch, or maybe he’s just pushing his own self righteous agenda.  Jim Clements, another Gulf commercial fisherman may have summed it up best in his Op Ed, saying,

“One of Congressman Southerland’s favorite phrases is that we have a “God-given right” to our natural resources. Whether he realizes it or not, we live in a world of limits. If we were given any right at all, it would be the right to respect and preserve our environment and the resources it nurtures, and the fortitude to not seek short term profits while foregoing long term gains.”

Again, Southerland is somewhat ironic in his approach.  As a Tea Party Republican, he espouses a “get government out of our lives” philosophy.  However, with his own constituents telling him to leave their fisheries alone, he continues to meddle, trying to impose his own DC-based top down control of a local resource.  Fortunately, the Gulf fishermen showed up to his hearing to set him straight.

 

Date Posted: August 27, 2012 @ 6:55 am Comments Off

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