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FLOTSAM & JETSAM: EARTH DAY IS OUR DAY!

While some may “celebrate” Earth Day on April 22, anglers see it as an opportunity to spend a few hours dedicated to protecting our future access rights.
By Jim Hutchinson, Jr.
Tags: general

Garbage!

That’s what fishermen are saying about recent efforts to implement strict new federal protection designations in area marine waters.
On March 24, officials from the White House Council on Environmental Quality told New England fishermen that the Obama administration was no longer considering Cashes Ledge for national monument designation. That’s good news; for now!

But that was also one week after a public meeting in Red Bank, NJ where a supporter of a “water-based equivalent of a National Park” to cover Sandy Hook Bay, the Shrewsbury and Navesink rivers and their tributaries delivered his restrictive bureaucratic plan to an angry group of fishermen.

So when did environmentalist become a dirty word? Well, perhaps it was about the time the environmental movement was taken over by preservationists, those willing to use any and every tool in their arsenal in an effort to deny public access to some of our most cherished public areas under the guise of protecting us from ourselves.

The very first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970 and gained unique support across a broad base of diverse interests – most notably both Democrats and Republicans united in the cause. By the end of that year, the United States Environmental Protection Agency was created, followed soon after by the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts.

Then in 1976, the nation’s first comprehensive fisheries management law was enacted with passage of the Magnuson Act, creating a 200-mile limit to restrict entry into U.S. waters by the industrial fishing fleets of other nations, while memorializing sustainability measures for our coastal fish stocks.

The modern-day U.S. environmental movement is as old as The Fisherman Magazine itself (and many readers!) But it’s the fishermen as a whole who are arguably the nation’s first conservationists; which is why as anglers, it’s often hard to fathom how current environmental laws are sometimes used as tools to summarily deny us access to our local resources.

Like stormwater runoff from April showers, paper waste blowing along streets, carelessly discarded cigarette butts, and empty bottles and cans left behind by slackers all eventually make their way to our local waterways, most often by no part of the anglers themselves.

THE THREAT
Yes, it’s garbage! But garbage is also sometimes at the root of our localized issues.

Take for example the National Marine Sanctuary being pushed in North Jersey; the primary proponent of the plan (Rik van Hemmen of the Navesink Maritime Heritage Association) is using garbage he’s found along the Navesink River as a hey reason for asking the federal government to extend the federal National Park philosophy “in perpetuity” to these local waters. Van Hemmen has collected a number of photographs showing litter strewn along the banks of local waterways, and believes that by having the federal government take control over the regional waterways, the garbage will stop collecting along the shore.

Like stormwater runoff from April showers, paper waste blowing along streets, carelessly discarded cigarette butts, and empty bottles and cans left behind by slackers all eventually make their way to our local waterways, most often by no part of the anglers themselves. The real issue to maintaining the environmental integrity of these vital estuaries is attention by state and local legislators to the more serious concerns of over-development, chemical runoff and antiquated sewer systems.

Litter is quite simply a distraction. Varied flotsam and jetsam has been commonplace for hundreds of years - ever since the very first seafaring ships began navigating our coastal waters. Yet again, it would seem the burdens of the environmental movement continue to rest squarely upon the shoulders of the nation’s first conservationists.


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