Editor’s Log: The Transition - The Fisherman

Editor’s Log: The Transition

Some folks tell me they don’t like mixing fishing and politics.  Fair enough.  But since many anglers like knowing how their fish sausages are made, I thought I’d offer up a couple of post-election observations.

When Ron Klain was Joe Biden’s chief of staff during the Obama administration, Klain’s wife, Monica Media, was on the president-elect’s transition team.  A former senior officer at Pew Environment Group, Ms. Medina was ultimately appointed to a high level position at NOAA Fisheries where she championed the president’s catch share policy which helped usher in highly restrictive red snapper regulations (hence all the red snapper headlines in the national publications).

During her NOAA stint within the Obama administration, Ms. Medina spearheaded our mid-season closure of the recreational black sea bass fishery in 2009; it was the first time we ever had a mid-season recreational shutdown based on harvest data compiled through the Marine Recreational Fishing Statistical Survey, or MRFSS (read more about MRFSS and the government’s awesome new MRIP surveys on page XX.)  We never did get our January and February sea bass fishery back, losing several local head boats in the process.

Ms. Medina also shepherded President Obama’s highly touted National Oceans Policy that prioritized “coastal marine spatial planning” which is essentially how the vast network of industrialized wind farms came to be sited.

Ms. Medina did not pop up on the official transition team lineup this time around, but I did see a former Obama-era NOAA Administrator, Kathy Sullivan, on the Department of Commerce transition team.  While the “don’t mix fish and politics” folks may shudder at the thought, our coastal fisheries are managed by the Commerce Department which arguably puts saltwater anglers in an enviable position of contributing to the nation’s economic bottom line.  Regrettably, I saw no fishing industry groups on the Biden transition team, though Pew Charitable Trusts, National Audubon Society, and the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation were in the mix.

Feeling warm and fuzzy yet?

Soon after the Biden inauguration on January 20, his cabinet selections will go through Senate confirmation.  “As we look at Commerce, you know we’re going to have a typical scenario there where the person at the head of that agency probably will not know anything about our industry,” said George Cooper, a lobbyist with the American Sportfishing Association (ASA).  Of the potential Commerce Secretary, Cooper said “If we’re lucky they have fished and they know a little bit about fishing.”

A former CNN producer and past president/CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Cooper said the national tackle trades association will remain engaged in the appointment process with whoever gets confirmed as Commerce Secretary.  “We’re going to be much more focused on who is put in at the head of NOAA and National Marine Fisheries Service,” Cooper said, adding “We should assume that it’s going to be someone of a more green environmental stripe and we’re going to need to go about doing what we did, I think very effectively in the Obama years, which was getting in and engaging those people early.”

Now a partner at the DC based lobbying firm, Forbes Tate Partners, Cooper added, “We worked with the Obama administration on rec fishing stuff, (people) who are going to be helping to decide who goes into those positions.”

I wish I shared Mr. Cooper’s optimism.  From personal and professional experience – and I’m sure a lot of other saltwater fishermen would probably agree – the Klain/Medina influence in NOAA Fisheries during the Obama administration wasn’t exactly biscuits and gravy.  Heck, it was President Obama himself who famously remarked, “Elections have consequences.”

As Mark Twain once said, “Those that respect the law and love sausage should watch neither being made.”


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