Editor’s Log: Thirty By Thirty - The Fisherman

Editor’s Log: Thirty By Thirty

In his first month in office President Joe Biden signed a flurry of Executive Orders (EO), and by flurry I mean blizzard!  In terms of 20-year averages, President GW Bush averaged 36.4 EOs a year, President Barack Obama came it at 34.6 per year, while President Donald Trump’s annual average was 55.  With his opening month hot streak President Biden set his own EO signing rate at roughly 390 a year.

One order that caught a lot of attention within the outdoors community was EO #14008 aimed at slowing climate change through suspension of new oil and gas leasing on federal lands.  Of particular note is one portion of the president’s congressional end-around referred to as “30 by 30” which aims to conserve 30% of the nation’s land and 30% of our coastal waters by 2030.  As the saying goes, the devil is in the details.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. is currently conserving roughly 12% of lands, with 26% of coastal waters designated as “strongly protected.” According to National Geographic, in order to reach the 30 by 30 target it will require the additional conservation of more than 440 million acres, an area twice the size of Texas. On the coastal side of the equation, recreational fishing industry leaders say that 30% goal includes a growing push to add blanketed “no fishing” zones or marine reserves.

Quite a few national fishing and boating groups, along with an alphabet soup assortment of environmental non-government organizations (ENGO) are applauding the president’s conservation efforts while supporting the need for more biodiversity.  But the question that we as fishermen must ask is two-fold.  First, does this mean another 30%, or are we just talking about adding another 4% of “no fishing” restrictions in our coastal waters?  Secondly where is this coastal waters preservation going to take place?

One possible solution I’d like to offer is NIMBY, or not in my backyard.

Back in the 90s, California anglers were the first to see this marine reserve push by the same ENGO’s now pledging unity with recreational fishermen nationwide.  Specifically, the activists who courted the angling groups three decades ago vowed “we’re not after you, we’re only after the commercial guys.”  Thus when the 1999 Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) was passed in California to further enhance a network of marine reserves, marine parks and marine conservation areas, recreational fishermen were left blindsided.

“Unfortunately, as Californians work to manage the state’s coastal waters via the MLPA, it’s been used to effectively shut down recreational fishing and boating access,” is how former VP of the American Sportfishing Association, Gordon Robertson, put it years later, adding “In addition to unnecessarily closing state coastal waters to recreational fishing, MLPA gives little consideration to the economics of saltwater sportfishing and the communities that depend on it.”

Look, we all make concessions every day; friends, families, and coworkers, compromise is a part of life.  I just wonder if bargaining with folks who have nothing to give up and no dog in the fight (like many of the ENGO ideologues) is really worth the risk. Sure, we can applaud the spirit of a presidential EO in hopes of getting a better position at the bargaining table, but that seat alone doesn’t guarantee we’ll walk away from negotiations with heads held high.  Fishermen have much to lose with another series of “no fishing” zone debates; ENGO ideologues on the other hand bring zero personal sacrifice to the discussion, nothing to concede, and a history of broken promises.

If Californians would like to take another round of closures to accommodate the president’s 30 by 30 directive, by all means, go for it.  But selfishly speaking, and I think on behalf of New Jersey fishermen, I’ll stick with NIMBY.

(Next week, The Lubchenco Is Back, and so is the push for marine reserves!)

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