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The Sciences

A Fishy Executive Order

The IntersectionBy Sheril KirshenbaumOctober 25, 2007 8:10 PM
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It was with great interest I read last weekend's Executive Order to protect America's striped bass and red drum fish populations, but I'm left wondering whether the President should have the power to make important decisions in fisheries management and conservation? A few excerpts from his speech:

The Vice President tells me there's a lot of fine fishing here, and I'm looking forward to going out and trying to catch some. I love to fish. And the good news is there's a lot of good fishing here is because the Secret Service won't let me go hunting with him. (Laughter.)

I'm going to sign an executive order today to protect our striped bass and red drum fish populations, that's what I'm here to do. The executive order is part of our commitment to end over-fishing in America and to replenish our nation's fish stocks and to advance cooperative conservation and responsible stewardship.

Sounds like the president and I have some things in common on the surface. You see, I like fishing too - or the industry at least. I have great friends involved in commercial and recreational sectors across the country and feel like I have some perspective here. And of course, I also support a commitment to end over-fishing in America and replenish our nation's fish stocks to advance cooperative conservation and responsible stewardship. But wait... what does the Executive Order actually do? By signing this, Bush has prohibited the commercial sale of these species caught in federal waters and allocated fisheries benefits to the recreational sector. Sounds okay, but we should be honest about objectives. While any effort reduction could benefit a species, the majority of fishing activity for both occurs in state waters. The status of red drum won't be affected and striped bass stocks have recovered with minimal renewed commercial interest to obtain access. So this Order mainly has socio-economic impacts. Consider this portion of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSFCMA, S. 104-297):

No (management) measure shall have economic allocation as its sole purpose.

I'm just not sure whether direct Congressional involvement in these complex decisions is a good idea. Readers?

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