COMMENT: Opportunities lost

The news that Pew activists in America are working with US anglers to save billfish and tuna from exploitation by long-lining fleets raises some interesting questions, especially when you take into account some of the details of my email conversation this week with Pew’s Australian boss, Imogen Zethoven.

It seems that at least some of Pew’s US staffers are pretty keen anglers. In fact, Doug Olander, the editor-in-chief of the popular magazine Sport Fishing, says these individuals are “good guys”.

Is it a coincidence that if keen anglers work for a major environmental organisation then good stuff, like working with other sportfishermen to ban destructive and wasteful long-lining, happens?

And is it also a coincidence that things are radically less proactive if there’s no-one with any interest in or knowledge about fishing works for said organisation?

Pew Charitable Trusts is a massive organisation. It has shedloads of money and power and there’s no doubting it does great things in relation to health, education, public policy, the environment and so on, especially in America.

The fact that Pew staffers are working with US anglers to try and stop long-lining is evidence of the sort of really positive stuff that an organisation like this can do.

It’s a real pity that Pew in Australia doesn’t have staffers who understand and appreciate recreational fishing issues. If it did, then it’s likely that the work that Pew is trying to do in relation to protecting marine habitats would be far more successful, both in the short-term and the long-term.

In fact it’s a real pity that environmental groups generally don’t encourage people with an interest in sport fishing to be more involved in the work they do. If they did, then it is highly likely that the real problems affecting our marine environments – commercial exploitation, pollution, habitat loss and so on – would be given far more attention than is currently being expended.

Time and effort wouldn’t be wasted on trying to ban or restrict relatively benign activities like well managed, responsible sport fishing.

The fact that Imogen Zethoven completely ignored my (repeated) questions about this issue indicates that the green groups more than likely realise that they have made a tactical error by alienating the recreational fishing sector.

It could be said that the pigheadedness shown by people like Ms Zethoven in pushing for politically unpalatable mega no-fishing zones has resulted in groups like Pew being regarded by Australian anglers as dangerous, untrustworthy and extremist.

That’s a pity.

It’s a pity for Pew as the hard-core policies advocated by Ms Zethoven have made its self-appointed job of protecting Australia’s marine environment all the more harder, most likely impossible. The fact is the politics of Ms Zethoven’s stated policies just don’t work. No government will ever support banning anglers from vast areas of Australia’s coastline.

And, much more importantly from my perspective, it’s a real pity for Australian anglers. Why? Well, if we had a few “good guys” working for Pew over here, guys (or girls) who liked to wet a line and who understood how things worked and who weren’t solely influenced by anti-fishing agendas, we could actually have got really proactive and positive benefits to our environment and our sport via Pew’s money and influence.

What do you reckon?

Jim Harnwell is the editor and publisher of Fishing World.




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