- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Maryland’s arm of the national Coastal Conservation Association (CCA MD) has issued an action alert not only to its members but to all recreational fishermen in the state who want to end what it calls “the Department of Natural Resources’ archaic fisheries management philosophy and its institutional bias against them.”

On Jan.25, sport anglers of every stripe are being urged to schedule meetings with their state legislative representatives, then follow up by attending a public hearing that evening in Annapolis on the DNR’s proposal to increase commercial exploitation of spawning yellow perch.

In case you haven’t heard, the DNR wants to open the Choptank and Nanticoke rivers on the Eastern Shore to commercial netting of yellow perch, which would include their spawning season. The plan is so outrageous that it flies in the face of common decency because there are actually rivers and creeks in Maryland that are closed to any kind of fishing for yellow perch.

Why? The species is suffering from historic population declines, yet two rivers are thought to be good enough for commercial exploitation of a fish that, when compared to other species, never has been highly desirable as table fare. Still, it draws large numbers of cash-carrying sport anglers who enjoy playing the catch-and-release game or keeping only small amounts of these fish.

“[The] DNR is stuck in the 20th century,” said Robert Glenn, executive director of CCA MD. “Anglers can’t let the state ignore 50 years of explosive growth in recreational fishing. Recreationally important fish, such as striped bass and yellow perch, are far more valuable to the state if they’re protected from commercial exploitation.”

The DNR has evolved over the years so that it kowtows to commercial fish netters while viewing the far more valuable recreational fishery as a nuisance of a sort. In Maryland, the DNR’s commercial bias has reached such proportions in the recent past that if a fish netter hadn’t gotten his allotted catch during a prescribed commercial season, the state extended his season, citing poor weather and other reasons. If a recreational angler told the DNR he still hasn’t caught any 18-inch-and-over rockfish, would it extend the recreational season? It would laugh in his face.

Bill Curry, president of CCA MD, is correct when he says, “Recreational anglers need to take their complaints from the tackle shops and the Internet to officials in Annapolis. Fisheries management is supposed to be based on science, but it is inherently political because it involves economics and two stakeholders with different desires. It’s time to take advantage of our greater numbers and value to the state’s economy.”

The CCA points out that in these days of budget cuts and personnel reductions, the DNR is becoming dependent on user fees and excise taxes for its funding. Recreational anglers are supplying the majority of the state’s funding for fisheries management yet receive only a minor portion of the fish stocks. This unacceptable situation is the reason CCA MD is urging anglers to become politically active during this election year and demand change in the DNR’s management philosophy for recreationally important finfish.

Said Sherman Baynard, chairman of CCA MD’s Fisheries Committee: “The DNR, governor and state lawmakers can’t please both recreational and commercial interests. We’re urging recreational fishermen and voters to help them realize that it’s time to manage our fisheries for recreational use.”

To read CCA MD’s action alert urging recreational anglers to come to Annapolis on Jan.25, visit its Web site, www.ccamd.org. The alert contains advice and links to information that includes how to find out who your lawmakers are, how to contact and schedule appointments with them and where to find parking and public transportation in Annapolis. For more information, contact CCA MD’s state office in Annapolis at 888/758-6580 or go to info@ccamd.org.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com

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