- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 30, 2002

The Atlantic States Fisheries Management Commission, which for 60 years has cajoled, complained, ordered about and/or congratulated the 15 coastal states that it oversees in matters of ocean and bay fish stock removals, has a new executive director.
The new director is U.S. Coast Guard Capt. John Vincent O'Shea, who has a long history in fisheries issues, but how much he'll care about preserving recreational fishing remains to be seen.
Capt. O'Shea spent more than 30 years with the Coast Guard, much of it working with commercial fishermen. During the early 1990s, he was in charge of fisheries law enforcement at the Coast Guard's headquarters in the District. The past five years he worked in the Coast Guard's 12th District office in Juneau, Alaska. He was the Coast Guard's representative to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council and still is the Chief of Operations for the 12th District.
What does this mean to the hundreds of thousands of recreational marine anglers in Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina, to name the three states that can help the most or do the most damage when it comes to curtailing commercial netters and proposing programs that serve all the stakeholders in a fair manner?
Capt. O'Shea has extensive experience in working with the commercial sector, but nothing is mentioned about his disposition toward the ultra-important recreational community that is responsible for a much larger slice in the U.S. economy than the netters. If he gives in to the commercial sector and ignores the recreational anglers who have shown a willingness to conserve natural resources for strong future fisheries, we might as well fold our tents and go home.
Let's watch and see.
The position of ASFMC executive director became vacant when John H. Dunnigan left to become the director of the Office of Sustainable Fisheries at the National Marine Fisheries Service. Dunnigan served the ASFMC states for the past 11 years. Capt. O'Shea will begin his new duties full-time on or before April 15.

Virginia fish and game funds threatened
Ed Rhodes, of the Rhodes Consulting Group, who is a well-known Virginia sport fishing activist, says, "Shortfalls in the state budget could force the closure of scores of boat landings across Virginia." A proposal to divert $5.3 million in revenue from the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to help fund state parks threatens to close a number of the state's boat landings, department spokeswoman Julia Dixon Smith told Rhodes last week.
"The list of proposed closures, which includes 90 of the state's 227 boat landings, was made when the department was faced with the possibility of even higher revenue losses," Smith said. "If the loss is $5.3 million, the number of closures likely will be fewer than 90. "This process is evolving. It still remains to be seen what will come out of this General Assembly session."
Meanwhile, officials in northwest Virginia say they're troubled by the proposal. "We have been trying to increase access to the Shenandoah River," said Warren County Administrator, Douglas P. Stanley. "Obviously we are concerned about potential cuts in services."
In 1999 the General Assembly designated the Front Royal-Warren County area as the Canoe Capital of Virginia. The VDGIF says the Shenandoah River is the most accessible river in the commonwealth, but if closures of boat launch ramps are put into effect, be aware that whenever a river "put-in" launch for drift fishermen or canoeists is closed, so will be the downstream "take-out" landing.
According to the proposed state budget, $5.3 million of the $12 million revenue would be transferred from Game and Inland Fisheries to the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation for state parks. Such revenue losses will have far-reaching consequences for the game department, not only boat landing closures.

Southern Maryland CCA meeting
The Southern Maryland chapter of the Coastal Conservation Association invites the public to its next meeting, Feb. 11, 7 p.m., at the American Legion Hall on Route 231, Hughesville, Charles County. Tony Hill, an expert in light tackle fishing from Cape Cod to Cancun, will be the guest speaker.

Potomac Smallmouth Club meets
The Potomac River Smallmouth Club meets tonight at 7:30 at the Volunteer Fire Department House, Vienna, Va. The special guest speaker will be Ed Enamait, freshwater fisheries biologist for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. The public is invited. Enamait is responsible for the upper Potomac's fisheries and he will give his thoughts on the condition of the Potomac River in 2001 and his predictions for 2002. Information: Jeff Kelble, 703/243-5389.

Look for Gene Mueller's Outdoors column every Sunday and Wednesday, and his Fishing Report every Friday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected]

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