Mixed Messages from White House

The most restrictive ruling regarding sportfishing came from the White House on Tuesday: 195,000 square miles of ocean will be substantially limited to or completely off-limits for commercial and recreational anglers alike. This action is a result of three new marine monument declarations in the western Pacific.

 White House Chairman on Environmental Quality James L. Connaughton revealed the president's plan for closing off the Rose Atoll, The Marianas Trench, and the Pacific Remote Island Area (PRIA). This directive from the president is a sharp departure from his "pro sportsman" Executive Order 13474, which says recreational fishermen are allowed to fish in areas designated as national parks, monuments, refuges and other government controlled areas because it is a sustainable activity.

 Through the Antiquities Act, President Bush has essentially cut fish off from the people who care most about them — recreational fishermen. The idea of roping off these areas was sold to the president by creating a "presumptive exclusion" for recreational anglers. Essentially, recreational angling can still occur in some of the areas, provided an obscure, limited permit can be obtained from the government.

 Chris Horton, director of BASS Conservation, believes the Chairman's statements regarding the "presumptive exclusion" are ironic. "It 'presumes' that recreational angling is having a detrimental impact on sportfish populations in the area, yet doesn't require that science demonstrates that is the case. We're disappointed that the president has effectively put the burden of proving that anglers aren't a problem on the anglers themselves. It's a very slippery slope to manage natural resources on special interest opinions, rather than scientific justification."

 Horton says this Executive Order sets a dangerous precedent that could be followed by future presidents.

 "This clearly circumvents the transparent public process which is required for these things to effectively address resource, social and economic concerns," Horton said.