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Virtually every recreational & commercial fisher will vigilantly man their respective ramparts at the least whisper of 'protecting' areas of the ocean - those wicked Marine Protected Areas - MPAs.

As Anson was held aloft as a hero yet allowed his surgeons to kill so many crew by their ignorance of vitamin C -- So too do we glorify succesful fishery rebuilding by the harshest of catch regulation stemming from poor understanding.
Those who would most benefit from utilizing vitamin C's preventive effects and now habitat protections fight for their right to remain reef-free, No Lemons! No MPAs! We'll never prevent a gear impact via habitat protection through gear protected areas, we'll forever allow the Russian roulette of reef loss and re-growth dictated by the whim of fishing effort in a destructive class: Dogma carved in stone, we shall allow no MPA to pass--except striped bass in the EEZ of course..

Our data-poor science hidden by water, it would never withstand shoreside scrutiny: the parade and applause of rebuilding's victory hides the tragedy of conquest's cost, its celebrants remain ignorant of what heights could be achieved, its users fated to cycle with ill-found regulation.

One of the greatest discoverers, a man who actually did what he was credited with; Cook's famous voyages were, I believe, the first circumnavigations to be completed without serious incidence of scurvy. This the late 1760s, he didn't quite have the reasons down-pat but his efforts of innovation returned rewards that many would try to duplicate. One can assume his charges were glad to have lived.
Anson's voyages seeking conquest and submission, despite the celebration of his trophies on return, resulted in death.

Fishing businesses are going to fold - are folding - despite some fish stocks being considered rebuilt, despite that 'dwindling' is the very poorest choice of adjective for these fish populations. It is now, in 2010, that history will have to decide if fishery managers were, like Cook, innovators utilizing flexibility when tasked with discovering solutions; or as Anson who adhered rigidly to the letter of ill-cast orders, causing subordinates' deaths in pursuit of the King's wants..
Both were well regarded in their time: History has not been as kind.

The great untruth of our present day restoration effort remains as Mendana's islands, discovered but still below our collective knowledge threshold. Lindholm, Auster & Kaufman's "Habitat-mediated survivorship of juvenile cod" should have been enough to pound it into management's thought process.
Fish production--the success of their spawn, that young fish are growing-in to replace what has been taken--can not be separated from habitat.
In the United States, in the 21st century, fishery management has yet to put that simple notion into use in the Mid-Atlantic.
No, we only use catch restriction.

I hold that Alabama's red snapper fishery--their huge percentage of quota--is solely the product of fishery-manufacture through artificial reef: That, given habitat fidelity, there can not be 'restoration' where previously no fishery existed: That their economic power-house, red snapper, must be thought of as created and not re-created.

The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council claims black sea bass are 103% restored, that the fish have exceeded rebuilding measures: Yet the Council has never recognized the existence of natural reef, let alone taken action to protect, enhance and conserve these habitats as is called for in federal statute.
I hold that artificial reef is, in very great part, responsible for the Council's claim of this fishery's restoration here; that without key habitat for spawning success, restoration would remain greatly delayed: That based on my knowledge of this region's sea bass fishery: Were all artificial reef removed, taken away, the fishery would instantly collapse solely from our current catch effort; that the shipwrecks and remnants of natural reef alone could never support even a fraction of our current landings.
I also hold that if all the players in fishery restoration ever seize upon this idea we'll exceed our present concept of what the cbass population could be; that habitat theory transfers directly to many fisheries: Indeed, must benefit nearly all.

On public property, the fruits of our artificial reef building must be shared with those that never help lift, that only lean; that never donate nor work, that only extract. Now these fruits are being taken, denied to us, by those who need claim them for their paperwork too, who need meet a restoration target but fail to understand the underlying mechanics of habitat for their success.

I have cried "Stop Thief!" for some 6 months now trying to recover the fishery which I have worked so hard to restore. In coming weeks we may see the quota doubled; this, thankfully, some extension of our meager two month sea bass season.
But we will not get all of our sea bass season back..
The fishery is now restored from scratch to beyond expectations and was never closed but a week or two -- all while never-ever considering that reef-fish might need reef as squirrels need trees.
Its a disgrace that fishing businesses must now face, even with a doubled quota, a great loss of season.
Despite any plea of ignorance, there is no worse theft than that granted through authority of the Federal Government.
Stop Thief!

There will be many reasons why fishers and their friends will go to the Capitol steps on February 24th. I am going because we must restore flexibility to the Magnuson Act: We must allow science to discover a better method of restoration before all the teeth have fallen from the rotting, scurvied gums of America's fisheries.

Its not about habitat. Its not about recreational/commercial conflict. Its not about MPAs. Its about restoring stability to regulation. Its about calming the waters so that innovation can find its way back into the process: We must have the Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act.

Having read this far, you likely have some interest in the outcome of this fight. Write a letter, another letter, to your favorite DC representative. CC your State fisheries staff. I promise this: The all-time king of astroturf -not real grass roots- environmental organizations, Pew, will be steadfast in their opposition. That will cause other--even fully habitat oriented--organizations to meekly toe the line no matter the truth, no matter our ignorance, no matter that the solution to fisheries' scurvy lies well in hand but unused.

I say "Screw you Pew." So long as I have rocks on which to write the truth I shall load my sling
..and press send.


Capt. Monty Hawkins
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