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Masquerades in Conservation

Is it possible to mistakenly support a cause you disagree with?  Well, theoretically no, but it’s really all in the name.  There are a number of groups out there with clever titles, but are they misleading?  I’ll leave the obvious ones like the Discovery Institute and American Enterprise Association for Public Policy Research to your Google prowess, but here’s a great example from my personal experience: the Coastal Conservation Association.

What might at first appear to be a group supporting conservation biology and ringing the bell for endangered species and receding wetlands is really a group designed to advocate for recreational fishing at all three levels of our government: local, state, and national.  Their national website is fairly straightforward about this mission, but it is not so obvious when they’re testifying at a state fisheries meeting.

According to the national website,

“CCA’s strength is drawn from the tens of thousands of recreational saltwater anglers who make up its membership. “

However, the mission statement concerns a more general kind of conservation with no mention of a particular priority of recreational fishing over other coastal uses.

“The stated purpose of CCA is to advise and educate the public on conservation of marine resources.  The objective of CCA is to conserve, promote and enhance the present and future availability of these coastal resources for the benefit and enjoyment of the general public.”

Confused?  Because I am.  Although lots of times the interests of recreational fishers line up nicely with conservation goals overall, it is not always such a nice, convenient fit.  And in those cases, the lobbying efforts of the CCA are a thinly veiled campaign against competing ocean uses.

is it really all about the sea turtles? thanks marinesciencetoday.com

For instance, take the recent campaign here in NC to ban large mesh gill nets from estuarine waters in order to protect sea turtles.  It’s a trick taken from the book of the Florida chapter of CCA and not well-received or effective in either state.  Basically, the CCA is suing the state under the Endangered Species Act for better protection of turtles, which are, according to the CCA, threatened in large part by take in the commerical fishery.  Yet, in their response to the state’s compromised proclamation, they didn’t address any of the turtle issues in great length, but instead said:

“But the shortcomings of [the proclamation] do not end with its inadequate protection of sea turtles. Southern flounder have been overfished since the widespread use of large mesh monofilament gill nets began some two decades ago. Presently, gill nets account for the majority of the state’s Southern flounder harvest. Significantly, the MFC did not even discuss and does not know – whether its [the proclamation] will suffice to stop this overfishing.”

Wait, so this whole argument is really about the flounder?  Then I must have been mistaken.

But bottom line?  When it’s convenient, the CCA has a great name that benefits from the good-natured conservation reputation.  However, when it gets down to the nitty-gritty, the real nature of the group comes out – the recreational anglers who no doubt complete some great campaigns with their effort – but who come to the table with a certain set of interests designed to guarantee a catch at the end of their rod next weekend.  Let’s not forget that.

~Bluegrass Blue Crab