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Don’t teach a man to fish!

July 9, 2009

There was a Chinese proverb that once said: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Today, that same proverb in New York State might go like this: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he risks a fine of $0 to $250 per fishing violation, and/or 15 days in jail, and you probably think you don’t need a fishing license if you fish in a pond on your own property, but you actually do need a license unless you are a farmer (and soon you’ll need a license also for saltwater fishing).”

By the way, if you are wondering how these taxes came to existence, look no further than the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

In 2001, the FAO, through its Committee on Fisheries, adopted the International Plan of Action to prevent, deter and eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (IPOA-IUU). The IPOA-IUU is a “voluntary instrument” listing a host of measures that countries and regional fisheries bodies should adopt, depending on the nature of their fisheries, in order to eliminate IUU fishing. In order to adopt IPOA-IUU measures in a consistent way, countries were encouraged to develop their own National Plan of Action to prevent, deter and eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (NPOA-IUU), sourcing measures from the ‘tool box’ represented by the IPOA-IUU, and adapting them to their particular situation. Countries were encouraged to have their NPOA-IUU action plans developed by the end of 2004 (source).

In the United States, the responsibility for the NPOA-IUU came under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

It is interesting to note that in their “National Plan of Action of the United States of America to Prevent, Deter, and Eliminate Illegal, Unregulated, and Unreported Fishing” (link) there is a lot of mention of commercial fishing activities as sources of IUU activities, including mention of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the High Seas Fishing Compliance Act, and the Lancey Act as obvious regulatory instruments. There is no mention, however, of recreational anglers. The reason is clear: they are not part of the problem.

On January 12, 2007, the President signed the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act of 2006 into law, strengthening the 1996 provisions and extending the Act until 2013. Most of the key amendments and changes were regulatory and/or environmental in nature, yet one amendment clearly wasn’t:

Fisheries Conservation and Management Fund
The Secretary [Secretary of Commerce] must establish a fund to improve fishery harvest data collection, cooperative fishery research and analysis, and development of new technologies. The fund must also be used to analyze the health benefits and risks of seafood, market sustainable U.S. fish products, improve recreational data collection, and provide financial assistance to fishermen to offset their costs with implementing changes to meet the requirements of federal laws. Amounts generated from quota set-asides, appropriations received for the fund, and monies from states or other entities may be deposited into the fund. Every two years, money from the fund will be apportioned among the eight Council regions (source).

It is interesting to note that the regulations are entirely designed to control commercial IUU activity, but guess who will be financing the whole thing, even offsetting the implementation costs to fishermen, and under the guise of “improv[ing] recreational data collection”? You’ve guessed it: the poor recreational angler, who already pays too much money just for the satisfaction of pulling in a few fish by hand!

So what started as a quasi-mandate by a UN agency, ended-up becoming another tax in disguise. Notice that the fees paid by recreational anglers are supposed to “improve recreational data collection”, something which really doesn’t require regulation or even immediate mandates. Yet now since the states are using these new fees as additional income to fill-in holes, soon, if you are caught fishing without a license, you will even be paying fines between $0 to $250 per fishing violation, and/or be spending 15 days in jail!

How is all of this justified by the National Saltwater Angler Registry’s “Frequently Asked Questions”? Like this:

The hope is that whatever extra fees anglers must pay will be offset by more accurate and timely data leading to more credible management decisions and improved fishing opportunities. (source)

Sure! “[I]mproved fishing opportunities” are what we are supposed to get, but do they actually feed the fish in the sea, or do something like that?

Of course they do! Doesn’t the government also provide you with all of those paid privileges called ‘rights’, including the one that doesn’t really count to most employers, the First Amendment?

Don’t they provide you with the sun in the morning, something which you ingrates don’t even get taxed for?

And shouldn’t you also pay taxes on the water out of the well you’ve dug on your own property, and at your own expense?

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