Turnabout isn’t just fair play — when watching that full-contact sport called special interest politics, it’s also a lot of fun for spectators.
We take special joy, for instance, in seeing one interest group that’s been pushing for tougher regulations on someone else suddenly finding itself in the regulator’s crosshairs.
This happened several weeks ago with the release of a federal report suggesting recreational anglers are taking a more serious toll on salt water fisheries than previously thought. If the report leads to stricter regulation of sport fisherman, the irony will be delicious, since they have for years been spearheading a successful regulatory assault on commercial fishers, whom they see as competitors.
The study found that saltwater anglers take about twice as many fish from the ocean as previously believed, accounting for roughly 5 percent to 10 percent of total U.S. catch.
And when it comes to fish species that the federal government believes are most at risk of depletion, sportsmen account for an estimated 23 percent of the catch.
The politically powerful groups representing sport fishermen — many of which have used similar studies to push for more regulation of commercial captains — sought to downplay the findings. But they probably were enough to put a glint in many a federal regulator’s eye.
One difference we see between the warring fishing camps is that commercial captains are putting food on someone’s table, while sport anglers are out there for a good time. In a world in which the factions can’t co-exist, we would have to side with commercial fishers purely on utilitarian grounds.
Wise stewardship of the seas should mean that both groups can co-exist. But the regulatory war waged on commercial boats with the support of sport anglers has driven much of the U.S. fishing industry to the brink of extinction.
Hopefully, as the tables are turned and saltwater anglers find themselves ensnared in the same regulatory nets, they’ll begin to re-think their winner-take-all strategies and cut their commercial counterparts a little more slack.