Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Is commercial fishing heading to the bottom?

In Tuesday's Gongwer's news service, there was a blurb about a bill introduced by Sen. Bob Spada (R-North Royalton) to appropriate $4 million from the state's general revenue fund to buy out all the remaining commercial fishing licenses in Ohio. His bill is a companion to the bill Rep. Jim McGregor (R-Gahanna) introduced in June.

According to Gongwer's, these bills are a result of an investigation by the ODNR Division of Wildlife Enforcement into fishermen who failed to properly report their catches of yellow perch. Several convictions have already been handed down and there are five more cases pending. The unreported amount stands at 40 tons.

This is the latest in the sqabble between commercial fishermen and charter fishing boat operators. The ODNR denies taking sides in the conflict. Obviously, the commercial fishermen are opposed to the bill, saying it will costs jobs and create a monopoly on perch for Canada. Additionally, a petition from the Ohio Fish Producers Association says that the measures will mean bankruptcy for some license holders.

Gongwer's reports:

"Sen. Spada said the recent convictions of several commercial fishermen convinced him of the need for the legislation.

"Based on the court cases, I believe they've been lying, cheating, and stealing fish from the residents of Ohio for profit," he said. "This is a classic case of underreporting income," the former Internal Revenue Service agent added.

Sen. Spada said he researched the issue thoroughly before sponsoring the bill and came to the conclusion that the penalties were too insignificant and the problem was too extensive for other options. "It costs us a lot more to regulate these commercial fishermen than we get in fees from them."

Buying out the commercial fishing industry would also be benefit the travel and tourism industries in Ohio, Sen. Spada added."

When I read this I was astounded. If commercial fishermen have not reported catches properly, then they should be punished. But to eliminate commercial fishing simply because some of the fishermen did something wrong seems a bit of overkill. By the logic of this argument, whenever there is an act of embezzlement in a bank we'd have to eliminate the banking industry.

And the sponsors of these bills are Republicans. I fail to see how the Republican philosophy of "less government interference" is reflected in these actions. Besides, if it costs more to regulate this industry than the government gets in fees, perhaps Sen. Spada should look at REDUCING regulation rather than eliminating a whole industry from our state, especially at a time when Ohio is hurting for jobs.


historymike said...

Agreed, Maggie.

The state should continue to monitor, regulate, and police the commercial fishermen, but to "outlaw" a viable business is the height of stupidity.

If the fines are not high enough to discourage the scofflaws, increase the penalties.

And the OFPA is correct that Canadian fisheries will clean up. I used to vacation near Wheatley, Ontario (just west of Point Pelee) and the US-Canadian boundaries were rarely enforced on Lake Erie. Lots of fisheries up there who would be happy to monopolize the catch.

As for the GOP sponsorship - this is one of the reasons I do not currently self-describe as a member of a particular party. I would struggle to keep my mouth shut when the party comes up with an imbecilic scheme like this.

Finally, given the struggles northern Ohio has endured, why do anything to attack what remaining industries we have?

Maggie Thurber said...

If the fines are not high enough to discourage the scofflaws, increase the penalties.

Good point, Mike!

-Sepp said...

Maggie, this is no different than a host of other issues where a law is on the books but, unenforced. Rather than actually read the law and, enforce it, our lawmakers simply make up a new law which never sees enforcement. My bet says that we have some elected officials who may be being influenced by a commercial fishing operation to use state money to stifle competition. (influenced by "big fishing"?) That theory may sound a bit far fetched by this IS Ohio and stranger things have happened.

Hooda Thunkit said...

Then, why wouldn’t buying out the commercial fishing industry also include charter boats?

I mean commercial fishing…

And, the Republican philosophy of "less government interference" these days, means less government interference in our personal lives, not in the affairs of businesses.

Business must still be made to suffer the shackles of government meddling…

Increasing the fines however, would put the pressure on the commercial fisheries to take a math refresher course.

Especially if enforcement funding increases are reevaluated yearly, in light of enforcement success.

Do said...

This is one more example of NOT punishing the ones that are guilty of infractions, but punishing a whole industry. Makes one wonder why our lawmakers are reluctant to single out the offenders and hold THEM accountable instead of making a blanket assumption that all commercial fishing enterprises are guilty of wrongdoing.

Could it be that the strongest offenders are making considerable campaign contributions? Or are they politically connected in ways we don't know of? Are the offenders somehow above the law? It's mind boggling, at best.

Maggie Thurber said...

I guess I was more concerned about the position that elimination of commercial fishing would be better for tourism...

Doesn't seem to make sense to eliminate a commerical industry to make it better for a tourist if the two cannot exist together?

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