|Reefer Madness: The Obama Team at Sea|
By Quin Hillyer
Wednesday, March 27 2013
From oysters in California to red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico, federal regulators acting in the name of the environment are actually harming both the environment and human interests.
Is it any wonder why so many people think federal government involvement in most areas of life is far worse than no federal involvement at all?
Let’s start with the oysters. The government watchdog group known as Cause of Action is leading a lawsuit against the Obama Department of Interior for using (allegedly) flawed science – unethically so, with full knowledge of its flaws – to justify the department’s decision to close down a California oyster farm. The Drakes Bay Oyster Company, which has been operating for 40 years on a lease within National Park Service property, employs some 30 workers and provides about 40 percent of all of California’s oysters, serving restaurants all up and down the coast. The Department of Interior, however, claims that the motor skiffs used in oyster farming disrupt the comfort of harbor seals – officially a “protected” species, as are all marine mammals, but nowhere near an “endangered” one, with a stable or slightly growing population along the West Coast. (The Feds alleged that the oysters caused several other minor environmental problems as well, all of them disputed by Cause of Action.)
This is absurd, on several levels. First, as Cause of Action notes, the alleged annoyances to the harbor seals are A) minor; B) not even close to being proven (correlation is not causation), and indeed contra-indicated by larger sets of data, and C) hardly enough to justify the worse harms to the environment that would result from destroying the oyster farm – including the deaths of millions of young, developing oysters.
It is well known, for example, that oysters, in the words of a National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report, “contribute to water filtration, the transfer of nutrients and carbon to the sediments, and biogeochemical cycling.” In Drakes Bay, specifically, NAS found that oysters had been a positive ecological force “for millennia until human exploitation eliminated them . . . from the mid 1800s to the early 1900s.” In effect, the company helped restore the eco-system that had been natural to the area until humans began harvesting the oysters without cultivating new oyster stocks. NAS credits the company’s cultivation for restoring those stocks.
Indeed, just do a web search with the words “oyster clean water” and you find news story after news story, from across the globe, confirming this obvious fact of oysters’ benefits for the broader environment.
In short, nothing could be more counterproductive, for both human and ecological purposes, than closing down the Drakes Bay Oyster Company. Yet the politicized Obama bureaucrats, with little regard for accurate science or ethics, continue to defend their case. For now, the oyster farm has a reprieve from the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, but this legal battle is far from over.
Now let’s consider the Gulf red snapper. To avoid overfishing this species of fish prized on restaurant menus, federal regulations set rules for “catch limits” that change each year according to various measurements of snapper abundance. Alas, the measurements have not kept up with the science or with modern fisheries practices, and this year’s extremely restrictive two-snapper limit per fisherman in just a 28-day season is causing a huge outcry in Alabama. As explained in congressional testimony by Dr. Bob Shipp, professor of Marine Sciences and the three-time chair of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, the actual science shows the waters off Alabama’s shores “could easily support a fishery with a far higher yield, an optimal yield, than the current 28 day season.”
Indeed, there are so many snapper that they now crowd out other fish species, risking damage to ecological balance.
Bizarrely, though, at the same time the Feds are limiting how many snapper people can catch, another arm of the federal government is killing thousands upon thousands of pounds of red snapper (and other fish) in the course of using underwater explosions to destroy abandoned oil rigs in the Gulf.
Yes, the Feds are killing the very fish they pretend to want to save.
That’s not all. It is well known that the rigs serve as artificial reefs that create superb habitats for sea life. Even if it makes sense to remove the abandoned rigs for goals of aesthetics or safety, there is no reason to blow them up. “Far better,” Dr. Shipp told Congress, “would be to dismantle these structures, lay them on their sides on the bottom, as is done in the ‘rigs to reefs’ program off Louisiana.” That way, the habitat would be preserved and the thousands of fish would not be killed by the percussions.
Enter U.S. Representative Jo Bonner, Republican of Alabama. He and Representative Steven Palazzo, Republican of Mississippi, wrote Interior Secretary Ken Salazar – the same man whose department is trying to shut down the California oyster farm – demanding that “this insanity must stop – immediately.” Bonner followed by introducing the Gulf Fisheries Fairness Act, which would extend the Gulf state water boundaries from the current three miles to at least nine (or to a depth of 120 feet), to give the states greater control of reef management.
The states have every reason to want to preserve the species that are the lifeblood for so many commercial and recreational fishermen and for the tourist industry. As it is, says Bonner, the restrictive federal limits “will put many charter fishermen out of business.”
In a March 26 phone interview, Bonner elaborated: “These contradictory policies [applying fishing limits while setting explosives that kill fish] highlight the recurring inconsistency and hypocrisy of a federal bureaucracy gone awry…. This is a textbook example of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing – or not even caring.”
With regard to oyster beds off the Pacific or thriving artificial reefs in the Gulf, the Obama administration is like the U.S officer in Vietnam who claimed he had to “destroy the village in order to save it.” Whether the Obamite decisions are, as Bonner said, evidence of “inconsistency,” or “insanity” or “hypocrisy,” they are also something much more basic: They are just plain stupid.
Related Articles :