Captain Tom Hilton and Steve Southerland

Fishing Politics ALL

Captain Tom Hilton and Steve Southerland

From the Publisher. This was a post on the RFA web site, that I felt was good enough to use here. It's from a Captain named Tom Hilton. I am going to be talking to Tom soon about his doing regular stuff for TheOnlineFisherman.com. We normally do not use things that have been published anywhere else, but this article about Florida Representative Steve Southerland from Florida's 2nd Congressional District. Steve has done -- and continues to do -- a lot to protect our rights to fish our waters. While many of our readers sit and wonder what they can do about improving our fishing rights, or extending nearly-closed seasons like the thirty days Roy Crabtree from the National Marine Fishery Service (NOAA!) felt we deserved. While you eat Chilean Sea Bass and Red Snapper at the restaurants, and buy foreign seafood from the grocery stores, our fisherman are dying on the vine, with their boats in drydocks. Stop this madness and help us out. Tom here makes a solid argument for why you should join The Recreational Fishing Alliance. Think about following his advice.

Rep. Steve Southerland of Florida's 2nd Congressional District is what we at the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) call a Fishing Champion.

Since his election to Congress in 2010, Rep. Southerland has stood up for all fishermen along the Gulf of Mexico, recreational and commercial alike, while passionately representing coastal interests in the House Natural Resources Committee.

Fishing Graphic FWC

Fishing Capital of the World? Really? Then why have seasons dropped by 80% over the last ten years for species like American Red Snapper?? Why? To protect them? From who? Recreational anglers? Really?

In the face of a presidential executive order creating a National Ocean Policy, Rep. Southerland asked the tough questions, eliciting confusing and contradictory answers by the White House staff and NOAA administrator as to whether new laws and regulations would be required.

Rep. Southerland doesn't pitch softballs to bureaucrats, but instead demands answers to tough questions as to how the appointed government employees plan on delivering on their pledges to the American people; a perfect example being congressionally mandated requirement that NOAA Fisheries overhaul their recreational angler data collection program by the 2009 deadline, an important scientific task which the government has still not met and for which Rep. Southerland has be particularly vocal.

In recent years - and in light of the government's failure to meet their congressional mandates for improved science and data collection - extremist non-government organizations like Pew Environment Group (PEW) and Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) have invested heavily in a cap and trade fisheries program which works by limiting the number of fishermen while trading away ownership of the fish stock itself to a few, well-heeled groups and individuals.

Falsely claiming to represent the best interests of all fishermen – even getting invited to testify before the House Natural Resources Committee in favor of their privatization scheme - the individuals who own shares of fish stocks are hoping to expand on the PEW/EDF fisheries ownership plot, breaking down the barrier between the commercial and recreational sectors in a winner-take-all battle over resource allocation.

TWO-PARTY 'CATCH SHARE' OPPOSITION

In a recent debate before the entire House of Representatives, Rep. Southerland (a Republican) joined ranks with liberal Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank (a Democrat) in passing legislation designed to halt funding on the spread of this all-out fish grab. Also known as 'catch shares' or individual fishing quotas (IFQs), this devious plan devised by PEW and EDF has had a debilitating impact on the New England fishing communities, forcing small-scale operators, individual owners and private anglers out of action while allowing big corporate operators, often from out of the region, to buy their way into ownership of what once was a public natural resource.

Rep. Southerland should be commended for standing up to this take-over attempt, but the environmental organizations like EDF and PEW - those who wish to limit fish harvest to a few well-connected and hand-selected advocates- have a lot riding on this investment scheme, and they're not about to let a freshman Congressman like Steve Southerland stand in the way of their corrupted agenda.

According to IRS tax documents, EDF has invested more than $750,000 in the past 3 years alone in creating pseudo fishing organizations like the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders Alliance, Gulf Fishermen's Association and South Atlantic Fishermen's Association. As these EDF-funded organizations continue to lobby legislators and fisheries managers to further restrict coastal fishing opportunities in an effort to further divide the community and expand upon these limited entry business models, investors have been lining up at the trough.

Take Michael Miglini for example, a former tech investor from Austin, TX who was quoted in an Associated Press story on August 5, 2000 following one of the most volatile days in Wall Street history as having "lost more money in this week than I made in the previous two years." According to the AP story, Miglini had recently sold his construction company and invested heavily in technology stocks which completely collapsed in the market turn.

Twelve years later, Miglini is the owner of fisheries IFQs through several different business interests, including South Atlantic Fishing, Inc. and Great Sage, Inc. In 2011, he received another $48,000 from the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders Alliance to start a new organization called the Charter Fishermen's Association (CFA), a group designed to look like a recreational fishing industry outfit made up solely of recreational charter boat captains. Upon closer look at the CFA board of directors however - Gary Jarvis, Mike Jennings, Michael Colby, Billy Archer, Chad Haggert and Steve Tomeny - one will also find three of the six members also hold commercial IFQ permits, while another is president of a commercial marine association.

BUYING UP THE BYLINES

The opinion sections of Florida newspapers have been heavy with anti-Southerland rhetoric by many of the EDF-endowed fishermen all claiming to represent the poor, huddled masses. A little bit of research will show however that the individuals do not in any way, shape or form represent the interests of the fishing public, especially not when their goal of privatizing natural resource has been directly funded by New York City and Philadelphia based environmental business organizations like EDF and PEW.

In addition to Jarvis, Jennings, Colby, Tomeny and Miglini, other representatives of the EDF-funded groups getting printed bylines in newspapers up and down the Gulf Coast of Florida of late, as well as in publications as far north as Massachusetts, including Jim Clements. A board member of the EDF-funded Gulf Fishermen's Association, Clements recently told the Gloucester Times how he is financing one of his two boats for a captain who has no shares of fish and is therefore not able to fish. "He is doing fine by leasing the allocation for each species of fish that he catches," Clements said, essentially describing how he functions as the broker through this method of coastal sharecropping.

In actuality, Clements doesn't have to struggle any longer trying to fill a single bucket of fish himself just to secure a living in commercial fishing; not so long as he gets harvest shares which he can then lease back to real fishermen at a significant profit. Clements and others have created a rather unique investment opportunity, all thanks to the gracious support of the environmental business leaders and lobbyists at EDF!

Then there's recent Tampa Tribune editorialist Dean Pruitt of Madeira Beach, another Gulf Fishermen's Association board member and EDF funded captain who recently slammed Rep. Southerland for having "humiliated Florida recreational fishermen who have traveled to Washington to testify before his committee." Pruitt bases his argument on a recent political action alert issued by environmental lobbyist Matt Tinning of the Pew-funded Marine Fish Conservation Network who describes CFA's Michael Colby as having been "treated with remarkable contempt" at the congressional, adding how another charter captain named Terry Gibson also "endured a similarly offensive barrage."

FROM STATE PEN TO PENNED STATEMENTS

What neither Pruitt nor the Australian attorney turned Democratic strategist turned environmental lobbyist Tinning divulge is Colby's financial relationship to EDF through CFA, or Gibson's direct employment by PEW (what Gibson himself has called one of "the most incredible experiences" of his life.)

Pruitt also fails to acknowledge that he spent four years in federal prison after admitting to using "deceit, craft, trickery, and dishonesty" to undermine federal enforcement of grouper regulations in the early 1990s. CFA member Steve Tomeny was also fined $12,000 after pleading guilty in the 90's to making false statements to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to trying to meet a qualifying annual threshold of 5000 pounds of commercial caught red snapper. In the same case, Theodore Tomeny was sentenced to six months' home confinement, three years' probation and fined $20,000.

Another political operative and headline generator is Tallahassee attorney Tommy Warren, a man Tinning describes as a "lifelong Gulf private angler." Truth be told, part of Mr. Warren's life was actually spent behind bars following a 1973 bust aboard a shrimp boat traveling between Cuba and Havana in an attempt to buy 10 tons of marijuana to smuggled back into the U.S. Youthful indiscretion perhaps, but Warren was finally granted an official pardon by President Bill Clinton in the mid 1990's, and has since been a top fundraiser for both the national and state Democratic parties according to Federal Election Commission data.

As for whether Mr. Warren has entered the political firefight to undermine Rep. Southerland for purely partisan reasons, or perhaps professionally through his Tallahassee law firm (Settlement Services, Inc) is not entirely known. But with millions of dollars of environmental funding in play on political action campaigns through EDF and PEW, not to mention legal settlement opportunities in securing potential ownership rights of coastal fisheries, you can bet that where there's smoke there's fire.

Environmental non-government organizations are spending copious amounts of cash to steal the November elections away from coastal fishermen. Instead of doing the heavy lifting and grassroots effort themselves, they've contributed millions of dollars in the Gulf of Mexico over the past several years in an attempt to convert natural public resource into private equity, with a core group of pseudo fishermen and political operatives doing the extensive lobbying on behalf of their corporate benefactors.

 

The Gulf of Mexico has now become ground zero in EDF's campaign to "help advance catch shares throughout the country." On behalf of 7-1/2 million individual saltwater anglers at risk of being denied the opportunity to fish recreationally in the Gulf of Mexico, South Atlantic and all across our nation's public waters, the RFA gives thanks to Rep. Steve Southerland, a true Fishing Champion and staunch advocate for individual rights.

EDF, PEW and the political action committee from California known as Oceans Champions have brought their cultural battle to Bay County, FL in hopes of stopping an effective legislator early in his congressional career. The radical environmental warriors who believe they know what's best for our oceans like yes men, legislators who are unlikely to ask the hard questions and more than willing to take a few handouts in exchange for the peace and quiet that often comes with blanket compromise.

For legislators like Steve Southerland - those who are unwilling to give away their constituency's essential liberty for a little personal safety – the only path is the straight and narrow. Good thing for Florida's second congressional district and for the U.S.'s 7-1/2 million saltwater anglers, Congressman Steven Southerland is a true Fishing Champion!

Join RFA today, and together let's fight for your right to fish!

(Journalists interested in seeing the IRS 990 forms used to compile the financial information included above may contact Jim Hutchinson at the Recreational Fishing Alliance.)