Alan Lamarche: Healthy gag grouper observable, provable
by Alan Lamarche
I have been a law enforcement officer, trainer and administrator for more than 40 years, and I am used to dealing in observable, provable facts. I am also a lifelong avid recreational grouper fisherman who devotes his time and resources to introducing kids to Gulf grouper fishing. I have never charged anyone a dime to take them fishing, and I make no money from our natural resources. I believe in conserving our fish and wildlife, and I understand that fish and game cannot be “stockpiled.”
When I began my career as a Florida Wildlife Officer, Elizabeth Fetherston was a twinkle in her daddy’s eye. When I was working on my master’s degree and learning about gag grouper in our Gulf, her mother was changing her diapers. Saturday, I read a My View by Fetherston who admittedly has been “focusing on Southeast U.S. reef fish sustainability” for only the last six years.”
In her My View, Fetherston is trying to convince me and hundreds of other knowledgeable people, who have spent decades observing the Gulf grouper fisheries, that we should ignore the observable, provable facts. We should close our eyes and, like Dorothy, in “The Wizard of Oz,” we should “ignore the man behind the curtain.”
The facts are that Florida is experiencing one of the best gag grouper years in recent memory. There are huge numbers of multi-year class gags that are being reported by recreational and commercial divers, fishermen, crabbers and others who are actually on the Gulf daily. The gag spawning grounds have been closed to all fishing, so the gags have not been molested as they reproduce by the millions. All grouper fishing has been closed during the winter/spring spawning season for years. The bad economy and high fuel prices have eliminated 70 percent to 80 percent of the former off-shore recreational fishing pressure and half of the previous commercial fishing pressure, but she says these facts are to be ignored?
For Fetherston, these are potentially costly and inconvenient, observable, provable facts, because Fetherston is a paid employee of a “conservation” group whose mission is to turn the Gulf into an aquarium by using the veiled term “sustainability,” more appropriately called a Trojan Horse. She makes her living “preserving,” not “conserving” our fisheries, and she has a vested interest in shutting down the recreational and commercial harvesting of this flourishing renewable, natural resource.
In an attempt to justify the “science” for her proposed draconian restrictions, Fetherston tries to draw a comparison between oyster beds off of Texas with oyster beds off of the Panhandle. The same comparison cannot be made with gag grouper, and her attempt to do so is an insult to her readers and proves her ignorance of the subject. Florida has always had the lion’s share of the gag grouper in the Gulf because Florida has the premier habitat for this shallow water species. Other states do not.
Fetherston says, “There will no doubt be people present (at the Gulf Fisheries Management Council public hearings) who will oppose the catch limits and even the overall plan. They will cite their own observations of plentiful fish and voice suspicions about the science behind the plan.”
But then, Fetherston would like for us all to “ignore the man behind the curtain” and stay home so she can prevent the next generation of kids from experiencing the thrill of catching a grouper.
Fetherston wants us to look at the “big picture” and ignore the “local view,” obviously because the local view is based on observable, provable facts.
- Alan Lamarche is a former Florida wildlife officer, training officer, inspections and investigations supervisor and deputy director of law enforcement for the Florida Game & Fish Commission. He retired as range master at the Pat Thomas Law Enforcement Academy, and is owner of Plantation Security Inc. He volunteers at the Beau Turner Youth Conservation Center. He lives on the coast in Wakulla County.