Soapbox Update: Every Day Should Be World Oceans Day by Bob Rees June 7, 2018

World’s Oceans Day is Tomorrow, Let’s Honor Our Greatest Resource


It’s always a mixed bag of emotions when I fly east to Washington DC. I’m headed east to talk about a range of fishery related issues I work on, on behalf of the Association of Northwest Steelheaders and the Northwest Guides and Anglers Association and with the National Wildlife Federation.


Flying over the Pacific Northwest offers a different perspective than many get. I see an array of rivers constricted for our power needs, a patchwork of land mass segmented and irrigated for our agricultural needs and maybe a sign of change as a network of giant wind turbines twist in hopes of securing a cleaner future for our citizens and environment.


Just like the wildlife that used to thrive on these terrestrial lands, we get the Full Monty on how we’ve “managed” this landscape. Nearly one-third of America’s Wildlife are at risk of extinction, so clearly, we’re failing.


But what about the 2/3 of Earth that we don’t get to see the effects of our past and current policies? Most of the world doesn’t see the rolling plastic bags across the ocean floor, the Pilot Whale that just died with 17-pounds of plastic in its stomach, the destroyed rocky reef habitat due to poor fishing practices, bleached coral reefs or the depleted stocks of fish that once ruled the oceans. I know… Happy Worlds Oceans Day, right?


We all know change isn’t going to happen overnight, and events such as World’s Oceans Day is a good place to start to raise awareness as to polices that have contributed to the decline of the World’s greatest asset, our oceans.


As hopeless as it seems to fix stupid, my wife will tell me, “All we can do is clean up our side of the street.” Although she uses it on a more relational level, it obviously has application to policies and practices associated with our oceans throughout the World.


I’m not a worldly traveler, but I’ll express my biased opinion that I think the United States does a pretty good job managing our fisheries through the Magnuson Stevens Act, water pollution through the Clean Water Act, ocean dumping laws through an array of laws and educating our people on our impacts to the environment. Not all countries have that luxury. It’s not all peaches and cream however.


Recent legislation was introduced that would allow states to manage their nearshore saltwater fisheries instead of the guidelines outlined in Magnuson Stevens that are credited with rebuilding 41 stocks of fish that were severely depleted just 20 years ago. I’m all for utilization of our natural resources to the extent that we don’t compromise the future of the species or our reliance on it, but we’ve already learned our lessons from our past performance, and they were hard lessons to learn from.


HR 200 and the Modern Fish Act are anything but modern. They are actually draconian initiatives that over-step proven management that have allowed us access to fisheries that have been closed for long periods of time. Why wreck a good track record when we’re headed in the right direction? We know our oceans have future challenges ahead, and we certainly know our impact upon them.


Part of the problem are a lack of monitoring programs for the sportfleet in the gulf coast states. We have to hold our own community accountable for take, just as we hold the commercial sector in their take. I guess we have it good on the west coast; our fresh and saltwater fisheries are closely monitored to ensure we don’t over-due it so future generations of anglers have the same or better opportunity than we do.


On the west coast, we’re starting to manage down, as salmon stocks begin to feel the full brunt of the drought of 2015, the El Niño event during the same time frame, and the warm water blob that took us all by surprise. Although this year and 2019 appear to be tough ones on salmon returns, it looks like we’ll have an improvement for the future.


The Columbia remains near flood stage for our outmigrating juvenile salmon and steelhead, the warm water blob seems to have dissipated, and the trade winds are whipping up the ocean once again, providing the essential nutrients from off the Continental Shelf for the baby salmon now entering the ocean. Let’s hope the resiliency gene still runs strong in these salmon and steelhead.


No level of global effort can undue the damage we’ve left for our children to deal with. Most of us are just trying to quell our future impacts on the ocean; we haven’t got to the public conversation on how to reverse our impacts just yet. If there’s one global sentiment that we earthlings collectively subscribe to, it’s that our children are our greatest gift. How will they view the legacy we’re leaving behind?

Captain Bill Kremers with a May 2018 Halibut out of Newport, Oregon