As I stated earlier I am unbiased and my main concern is and always has been to have healthy fisheries so for me it really doesn’t matter who is taking all of the fish; the bottom line is that the fish are disappearing. There has always been a long standing struggle between commercial and recreational fisherman and the animosity will surly continue for years to come. Yes I have worked on commercial boats so I do know that side of the business but I am for all intensive purposes a recreational fisherman. That being said, short of commercial drag shrimpers (due to their by-catch) and gill netters I will tell you that most commercial fisherman are not causing the problems within our fisheries. Commercial fishing is very difficult and labor intensive work, most commercial fisherman are ethical and follow the rules and commercial fisherman are heavily regulated on both the state and federal level. Moreover, most commercial fisherman are professionals and conduct their business in such a way that does not upset the natural balance. Yes there are bad commercial fisherman and all commercial fisherman are greedy but due to fact that they have to sell, thus report their catches and surely don’t want to lose their licenses they tend to stay on the right side of the law. Moreover, it always gets me that on one hand people vilify commercial fisherman and then that same evening go out to a nice restaurant for a fish dinner…go figure! If you look at recreational fisherman our fishing practices are also regulated via gear restrictions, size limits and bag limits but the numbers of fish being taken go generally unreported. Minor efforts are made to see what recreation anglers are harvesting through boat ramp surveys, charter fishing logs and phone census reports but nobody really has a clue about the number of fish that recreational anglers are really harvesting and where this has the biggest impact is within smaller localized fisheries. Moreover, because recreational anglers are not professional in what they do many of them do more damage than what could ever be reported. Some examples would include: the amount of fishing gear (hooks and line) that is discarded in the waterways, entangled cast nets that are left to keep killing, damage to the grasses and shell beds due to props. Beyond that most recreational anglers have no clue of how to handle fish that are to be released; I don’t allow my client to handle fish that are to be released simply because they do so much damage to the fish simply trying to get the hooks out that the fish will die anyhow. On the other hand, recreational fisherman are generally on the forefront of fish conservation and I do believe that many of us are willing to make changes if it will help improve the fisheries. The bottom line is this: we all have a hand in this and for our fisheries to come back it will require both commercial and recreational fisherman to make substantial changes. Stay tuned for next month as we will be will be discussing how advances in technology has impacted our fisheries.