I am a commercial fisherman, urchin diver, and President of Commercial Fishermen of Santa Barbara (CFSB). CFSB is extremely disappointed to learn of the fishermen poaching our marine resources. We support the efforts of Fish and Game to seek out any fisherman that is blatantly breaking the law. As Matt Kettmann’s article explained, illegal fishing and poaching rarely occur among commercial fishermen, but there are the occasional bad apples, as there are in any industry.
Commercial fishermen cannot afford to break the law. Fishing is our livelihood. If we break the law, we lose our livelihoods; in turn, we cannot support our families and pay our mortgages in Santa Barbara. In the long term, it is a lot more profitable (ecologically and economically) to legally pick urchins than to poach abalone or practice any illegal fishing. There is too much at stake to fish illegally. Generally, fishermen do self-police; we look out for each other and keep each other in check. In this situation, it may have been possible that only one diver participated in the poaching without the others’ knowledge. A main job of commercial fishermen is to ensure the longevity of our marine resources, and it is in our best interest to abide by the management rules of our fisheries.
I am frustrated with Kettmann’s statement that multiple attempts to contact commercial fishermen were unsuccessful, making it seem like we couldn’t be bothered with this issue. Fishermen fish for a living, and most of us work at the Channel Islands where there are no cellphone connections. I understand that Kettman had a deadline, but he needs to realize that we work underwater for a living, and need more than a day to respond. These are severe accusations that are being made to these commercial fishermen, and CFSB takes this very seriously. We support Fish and Game’s and the District Attorney’s investigations, and the taking of poachers’ commercial fishing licenses if they are found guilty. Commercial fishing is an honest living, and we seek to keep it that way.
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Stephanie Mutz is president of the Commercial Fishermen of Santa Barbara