The Voices article written by Yvon Chouinard took me by surprise this week for a number of reasons. First and foremost, Yvon Chouinard is a fly fishermen, as am I, and he plies the waters all over the world in search of trout. In all of the articles I have read about Mr. Chouinard it seems as though he is not a saltwater fly fisherman and does not use the fishery that will be closed through Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).
Now, I know that Mr. Chouinard has been a mountain climber; I on the other hand am a hiker. Both of these activities sometimes use the same areas; let’s use Half Dome as an example. Both Mr. Chouinard and I can get to the top of Half Dome although he would likely rock climb it and I would hike to the top. In this case we are both using the same area and enjoying the same basic resource, although he is going straight up the face of the rock while I’m using the sides of it.
Now what if in this instance I said, “We should no longer rock climb on Half Dome because the nature of climbing gear and the way people climb destroy the rock.” This statement would likely cause great displeasure to Mr. Chouinard because if what I said was actually made into a law, he and many other climbers would no longer be able to scale one of the most amazing climbs in the world.
Now what if Mr. Chouinard, as I was lobbying to get this law passed, said, “We can offer a few immediate solutions. Stay off climbs you do not intend to finish. Don’t climb up to Sickle Ledge unless you plan to do the entire Nose. Do not use artificial aid on free climbs. But most of all, start using chocks. Chocks and runners are not damaging to the rock…” Now, I’m not really a rock climber and I’m not quite sure how what Mr. Chouinard said will help keep Half Dome intact—but I’m not a climber. I would probably also assume that Mr. Chouinard is going to be against the closure of Half Dome because he wants to climb it. Well, why should I trust Mr. Chouinard’s opinion if he only has his own self-interests in mind?
Strangely enough, Mr. Chouinard brought up the issue about sustainable climbing and mentions places like Half Dome in an article entitled The Word, published in 1974 and available on Patagonia’s website. Mr. Chouinard and Tom Frost wrote an article warning that our current way of climbing can destroy these climbs and that measures need to be taken to keep these climbs from being destroyed. Actually, the quote used in the previous paragraph was taken from his article and in no place in the article does he recommend that people stop climbing Half Dome or any other popular climbing destinations.
This scenario directly applies to the Marine Life Protection Act and the soon to be implemented Marine Protected Areas, except that Mr. Chouinard’s and my roles are reversed. I am the fisherman who loves to walk down to the beach and try to catch some halibut or surf perch. Mr. Chouinard is a user of the ocean who cares about its protection. Mr. Chouinard is saying that we need to stop fishing in areas in order to protect the resource. I am saying what he said in 1974. We don’t need to stop fishing but we need to do it more responsibly.
The California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) can lower bag limits or increase minimum sizes of certain fish species, just as they have done in Louisana. There could be implementation of catch-and-release fishing areas, as has been done in many trout streams in the Sierra. There could be areas where fishermen are required to use barbless hooks and artificial lures, a requirement in many trout streams across America. We could place artificial reefs to improve fishery habitat, just like they have in Santa Monica bay. These are all methods of fishery improvement that do not stop people from fishing and yet we’re not doing them. It’s as if we broke our foot and our way of fixing it is to not walk on it as opposed to going to a doctor and having a cast put on.
These are just a few ideas of how we could improve fisheries, and I know that many people may not understand what they mean because they aren’t fishermen just as I can’t understand what Mr. Chouinard meant when he talked about chocks and runners.
All I know is that if we listen to the people who use the resource we will have a better chance at protecting it. I’m sure Mr. Chouinard wouldn’t like it if I were to tell him that we need to close Half Dome or the Flatirons or El Cap and I don’t want to tell him that. I understand that he loves that sport just as many other people do, and I wouldn’t want to take that away from them.
I want to see the implementation of responsible fisheries management that will create fishing opportunities rather than take them away. I want to see us trying to actively fix the problem rather than passively waiting for it to get better. Why can’t we help improve the fishery for the people that use it rather than taking it away from them? Why should we set the “gold standard for ocean health” only when we could set the gold standard for fisheries improvement?