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States criticize Bush’s fish regulation

From the Associated Press

President Bush is trying to encourage more recreational fishing in state waters and adding more federal rules limiting commercial fishing of two overfished species -- striped bass and red drum.

“These two species were once abundant in American waters, but their stocks have been overfished,” Bush said in his weekly radio address, which had been timed to coincide with a fishing trip today to Maryland on the Chesapeake Bay. His text was released in advance on Friday.

Bush called his order, which he planned to sign today, a conservation measure, but state officials said it had little to no practical effect and probably would inflame tensions between recreational anglers and commercial fishermen by siding with those who don’t fish for a living.

According to Bush’s order, the Commerce secretary would “encourage, as appropriate” all laws for conserving striped bass and red drum “including state designation as gamefish” -- for recreational rather than commercial fishing -- if a state deems it appropriate.

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Bush’s order would prohibit sales of the two species caught within U.S. Exclusive Economic Zones, federal waters extending up to 200 nautical miles off the coast into the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. But state officials said federal rules already barred commercial fishing of the two fish.

“It’s an executive order to close two fisheries that are already closed,” said Louis Daniels, director of North Carolina’s Division of Marine Fisheries.

“That will definitely inflame tensions between recreational and commercial fishermen, because it’s an allocation issue that’s being dictated. What’s the practical implications of this? Nothing,” he said. “But it does remove flexibility to reopen the EEZ in the future, at least for commercial fishermen.”


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