On Saturday morning President George W. Bush had some important business to attend to before he went fishing in Chesapeake Bay. Outside the Chesapeake Maritime Museum in St. Michael, Virginia, Bush signed an executive order prohibiting the sale of striped bass and red drum caught in federal waters. He also ordered better data collection on the two species through the creation of a national salt water registry and encouraged states to designate striped bass and red drum as “gamefish” to further restrict the commercial harvest of each.
Before taking up the pen to make the prohibition official, Bush spoke about the importance of red drum and striped bass to anglers. “I love to fish,” he told a crowd of about 100 representatives from national conservation organizations gathered on the museum lawn. The president also acknowledged the significant economic impact of recreational fishing on coastal economies. “Americans are spending 40 million dollars a year on sportfishing.”
After giving a brief history of the management of both species, Bush added his own contributions to conservation with his signing of the updated Magnuson-Stevens Act and his Ocean Action Plan. The president said even though federal waters, also known as the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), are already off limits to the harvest of red drum and striped bass, he pushed for a commercial fishing ban waters beyond three miles off the coast should the EEZ ever be reopened. “Commercial fishermen and recreational fishermen don’t have to be antagonistic,” Bush said. “It’s not a zero-sum game.” Bush went on to express hope that states work toward preserving future striper and redfish stocks by giving each species “gamefish” status. “The hope of everybody here is that decades from now our children and grandchildren will see oceans? teaming with fish and sea life.”
After Bush signed the order, it was time to fish. “The Vice President tells me there’s a lot of fine fishing here,” Bush said, adding that was good news “because the secret service won’t let me go hunting with him.” – Ric Burnley