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Who owns the fishes?

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#1 Guest_Irate Mormon_*

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Posted 12 September 2010 - 09:59 PM

I recently had the opportunity to visit Casper on a week-long fish "adventure" that took me to Atlanta, Chattanooga, Nashville, Tishomingo, and finally back to Jackson. The subject of Tennessee's collecting reg's came up, and how you used to be able to collect baitfish but the new law says that they can't leave the water they are collected from.

Now, being the ultra conservative that I am, the question occurred to me - Can the State of Tennessee pass legislation that declares IT OWNS ALL THE FISHES IN THE WATERS OF TENNESSEE, and mere citizens can do nothing with them without the express permission of the State? Of course other states have done this as well, but the more I think about it the madder I get. I understand there are concerns about certain species, but honestly - this is government run amok. This is not a fair law.

What do you guys on the other side think - can the state claim ownership of all wildlife within the state, or is it public property?

And hey - let's keep it civil.

#2 Guest_Okiimiru_*

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Posted 12 September 2010 - 10:30 PM

What do you guys on the other side think - can the state claim ownership of all wildlife within the state, or is it public property?

I can think only two reasons why a government would want to declare ownership on fish:
1. To charge people for the collection of fish. Profits would go to the rangers and game department, and upkeep of the natural parks.
2. For the protection of endangered species.

Does anyone else have any other reasons?

#3 Guest_panfisherteen_*

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Posted 12 September 2010 - 10:37 PM

tropical fish selling lobbyists :laugh:

#4 Guest_fundulus_*

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Posted 12 September 2010 - 10:39 PM

Yes, any governmental entity can make such a claim, and they have for millenia. Teddy Roosevelt was bitterly, violently opposed when he established the National Wildlife Refuges over 100 years ago, with armed federal agents enforcing hunting seasons and general regulations. It's really a matter of degree. In the U.K. landed nobles owned the waterways and fishes in them, with no obligation to let anyone fish; this wasn't very popular of course. In the U.S. the concept has shifted to public ownership and management of natural resources such as fish, with states issuing fishing licenses to almost everyone for small fees and the federal government involved in broader issues.

This all begs the issue of states like Tennessee imposing what are essentially lazy management policies - banning the collection of all non-game species essentially by anyone for any reason. States have the right to do so but should only do so under truly exceptional conditions which aren't present now. The "exceptional condition" they face is budgetary. Most American states have little discretionary income in the current economic collapse, so that the management of "frivolous" activities such as NANFAns collecting fish are easy targets to make illegal which requires fewer personnel. How many of us collect enough fish, regularly enough, so that we would be confused with poaching bait dealers? Very few, we all know that. It's a purely political question and in the scheme of things we're "piddly arse", to borrow from Peter the Unmack. The cynical thought is that if the state is that hard-up would anyone even notice that we're collecting fish anyway? The reality is that if you're caught, the responsible agency is more likely to do a wilding on you.

So yes, an American state is the collective us, but most people aren't paying any attention (as usual).

P.S. My political views are strongly anti-Royalist.

#5 Guest_schambers_*

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Posted 12 September 2010 - 10:55 PM

I agree. It makes me angry. They are just punishing honest folks. The dishonest ones don't give a hoot what the laws are, they will do what they want to regardless. I feel like they are picking on us because they can, we're not a large group with lots of money and political clout. They take our rights away and claim it is helping while they give a pass to rampant development, shipping, agricultural and industrial pollution, mining, and other big businesses that may be putting dollars ahead of the environment.

People keeping native fish in aquariums are helping by educating others about the fish. I had no idea darters and all those other cool non-game fish existed before I found NANFA. Now, not only do I know about darters, everyone who knows me knows about them, too. People can't care about something they don't know about. Not allowing us to keep natives in aquariums would keep a lot of people from knowing about them.

The other thing that angers me about it is they won't shut down the tropical fish industry, (nor do I want them to) because they have money, also it would put people out of work. But us poor schmucks catching our own fish, we might do something bad so they better stop us.

#6 Guest_ashtonmj_*

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Posted 13 September 2010 - 07:05 AM

I really don't want to get too deep into this, but I'll some quick points below.

Tennessee has an huge amount of land and water to manage, one of the smaller resource agencies by area, species, and management oppurtunities in the country, and already incredibly high license fees. There is no 'profiting' going on either. In fact, they are one of the more fiscally soudn states. They tend to pay for things in straight cash, whether it be huge road projects or massive land purchases. This is all an issue of enforcability, plain and simple. The guys with the badges and light bars on their green TWRA trucks don't have the background, knowledge, or time to enforce non-gamefish issues.

No one is sitting in their office saying, well lets screw these people over they are just having too much fun using this resource. I'd also like to point out the usually complete seperation between Departments of Environment, who approve stormwater permits, wetland fill permits, etc., and Departments of Natural Resources, who are charge with managing land and living resources. The us versus them attitude is becoming really harsh and is somewhat surprsing considering there are several current/former NANFA members who work in resource agencies (myself, Brian Wagner, Matt Thomas, Brian Zimmerman) so I would think there is some understanding of what we do and that we are generally in agreeance. I don't buy the 'its a few bad apples' making the rules argument either, because I could pose the same argument as the cause of the rules.

#7 Guest_Irate Mormon_*

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Posted 13 September 2010 - 08:25 AM

No one is sitting in their office saying, well lets screw these people over they are just having too much fun using this resource.

I don't think so either - but the problem I have is that some entity decided that the ignorant unwashed masses have no business messing with theirfish, so Hey Presto - they are all state property. Hands Off - MINE!

#8 Guest_ashtonmj_*

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Posted 13 September 2010 - 08:40 AM

That isn't true, they were already resources held in the public trust, therefore property of the state and under authority of the state to regulate/manage. There were regulations governing their capture and possession beforehand under the same authority.

#9 Guest_fundulus_*

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Posted 13 September 2010 - 08:54 AM

Martin, I think you see much more premeditated intent than is the case. People making these rules are trying to carry out what they see as their directive to protect resources, not to screw with the hoi polloi. Seeing a conspiracy complicates what is really a simple story.

#10 Guest_Dustin_*

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Posted 13 September 2010 - 09:59 AM

I apologize as I am somewhat ignorant of the specifics, but my issue with this is the distinction that is made between game and non-game species. You would never take away the right of the residents to fish for game fishes so how is this distinction so easily made? They are all fish regardless of their size or susceptibility to be hooked.

#11 Guest_ashtonmj_*

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Posted 13 September 2010 - 10:04 AM

That is possibly one of the broadest, yet best arguments one can make.

Dustin, my educated guesses are there aren't (to my knowledge) any imperiled game fish or ones that could be confused with another game fish so readily, tracking game fish populations through creel surveys or other population monitoring is a bigger deal, therefore has better data, because it generates revenue and has far more constituents, and many fisheries are put and take or at least augmented through stocking. While likely not classified a game fish, aren't there take/possession regulations on shortnose sturgeon in the Mississippi because of the confusion with Pallids?

#12 Guest_Uland_*

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Posted 13 September 2010 - 10:06 AM

I'll be brief and hopefully civil.

Nobody wants to live in a place where poverty is used as an excuse to do abusive or dumb things.
In my state you could buy a home with a little land and a pond. It would be illegal to seine sunfish and darters (among others) and keep them in home aquaria (or bait) from your own pond. So you can be told what to do with your fish not to mention their fish.
I fail to see what exactly they are protecting in my pond. At some point you can't help but see these regulations as overbearing. Responsible collection is a reasonable use of natural resources and they (natural resources) are meant to be used by the public. With freedom comes great responsibility. No freedom? No problem.

All the people I've met that are charged with the responsibility of protecting the natural resources are great folks. I'm not an "us vs. them" kind of guy but adding more unenforceable law atop already unenforced law seems overbearing. What is really being accomplished here?

#13 Guest_ashtonmj_*

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Posted 13 September 2010 - 10:14 AM

I'm certainly not saying anything is being accomplished, because I'm not one that neccessarily agrees with what has been done, I just understand why.

#14 Guest_fundulus_*

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Posted 13 September 2010 - 10:18 AM

What is really being accomplished here?

Nothing tangible, just agencies covering themselves after withdrawing from anything like pro-active enforcement.

Artificial ponds/lakes are an interesting gray area. If you make a small pond away from navigable water it's hard to argue compelling state interest if you're not taking endangered species to stock it. I keep getting back to this being a purely political/bureaucratic decision in which the interests of people like us don't count at all. As an organized interest group (NANFA) we have 500 members nationally and no, zippo, lobbying clout. We're not even chopped liver.

#15 Guest_Uland_*

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Posted 13 September 2010 - 10:26 AM

I wasn't trying to poke you Matt and I certainly don't expect you to answer for decisions you have not made.
I'm afraid I also understand and guess I'm just sad at how things are shaping up.

And yeah Bruce, in most cases the laws are not necessarily geared towards our activities yet apparently our actions did elicit the concern and possible adoption of the law in question. So apparently we're not even chopped liver as far as clout but we're apparently a cause of concern? I'd sure like to know which topic or post got folks riled up enough to spank us this way.

#16 Guest_fundulus_*

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Posted 13 September 2010 - 10:33 AM

I think I could guess of one incident in particular that unnerved the TWRA guys, even though the NANFA members in question were completely legal and permitted to be using an unusually large net in a river. With the administrators they see a possible loose thread (us) and move to cut it loose. It keeps getting back to a complete lack of respect (thanks Rodney!) or influence on our part. It's seen as easier for enforcement people, so make it so. It's not right, and will probably make problems for them in the long run, but they're sweating out this fiscal year, and maybe the next...

#17 Guest_Uland_*

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Posted 13 September 2010 - 11:16 AM

If I'm thinking of the same event, it wasn't the state in question. I understand discussion and not face to face interaction influenced the regulation.

A little story that begs folks to respect enforcement officers. Sorry for the derail BTW. I was recently sampling and was approached by a wildlife officer. He was nice as could be on introduction and thereafter. I was photographing fish streamside as usual so we talked about the fish I was photographing and the health of this and other local streams. He knew of the streams, fishes and mussels in the area. He was devoted to protect them. We talked for at least an hour and a half and he shared a story. He was out with DNR for mussels and salamanders with a group when he came upon a meth lab hidden along a stream with uncommon if not rare species. He called in the appropriate drug enforcement agents but they lacked the proper equipment to clean the mess up. He then called a local large city to have a clean up crew come out but apparently they were tied up and the closest available crew were hundreds of miles away. He had to wait in hiding over an active meth lab with AR-15 in hand, past dark to have a clean up crew come. Not my idea of fun by a long shot. No doubt these guys are too few and overworked/underpaid.

#18 Guest_Newt_*

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Posted 13 September 2010 - 11:23 AM

I strongly doubt that NANFAns or others taking fish for aquarium use were even considered when this decision was made. It is a bait-taking policy, aimed at anglers and bait-dealers. There are no rules against taking any species other than those specifically protected, i.e. state or federally listed. The rules only affect disposal of the fish after they are taken.

I largely agree with your point concerning the state's right or lack thereof to tell its constituents what they may or may not do with their own resource, Martin. However, I must concede that state regulation of resources is necessary (see Fallacy of the Commons) lest we end up with no resources worth having. So, I would consider this policy a specific, rather than a general, error and an understandable one at that.

I've not had a chance to speak with my friends who work or worked in TWRA's nongame program prior to the recent management turnovers and apparent reduction of interest in nongame matters. I hope to see some at the Tennessee Herpetological Society meeting later this month; perhaps they can shed some light on current TWRA political and fiscal issues.

Just yesterday I emailed some questions to the TWRA permits department regarding possible permits available for taking and even selling the fish in question ("Class C Baitfish"). I will share the response when I get it.

#19 Guest_ashtonmj_*

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Posted 13 September 2010 - 11:49 AM

I know there are others, specifically from around the same time period as mine, but I'll throw in an example of communication I had just before to the Tennessee bait collection ban. It might shed a few rays of light, it might not...

Prior to last August I contacted the person in charge of permits in Tennessee. I've met them a few times at meetings, but held permits for about 2 and a half years, primarily for research regarding state and federally listed fish and mussels. So needless to say I had a repore with them and coudl say with some high confidence I know what I'm looking at and I know what to leave the hell alone. I inquired if I should go about requesting a permit because I planned on being in the area for a few days with some people unfamiliar to the fauna and I planned on taking them out, basically drag a seine, oh and ah, and put fish back in the stream and maybe snorkel around a few places. His response was basically 'nah just get a fishing license you'll be fine'.

#20 Guest_schambers_*

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Posted 13 September 2010 - 01:59 PM

I want to apologize, I don't know what I'm talking about. I'm just angry and I don't know who to be angry at. I'm not blaming any one individual. I know everyone is just trying to do their jobs and (hopefully) they wouldn't have those jobs if they didn't care about what they do. I respect everyone I meet until given a reason to think otherwise, and so far that certainly hasn't happened. I don't think it should be "us" versus "them", but when I hear of laws like Tennessee's, that's how it feels to me.

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