UCSB students are being manipulated and used by members of some radical environmental organizations. For two years I have sat and listened to students parrot catch phrases fed to them by organizers who bus them to Fish and Game meetings about the proposed Channel Islands closures.

This battle is not about whether to preserve the islands, it’s about how to preserve the islands. The closure lobbyists tell students the islands are over fished, that preserves will protect the marine environment and motivate college professors to offer course credits to students who attend these meetings and speak in favor of closing huge stretches of water to any kind of fishing.

I wish some of you would use your Internet connections for something other than chat room discussions. Do you know who funds the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and other radical enviro organizations? Would it surprise you to know that among their contributors are huge energy companies (like Enron), waste management firms and other industries that are less than environmentally friendly? Don’t be naive and assume they’re simply philanthropic … it’s a business decision.

I am a recreational catch and release angler. I support groups like United Anglers and Recreational Fishing Alliance. These groups have led the charge to ban gillnetting (successfully I might add) and defeat longlining efforts; they operate the most successful fish hatchery/planting programs in the state. It is the joint efforts to remove the nets and plant tons of white seabass and halibut fingerlings that have allowed these (and black seabass) to rebound so successfully. We support efforts to create man made reefs. Why aren’t the enviros helping us? They have eight digit budgets – they make more in bank interest than our group can raise in a year! Are these groups more interested in gaining political clout, funding and power than actually restoring the Channel Islands?

The radical enviros are responsible for legislation that created the biggest threat facing the Channel Islands. Ever hear of the Marine Mammal Protection Act? This poorly conceived measure didn’t allow for a cap on the population of seals and sea lions, and the massive overpopulation of marine mammals at the islands could negate any benefit island closures might produce. Closing 25 to 50 percent of the Islands might sound like a good idea on the surface, but the unclosed areas would experience a profound increase in fishing pressure. Meanwhile, the pinaped populations will double and triple. Pinapeds have decimated trout and salmon runs by clogging the river mouths and killing up to 90 percent of the spawning fish.

We propose proactive measures. First, we must identify the needs of each species, then develop a guaranteed way to meet that need. If the calico bass and sheepshead are in decline, reduce the daily limit and add on a slot limit so that big breeders and immature fish must be released. Help us expand our current fish hatchery program, and let’s rebuild the rockfish populations. Join us in ridding our waters of destructive and indiscriminate commercial fishing methods that harvest huge numbers of fish, much of it by catch that is discarded. Let’s end commercial live trapping, gillnetting and longlining. Let’s plant kelp, sponsor scuba reef clean-ups and convince the Dept. of Fish and Game (DFG) to stop handing out commercial fishing licenses to every person with money. Let’s get the commercial anglers from the East Coast, Gulf and Hawaiian Islands out of here – look what they did to their oceans! We need more than closures … we need proactive management!

Don’t be sheep. Don’t assume recreational anglers are the entire problem because somebody says so – make up your own mind. Most of you don’t have a clue how to guarantee the health of the Channel Islands and, as I listen to you repeat the same misguided dribble over and over again, grow frustrated with your gullibility. You are but pawns in a game you neither fully understand nor have honestly researched.

Do your homework. Recreational anglers are not the enemy; we are the real conservationists. Look into it, but don’t be surprised if you feel used.

Bruce A. Carter is the director of the Southern California chapter of the Salt Water Anglers Club.