As the November presidential election approaches, the candidates will deliver seemingly perpetual stump speeches, each offering the electorate reasons why his plans and ideals for the economy, foreign policy and an array of social issues are better suited for Americans than those of his opponent.
But what about fishing?
A variety of issues can and will affect the nation’s 60 million recreational anglers, the sport fishing industry and the nation’s fisheries. But rarely are the presidential candidates presented questions regarding those topics.
In an effort to better inform anglers on the candidates’ views regarding their sport, KeepAmericaFishing, the angler advocacy campaign of the American Sportfishing Association, posed questions to President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee, regarding fisheries management and angler access to public waters.
“We asked these questions to inform and empower anglers to be active advocates for the sportfishing community,” said Gordon Robertson, ASA vice president. “Anglers represent a huge voting block that can significantly impact the 2012 presidential election. It is vital to the future of sportfishing that anglers are informed and use their vote as a voice.”
In an e-mail to its members, KeepAmericaFishing said it hoped the candidates’ responses “provide you some insight about the candidates' views on issues that impact recreational fishing and give you a basis to judge which candidate best serves the interests of you, the angler.”
The candidates were asked to respond to seven identical questions, then an additional question that was specific to their terms in office – as president for Obama and, in Romney’s case, as governor of Massachusetts.
For starters, both candidates were asked to relay their personal fishing experiences.
Romney said while he was growing up in Michigan, fishing was a prominent pastime and he has since made fishing trips to Alaska with his son, Matt, in recent years.
“Though my schedule makes these types of trips rarer than I would like, I realize that fishing is one of America's great opportunities to connect with family, friends and nature,” he said. “As president, those in my administration will work with fishermen to protect this great American heritage.”
Obama said he grew up fishing with friends and his grandfather in Hawaii, but admitted he is not an avid sportsman. However, on a campaign trip to Montana in 2008, he decided “win or lose, I would go back there and learn to fly fish.”
“After taking office, I was fortunate enough to return to the state and fish the East Gallatin River,” he said. “Despite having excellent guides and getting a few bites, the weather was tough that day and I didn't land a fish … I really enjoyed the challenge of fly fishing and I'm looking forward to doing it more.”
Both candidates addressed what he felt was the leading threats to America’s fisheries and recreational anglers.
“Management based on sound science is the best way to strike a balance between those who rely on our fishery resources today and those who will use them tomorrow,” Obama said. “In order to achieve this balance, we are assessing fish stocks more frequently, consulting more closely with fisherman and other local experts, and getting more accurate counts as a result.”
“The state of our economy is a very serious threat to our nation's fisheries and recreational fishing,” Romney said. “Right now fishermen are concerned about how to pay their bills and what the future will hold for them and their families. The comfort of being out on the water is a little less relaxing for recreational fishermen when they are worried about the price at the pump. Fuel prices are a serious concern for not only recreational fishermen, but commercial fishermen who see their profits declining and their fuel cost rising.”
Each candidate was also asked to give the three most important things he could do for the America’s recreational fishing industry, which provides a $125 billion annual economic impact and provides more than a million jobs.
“First, I will work to get this economy back on track so that Americans can enjoy the pastimes they love,” Romney said. “Secondly, I will work to make government smaller, simpler, and smarter … Lastly, I would consider individuals for my administration that share my vision for a more prosperous America that protects and understands our national traditions and values.”
“Ensuring recreational anglers have a voice. We know that sportsmen have always been some of the strongest advocates for conservation, and recreational fishermen will always have a seat at the table in my administration,” Obama said. “… Continuing to pursue strategies that encourage conservation of our national lands and waters. … Prioritizing wise investments in science and management initiatives that result in more accurate assessments of the state of our fish stocks, and ultimately lead to more fishing opportunities
The full, side-by-side comparison to the candidates’ responses at KeepAmericaFishing.org/Youdecide.