Most will not directly correlate political elections with fishing because of more staunch issues like national security, immigration, or healthcare, taking the spotlight. Sure, these issues are rightfully in the national spotlight, but they can also overshadow regional or local issues. The 2018 midterms were big for the country, but also involved some major fishing and environmentally-related issues.
Two ballot initiatives that directly involved fishing were voted on: Alaska’s Ballot Measure 1, which would have protected anadromous fish (salmon and steelhead) by setting new guidelines for permitting activities that can harm these fish, and Montana Initiative 186, which aimed to set stricter guidelines for mining operations to prevent the perpetual pollution of Montana’s waterways.
Unfortunately, both of these measures were defeated. Montana I-186 lost by 10% or approximately 56,000 votes. Alaska Ballot Measure 1 was defeated by nearly 26% or 64,000 votes. In both cases, the measures were defeated in favor of natural resource extraction. In Montana, Stop I-186 to Protect Miners and Jobs, the group opposing the bill, accumulated $5.5 million–$5.2 million of which coming from the Montana Mining Association. Alaska’s measure faced similar opposition: Stand for Alaska—Vote No on One received $12.1 million to defeat the measure. Conoco Phillips, Alaska’s largest oil and gas producer, gave $1.4 million in cash to see that their interests would not be diminished.
This is the grim nature of our political environment. Large corporations can silence the voices of smaller, grass roots movements. Both measures sought to establish more responsible mining practices to protect their beautiful fisheries and environments, but the threat of burden and regulation was too much for these interest groups—shame.
The Democrats took control of the House of Representatives, which will have some under-appreciated effects. The Democrat-controlled House can initiate hearings and legislation that have direct fishing and environmental implications. For example, Democrat-led committees can schedule hearings on the effects of dams on migrating fish species or the positive economic effects recreational fishing has on regional economies.
House committees could also conduct a thorough investigation or hearing on the environmental disasters of Florida–the Red Tide and other toxic algal blooms. Speaking of Florida, after a contentious recount, Rick Scott defeated incumbent Senator Bill Nelson, who has been a supporter of the Everglades Restoration Plan and an advocate for Florida’s recreational fishing industries. Rick Scott–Florida’s former Governor has faced significant criticism from environmental groups for Florida’s worsening environmental issues and made massive budget cuts for water management districts. Rick Scott has noted on the importance of restoring the everglades, but his track record is somewhat suspect. Time will tell if Florida’s environmental disasters can be corralled; we are definitely hoping they do.
In our current-polarized political environment, It is easy to be distracted by the daily controversies or discount opposing views. But us fishermen need to remember that the fish we cherish and the sceneries that these fish bring us to need continuous support. Politicians are open to hearing stakeholder opinions, most anyways, so remind your local congressmen how important your home waters are to you; let them know of issues harming your fisheries; let them know that you want your children or future children to experience your most memorable day spent on the water.