with sea life and all types of sport-fishing, Randy Fry was
abalone diving, one of two things he loved most, when he was
killed Aug. 15 in a shark attack off the Mendocino County
Fry's other favorite pastime was fighting for sportfishing
and the rights of sport anglers.
Fry, 50, had just a few years earlier parlayed his passion
for the ocean and fishing into a full-time job as West Coast
Regional Director with the Recreational Fishing Alliance,
a New Jersey-based, political-action organization that represents
sport anglers and the sportfishing industry. At the time of
his death, Fry and RFA were in the middle of several important
"The two biggest issues currently facing California ocean
anglers have to do with no-take marine reserves and trying
to get a Freedom to Fish Act passed through the state legislature,"
alliance executive director James Donofrio said. "Randy
was at the forefront of these issues, working on them constantly,
much of it alone".
"While we could never replace Randy as a person with
all his uniqueness, we will stand in for the enthusiasm he
left us with the (the alliance) team in California,"
The alliance has already hired Jim Martin of Fort Bragg to
take the reins, and the organization seems energized to tackle
the issues. While initial attempts at getting a Freedom to
Fish Act - sponsored by state Sen. Rico Oller, R-San Andreas
- failed in senate committee, Donofrio promises to lobby to
have the bill reintroduced every year until successful.
"Two and a half million sport anglers contribute nearly
5 billion dollars annually to the state's economy," Donofrio
said. "Yet the radical environmental movement wants to
close off vast areas of our oceans by creating no-fishing
Marine Protected Areas based not on sound science but on political
California sport anglers have paid a heavy price in recent
years with cut seasons for most rockfish.
"Basically, recreational anglers have been shut down
for six months of the year," Donofrio said. "The
sad part about this is, it (depleted fish stocks) wasn't our
fault. Recreational anglers take just a small slice of the
That premise is based on long-held observations and a 1999
study by the National Research Council, which estimated recreational
anglers take just 2 percent of the overall catch.
However, that figure is being challenged. A recent report
initiated and funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts titled "The
Impact of Recreational Fisheries on Marine Fish Populations"
claims recreational anglers are responsible for 5 percent
of the overall catch.
To most casual observers, there isn't much difference in the
figures. But there is more to the report - and the fishery
management policies in place for the conservation of marine
resources - than meets the eye.
The Pew study is based on the premise fishery managers don't
realize the impact recreational fishing has on fish stocks,
Michael Sissenwine, the director of Scientific Programs and
Chief Science Advisor for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration Fisheries said in an article published by Environmental
But, Sissenwine insists, fishery managers know the potential
of recreational fishing and consider that impact when making
management decisions on allocations and restrictions.
"I don't think the study offers anything to the science
or to the management of fish stocks," Sissenwine said.
Donofrio: "Sport anglers can help make their voice heard
by joining with the (Recreational Fishing Alliance) and our
allied groups such as the Coastside Fishing Club, CENCAL Divers,
California Striped Bass Association, Golden Gate Fisherman's
Association and Sportfishing Association of California.
"Together, we can make a difference. That's what Randy
was working on, and that's what he would have wanted us to
For more information on the alliance's Northern California
Chapter, visit www.rfancalifornia.org or contact the main
office at (888) 564-6732.