The Wild Side: This time power used as weapon

All the hubbub over red snapper might never have happened if the Magnuson-Stevens Act had never been passed.

The act was designed to give more power to the folks who would come into the federal system to handle this fishery conservation act in federal waters.

Like all folks handed such power, some have used power as a tool; others have wielded it like a weapon.

The reduction in what was a proposed Gulf of Mexico-wide 27-day recreational red snapper season to a 9-day season off Louisiana’s coast is an indictment of a flawed federal system. It appears Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council boss Roy Crabtree retaliated for our state’s push for state-by-state, reef-fish management in the Gulf, a move that would have cost federal jobs after data-collection, analysis and management funds went to the states.

There’s the weapon, an unforeseen product of Magnuson-Stevens that needs correction when the act comes up for Congressional reauthorization this week. With growing anger from most coastal states along the Atlantic Seaboard and the five Gulf states about how federal managers have used, sometimes misinterpreted, and sometimes ignored provisions in Magnuson-Stevens, it’s going to be interesting how many federal jobs are left in this federal management system when the act is renewed.

Water safety

Saturday began National Safe Boating Week.

There’s reason to celebrate this year: During the first four months, Louisiana’s boating fatalities have dropped sharply from the same periods during the past two years.

Maybe the decline is because of a string of poor-weather weekends from January through April, but we can hope some of the decline is because more boaters are paying heed to what they’re doing on the water.

There are national statistics in all of this that cannot be ignored: Of every 5 drowning deaths in boating-related accidents, 4 of the victims were not wearing life jackets (Louisiana’s is more like 9 in 10). Considering how few boating deaths are a direct result of trauma, and knowing there’s an average of 500 boating fatalities annually, that means there’s a staggering number of folks involved in boating accidents who would still be with us today if only they’d taken time to strap on that life jacket.

We’re a week removed from celebrating Mother’s Day, and like most other movements that have gained traction in recent years, it’s going to take mothers across the country to insist their loved ones promise to bring, then wear life jackets.

Yes, moms, you can do it. You are the ones who can make this message stick. Louisiana had 71 boating fatalities in the 2011-2012 span, and I don’t recall any of the dead being women. That means there were a lot of grieving wives and mothers, who should have been celebrating surviving a close call rather than crying over a grave.