No fishing tackle or clothing company has done more for the ocean and its creatures than AFTCO and the Shedd family. Some of our ocean involvement includes:
- The co-founding of SeaWorld
- The founding of the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute
- Several million in cash contributions
- More than 10,000 hours of donated time to conservation issues by AFTCO's president
- Playing a major role in the elimination of gillnets and longlines.
With a legacy of leadership in marine conservation efforts -- inspired by former company Chairman Milt Shedd's passion for the sea -- AFTCO takes great pride in its tradition of unwavering commitment to help protect our ocean resources.DEFEATING THE LONGLINES
Sportfishermen and conservation groups continue to battle the destructive affects of the established longline commercial fishing industry on the East Coast, Gulf Coast and in Hawaii. While those longline battles are never over, no similar battle is being fought on the West Coast because there is no established longline industry. The main reason for that fact is that, some 20 years ago, AFTCO was successful in preventing the longliners from practicing their trade in California.
In 1988, AFTCO President Bill Shedd received a confidential phone call from inside the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) that said the state's established "experimental" shark longline fishery was about to be sanctioned as a full-fledged fishery with the blessing of the CDFG. If that happened, the caller warned that the mako shark nursery off southern California would be in serious jeopardy. The caller also said CDFG insiders did not know where else to turn -- United Anglers of Southern California (UASC) was not yet established -- and they hoped that the Shedds and AFTCO could be of help to counter the momentum already underway.
On the same day as that phone call, Bill Shedd decided AFTCO would take on the "elimination of the shark longline experiment" as an AFTCO company project. Bill was already deeply involved in the gillnet issue on behalf of AFTCO, so AFTCO Sales Manager Greg Stotesbury was assigned the task to lead the company effort. Greg was perfect for the job because he had fished mako sharks for nine years, understood the fishery and the damage that had already been done from the experimental longlines and the existing drift gillnet fishery.
For the next four years, Greg and other AFTCO employees contributed more than 1,500 hours toward eliminating the longline fishery. Finally, in 1992, AFTCO and a group of conservation-minded shark fishermen aligned themselves with the newly formed UASC, and in May of of that year, AFTCO chartered a bus to transport concerned shark anglers to the Fish and Game hearing in Bakersfield, CA. Greg and Bill presented the case and both the CDFG and the Fish and Game Commission unanimously agreed to eliminate the shark longlines.
With their failure at the Commission level, the shark longliners then took their case to the California legislature, where they convinced assemblyman Dan Hauser to carry legislation (AB2924) to create a permanent shark longline fishery. The bill was stopped by Greg and John Beuttler of United Anglers (UAC), who went to Sacramento to meet with Hauser. When they explained why the fishery had been rejected by the CDFG and the Fish and Game Commission, Hauser withdrew his bill.
Just when we thought the longline issue was behind us and that AFTCO personnel could now focus solely on running the fishing tackle business, a different group of commercial fishermen, led by attorney Augie Felando, initiated a move to create a longline fishery for swordfish, sharks and tuna.
AFTCO attorney Mike Duffy was recruited by Bill Shedd to lead this new effort against longlines, and he chaired a committee that consisted of Greg Stotesbury, Bill Shedd, Rich Holland and Balboa Angling Club President Jock Albright. While the work in this effort was conducted under the banner of and in partnership with UASC, the organization was still very young at the time, so most of the heavy lifting was done from the AFTCO offices at AFTCO expense.
The strategy and various presentations at the Commission hearing were developed and written primarily by AFTCO attorney Mike Duffy and AFTCO President Bill Shedd. In total, over a five-month period, AFTCO personnel spent more than 1,000 hours working to defeat this longline push. The time and effort was well worth the reward when on October 2, 1992, a unanimous vote by the Fish and Game Commission denied the request for a longline fishery in California waters.
From 2001 to 2005, UASC (with the help of AFTCO production manager, Dave Elm, then a board member and now chairman of UASC) -- along with The Billfish Foundation (TBF), National Coalition for Marine Conservation (NCMC), and others -- led a successful effort before the Pacific Fisheries Management Council to once again prevent the establishment of longlines on the West Coast. While AFTCO was not involved in as significant a way, our work long ago to remove and keep longlines out of California waters played a big role in the recent success. If AFTCO had not invested over 2,500 hours of time some 15 to 20 years ago and the longline industry had established itself in California waters, this most recent battle would have been much more difficult. Without AFTCO's early efforts, those of us in southern California possibly would now find ourselves in the same difficult situation facing the East Coast, Gulf Coast and in Hawaii, where they are still trying to remove the established longline fisheries.REMOVING THE GILLNETS
For over 25 years, the southern California sportfishing community watched the white seabass and halibut resource continue to decline, knowing the cause was gillnets. Nearshore monofilament "set" gillnets were wreaking havoc on local marine resources. Sportfishing interests were unable to get the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) or the state legislature to take the problem seriously, so in 1990, sportfishermen took the gillnet issue to the people. Led by state assemblywoman Doris Allen, the required 600,000 signatures were gathered to put proposition 132 on the 1990 November ballot, and Californians passed this "gillnet initiative" that removed set gillnets from state waters in southern California. Not only did this effort bring about the recovery of halibut, white seabass and other species, but it also helped set a precedent that led to subsequent net bans in Florida and other states.
AFTCO played an important role by supporting Doris Allen in this effort. AFTCO President Bill Shedd worked with Bill Ray to form United Anglers of Southern California (UASC), a sportfishing conservation group initially created to support the gillnet ban. Shedd served on Allen's management committee, coordinating the economic arguments supporting the gillnet ban, and organizing AFTCO employees and others in the signature gathering effort.
Unlike nearshore set gillnets, "drift" gillnets are used in the open ocean, where they cause their own indescriminate destruction of marine life, fish, birds, turtles and mammals alike. In the mid-1990's, a commercial fisherman contacted Milt Shedd to say that, after many years of watching such destruction as a California drift gillnetter, he had developed a conscience. He now wanted the world to know what he knew about gillnets, and he had taken video during his last year of fishing in northern Mexican waters that showed by-kill of marlin, whales, turtles, sharks and more. He said that if he could remain anonymous and AFTCO would agree to not use the tape for a least a year, he would turn it over to AFTCO, who could thereafter expose the footage to the world.
After a year had passed, Milt and Bill teamed up with others to arrange a press conference televised in Los Angeles, New York and London. Millions of viewers saw the destruction on their local TV stations. In one instance, the gillnetter caught and threw back over 100 dead marlin in a single set. He moved 80 to 100 miles away in an effort to avoid the billfish, but with the next set inadvertently caught 50 more marlin, graphic proof of the lack of control the commercial fisherman has with destructive gear like gillnets.RIGS TO REEFS
The Gulf of Mexico has a thriving Rigs-To-Reef (RTR) program that is a great benefit to both the resource and fishermen. With that valuable program, portions of the underwater offshore oil structures are left in place to provide important marine habitat long after the oil production operation is removed.
California has no such program. Currently when offshore oil rigs are decommissioned in California, all of the underwater materials and habitat are removed. Not only are hundreds of thousands of fish and other sea creatures killed in the process, but so are the home sites for future generations of similar life.
Milt Shedd found this situation ridiculous. In 1995 he joined with UASC board member Dan Frumkes to encourage the state to examine the wisdom of removing thousands of tons of marine habitat without understanding the damage of doing so. Shortly after, son Bill Shedd and AFTCO attorney Mike Duffy were brought onto the team. In partnership with the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and United Anglers of Southern California (UASC), the group formed the UASC-ASA Conservation Coordinating Committee, and the process to take a rational look at RTR was underway.THE FIGHT AGAINST EXTREME FISHING CLOSURES
Misguided environmental groups are increasingly calling for recreational fishermen to be denied access to the marine resource. At AFTCO we are not against sciencebased closures. What we are against is restricting angler access without a significant proven fishery benefit to overcome the angler's personal loss and the loss to the resource and the economy. We are against closures put in place without proper data to support them and without considering the socio-economic consequences. At AFTCO, we have in the past and will continue in the future to provide both funding and leadership to prevent such misguided closures.
In the name of protecting the marine environment, environmental groups often lump anglers and their single hook and line gear into the same category as commercial fishermen and their destructive types of gear, like gillnets, bottom trawls, longlines, fish traps and more. The truth is that sportfishermen use little of the resource and yet provide not only healthy family-oriented recreational activity for the public, but significant job creation and economic activity, as well. The 13 million saltwater anglers in the U.S. generate 533,000 jobs and contribute $82.2 billion to the nation's economy. Most importantly for the marine fishery resource, this economic benefit is generated by taking only 3% of the U.S. harvest, while the commercial sector takes the other 97% and at the same time provides fewer jobs.
Those wanting to ban recreational fishing fail to point out that saltwater anglers have been and continue to be the true marine conservationists. We provide the backbone of funding for fishery resource management efforts in the states. In 2009 we contributed over $604 million for fishing license fees and an additional $700 million-plus in excise taxes on fishing tackle and motor boat fuels. Over the last half century, anglers have contributed over $30 billion to resource management. In addition, it was conservation-minded anglers who led the effort to restore redfish in the Gulf and Southeast, white seabass and halibut in California, and striped bass in the Northeast.
The ocean is a public resource and the fishing public deserves to receive the highest priority for its future use. AFTCO will continue to work toward that end and we encourage you to support and get involved with KeepAmericaFishing.org. This entity was launched on July 14, 2010 by the American Sportfising Association (ASA). For more information, go to www.keepamericafishing.org.
Bill Shedd, AFTCO President
Learn more about AFTCO's conservation and business history.