WALMART MAY SOON BEGIN TO FEEL ANGLER BACKLASH
RFA Said Nationwide Protests Against Walton Family Are Expected
August 19, 2011 - The Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) says angler and business response to the group's call for a nationwide Wal-Mart boycott have been overwhelming, to the point that coastal communities can expect to see some grassroots protest begin very soon outside of their local Wal-Mart corporate chain location.
"We've had calls of support from both coasts, even from a few Midwest bass fishermen, our nation's anglers are extremely agitated by the Walton Family Foundation's actions," said RFA executive director Jim Donofrio. "When you spend your hard-earned money on fishing tackle only to learn that the profits are being used to close down fishing access, it gets folks justifiably upset."
Earlier this week, RFA called on an angler boycott of Wal-Mart after learning that the Walton Family Foundation had awarded more than $36 million to groups like Ocean Conservancy, Conservation International Foundation, Marine Stewardship Council, World Wildlife Fund and Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), in support of marine protected areas and catch share programs. Coincidentally, the Walton Family Foundation announcement came the same day that Wal-Mart stores' CEO announced to shareholders a 5.5% increase in net sales to $108.6 billion.
While RFA said it received hundreds of positive responses literally overnight in support of the national boycott, there was opposition from at least two supporters of blanket marine reserves.
"One gentleman emailed to say he'd gladly give up fishing today so that his great-grandkids will know what a fish looks like tomorrow," Donofrio said, adding "the problem of course is that these groups who want to get us off the water today don't want us on the water tomorrow either. The real sacrifice for our future fishermen is from those who are willing to fight right now for open access while it's under direct threat by anti-fishing efforts."
"The fishing community supports conservation, but we're not willing to accept preservation, exclusion or privatization," Donofrio added.
RFA said the EDF public relations department was also quick to respond in defense of their $7,086,054 Walton Family Foundation donation. According to Tom Lalley, communications director for EDF's Oceans Program (and RFA's newest Twitter follower at www.twitter.com/joinrfa), the money being contributed by Wal-Mart to close down oceans and privatize fisheries is actually coming from Wal-Mart's owners and stockholders, not the store itself. "The contribution was made by the Walton Family Fund and not Wal-Mart," Lalley said, calling the two entities different.
"The fund's money comes from private holdings of the same Waltons who started and managed Wal-Mart, but none of the money comes from the existing company," Lalley explained, adding "it was the family, and specifically the family's foundation, that made a contribution for sustainable fishing and ocean conservation, and not the store."
According to RFA managing director Jim Hutchinson, Jr., the marketing executives at EDF are some of the best in the 'astroturfing' business, but he calls Lalley's claims almost comical. "So I leave you a $1,000 bill in the cereal aisle at Wal-Mart, tucked under a box of sugar coated corn flakes, does that mean that Wal-Mart actually gave you the $1,000, or maybe EDF would argue it was really a contribution from Tony the Tiger himself," Hutchinson laughed.
"The heirs to the corporate fortune have spent two decades successfully building back their stake in this publicly held company to the point they now own over 50% of the Wal-Mart operation. The Walton Family Foundation is Wal-Mart, and the Walton family itself is making billions in our local communities, so to say that the two are separate entities is simply ridiculous. Actually expecting us to believe that statement is borderline insanity," Hutchinson said.
RFA is reminding anglers who are interested in organizing grassroots protests outside their local Wal-Mart store to consult with local authorities first. "We encourage peaceful protest, but every municipality has its own rules and regulations regarding active protest," said Donofrio.
"If you're interested in picketing outside of Wal-Mart to express your anger over their support of anti-fishing efforts, call the local police department first to explain what you're doing and be sure to keep it respectful and follow the law," Donofrio added.
About Recreational Fishing Alliance
The Recreational Fishing Alliance is a national, grassroots political action organization representing recreational fishermen and the recreational fishing industry on marine fisheries issues. The RFA Mission is to safeguard the rights of saltwater anglers, protect marine, boat and tackle industry jobs, and ensure the long-term sustainability of our Nation's saltwater fisheries. For more information, call 888-JOIN-RFA or visit www.joinrfa.org.