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PostPosted: Thu Feb 01, 2018 12:09 pm
Good February 1st morning, and though I knew some of this news last evening due to some comments made by those stakeholders who attended yesterday's NE Council meeting, Captain Tim Tower of the fv BUNNY CLARK - ME always provides the best analysis on what happened and the effect as far as what fishermen can do during the upcoming 2018 season. I would be guided by his insightful thoughts here.

After showering, I worked in the office until it was time to get ready to drive to Portsmouth to attend the New England Fishery Management Council meeting. I arrived at the Council meeting at about 11:30 AM.

At that time they were talking about an economic study done on the commercial fishery in New England. Of course, the recreational angler or the for-hire fleet didn't have a part in this study. Sometime around 1:00 PM, they broke for lunch.

I was lucky enough to enjoy lunch with Tom Nies (Executive Director of the Council), Rick Bellavance (Council member representing recreational fishing interests) and Frank Blount (Chair of the Recreational Advisory Panel - RAP). We got back at 2:00 PM to start the afternoon session.

They started going over the motions first made at the RAP and then approved by the Groundfish Committee.

The first motion was the one that I had made in the RAP meeting on the 24th of January that been accepted for a Council decision. That motion was to approve the recreational regulatory measures that we had last year.

As I mentioned in the January 24 entry on this page, this motion called for the status quo (i.e. 12 fish bag limit on haddock with a 17 inch minimum size, no cod possession and no haddock possession from September 17 to November 1). This option had only a 19 percent chance of achieving the numbers we needed for cod mortality. I defended the motion at the microphone explaining the reasons for making the motion, those points mentioned in the January 24th entry (above).

Of particular concern (to me) were the effects on this motion:

- of the opening of the eastern portion of the Western Gulf of Maine closed area to commercial fishing,

- the ridiculously high cod landings numbers for the private recreational angler and

- the fact that the same cod are being caught over and over again were not figured into the cod mortality numbers.

These, of course, I mentioned and expanded on.

In order for my motion to work, Massachusetts has to stop allowing the take of cod by recreational anglers within state waters.

With only a 19 percent chance that this motion would get us where we wanted to be under the cod quota for the recreational angler without the help of Massachusetts, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS or the Service) informed us that this would not go if Massachusetts kept the same regulations.

This, of course, I already knew. But what the Service was really asking for was something else from the Council so that if Massachusetts remained with a cod possession they would have some suggestion from the Council on where to go next. Otherwise, they would have to take the month of May as a no haddock possession month.

No one wanted that!

So another part was added on to the motion.

The change would drop the haddock bag limit from 12 fish to 10 fish for the for-hire fleet but keep the private recreational angler at 12 haddock per person.

They did end up passing this almost unanimously.

So I left the meeting with a feeling that the Service was going to do everything they could to keep the status quo even if they had to take two haddock out of the bag limit to do so.

They were not going to take May away from us.

I will keep you up to date on the events leading up to the new regulations. But I am pretty sure we will end up with the same or very similar regulations for 2018.

There were other things discussed at the Council meeting, most of which is really of no concern to the recreational angler, in my opinion.