As I have written on FISHING UNITED .com, yesterday's Monitoring Committee meeting (webinar actually), did not have any regulatory-shattering news...thankfully. I did reach out to Matt Seeley who is the Bluefish Fishery Specialist to get the most accurate summation of what transpired and this is what he passed along:
"Today, the MC discussed the different management measures to be recommended to the MAFMC for setting 2019 specifications.
We discussed management uncertainty, discards, transfers, and bag limits. I will not know of any concrete alterations of the management measures until after the August Council meeting."
Also the recommendation made by staff in the MC meeting documents, is in fact what I was told:
"Staff do not recommend any change to the current recreational possession limit (15 fish per person per trip with no minimum size) at this time for 2019."
There will be more information concerning what transpired at the regional meetings at the upcoming Council meeting in Virginia Beach, but one thing I should point out here is that there is a little wondering on why bluefish are no longer seen in any number along the shoreline most notably in the NY - NJ area. Didn't we tell them why at the NY scoping meeting?
Oh, did you catch your trophy BLUEFIN TUNA in the northern area this season? If not...better read this:
'NOAA Fisheries Closes the 2018 Recreational Trophy Bluefin Tuna Fishery in the Northern Area' July 24, 2018 - The closure is effective 11:30 p.m. local time, Thursday, July 26, 2018, through December 31, 2018.
NOAA Fisheries closes the Atlantic bluefin tuna Angling Category (recreational) fishery for large medium and giant “trophy” bluefin tuna (measuring 73” curved fork length or greater) in the northern area effective 11:30 p.m. local time, Thursday, July 26, 2018, through December 31, 2018. This closure applies to vessels permitted in the Highly Migratory Species Angling Category and the Highly Migratory Species Charter/Headboat Category fishing in the northern area is the area north of 39°18’N (off Great Egg Inlet, NJ).
By the way....1.8 metric tons is just under 4000 lbs of landings (3968 lbs actually). A quota regulated fishery and somehow reported landings (as they should be accounted for) have been reached. I understand the outrage is brewing, but I doubt this will change angling behavior in not only targeting, but in performing a catch and release in this category.
I believe the answer is pretty evident to those who have been fishing in the Mid-Atlantic and southern New England region... and I can pass along that more than a few industry people are pretty worried when the news starts to be released in the coming months. What will the Vegas odds be set at for a rebuilding plan and a possible curtailment of open days during the season? Just asking.....
Oh yes, the August 2018 Council Meeting - agenda has now been posted and all of a sudden a good amount of time being spent upon summer flounder and black sea bass along with someone trying to explain the MRIP re-calibration (yes the alchemy of turning lead into data gold).
There is also something on Draft Amendment 11 for the Management of Shortfin Mako Sharks (which most likely will not be good either) as well as, and from what I have been told on the law enforcement discussion on the issue of licensed operators of for-hire vessels being held responsible for what customers have within their fish holding container.
By the way, in what one of our MRAC advisors has publicly (online) posted about the size of the black sea bass stock which caught my attention; to wit:
"The stock is still very healthy, with spawning stock biomass probably somewhere between 123% and 160% of target, but the 240% number hasn’t been valid for at least three years."
Well since the piece by this blovator was called 'TRUST THEN VERIFY,' I in fact did that and contacted the individual who would have the most accurate answer to this statement since this would be an extremely drastic reduction in the biomass of the BSB biomass in just two years from the last Benchmark.
"So it is true that the population was projected to decline because of the declining 2011 year class, but I have no idea where the biomass estimates of 123% to 160% of target came from.
The assessment has not been updated since the end of 2016, when the original estimates were developed, to provide an update on overall stock condition in relation to the target. This person may have seen biomass projection estimates from the assessment (likely published in a few locations) and compared to the target.
However, those are not reflective of the current situation because they do not include new catch and harvest information and they do not include information on the 2015 year class which will have implications for the current biomass estimates."
Note: Not only Brandon, but a few other regulators have publicly noted that the 2015 cohort may have the largest contribution of BSB to BOTH the northern and southern sub-units, unlike the 2011 cohort which occurred in the northern region.
He did mention a few other bits of information on the current specifications which for the RHL went (in millions of lbs): 2016 - 2.82, 2017 - 4.29, 2018 - 3.66, and who knows for 2019 due to the impact of the MRIP re-calibration along with the population update survey...oh, and I should add in what happens this Wave 5 period as far as reported landings due to the opening of the EEZ during the last 2 weeks of September and first 3 weeks in October.
Needless to say, it seems no one wants to give any more information on the size of BSB stock or what will occur for the 2019 BSB fishing season which starts with the battle again over a possible Wave 1 opening.
In speaking with someone in New Jersey who just happened to bump into a few members of the marine law enforcement in the Garden State and the issue of what was seen in pictures being posted by fishermen, in particular as they noted with some for-hire vessels. It seems, and as I have mentioned over the years that some of the best 'intel' the marine Po-Po get, is from them sitting in front of the computer, of course on job time, coffee and donuts in hand or stuffed in their mouth and seeing some of the pictures that make one wonder if size and possession limits are being followed.
I would be very careful in posting what not only I, but others in marine law enforcement are seeing, and though I speak to this individual from week to week, he called me up after he bumped into these marine enforcement officers who were busy scoping out another vehicle at one of the local dealerships.....
By the way something for NYS FFL holders.....it speaks for itself.
• Effective 12:00am on Saturday, July 28, 2018, the commercial black sea bass fishery is CLOSED. This closure will remain in effect through August 31, 2018.
• Effective September 1, 2018 the daily trip limit is set at 50 lbs. This trip limit will remain in effect until further notice.
This action is taken under the authority of 6 NYCRR 40.1(u) (1)(2), and the quota distribution schedule referenced therein.