>> AUGUST 14, 2017 <<
One has to wonder where fishery management has gone terribly wrong after what occurred at the MAFMC meeting in Philadelphia as we have now come to see:
1- A extremely divided MAFMC when it comes to voting for people to go fishing, instead of their own states self-interest
2- Not demanding and making a motion that MRIP harvest estimates for the Black Sea Bass fishery be set aside until an a much more accurate data collection system is put in place
3- The setting of specifications for the following year where everyone in the room knows it will trigger harsh accountability measures, thus large percentage paybacks/cuts without even one fish being caught/harvested
First I should give you a little jolt on how bizzarro-world it has become at a Mid-Atlantic Council meeting during the fluke PPT discussion. Take a look at this first table, and compare the Landings Limits.....
Notice the OFL going up by almost 2 million lbs in the summer flounder specifications in 2018. Essentially we are seeing a unexpected 'bump' upwards in the amount of fish given to both the commercial and recreational sector...so far for the 2018 season. Shouldn't we been cheering for this:
Maybe I am missing something here...really...
Maybe some of you see something different when you look at these two PPT slides....
Maybe the word DECREASE in almost all the various surveys just slips by this discussion.
Yes there were a few around the table scratching their heads and wondering about this too, especially with the 'performance' of this fishery....but do these numbers really reflect the reality of the coastal fluke fishery from the Eastern Shore right up to Southern Massachusetts?
Then there was this slide which is now becoming a more common theme that is bantered about during the discussions lately. Oh, and I just wonder if we checked back on all the comments and written fish-news discussions Captain Monty and I have written over the years, why hasn't anything been done in what is and has been noted in this particle slide:
Once again in emphasizing solution based approaches (instead of complaining about the problems) and to keep this moving along:
1- Mandatory Private ANGLER vessel reporting through an app and/or post card to be filled out (if a smartphone app is not used) and dropped off at tackle shops or mailed in
2- Implementation of a reproductive efficiency model (REM) for harvesting in order to lessen the impact of recreational targeting due to the current minimum size regulatory policies that essentially have anglers only harvest upon the female breeding stock - a slide on this noted this approach
3- Immediate use of industry collaborative on the water programs by the states that directly address the regulatory discard (whether due to closed season, minimum or maximum size and/or over harvest/trip limit retention)
Captain Jeff Gutman, owner and operator of the Pt. Pleasant Beach noted this in his AP discussion of the issues within the fluke fishery....which seem "time and again to fall upon the deaf ears of those within the fishery management realm" that there are:
1- A distinct sub-population noted in size/age distribution between the southern and northern regional management areas (from the Eastern Shore to Southern New England)
2- Harvest controls that allow a flexible slot limit that address fluctuations in successful and under performing year classes
3- The Council giving more regulatory control/flexibility to the states in developing their own harvest controls due to what is clearly apparent with unique bay, harbor, sound fisheries and near coastal shoreline fisheries due to the availability of fluke to fishermen in their state
One only has to ask for-hire captains and as much fishermen their opinion on the current state of the fluke fishery in 2017.
What would they say.....is it better or worse than 2016?
I have a good idea on their answer, and it makes you wonder if those within fishery management if they ever will figuratively - LITERALLY shift course in adopting new approaches to regulating a sustainable fluke fishery.
Just for fishermen to be clear....notice the yellow highlighted areas in this chart:
As of this time and clarified by the MAFMC at the August 2017 meeting, the Sea Bass regulations for New Jersey anglers from October 22-December 31 will be:
15 Fish @ 12.5 inches.
Other states that have open BSB fisheries during Wave 6 (Massachusetts is closed) will also return to regulations (possession) as previously set earlier in the year. The previous set - northern region 5 BSB possession during Wave 6, has been rescinded.
At this August meeting, the itinerary laid out 3 discussions:
- 2018 specifications
- Wave 6 review on possession
- Wave 1 re-opening
Let me first say this, and eerily this was written in August 6, 2017 opinion piece in the SouthCoast Today:
Up and down the coast, the response from commission member states is characterized by concern that a disruptive precedent has been set, as this is the first time in the ASMFC’s 75-year history that the feds have overruled one of its decisions. According to the Globe, the states fear that the benefits of the cooperative approach will deteriorate as states rely instead on self-interest under an apparently capricious, opaque federal decision.
In putting the statement above in context (besides the article reeking in unnecessary progressive bias), this was for FLUKE and the decision made by the Secretary of Commerce who for the first time in 75 years went against a regulatory vote made by the Commission.
The reason I point this out was due what occurred during the Wave 1 re-opening discussion that just broke down to an UN-COOPERATIVE APPROACH as Council members first tried as best to give the fishing public a chance to legally possess Black Sea Bass during January and February, while another group of Council members had their minds made up to this discussion that they would not/never vote in the affirmative, no matter how the motion was shaped. To wit:
Cooperation by Council members from different states in their own region to help other states open up a very limited fishery?
What was even more disturbing by those members sitting in their comfortable seats in not questioning this one slide:
Private vessels fishing in Jan - Feb would have landings equal to the party and charter boat fleet at this time of the year?
Let's do a little simple math...something Brandon obviously neglected even when pointing out FULL ANGLER SUCCESS AT CATCHING A LIMIT....
If 1 party boat carries 45 customers on a weekend trip and each customer
Catch/harvest 15 sea bass at one pound a piece
They have 15 lbs of BSB in their possession
Now we multiply the 15 lbs by the total number of customers onboard by 45
Total weight at 1 lb average is 675 lbs
Now we look at just 1 private boat with 4 fishermen
Catch in pounds would be 60 lbs (4 anglers x 15 lbs)
So you would need 11 private boats on the water to just one party boat to have an approx. equal amount of landings
Only on fantasy island would this occur during Jan - Feb in the offshore waters in both New Jersey and New York if you just have 6 aluminum supercruisers fishing at an average of even 25 customers.
One could now add in all the party boats that would fish during the winter against private vessels with say 3 anglers onboard or even with 5 anglers....or manipulate the avg. weight to 2 lbs and so on to get an idea on what would be going on here (1 lb was used for simplification purposes.
Once again we ask, and based upon what we know from the past....how many private vessels are scooting off for sea bass 75 or more miles from the dock during Jan - Feb...especially if these same private vessels have access to codfish much closer to their homeport?
Finally in discussing this Wave 1 issue....was there an issue of the proverbial "robbing of Peter to pay Paul" due to Wave 1 harvest now being taken from Waves 3 - 6, thus lessening the amount in that time period?
Have those on the Councils forgotten that Wave 1 was always part of this fishery until after the major cutting was being done after 2009?
Did this one slide change minds around the Council table?
Now in looking at the first FAIL by the Council, it was the discussion on 2018 specifications, and one can see that there is already (since the Feb. meeting) a built in haircut of 14%....this done due in part to the so-called "decay (mortality) over the time series from the 2011 cohort." Yes, for some reason this cut, is due to fewer BSB from that year class around at this time. Really....and what about all the following year classes from that point, or the 2015 year class coming into harvestable size in 2018?
If one looked at the public comments on this issue, one that stood out made a very interesting observation by Massachusetts charter boat operator Kevin Slattery:
The system of 'ad hoc regional management' was a complete failure at fairly distributing the resource between the states.
This is possibly the only fishery management plan ever designed that has incentives to exceed your quota.
What can one say when we have an issue where this happens year after year with the RHL, as reported by MRIP being exceeded by such a large percentage?
Also in wrapping this up with sea bass, Wave 6 and MRIP, here is the 'Frisk' letter to the MAFMC Chairman... commenting and making points that both Captain Monty and myself have previously made and written about in the past (Much more on this in another thread by Captain Monty).
I bring this letter up to close out this thread as the Council continues to spin its wheels when it comes to the sea bass fishery. How many times can we talk about a stock 2.3x above Target and many of the other particulars on how many BSB are around...or for that matter with the offshore lobster fleet continually complaining about (along with posting pictures and videos which I have seen) BSB that are negatively effecting and impacting their fishery in the region? Read this article that Bore Head over at FISHERY NATION - continuously updated pointed out just the other day:
As Bart Mansi, a Connecticut fisherman notes, the lobster catch is going into the bellies of fish, not traps: “(W)e opened up the Sea Bass that we cleaned and one of them had ten little baby lobsters in there.”
Folks, how much more can be stated about the utter dysfunction at all levels of those within fishery management who do not see what is going on here when it comes to black sea bass and so severely constraining not only the harvest, but open access to this particular fishery.
Are we now at a point where the only way to correct the situation (as was last seen with fluke) is to have the public petition their representatives to go to the Secretary of Commerce in order to over rule the Council when it comes to the Black Sea Bass fishery and start with a clean piece of paper when it comes to the specifications on one of the most robust stocks along the east coast of this country?
For those interested in seeing the full PPT presentations, go here: