Fishery Issues, Fishery Management, and the latest Fishery news.


Postby EC NEWELLMAN » Tue Apr 10, 2018 2:37 pm

The latest from Captain Monty Hawkins, owner and operator of the fv MORNING STAR out of OCEAN CITY, MD.

Hauled Out! Might as well let the ocean warm a bit more. Tend the last of heavy maintenance too..


Below is a letter I've sent to my Congressman, Dr. Harris, and also to my Senators & the top of NOAA...

Whether red snapper, cobia, flounder, sea bass, cod, haddock -- whatever:

If NOAA is allowed to "recalibrate" Shore & Private Boat recreational catch estimates -- we're all toast.


Greetings Dr. Harris!

NOAA recently held a two-day Recreational Saltwater Fishing Summit. I listened to Secretary Ross describe fishing from New Jersey’s shores in his youth – he has a basis for knowing what is real. Listened to a VERY SHARP Tim Gallaudet..

Secretary Ross has already interceded on recreational fishers’ behalf twice.

Commerce’s intervention was only required because NOAA’s recreational catch estimating program, MRIP, had created an illusion of already-tightly controlled recreational fishing being more dangerous to a population of fish today than even foreign factory trawl in the days before Magnuson & the 200 mile limit.

I was fishing from Ocean City at the bottom Dr. Harris. Really. The late-1980s were the last of our unregulated fisheries. To assert any recreational ‘overfishing’ with today’s regulation is just simple-minded. But recreational anglers are forever accused of just that – going over quota & made to suffer more cuts.

Three times I had the whole room laughing with my comments from the floor. Fishers, all the NOAA people, all the Council & Commission folks; everyone was laughing at bad catch estimates I quoted directly from the MRIP website.

Imagine.. These estimates have already been used to choke recreational fishing’s commerce – yet are so bad even those at the top of our regulatory bodies laugh at them.

Something’s gone badly wrong.

I’ve been telling any who would listen for years. Top managers laughed at how dumb these catch assertions are; yet these statistics are used against us. It is here, in truly putrid data, where recreational “Over Fishing” & “Over Quota” come from. It’s NOT REAL.

For instance: MRIP holds NY’s small private boats targeting sea bass outfished the entire Party/Charter fleet along the whole Atlantic Coast in 2016 – by two times! While all Atlantic Coast Party/Charter landed 828,000 lbs, (and all commercial trawl/trap landed 1,390,000 pounds) - NY’s small private boats landed, according to official MRIP estimate, 1,842,000 pounds of sea bass.

This could never be true.

Shoot, private boaters in NY complain about NY’s own For-Hire Party/Charter boats “catching all the fish.” If MRIP’s assertion were vaguely proximate, it would be Party/Charter complaining bitterly about NY Private Boats..and, if MRIP were right, then NY’s Private Boats caught 450,000 more pounds of sea bass than ALL commercial trawl & trap north of Cape Hatteras.

That’s just preposterous.

All the regulators gathered in that room--100 of them from among maybe 200 present(?), thought it was funny.

I assure you: Bad regulation owing only unbelievably bad data isn’t funny.

Another ‘for instance:

MRIP has almost 50,000 pounds of sea bass caught from shore in MD in 2016.

I absolutely guarantee: from MD’s one seaport, Ocean City Inlet, where a single keeper sea bass might be caught, we have been unable to find anyone claiming to have caught a keeper. Not One!

MRIP also claims Shore caught sea bass averaged 1.3 lbs.

I can’t ‘average’ that for my clients 30 miles offshore!

Actually? Those Shore anglers caught no keepers – just tiny weeks/months old juveniles..

Fishing for a living 38 years now. I have fought recreational catch data’s flaws since 1998.

Our wins have been few. The biggest win was supposed to be the switch to MRIP from the old MRFSS system. I promise you, this ‘new & improved’ MRIP recreational catch data program is more out of touch with reality than any that’s ever come before.

These shenanigans are EVERYWHERE in MRIP’s data. Insanely impossible assertions of catch that COULD NOT POSSIBLY BE TRUE are used against us to “prove” we’ve gone over-quota and must be punished with more closed season – more lost trips – more clients lost.

I am 100% certain: From Texas to Maine, Catch Estimates Are At The Root Of Recreational Fishing’s Regulatory Troubles.

Although recreational catch data is worse than ever before---now NOAA wants to make it MUCH WORSE!

NOAA intends to allow MRIP to “recalibrate” their data

3.3X up in Private Boat mode &

6X up in Shore.

That’ll mean NY Private Boats caught 7X more sea bass than ALL Atlantic Coast Party/Charter professional businesses caught in 2016 – Those small boats in NY will have even outfished ALL Commercial effort in the entire management unit by nearly 4X..

Similarly, under “recalibration” Maryland Shore anglers will have landed very nearly half as many sea bass as ALL Party/Charter landed along the entire Atlantic coast, & almost half what all Commercial fishers landed in the Mid-Atlantic that year.

Does it matter that it’s laugh out loud stupid?

No. It’s always the case that NOAA’s “Best Available Science” counts against us, no matter whether a living soul believes it or not.

I promise you Dr. Harris, this is lunacy.

And, as evidenced by an entire conference room of NOAA/NMFS/Council/Commission’s best & brightest breaking out in laughter – they already know the numbers are garbage. Sure doesn’t mean they won’t use them.

Please Help!

Please send them back to the drawing board with this “recalibration.” Please ALLOW Council & Commission to use common sense where data is, literally, laugh out loud dumb. Right now regulators HAVE to use data no one believes. No one!

Please ensure the next Magnuson Re-Write makes strict adherence to bad data part of history..And PLEASE do NOT believe when they tell you these statistics are collected into big broad areas.

They’ve been using this data in state by state, & even shore/boat mode divisions for years & years!

Always and forever arm-wrestling some impossible data, we leave our best tools for fisheries restorations in the tool box. Marine reef building has always been of no concern to NOAA. What?

Why? Have we too much coral?

When in DC you’re only 110 miles from Maryland’s corals. Yet the US spends it’s coral habitat money in distant lands ..while recreational businesses are forever fending off accusations of “over-fishing” that could not possibly be true.

The Mid-Atlantic ocean has turned green! It’s LOADED with algae. Since the demise of our region’s natural biofilter, the oyster; marine water quality has slid steadily downward. White marlin, for instance, are fully 50 miles further off MD’s coast today than in 1950. It’s because they can no longer see to feed!

Building new reef-fish spawning habitat & biofilters, whether estuarine oyster or marine coral reef, is as simple as rolling rocks off a barge.

Instead, we rec fishers are forced to focus on how escape regulation based on MRIP catch data no one trusts – at all.

I beg your aid Sir!

Monty Hawkins

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