“EXPOSING THE BIAS OF CHARLES WITEK”
Charles the 09.08.19 blog should have been remedial work for an individual such as yourself, at least to the layman who has seen and read through you past stories or heard your bloviating during various fishery meetings, but this particular blog reads as one of your poorest descriptions in describing the issues brought up at the Wednesday public comment meeting in Bethpage.
For someone in the past who would mention at meetings when stakeholders spoke up with, “where is your data,” you have written a piece that neglects what the facts and most current MRIP data that the ASFMC technical committee and striped bass management board is making there regulatory decisions upon.
Where was any mention in this blog to the new MRIP estimates when taking a snapshot of the four modes within the New York recreational sector? Why not, as if there is a recreational fishing red flag, wouldn’t we first check with the most current MRIP estimates?
Why didn’t you mention in your piece - which I brought up in my public comment before the audience, that currently in 2019 the New York for-hire industry is less than 2 percent of ‘HARVEST’ reported, especially as the for-hire industry has mandated VTR and electronic reporting.
More troubling and this was noted with the shocking news with the 2018 STOCK ASSESSMENT OF ATLANTIC STRIPED BASS presentation by M. Celestino in February 2019 as of 2017 with “recreational release discard mortality” making up 48% of the coastwide total removals, and currently in New York with the private vessel mode and only based upon preliminary Wave 2 and Wave 3 estimates having and in your own words “killed,” 102,186 dead striped bass released based upon the currently accepted 9% DM (discard mortality). That figure alone approximately equals total harvest for the for-hire industry (both party & charter combined) during the time series from 2016 through 2019 or four years in total.
Somehow Charles you see this as acceptable in discarding perfectly fine eating seafood in ending up as the proverbial ‘crab food,’ and you double down with your theme of having an issue with those who just wish to pay for a day of striped bass fishing and take their one fish home. Somehow that is offensive to you with the vast majority of striped bass fishermen, especially within the downstate and Long Island region noted as being demographically diverse with the people that go fishing on party and charter boats or on their small private vessels and even along the shoreline.
As troubling is this idea that the for-hire industry and those who spoke up somehow was emphasizing a “God – given right” to take a striped bass which is factually not true, instead of the talking point of all those stakeholders in stating it as a personal choice to legally possess one fish if they choose so?
How come those who just perform catch and release have a greater right in commenting about the public resource, then those who understand that fish is food and like to take home one to enjoy eating? Didn’t I make the public comment that we don’t cause undue and unnecessary injury to a fish, then release this exhausted and stressed fish back into the environment where it has to survive and compete? Didn’t I sum this up with my last statement that we wouldn’t do this to a land animal? Yes we have found out through the latest striped bass assessment that Catch & Release is not as benign as you and many others of your ilk believe. Maybe you do not see this side since you are an individual with the financial means that choose to fly to foreign locations to use a high powered rifle to shoot exotic animals and whose heads hang upon the wall in your home…right?
There is the primary issue as per the Addendum in choosing the most reasonable option to reach the mandated 18% reduction which will improve the stock biomass, but in minimizing as best the least impact to both angler enjoyment and financial viability of the for-hire industry here in New York. How can anyone support a 35 inch minimum size when that will dramatically increase fishing time thus correlates and results in discards and mortality to attain a striped bass that meets this new minimum size? Is this not true Charles?
Worse, and as noted in ‘Catch Age Composition’ with the regulatory shifting in harvesting behavior within the New York Marine Coastal District to the removals of striped bass - that based upon aging sampling with fish a decade old and greater? What impact will there be by increasing within a year in raising the current minimum size from 28 inches up seven inches to 35 inches? Somehow you believe this will not only cause directed harvest to the oldest striped bass, but as noted during the public comment with an unimaginable compliance and enforcement issue, or are long time stakeholders missing something in making this last statement?
Wasn’t this one of the critical goals in single stock management to have a wide distribution of age year classes of fish ranging from juvenile to the oldest in a stock, especially with larger striped bass being female? Wouldn’t the now inordinate rate of removals of the largest and oldest striped bass have a serious impact for many years to come when we literally skew those removals to the oldest fish?
More so, wouldn’t those on the regulatory side in fishery management wish that the next generation of young people have a reasonable opportunity to catch a trophy striped bass, but then again you Charles Witek supports the current New York governor who is most noted for having the most radical abortion law in the country. In fact since we are trying as best to bring this to the public’s attention as this was something you omitted, whether purposely or unconsciously which was outlined by this statement on page 6 in the Draft Addendum for public comment, to wit:
“While data required to quantify these measures are not currently available, the effects of changes to the striped bass management program approved through this addendum can be qualified as follows:
For the recreational sector, increased minimum size limits or other restrictions can lead to decreased availability of legal sized striped bass which can lead to increased effort and an increase in dead releases.”
The future for whom we ask, but nonetheless for the talking point on sector separation for the striped bass fishery for for-hire, since as per the new and re-calibrated MRIP estimates now show a number of years of consistently reporting of both low harvest and catch for for-hire vessels in contrast to the private vessel and shore bound modes. As a percentage of a fishery and to your theme of “killing fish,” it would be appropriate for the ASFMC to recognize which modes are doing “the most killing” (in your own words) and use differential regulations with size limit and possibly sea length in open days for for-hire since the Commission had approved the appropriate use of conservation equivalency to meet the reduction.
What is there for you to debate based upon what is within and approved in the documents about and on the use of ‘CE’ and which will be used by some other states in choosing that regulatory path next year? Maybe a comment within this current blog to the audience to not be surprised on what we will hear in October at the Commission meeting in New Hampshire by three to four states in possibly choosing/making this regulatory choice moving forward with the striped bass fishery in 2020? Should New York recreational fishermen bear more of the economic blunt than other states in meeting the reduction… I do not believe so, nor do most stakeholders and fishermen believe that the New York recreational fishing community should not be allowed to shape a regulatory option best suited to their needs which also meets the required reduction.
Charles, this is about the best interest of all people, and a subtle underlying thought by a few people (I was pulled over to the side by an old time captain about this at the end of the meeting) is in having an audience which was made predominately made up of the surf casting community who came across as elitist in rarely mentioning the socio-economic impact by those who support the 35” minimum size limit. Let me ask,
“Who spoke out for those with a small private vessel that can only fish within the local bays, rivers (North and East) as well as harbors on Long island and New York City, or as much for people who only have access to some dock, pier or shoreline as I stated as we have along the 426 miles of New York City waterfront who rarely see striped bass greater than 35 inches when they fish?”
How about their enjoyment, or do we, or more so YOU only recognize the enjoyment of the economically advantaged high end fly fishing and light tackle community?
We from the for-hire industry do not wish this to sink to a class warfare discussion which you have a documented history of, and have been noted for with previously comments and blovations at meetings about the people in our communities who do fish and are neither involved in fishery politics and just wish for a fish to take home. Aren’t people more important than fish Charles, or are you so callous an individual as you come across with very few people speaking with you at a MRAC meeting?
In closing Charles, this blog piece may be noted as your most noted “puff piece” as you only could dwell upon the emotions of the fishermen who showed up and not upon the data which clearly indicates who has done an inordinate amount of harvest and discard mortality over the past decade and a half. We are living in data – driven fishery management as it is the foundation for specification guidance by the technical people as well as both for the Council and Commission to make regulatory decisions upon. This is why there was not one comment made by anyone from the for-hire industry who spoke at the podium that questioned the science from the benchmark assessment and the findings on the current condition of the striped bass biomass.
Maybe Charles you would have a ‘moment’ in which you could put aside your outright pattern of subjective bias and consider the most appropriate regulatory approach in targeting the specific modes which have caused the most removals. You have failed before this very audience to outline the crux of this issue to why we are going through this reduction exercise again by neglecting to mention the very MRIP estimates which you have time and again pointed to in backing up your position in the past. Personally I doubt you will ever recover in being exposed as one, a person who has little consideration for other people or those who make a living from taking people fishing.
Steve EC Newellman
Note: To be publicly shared……..