No Fluke

 2014 recreational fishing regulations

The pressure is on. The holidays are over and it is prime time for recreational fishing policy and regulations to be made. So from now until spring the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management’s (DEM) Fish & Wildlife Division will be developing fishing policy and regulation recommendations, taking its quota cues from regional and national fisheries management councils. Regulatory bodies that impact fishing in Rhode Island include the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), the New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC), the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC), and the National Oceanographic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

ASMFC Summer flounder public hearing is January 15

Summer flounder (fluke) regulations are likely to get more conservative in 2014. At press time, Rhode Island representatives to the ASMFC are trying to identify key summer flounder challenges and possible solutions important to Rhode Island anglers prior to the planned January 15 ASMFC public hearing on Draft Addendum XXV. This addendum is expected to force Rhode Island to engage 2014 summer flounder recreational fishing regulations that are more conservative than the eight fish/angler/day and 18” minimum size regulations that were in effect for the 2013 season.  Key components of Draft Addendum XXV are new proposed regional options. One regional option groups Rhode Island with Massachusetts in a separate region, another places Rhode Island with Connecticut, New York,  and other coastal states. Many feel the regulations are changing to accommodate states like New York as they have consistently overfished their summer flounder quota and the Addendum is designed to allocate more quota to such states. So, you can understand just how political Draft Addendum XXV has been at the ASMFC, in New York and in Rhode Island.
Jason McNamee, marine biologist for the DEM who serves on a number of ASMFC panels said, “It’s tough to say which option is best for Rhode Island. I guess my personal opinion is that continuing state by state conservation equivalency (what we’ve been doing) is the best for us because all other options, even the one with Massachusetts, have some level of either a bag decrease, a season decrease, or both. We do benefit in most cases with a smaller minimum size though.”
It is important for anglers to attend and express their support for RISAA’s position at the January 15 ASMFC meeting. The meeting will take place at 6 p.m. in the Coreless Auditorium at URI’s Bay Campus in Narragansett.
If you cannot attend the meeting, public comment will be accepted until 5 p.m. on January 24, and should be forwarded to Kirby Rootes-Murdy, Fishery Management Plan Coordinator, 1050 N. Highland St., Suite 200 A-N, Arlington, VA 22201; 703/842-0741 (fax) or via email at krootes-murdy@asmfc.org (Subject line: Draft Addendum XXV).

Striped bass regulations

Striped bass regulations are likely to be more conservative in 2014. Many anglers and conservation groups have advocated for more conservative striped bass recreational and commercial regulations, particularly with the release of a new ASMFC striped bass benchmark assessment. The 2013 assessment indicates the resource is not overfished or experiencing overfishing. However, the female spawning stock biomass (SSB) has continued to decline since 2004 and is estimated at 128 million pounds, below the SSB target of 159 million pounds.
Additionally, total fishing mortality is estimated at 0.20, a value that is between the proposed new fishing mortality threshold (0.219) and fishing mortality target (0.18).
The Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board approved the benchmark stock assessment for management use.  This means the ASMFC technical committee is considering measures to reach these new SSB and fishing mortality targets which could translate into new (more restrictive) recreational and commercial striped bass regulations. The ASMFC board is expected to release management plan options for public comment.

RI fighting for black sea bass too

Black sea bass is also part of Addendum XXV and Rhode Islanders are being vocal about the abundance of fish and asking for liberalization. The Draft Addendum proposes two options for the 2014 black sea bass recreational fishery: (1) coastwide measures (currently proposed at 13” TL minimum size, a 5 fish possession limit, and a season from June 1 to September 30) or (2) the continued use of management measures by northern (Massachusetts to New Jersey) and southern (Delaware-North Carolina) regions. The ASMFC said, “The regional management approach has been used since 2011 and offers some advantages over coast-wide regulations, which can disproportionately impact states within the management unit. Specifically, regional measures can address geographic differences in the stock (size, abundance and seasonality) while maintaining the consistent application of management measures by neighboring states.”

Black sea bass received a lot of attention at the Rhode Island Marine Fisheries Council (RIMFC) meeting at the end of 2013. Council members and the fishing community expressed concern over the low quota assigned to Rhode Island (and other states) by the ASMFC and MAFMC.
The situation as related by members of the fishing community is that black sea bass are in abundance in Narragansett Bay and off coastal shores. So much so that anglers catch them often as by catch (and as bait stealers) when fishing for tautog, fluke and cod. So the large amounts of black sea bass and the low quotas have both commercial and recreational fishermen scratching their heads.
In fact, the DEM agrees that something should be done. Robert Ballou, chairman of the RIMFC, on behalf of the council and DEM, sent a letter outlining Rhode Island’s concerns and asking for guidance on what we have to do to correct the situation (and ultimately be able to liberalize regulations with a new quota).
Black sea bass are a very important part of the Rhode Island fishery for commercial and recreational fishermen. So attend the ASMFC public hearing on January 15 to weigh in on this important part of Addendum XXV.

Advisory panels and public hearings

At press time RIMFC advisory panels and public hearing meetings on recreational management plans had not been scheduled. All species management plans for tautog, scup, black sea bass, striped bass, summer flounder, etc. will likely first be discussed at RIMFC advisory panels and then will be heard at public hearing. Watch this column or visit www.dem.ri.gov for dates and times of meetings.

Where’s the bite

Cod fishing is your best bet for saltwater fishing these days. Vessels fishing include the Seven B’s (www.sevenbs.com) and the Frances Fleet (www.francesfleet.com).

Captain Dave Monti has been fishing and shellfishing on Narragansett Bay for over 40 years. He holds a captain’s master license and a charter fishing license. Contact or forward fishing news and photos to Capt. Dave at dmontifish@verizon.net.

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