No Fluke

Fishery management tools enhanced; shutdown impacting the fish

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The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (that manages migrator species coast wide in state waters) in conjunction with the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (that manages many of the species we catch in federal waters, 3 to 200 miles offshore) outlined three important measures they approved in a December 13, 2018 press release. The three measures aim to add to the suite of tools available for managing summer flounder, scup and black sea bass.
First, the joint actions modified Fishery Management Plans (FMP) to allow the use of conservation equivalency for black sea bass (BSB) management. Conservation equivalency will allow recreational measures in federal water to be waived and instead require recreational anglers to abide by the measures of the state in which they land their catch. This will add continuity to regulations between state and federal waters with a joint annual decision to determine whether to enact conservation equivalency.

Second, a major issue for Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York vessels, a joint action recommended that NOAA Fisheries implement a transit provision in Block Island Sound. The measure would allow non-federally permitted recreational and commercial vessels to transit federal water while in possession of summer flounder, scup and black sea bass that was legally harvested from state waters. For example this measure would allow fish legally caught in state waters (zero to three miles from shore) off Block Island to be transported across federal waters back into state waters off Pt. Judith and along the southern coastal shore of Rhode Island.

Lastly, the use of slot limes, i.e. the use of maximum sizes in addition to minimum sizes, which was allowed by the Council is now allowed by the Commission too. Now both fish-governing bodies can utilize slot limits for consistency if deemed appropriate.

Slot Limits… not the tool for summer flounder at this time

Prior to the joint meeting in December, the results of two summer flounder slot limit studies were presented via background memorandum to participants. The memorandum concluded, that with summer flounder overfishing now occurring and the summer flounder Spawning Stock Biomass (SSB) consistently below target levels for the past few years, slot limits would be harmful to the fishery at this time.

The studies in the memorandum included a 2009 ‘Slot limit management for recreational summer flounder harvest’ study by Wong (http://www.mafmc.org/s/Slot_limit_guidance_Wong_2009-002.pdf); and a second study by Wiedenmann in 2013 titled ‘Evaluation of management and regulatory options for the summer flounder recreational fishery’ available at http://www.mafmc.org/s/A-Model-to-Evaluate-Recreational-Management-Measures.pdf.

The memorandum said, “The 2009 study analyzed a range of slot limit options for the recreational summer flounder fishery and considered a range of bag limits and options for trophy fish in combination with slot limits. The results indicated that, compared to a standard minimum size limit (which we now have), the slot limit options considered would ‘certainly result in greatly increased numbers of fish harvested’ due to the higher availability of smaller fish compared to larger fish.

Although discards may decrease under certain slot limits, total removals (i.e., harvest and discards) would likely increase due to the increase in harvest. An increase in removals in numbers of fish would increase the fishing mortality rate. Under some slot limit options, marginal benefits to spawning stock biomass (SSB) were predicted; however, these benefits were eliminated when a trophy class was considered in combination with slot limits (Wong 2009).”

Additionally, the second study related, “A management strategy evaluation analysis by Wiedenmann et al. (2013) also found that slot limits could result in an increase in the number of summer flounder harvested per angler, as well as a small reduction in the total number of female summer flounder harvested. They found that slot limits generally resulted in lower harvest and more discards by weight, and higher and more frequent annual catch limit overages, compared to minimum size limits.”

The memoranda said, “In summary, these two studies suggest that total removals in numbers of fish may increase under slot limits, the fishing mortality rate may increase, and any increases in SSB may be minor. For these reasons, slot limits could have negative impacts on the summer flounder stock, especially under current conditions (i.e., overfishing is occurring and SSB is below the target level).”

Visit www.asmfc.org for ASMFC meeting outcomes and background information on summer flounder, scup and black sea bass. For information on summer flounder and scup contact Kirby Rootes-Murdy, Senior Fishery Management Plan Coordinator, at krootes-murdy@asmfc.org; and for information on black sea bass, contact Caitlin Starks, Fishery Management Plan Coordinator, at cstarks@asmfc.org, or 703/842-0740.

Government shutdown impacting the fish

The government shutdown is upon us and it is starting to have an impact on the fish too.

Last week I was scheduled to attend two federal government sponsored workshops and both were cancelled. The shutdown is having a profound effect on people in this county and needs to end as it demonstrates a total failure in government. The president and members of congress and the senate are elected to serve the people, the shutdown is serving no one so let’s open the government and put the issue of border security, immigration and the wall on the front burner to work out in a bipartisan fashion this year.

Last week a meeting to review the environmental impact statement on the first ‘utility scale’ offshore wind farm off Massachusetts being developed by Vineyard Wind was canceled in Rhode Island. The meeting was organized and being run by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), a federal government agency.

Commercial fishermen have voiced their concern about the layout of the wind farm and the inconsistent spacing between turbines in the wind farm. Additionally, recreational fishermen have expressed concerned about no rod and reel surveys being done to study the impact on recreational fishing, and the absence of aerial or acoustic studies being done to measure the impact of the wind farm on pelagic species such as mahi, tuna, sharks as well as whales.

The hope is that this important meeting, and others expected to be canceled in the Northeast, is rescheduled and deadlines extend to insure proper public input and discussion on this important environmental impact statement.
The second fisheries meeting canceled last week was the NOAA Fisheries sponsored New England Recreational Fishing Workshop which was scheduled to be held at the URI Coastal Institute Building in Narragansett on Jan. 10.

The purpose of the workshop was to facilitate a collaborative process for developing management measures for the recreational ground fish fishery that balance the need to prevent overfishing while providing for robust catches that enable profitability in the for-hire fleet and provide worthwhile fishing opportunities for anglers.

The target audience for the workshop included private anglers, for-hire captains and business owners, charter boat customers, and recreational fishing association leadership and members.

The hope is that this meeting is rescheduled. For information on the workshop, visit: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/event/2019-new-england-recreational-fishing-workshops.

Captain Dave Monti has been fishing and shellfishing for over 40 years. He holds a captain’s master license and a charter fishing license. He is a RISAA board member, a member of the RI Party & Charter Boat Association and a member of the RI Marine Fisheries Council. Contact or forward fishing news and photos to Capt. Dave at dmontifish@verizon.net or visit his website at www.noflukefishing.com.

Dave Monti

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