Fishing allocations on the table, angler comments needed
Summer flounder, scup and black sea bass are all fish commonly targeted by shore and boat anglers in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut. Fishing for these fish is common now because the biomass of all three of these species has moved north up the coast as water has warmed due to climate change.
The greater abundance of these species in our waters for both recreational and commercial fishers will make them more important than ever before as we continue to feel the impacts of climate change.
The challenge before fishermen today is weighing in on a new Amendment to the Fisheries Management Plans for all three species that addresses allocation of these species between the commercial and recreational sectors.
Science has advanced over the years and recently NOAA has discovered that these fish (summer flounder, scup and black sea bass and others) have been being caught in greater numbers by recreational anglers than ever thought before. This new data has led Federal fish managers to adjust the amount of fish they thought were in the water and rethink how much should be allocated to recreational and commercial fishing sectors. This new Amendment will decide what share of fish should be allocated to the commercial sector and what share would be allocated to the recreational sector.
Anglers need to be aware of the amendment and the impact it will have on their fishing for years to come. New proposed regulation options are complex but need to be addressed with anglers weighing in on alternatives that grow fish stocks to abundance while allocating a fair quota and harvest limit to both sectors.
Recreational fishing groups such as the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association (RISAA) with over 7,500 affiliated members in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut are developing preferred options for recreational anglers. They aim to advocate for them as an association and will encourage members and anglers to advocate for preferred options too. Steve Medeiros, president of the RISAA, said, “We will develop our Amendment recommendations and forward them to fish manages by the March 16 deadline. Our aim will be to encourage anglers to do the same.” RISAA hopes to have their official comments ready the first week of March and communicate them to members.
The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (Commission), that provides regulations in state waters from shore to three miles offshore, are seeking public comment on the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Commercial and Recreational Allocation Amendment. Comments may be submitted in writing until March 16.
Recent changes in how recreational catch is estimated have resulted in a discrepancy between the current levels of estimated recreational harvest and the allocations of summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass to the recreational sector. Some changes have also been made to commercial catch data since the allocations were established.
The amendment considers whether modifications to the allocations are needed in light of these and other changes in the fisheries. The amendment also considers options that would allow a portion of the allowable landings to be transferred between the commercial and recreational sectors each year, in either direction, based on the needs of each sector.
Information on the amendment, the public hearing schedule, how to submit written comments and information about online public hearings can be found in a press release at http://www.asmfc.org/uploads/file/6001eb69pr01_SFSBSB-Allocation-public-hearings.pdf.
Comments sought on lifting commercial groundfish closure
The Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) in Massachusetts is seeking public comment on lifting the conditional April groundfish closure for 2021. This annual closure was developed in 2019 to address allocative concerns that landings from the state waters-only groundfish fishery may impact access to federal groundfish quotas. By regulation, those state waters between Plymouth and Marblehead are closed to commercial groundfish fishing in April for species such as haddock, pollock and overfished cod.
However, the closure may be lifted on an annual basis if DMF projects the action will not exceed the annual federal allocated for state-waters.
DMF has analyzed landings data for the current fishing year (May 1 – April 30) and intends to lift the conditional April groundfish closure this year. Landings for the current fishing year are well below the federally allocated sub-components, likely driven by COVID-related impacts on fishery effort last spring and summer. Further information on this analysis may be found in DMF’s Feb. 12 memo to the Marine Fisheries Advisory Commission, at https://www.mass.gov/doc/april-2021-groundfish-closure-memo/download.
DMF will accept written public comment on this proposal through 5 p.m. on Friday, March 5. Written comment may be submitted to by e-mail to email@example.com or by post sent to 251 Causeway Street, Suite 400, Boston, MA 02114.
Where’s the bite?
Freshwater. Warm weather and rain may have weaken ice, so be safe and check ice thoroughly with local authorities before fishing or skating on it. Ken Ferrara of Ray’s Bait & Tackle, Warwick, said, “Local lakes and ponds are in flux, frozen and safe one day and unsafe the next. Anglers ice fishing when ice is safe are doing well. Local ponds like Gorton Pond in Warwick and Worden Pond in South County had been yielding a variety of fish for anglers when ice is safe.” Dereck Macnayr of Red Top Sporting Goods, Buzzards Bay said, “We had ice but it melted last week. When ice was safe anglers were doing well at Little Pond in Plymouth catching pickerel, trout and largemouth bass.” For fresh water licensing information in Rhode Island visit http://www.dem.ri.gov/programs/fish-wildlife/freshwater-fisheries; and in Massachusetts visit www.mass.gov/freshwater-fishing-information.
Cod fishing. Party boats fishing for cod this winter (weather permitting) include the Frances Fleet at www.francesfleet.com, the Seven B’s at www.sevenbs.com, and the Island Current at www.islandcurrent.com.
Dave Monti 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, the American Saltwater Guides Association and the RI Marine Fisheries Council. Forward fishing news and photos to Capt. Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.noflukefishing.com.