by John T. Koegler, Chairman
(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association December 2001 Newsletter)Highly Migratory Species (HMS) are prized catches for both recreational and commercial fishermen Atlantic wide. No other group of fish has experienced such battles for allocated quota share. Recreational fishermen had mistakenly assumed fishery regulators would do the right thing by the resource. They have not in the past used the political side of fisheries management at all. As a result, recreational fishermen have learned the hard way that politics has a mighty impact on how final regulations are written and worded. Nowhere has this fact been more obvious than the results of lawsuits against NMFS, filed mostly by commercial interests. Recreational fishermen must become more active in these issues by proposing solutions rather than reacting to proposals that are flawed and then regulate anglers out of fisheries. As an angler or one as whose business depends on anglers you must become proactive. If your voice is not heard then you may not be able to fish in salt water in the future.
In November 2000 commercial fishermen and NMFS settled a lawsuit regarding the scientific and economic data used by NMFS to set commercial shark fishing quotas for large and small coastal sharks. The lawsuit blocked imposition of a 50% lower federal shark quota.
This block on the 50% commercial reduction stays in place until next years NMFS shark assessment when new guidelines will be proposed. Five reviewers were chosen to review NMFS data used to impose the original 50% reduction in commercial shark quotas. Recreational anglers did not challenge legally their 50% reduction in shark landings allowed per boat from 2 sharks per boat- a reduction form 2 sharks per trip to one.
The NMFS settlement requires the next shark assessment to reconsider the reliability of (commercial data only?) effort data, life history characteristics and migration patterns. The impacts of other countries commercial fishing (Mexico) was also to be considered.
Based on my personal canyon-fishing trips during August and September 1987 to 2001, the number of sharks seen has dropped from one shark fin sighted every 2 miles from 10 miles off the beach to the canyon edge in 1986/7. Often 30 sharks were seen on each trip during that period. These sightings have dropped sharply from the previous 30 to 3 or less observed sharks per trip during the last two years. This is not accepted fish science. However, it represents a 90% reduction in sightings. A 90% reduction is about what recreational fishermen have experienced in their Large Coastal shark landings during the last two years. Our shark allocation is still one per trip due to a shark population decline we did not cause.
The summary judgment went against us and there is no money for and appeal we could probably win.
The middle week of November is ICCAT's annual weeklong meeting. This year's agenda has bluefin tuna as the prime issue to be worked on. US groups are united in their desire to change the line that divides eastern and western bluefin tuna management stocks. The US delegation will try to move this arbitrary division line eastward from its current 45 degrees of west longitude. Recent pop-up satellite fish tags and internally implanted archival tags document that the current line is in the wrong place. Bluefin crossing this line are now known to be 30% or more of the bluefin tuna tagged on the US East coast. This means that western (US, Japan, Canada) conservation alone will never recover this species as long as the eastern nations fail to regulate their fisheries. In reality we the western nations The United States, Canada and Japan conservation - has allowed the eastern nations to avoid international regulations for 20 years by supplying them with our conserved bluefin for their consumption. The tagging studies prove western conserved bluefin tuna are being stolen by the eastern nations of ICCAT in huge numbers and sold them.
To give the reader an indication of how poorly international management has worked, ICCAT's Metric Tonnage numbers for the years in question illustrate the point better than any words.
West landings Mt East Landings Mt.
1980 5,801 14,103
western quota cut 65% in 1982
1985 2,685 21,962
1990 2,798 23,144
1995 2,426 46,927
When they demanded eastern compliance with ICCAT rules western nations were told to read the stock assessment. Our eastern over-fishing will have no affect on the western nations stock recovery. The new tagging reports prove without question that there is only one ocean-wide stock of bluefin tuna. As one stock whatever happens in the east directly affects western stock recovery.
ICCAT's latest report finally clarifies this issue:
"Recent electronic tagging data demonstrate that the current management boundary is not a biological boundary. The fact that some of the fish upon which the Western Atlantic fishery depends are also vulnerable to fishing east of the management unit boundary, could prevent the recovery plan for the Western Atlantic management unit from being achieved."
Recovery rates of 30% in archival-tagged fish documents that the western area conserved fish are being extremely overfished by the eastern nations. No bluefin population recovery in our area is possible until the eastern zones reduce their landings to the sustainable level of 25,000 Mt. or less. We will report ICCAT's meeting actions in the December newsletter.
Last year on June 26-27, 2000 a symposium was held in San Diego California to explore the future of recreational saltwater sport fishing Issues that were covered included What type of recreational fishing should be permitted in the future? and How should recreational saltwater fishing be managed? These are heavy issues. Most national recreational angling groups attended. New Jersey was well represented at this meeting.
NMFS and the National Sea Grant system convened the conference. Angler-related sponsors included ASA, Boat/US, RFA and many others. A summary of the proceedings and positions taken by the various parties is now available from NMFS. If you want to read about where NMFS believes recreational anglers belong get the recap and read it. It is easy to read summary and covers 109 pages.
Write: RecFish 2000, 8484 Georgia Ave, Room 425 Solver Spring MD, 20910 or send an e-mail request to Dallas.Miner@noaa.gov for a copy.