Highly Migratory Species Report
by John T. Koegler
(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association November 2002 Newsletter)
More on the White Marlin Decision
The complete federal register notice about NMFS’s “not endangered at this time” decision on white marlin under the Endangered Species Act is a real eye-opener. NMFS explains what conservation they think will occur in the future under ICCAT regulations! They cover what impacts they believe domestic and international regulation will have on the future population of the white marlin. Those whose income or sport depends on access to offshore areas for tuna and marlin must clearly understand what was stated in this federal registry notice. Then they must work hard to correct the proposed outcome.
NMFS states: “NMFS intends to add Atlantic white marlin to its list of ESA candidate species and revaluate its status in 2007. If the 2007 status review indicates that ICCAT and US management measures have been ineffective in reducing the fishing mortality rate, NMFS would likely propose to list this species under ESA.”
Was the Status Review Team (SRT) report too pessimistic? Their report stated: “The SRT found that current measures by ICCAT are not sufficient to prevent continued over fishing. Even with assumptions of full compliance with management measures, no post-release mortality, and no unreported fishing, the SRT concluded that the stock likely will continue to decline, but not necessarily to high-risk levels.”
I have a contrary position! The Ocean City, MD white marlin tournament in 2002 had the best release numbers for white marlin ever. They reported over 1,020 live white marlin releases for this three-day tournament. Many of the marlin were small, between 30 and 40 pounds. Why such a high number of releases? Why so many small white marlin?
Were the high numbers of white marlin in the Mid-Atlantic directly due to the total longline closure of the Straits of Florida? Does this highest ever number of live releases prove beyond doubt that strong commercial conservation measures has a direct impact on all fish species being caught, not just the targeted fish species? The Straits of Florida closure was imposed to save small swordfish from destructive longline overfishing. Did white marlin benefit more from this closure than swordfish? This rebound in white marlin live releases is a direct result of some event. Is not the closure the most likely reason for the marlin rebound?
There was a major increase in angler landings of larger dolphin fish this year. Dolphin fish were a major bycatch of longline fishing. The reason must be the same as above. Strong commercial regulations benefits all fish caught in a fishery, not just the protected ones.
Given the huge rebound in angler white marlin and dolphin catches, how can there still be a problem with white marlin extinction? Why does NMFS’s decision read like an execution reprieve instead of a pardon? This whole petition issue seems more and more absurd! It seems impossible to have a tournament record of live releases and then report in the federal registry that this fishery is in trouble! Isn’t something really wrong with this report! Read the federal registry notice or the full report and tell me what you think! Send me your thoughts about this issue to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The full SRT report is available (60 pg,) from:
Protected Resources Division
9721 Executive Center Drive North
St. Petersburg, FL, 33702
Or the internet at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov . The SRT report needs 2.4mg of disc space
Swordfish have been under domestic and international regulation since the early 1990’s. A 2002 ICCAT survey on North Atlantic Swordfish was unbelievable. The reported rebound in swordfish biomass surpassed all expectation! It increased from 65 percent of its healthy stock size to 94 percent in just four years according to NMFS’s press release. A 29% recovery in just 4 years! Can you remember any larger fish species having a 29% biomass recovery in 4 years? It is important to note that despite this miraculous recovery, US swordfishers have not been able to land their allocated ICCAT quota for the past several years. If there are so many swordfish, why can’t they fill their quota?
Naturally, when something good occurs in HMS fisheries, NMFS must figure out how to eliminate any directed recreational fishery. NMFS never disappoints. A recent NMFS press release says: “They are considering regulations to better calculate the amount of swordfish that recreational fishers harvest. Proposed regulations include a recreational permit requirement to harvest swordfish, a dockside call-in reporting requirement and a recreational retention limit or bag limit. NMFS conducted public hearings earlier this year to gather input on these proposals. Regulations are expected to be final within the month.”
The annual ICCAT advisors meeting will be held from October 14 /16 in Silver Spring,
Maryland. At the meeting the advisors will consider a proposal to increase the ICCAT swordfish quota. The ICCAT assessment comes out in September and NMFS moves immediately to raise the permitted quota! Wow! It takes over 5 years for 50% of the swordfish population to be sexually mature! How can they even think of doing this! More about the swordfish quota issue and ICCAT advisors meeting next month.
Marine Protected Areas (MPA)
One of the issues that deeply concerns anglers is the headlong scramble of government and environmental agencies to embrace Marine Protected Areas (MPA) as a management tool. MPA’s were originally created to protect special ocean features, such as coral reefs, from careless destruction. Anglers had supported the MPA concept. But MPA’s have now evolved into areas where no fishing by anyone is permitted, which anglers strongly object to. This is a major change from previous MPA’s where recreational fishing was permitted. While MPA’s may have value in very special areas where other major users such as divers enjoy the beauty of coral reefs, its extension to all areas of the country is more than questionable. Are MPA’s really just an easy out for government agencies? None of the issues that have tied up their fishery management plans in court have to be addressed once these areas are created.
Why not support Special Management zones which requires all users of a fishing area to be under the same catch size and bag limits? The MPA concept is being sold to anglers by explaining that only a small part of the ocean will be restricted, maybe only 5%. Most of the fish anglers catch are due to special ocean features that represent only 10% of the total ocean area. Closing 50% or one half of our preferred fishing locations is a huge amount of ocean to close to anglers. Given the natural growth of bureaucracy, MPA areas will increase in number and size over time.
NMFS is putting together a major meeting named RECFISH II that discusses MPA issue from their point of view. NMFS proposes at the symposium to push this plan further. They state their purpose is to get angler groups to support their concept of MPA’s. If by chance you read this quickly and did not understand what they really intend, NMFS’s flyer about the MPA meeting states the following:
This is the second in a series of national symposia for the marine recreational fishing community.
“RecFish II will deliberate the evolving use of Marine Protected Areas (MPA) by bringing together diverse segments of the marine recreational fishing community for a focused dialogue on MPA planning and implementation.”
NMFS’s stated purpose for holding this meeting is:
“The purpose of RecFish II is to provide a focused forum for marine recreational fishing constituents to evaluate the potential impacts on the quality of, and opportunity for, marine recreational fishing. The goal is to produce a formal document capturing the input from attendees, including recommendations on efficacy and equity issues, which will then be made available to marine fisheries managers, policy makers, and related advisory groups actively involved in various MPA processes.”
RecFish II seems correctly named; they just do not spell it correctly. Wreck Fishing II forever for anglers who like a better spelling.
In the first sentence under purpose it states that the reason for the meeting is a “focused dialogue on MPA planning and implementation.” Planning and implementation discussions about how MPA’s will be imposed on anglers? Does this sound like anglers will be permitted to discuss their different point of view? If you have strong angler objections on how MPA are being proposed then you need to send someone to relay these objections?
The flyer says that at this meeting anglers will get to:
A-Develop priority recommendations for improvements in the MPA process.
B- Develop recommendations to create balance between regulatory constraints and angler access and resource use.
C- Develop benchmarks for balancing the inclusion of necessary scientific information in the MPA decision process.
MPA’s are a very important if not a key issue about the future of sportfishing. Do not let the green groups and NMFS make another biased decision about the future of your sport.
What NMFS should be considing is gear that destroys the ocean bottom. Some of this devastation is caused by clam boats strip mining the ocean. Clam boats tow large metal cages behind their boat to dig clams out of the ocean’s bottom. To improve their catch rates they use a powerful pump connected to a spray bar by an 8 inch diameter hose in front of the cage. This powerful water spray liquefies the ocean bottom. This feature greatly improves their clam catch rates. Does not such gear totally destroy the bottom ecosystem? Yet, nothing has been proposed to control or limit this strip mining and the ecosystem destruction it causes. Scallop dredges are no better since they totally crush the bottom structure and have major fish bycatch. Their fish catching ability is good enough that most scallopers qualify for directed fishing permits for fish species. Fluke and monkfish are the most common permits issued. This ocean bottom destruction continues despite the essential fish habitat requirements of the Magnuson Act.
Why are these two commercial fisheries permitted to destroy the ocean floor ecosystem? Why have these two fisheries never had their ecosystem impact addressed? Are total closures NMFS’s only response to their failed fishery management problems? Is there any doubt why anglers have become increasingly opposed to increasingly biased government fishery regulations and their management choices? If you believe NMFS will treat anglers fairly, check the proposed 2003 summer flounder, bluefish, seabass and scup rules.
It is important to get a representative that understand this problem to represent your club and send them to this symposium.
The cost for this four-day event is $95.00 until February 3, 2003. For additional information call Bill Price at 1-301-713-9504 or E-mail Bill.Price@noaa.gov .
For room reservations call 1-800-808-9833. Be sure to mention, National Marine Fisheries Service RecFishII. The dates are February 23/26, 2003 at St. Pete Beach, Florida. The meeting will be held at TradeWinds Sirata Beach Resort, 5300 Gulf Blvd. St. Pete Beach, Florida, 33706.