by John T. Koegler
(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association December 2002 Newsletter)
NMFS has requested comments on options to Manage Atlantic Shark fisheries. As part of the process to amend the HMS FMP, NMFS is requesting comments on management options for this action. Specifically, they request comments on commercial management options including quota levels, regional and seasonal quotas, trip limits, minimum sizes plus options for dead discards and state landing after federal closures, quota givebacks and opening and closure notices. Recreational management options mentioned were retention limits, minimum sizes, authorized gear and landing requirements.
In the 1999 fishing year NMFS imposed new shark FMP rules. Anglers went from two sharks per trip to one. Commercial landings of LCS were to be reduced by 50%. The commercial fishing industry in the Gulf of Mexico sued and got a judge-backed reversal of their new 50% quota reduction.
Anglers were not so lucky and were reduced to one shark per boat trip plus a large number of shark species were now illegal to land. It was never made clear what the final federal quota issue was as a result of the federal lawsuit.
In a total reversal of their previous position, NMFS now states that sandbar sharks current biomass “could be near or somewhat above Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY).” It is more than very difficult to accept this new assessment if you review their position in the previous FMP. This is especially true if you review the assessment they used to document passed rule changes at that time.
During the last five years, I have failed to hook or catch an LCS shark during any shark trip. Ten years before I always caught more than one LCS per shark trip. Now fishery managers tell us there is no problem with the most abundant LCS shark population, the sandbar! They tell us this species can sustain MSY but do not state at what landing level this is possible. In addition, many depleted and now illegal shark species are caught as a result of directed sandbar shark fishing. How can high level of commercial sandbar shark fishing continue and not directly affect the shark species whose surviving numbers are so low that it is now illegal to land them?
Blacktip sharks are a different species and continued landings both commercial and recreational may be possible.
In the previous FMP the tables NMFS presented told a devastating story of commercial greed and Federal Mismanagement. That plan reported commercial sharking for all species had huge increases. At the same time recreational shark fishing was rapidly disappearing. A perfect example of cause and effect to anyone but NMFS!
Why was this happening?
Scientists clearly inform us that shark biology cannot support a directed commercial shark fishery. Even the lowly spiny dogfish commercial fishery is heavily restricted due to commercial overfishing of this lowly shark. This fully supports a scientific position that NO directed commercial shark fishery is biologically sustainable.
A “NOT Biologically Sustainable” position is again supported by all the surf anglers who caught and released large numbers of cow nosed rays this past summer. These rays were the favorite food for Large Coastal Sharks (LCS). As the LCS biomass plummeted, the ray population exploded, since there were no longer enough BIG LCS sharks to control their population. Now NMFS wants us to believe it is perfectly acceptable to keep eliminating the LCS shark populations?
Unlike fish, all shark rebuilding time periods are measured in decades, not years. Clearly, any new FMP requires immediate action by NMFS to end all commercial shark fishing.
A copy of the full shark proposal will be obtained and read. A JCAA position paper will be presented at the next JCAA meeting. Any comment or idea is gratefully accepted at my e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org.
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