by John Koegler
(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association November 2004 Newsletter)
It never fails to amaze me that fishery management always falls heaviest on the shoulders of the recreational fishermen. It does not seem to matter who is crafting the regulations, the result is always the same. No matter who is creating the regulations, NMFS, Councils, ASMFC, recreational anglers come out of the final rulemaking with the most restrictive regulations.
For years, most conservation groups and most angler groups worked hand in hand for meaningful fishery and pollution regulations. Recently, the Pew Foundation has given grants to several conservation groups and college-based scientists to take a different position on recreational anglers. The new program brands anglers as being destructive to fishery rebuilding as commercial fishing. These groups now support points of view that not only hurt recreational fishing but destroy the desire of recreational fishermen to fish. It is fast becoming impossible to get a decent catch of fish that are legal in size and number. When you add seasonal limits, catching legal fish becomes really tough.
The most recent study comes from Florida State University and is headed by Felicia Coleman. This studied popular fish caught in the Gulf of Mexico and the South Atlantic. The new negative point of view on recreational fishing is best explained in the studies introduction:
“We evaluated the commercial and recreational fishery landings over the past 22 years, first at the national level, second for the populations of concern (overfished), and finally by region.
Recreational landings in 2002 accounted for 4% of total marine fish landed in the USA. With large industrial fisheries excluded (e.g., menhaden and Pollack) the recreational component rises to 10%. Among populations of concern, recreational landings in 2002 account for 23% of the total nationwide, rising to 38% in the South Atlantic and 64% in the Gulf of Mexico. Moreover, it (anglers fishing) affects many of the most valued overfished species, including red drum, bocaccio, and red snapper, all of which are taken primarily in the recreational fishery.”
The study states that recreational fisheries are managed under bag and size limits only. You all know this is not true, since most recreational key managed fisheries also have closed seasons, which was not mentioned.
Black Sea Bass Study
The NJ artificial reef program has greatly enhanced the rebuilding of the sea bass fishery. To better understand this key recreational fishery, the Northeast Fisheries Science Center has since September 2002 tagged more than 9,500 seabass from Massachusetts to Virginia.
They are using two different colored spaghetti tags, one orange and one red. All tags are numbered for identification and all receive some reward. A small number have electronic data storage identification tags mounted near the dorsal fin, which indicates a small memory device is inside the fish’s stomach cavity which records important data. A $100 reward will be paid to a fisherman who recovers either red spaghetti tag or a data storage tagged fish.
The Northeast Fisheries Science center phone number is 1-508-495-2000. They request the following information:
Your Name, address and phone number.
Date of Recapture
Location of recapture (lat/lon or loran C)
Total length excluding the tail filaments.
Disposition (kept or released alive)
The link is http://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/read/popdy/blackseabass-tagging/
Green spaghetti tags are used by the State of NJ taggers, and the same information is
requested by them.
North Pacific Albacore Study
NOAA fisheries Southwest Science Center in cooperation with the American Fisherman’s Research Foundation is studying the migration patterns of juvenile North Pacific albacore. The program is a five year project that will tag 100 fish each season for 5 years for a total of 500 archival tags. These archival tags are data storing devices that record depth, water temperature, internal temperature and ambient light level for up to 4 years.
As of the date of the report, 197 tags have been inserted into the albacore. So far, 4 of the archival tags have been recovered. The longest time at liberty was 367 days. The greatest movement was 206 nm. One data report indicated the fish moved extensively off southern California and Baja California. Depth and temperature data shows an unexpected diving pattern between the surface and depths over 492 feet throughout the day. Individual dives exceeded 30 minutes. One dive was to 1,150 feet, which was unexpected for what had been considered a warm water species. New tag data is expected to provide knowledge about the albacore population and their preferred habitat patterns. This data will develop an accurate assessment of the total albacore population. Additional information is available on NMFS Southwest Science Center web site.
The Billfish Foundation Great White Marlin Hope Campaign
Several years back, TBF, ASA and CCF worked together to impose a license on recreational offshore anglers to pay longline fishers to retire from their business. At the same time enough information had already been collected to prove beyond any doubt that the commercial longline in the Straits of Florida was killing most of each year class of swordfish. At the time the above deal was supported by TBF, NMFS had already completed a report that proved that continued longline fishing in the Florida Strait would prevent any swordfish population recovery. Other conservation groups had already pushed NMFS into agreeing that their observer data fully supported a permanent longline closure of the Straits of Florida.
Several years later, TBF got ICCAT to agree to reduce the number of blue and white marlin killed only by international fishing. First, a 50% reduction was required and years later an additional 25% was mandated. As past bad ICCAT experience proves, only the US complied with any of these new ICCAT regulations. US recreational landings reported were those marlin NMFS had counted at the 15 major billfish tournaments where they sent scientists to document the marlin numbers and perform biological studies. The major US billfish landings were never counted in the US ICCAT report. NMFS had no idea what the correct number of marlin were that were actually being landed by recreational anglers and made no attempt to post ICCAT numbers that were reasonably accurate. As a result US regulations began using only 15 tournament numbers. As always, NMFS rules get tougher and tougher each year, like a frog being boiled alive by raising the heat a little at a time.
First all, recreational tournaments had to file a report of the HMS species caught. Later, NMFS desired to estimate total US marlin landings based on expanded tournament results. This had yet to become part of the rules; you know what the future holds.
Now, all of a sudden, The Billfish Foundation wants to fight for recreational anglers to save their bill fishing? Anglers were already restricted to 250 marlins per year, because of TBF previous campaign within ICCAT. WOW, with friends like this who need enemies.
TBF’s press release says:
TBF’s Great White Marlin Hope Campaign fights for billfish and billfishing, on three fronts:
Litigation-TBF is the first sportfishing group to intervene in ESA litigation.
Research is necessary to protect both jobs and the fish.
Policy challenges in D.C. – How is the government counting our marlin landings and what will they propose for new regulations.
Last summer NMFS held recreational hearings in several marlin areas to review proposed additional recreational conservation measures. (none were held in NJ) Proposed were mandatory circle hooks, mandatory vessel observers and new marlin bag limits. All of this when it crunches through the regulatory process which may result in zero recreational marlin landings in the future.
Also consider that there is an active ESA proposal to end US White Marlin fishing, in which two mid-western conservation groups have already filed a notice of intent to sue if White Marlin is not listed as endangered. NMFS response to the ESA proposal is due in the near future.
WOW, isn’t supporting The Billfish Foundation great? Please send money to support their Campaign to save your fishery.
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