Fisheries Management & Legislative Report
by Tom Fote
(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association May 2006 Newsletter)
I attended a meeting on March 29 – 30 in Washington DC hosted by the National Marine Fisheries Service. At this meeting we heard the preliminary report from the National Research Council – a branch of the National Academy of Sciences on recreational statistics. The MRSS took a good beating in the report. Some of the criticism failed to recognize that the MRSS was never designed for quota management. It was designed to show trends in recreational fishing. When you combine all the states you get a decent estimate of the trends. But if you try to use data for individual states as a management tool, it just doesn’t work. The big push is to register all recreational anglers. Some states are using this as an excuse to adopt a saltwater license. NMFS spends very little money on recreational data when compared to the amount they spend to collect commercial data. They ignore that recreational and commercial fishing have approximately the same economic impact. They also ignore the quality of life issues inherent in recreational fishing. I think NMFS under Dr. Bill Holgarth is trying to address this problem. I have enclosed a letter from Dr. Holgarth from the NOAA website. There is also information linking you to the National Research Council Executive Summary.
JCAA scheduled a meeting with The Atlantic Sea Island Group LNG project, Safe Harbor Energy for April 26. This meeting was canceled because the Atlantic Sea Island Group did not want to open it up to all our club reps and invited guests. JCAA had invited ALS, COA, PIRG and the Baykeeper. The Atlantic Sea Island Group wanted to meet with only a few of us and they also would not have a lot of details for that meeting. JCAA would not exclude people from the meeting so they canceled. This will eventually have to go to public hearings. JCAA will be watching the progress of this proposed project since we have real concerns about building an island in our ocean that will destroy habitat and close areas to fishing. Included in this newspaper is an article from the Asbury Park Press discussing Congressman Pallone’s opposition to this project.
American Sportfishing Assn. Meeting
I attended two ASA meetings in the last month. The joint salt and freshwater meeting was held the week of April 3. Many issues were discussed including access and mercury contamination. The reauthorization of the Magnuson Act was the topic of a lengthy discussion. I have included the ASA press release discussing the ongoing problem with salmon off the coasts of California and Oregon. I was impressed with the coalition formed by ASA to deal with this issue. It appears there will be a recreational season for salmon this year on the West coast.
Last month I wrote about my experience with a saltwater fishing license in California. As luck would have it, I was in Texas for 5 days and wanted to do some fishing between meetings. I knew I needed a saltwater license. But I didn’t realize how costly it would be. You can buy a one-day saltwater license as a non-resident for $22.00. If you plan to fish more than one day, you add $8.00 per day. Since I was unsure how many days I might fish but was going to be in Texas for 5 days, I finally purchased a year’s non-resident license for $60.00. The problem is that it really discourages short-term visitors from fishing. I intended to charter a boat and share the $300 cost for the one-day charter. The cost of our one-day licenses added $44 to our one-day cost. Charter boat captains will be unable to raise their fees as their costs (imagine gas) continue to climb since the state has already added an additional fee to the charter with the cost of a license. I don’t imagine the captains ever imagined being partners with the state of Texas. I can see this discouraging others from chartering or even fishing from the shore.
It was also not easy to get a license. We stopped in two stores before we found a place where the machines actually worked. Depending on the expertise of the sales person, it takes a good deal of time. You needed a driver’s license and a social security number to get a fishing license. The entire process is hardly tourist friendly.
ASMFC Meeting Week, May 8-11
DoubleTree Hotel Crystal City Arlington, VA
May 8, 2006 2:00 PM – 6:00 PM
American Lobster Management Board
May 9, 2006 \
8:00 AM - 10:00 AM Atlantic Herring Section
10:15 AM - 12:15 PM Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Management Board
1:30 PM - 5:00 PM Weakfish Management Board
6:30 PM Annual Awards of Excellence
May 10, 2006
8:00 AM – Noon Management & Science Committee Observer Program Workshop
8:30 AM - 9:30 AM Bluefish Management Board
9:45 AM - 11:45 AM American Eel Management Board
1:00 PM - 2:00 PM Atlantic Menhaden Management Board
1:00 PM - 5:00 PM Management & Science Committee
2:15 PM - 5:15 PM Horseshoe Crab Management Board
May 11, 2006
8:00 AM - 10:00 AM Executive Committee
10:15 AM - 12:15 PM Multispecies Workshop
12:15 PM Buffet Lunch for Commissioners & Proxies
12:30 PM - 3:30 PM ISFMP Policy Board 3:30 PM - 4:00 PM
Director, National Marine Fisheries Service
NOAA Fisheries Service has just received preliminary findings from the National Research Council – a branch of the National Academy of Sciences – about our recreational data collection science program. You might remember that I commissioned NRC to conduct this review in the fall of 2004 as part of an overall effort to modernize our science program for recreational fishing. I was pleased to hear these results, along with the State fisheries directors and the recreational fishing industry, on March 30 in Arlington, Virginia. It is fitting that we all received NRC’s findings together, as it will take teamwork by all of us to see NRC’s recommendations become a reality.
Recreational fisheries are a $30 billion per year industry in the United States. As this social and economic value grows, so does the importance of NOAA’s science and management of recreational species. Our efforts to collect important information about recreational catches will never be successful if we do not have the support of the recreational fishing community. In order to earn this support, our recreational science program must be strengthened to keep pace with the evolving characteristics of the industry and the changing needs of fisheries managers. I heard this message from the recreational community – which prompted the NRC study – and now we have been shown a way forward. We are fortunate that recreational fishermen recognize the importance of sustainable fishing, and I have faith that we can make the changes that are necessary to earn their trust and support of our science and management programs.
NRC’s primary recommendation endorses NOAA’s proposal for a universal angler registration program. Many of the current challenges with recreational fishing data will be overcome by having a comprehensive database of all saltwater anglers. The database will allow us to regularly check in with anglers to accurately determine catch and fishing effort.
I agree with NRC that an angler registration would help fix some of the identified problems, and it is helpful to have their endorsement of the Administration’s proposal for an angler registration program, which is included in the bill to reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Act. It is now clear that we must have all the states onboard and the support of anglers to get this angler registration adopted and implemented. You all have my commitment to seeing this through, and I trust that I can count on everyone to roll up your sleeves and join me.
NRC found some fundamental problems with our current recreational science program, the Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistical Survey. We have long recognized that the program is neither comprehensive nor flawless. As scientists, our goal is to make sure that our data is accurate and that our methods produce statistically valid results. We have to make adjustments for bias and a number of other issues that could skew the results. Our goal is to be as precise as possible, and I do feel that MRFSS has provided us with the best scientific data available. By implementing NRC’s recommendations, we can make the data even better. My staff in the Office of Science and Technology is thoroughly reviewing all of NRC’s recommendations so that we can take immediate action to reduce biases in the MRFSS survey.
Now we have the challenge before us to adopt and implement a more comprehensive approach through an angler registration. I’m proud of my staff for moving us forward, towards these improvements, even while NRC conducted its review and developed its recommendations. The NRC provided a menu of possible improvements, and now we are working with others in the scientific community and sportfishing industry to find solutions that are both affordable for tax-payers and useful for scientists and fishery managers. We’re already considering pilot projects to implement some of the NRC recommendations in the Gulf of Mexico.
While we are implementing these changes, please participate in the surveys if you are called upon. We can only move forward by working together. I look forward to receiving NRC’s full report, with more detailed recommendations, later this month. In the meantime, the Administration’s Offshore Aquaculture Bill is moving forward in Congress. The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation will host a hearing on the bill on April 6, so be sure to check out the live Web cast. Along with fish farmers and other scientists, I will serve on the panel to discuss the proposal, current aquaculture research, and environmental and socio-economic impacts of aquaculture.
In Washington, D.C., spring has definitely sprung. The cherry blossoms are blooming and fishermen are taking to the waters of the Chesapeake Bay now that the weather is warmer. With Earth Day coming up on April 22, I hope everyone takes time to connect with the outdoors this month.
Director, National Marine Fisheries Service