by Tom Siciliano
Data – Data – Data!
(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association June 2007 Newsletter)
Over the years I have complained about the insufficient data that is used by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and the Mid Atlantic Fishery Management Council to manage a variety of species. I have stated at hearings that there are three things that are needed to improve the fisheries management process. They are DATA – DATA and DATA!
Three years ago the JCAA started to do something about this lack of data by conducting a survey during the JCAA Fluke Tournament. This survey has been a great success and is a big help to the biologists in New Jersey and elsewhere to get a one-day snapshot of what is happening along the coast in the recreational fluke fishery.
We have also used this survey during the Governor’s Surf Tournament.
Since I have complained about the lack of data, I felt that it was time for me to do something more personally. I spoke with the biologists who work for the Fish & Wildlife Division of the DEP to make sure that if I did another survey they would be able to use the data. Their main interest is to determine the effort expended in trying to catch fish and how many keepers are caught and also how many and what is the size of any fish released. They are not interested in the political questions that the JCAA survey asks.
With this in mind I approached the Sunshine Foundation Fluke and Weakfish Tournament Committee to see if they would allow me to conduct a survey during their Tournament on July 14th. They were very receptive to the idea and plans are well underway to make the survey a reality for this tournament. Last year they had over 200 boats entered and I volunteered to make a donation to the Foundation for every completed questionnaire. Once I have the completed survey forms I will enter the results on a spreadsheet and prepare a report for the State.
Since there is a Captain’s meeting before the Sunshine Tournament, I will hand out the surveys at that time and explain the importance of filling out the survey accurately. In order to maximize the usefulness of the data a record needs to be kept of the number of fish released along with their size. This is a simple spreadsheet and I will demonstrate how to fill it out. The main message will be that everyone should fill out the survey even if they are not very successful. This will provide a good cross section of successful anglers along with those that are not as successful. We certainly would not want the data to be only reporting the successful anglers.
There is a picnic and awards ceremony immediately after the tournament at Great Bay Marina. The completed surveys will be collected at that time and I will measure any fish that are not officially weighed in. The surveys will demonstrate effort, number of anglers, number of hooks and time spent fishing and will also give a good indication of the ratio of shorts to keepers. The number and size of the released fish will help New Jersey to provide information to the stock assessment committee of the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Anyone interested in conducting a similar survey during their club or organizations tournament can call Jeff Brust, a biologist who works for the Division of Fish and Wildlife at Nacote Creek. (609-748-2020)