Fisheries Management & Legislative Report

by Tom Fote

(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association March 2013 Newsletter)




Managing Our Nation's Fisheries Conference: Unaffordable for all but the Bureaucrats and Council Members

The third Managing Our Nation's Fisheries conference will be held May 7-9, 2013 in Washington, D.C. The conference is convened by the eight Regional Fishery Management Councils and hosted by the Pacific Fishery Management Council. I put a notice about this conference in the February Newspaper and was looking forward to attending. However, I discovered that the registration fee is $299 and the hotel cost is $289 per night before all the other fees. It will cost well over $300 per night. In this economy, I cannot believe the organizers scheduled this conference at a site that is so expensive. These fees are beyond the means of most anglers and even the recreational groups that usually send people to attend. Without transportation costs, which could include expensive air fares for those living further away, the cost will be more than $1500 if you don’t eat. Commercial fishermen are in the same boat as the recreational anglers when it comes to attending expensive conferences. They are having a hard time just paying the bills and are unlikely to attend. We complained about Congress spending money on expensive junkets and this is a perfect example. The Council members and their staffs will have their expenses paid for by tax dollars. The members of the National Marine Fisheries Service and other bureaucrats will have their expenses paid by tax dollars. They will also get paid for attending. The commercial and recreational fishing industry members will need to fund their own attendance from their own pockets and won’t get paid for the hours they spend at the conference. If their intention is another “love fest” they can insure that by making sure no one who might be critical can afford to attend. I will recommend that JCAA officially complain about this abuse of tax payer’s dollars. When I first got on the Commission I complained about the cost of hotels they were using. I also complained about the Mid-Atlantic Council and the cost of attending meetings that impact the livelihoods of both commercial and recreational anglers. I would suggest that you follow JCAA’s lead and write to the members of your Congressional delegation complaining about this abuse of power and total disregard of fiscal responsibility by the convening Councils and the National Marine Fisheries Service.


Shark Plan

The HMS report and my report in the February Newspaper both discuss the absurdity of the proposed changes to the HMS Shark Plan. Below are North Carolina’s comments to the NMFS. We are in agreement on the impact on the recreational community. Years ago they moved HMS from the Council system to NMFS. This was proposed by the long liners so they could have more control and eliminate input from the recreational sector. Since NMFS holds most of its meetings in Washington DC, input from the public is limited to people who can afford the time and money. Maybe it is time to eliminate the bureaucracy NMFS has created and place HMS back in the Council system. When the Councils controlled the fisheries management plans for HMS species, proposed amendments required meetings in all of the states the plan impacted. HMS does not have that same responsibility and the public is short-changed. NMFS decisions never favors the recreational sector and these decisions usually impose more stringent regulations on the recreational sector than on the commercial sector. That did not happen when HMS was under the Councils. I think it is up to JCAA and other groups to petition the Department of Commerce to move HMS back to the Councils and away from the bureaucracy in Washington DC. Some of us actually remember the “good old days” when we actually had input into HMS plans.


Pots Off the Reefs

Last month I discussed the possibility of a compromise suggested by the Governor’s Office. To date, there has been no formal compromise presented to the public. I think what happened at the Mid-Atlantic Council should have an impact on any proposal coming from the Governor’s Office. The Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council did the right thing. They set up special management zones that would eliminate fish pots from the 4 Delaware artificial reefs. They also set up 500 ft. buffer zones to make this enforceable. This should be the blueprint for what New Jersey does in state waters and what it sends forward to the Mid-Atlantic Council as a request for New Jersey’s artificial reefs in federal waters. We know this will meet the guidelines set up by the Sport Fish Restoration Program (Wallop-Breaux Act) funds for the Artificial Reef Program. Below is John Oswald’s article from the Asbury Park Press dealing with this issue.


Open the Pandora’s Box: A Discussion about Fisheries Allocations

NOAA Fisheries has released the first-ever compilation and discussion of fisheries allocation issues which summarizes input received from a broad spectrum of stakeholders. The report is a direct outcome of commitments made by NOAA during the National Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Summit to address stakeholder concerns regarding allocation. To read the report, go to this link. I have included the white paper’s conclusions below.

In politics the third rail is social security. In fisheries the third rail is allocation. This is the topic everyone avoids at all cost. It is one of the most difficult to deal with. I have asked Bruce Freeman to develop a white paper on the history of this issue. I have also asked some sports writers who have the institutional memory to consider writing articles on this topic. The recreational community has taken it on the chin on allocations because of the failure of the NMFS to historically gather good recreational statistics. NMFS never thought that the recreational sector would catch enough fish to need regulations. NMFS was created from the Bureau of Sports Fisheries and the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries. The Bureau of Commercial Fisheries was the site of all the money. They had port agents and were spending millions of dollars to collect commercial landings. The restrictions on the commercial fisheries go back hundreds of years. The Bureau of Sports Fisheries looked at trends in recreational fishing but was never intended to set up allocations. The money was never spent for Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistical Surveys. We were spending millions of dollars on commercial catch figures and a pittance on surveying all the recreational anglers in the country. This continues to this day under NMFS. While the budget for recreational surveys has doubled, double almost nothing is still almost nothing.

In the 1980’s NMFS looked at historical recreational surveys and literally cut the numbers for the recreational sector fisheries in half with no scientific validation. When the Councils and Commissions began setting quotas, the only data available was from NMFS. This data was the flawed MRFS data and the 50% reduction data. Hardly scientifically valid! This has extremely negative consequences on the recreational sector to this day. The report referenced above will be used to generate a discussion about changing present allocations and making future allocations. Remember, the recreational sector is already in the penalty box and any decisions based on previous allocations will continue to handicap the recreational sector. We need to be skeptical in discussing the issues raised in this report since if fails to recognize the systemic problems already in existence. Without an acknowledgement of the history, the future will not be favorable for recreational anglers. We need to get the people who have the historical knowledge to share with all of us before any decisions are made.

Marine Fishery Allocation Issues White Paper Conclusions by George Lapointe

Allocation issues pervade fishery management discussions and decisions in the US, and likely elsewhere. Almost all fishery management decisions, direct and indirect, have allocative effects and stakeholders in fishery management are attuned to these impacts. Perceptions about the fairness of individual and cumulative allocation decisions can drive stakeholder’s perspectives about the fairness of the overall fishery management system.

As mentioned in a number of project discussions, fishery managers have a difficult time explaining the process, rationale, and outcomes of allocation decisions because. At best, it’s very hard to explain to a group or individual why a decision was made in a way that they do not agree with. In more difficult allocation discussions, it is nearly impossible to achieve an outcome that is not perceived as very unfair by some stakeholders.

Also evident from this project is that most managers and stakeholders favor an allocation process that is more efficient and understandable than currently done. Many suggestions were made about improvements to the management process to make allocation decisions more clearly understood, fairer, and based more on quantitative factors and less on qualitative factors which are often perceived as biased and arbitrary.

Clearly, there is difficult work to be done on allocation in the Nation’s fishery management system. A logical conclusion from this type of perception is that fishery managers at the state, regional, and national levels need to focus more time and resources to allocation discussions and decisions. This should begin in the initial stages of a fishery management action and should include clear, direct language about the allocation definitions and decisions to be made, who is responsible for the decisions, and how stakeholders can engage in the process.

Similar to most difficult policy issue, progress lies in hard work, additional attention to the issue, and frank discussion among stakeholders. This project has identified some courses of action for decision makers to consider. Other options will likely be identified by decision makers and stakeholders as future discussions about how to best address fishery allocation is discussed in states, at Council meetings, and at National venues. This project is clearly an initial step in this important discussion.


NCDMF Comments on Draft Amendment 5 to the Consolidated Atlantic HMS Fishery Management Plan

January 13, 2013

Marin Hawk
FMP Coordinator
Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission
1050 N. Highland Street, Suite 200A-N
Arlington, VA 22201

Re: Comments on Draft Amendment 5 to the Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan


Dear Ms. Hawk:

The NC Division of Marine Fisheries (NCDMF) would like to provide comments to the Commission’s Spiny Dogfish and Coastal Shark Management Board on Draft Amendment 5 to the Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Fishery Management Plan (FMP). NCDMF’s goal is provide North Carolina’s recreational and commercial fishermen access to coastal shark fisheries, maximize the available quotas and promote stock recoveries while minimizing by-catch, release mortality and waste. While we agree with the intent of Amendment 5, several of the Preferred Alternatives in the Draft Amendment 5 will have negative impacts on North Carolina and other East Coast fishermen.

NCDMF’s comments and possible options to the Amendment 5 Preferred Alternatives are as follows:

TAC and Commercial Quota Measures – Alternative Suite A2 Quota Linkages – Link Atlantic scalloped hammerhead and Atlantic Aggregated LCS quotas/Link Atlantic blacknose and Atlantic non-blacknose SCS quotas

  • Having one species as a “trigger” or choke species for closure of other species can result in reduced fishing opportunity and significant economic consequences
  • Expected post-quota bycatch mortality for scalloped hammerhead or Atlantic blacknose could be calculated and subtracted from the overall quota and allow fishermen to continue fishing on the other “linked” quotas.
  • Alternate Suite A3 with no linkages may present a better option for management

Recreational Measures – Alternate Suite A2 – Increase shark minimum recreational size to 96”

  • A 96” fork length recreational size limit would almost eliminate all recreational shark harvest in North Carolina (other than the one Atlantic sharpnose (no minimum size) and one bonnethead (no minimum size) per person per day regulation for SCS)
  • In 2000, NCDMF issued regulations (proclamation) in state waters to protect sandbar and dusky sharks in recreational fishery by using a slot limit 54” to 84” (only thresher, tiger, mako and hammerheads were allowed over 84” fork length). This protected the dusky and sandbar pups as well as the large mature adults on the “pupping” grounds and would allow for harvest to continue on allowable LCS.
  • A 96” size limit and no education (need to educate anglers to stay away from ridgeback sharks) could encourage the harvest of mature dusky sharks (if the shark is over 96” then it must be OK to harvest)
  • Maintain a 54” size limit for thresher, tiger, mako and blue sharks because they are not easily confused with dusky
  • Remove greater, scalloped and smooth hammerhead from the recreational harvest since the flesh is of very poor quality and they are almost never consumed – release fishery only
  • NCDMF’s recreational proposal (especially for East Coast state waters) - slot limit 54” to 84” for LCS (blacktip, spinner, lemon, bull, nurse) and SCS (finetooth, blacknose), 54” size limit for tiger, thresher, blue and shortfin mako, It is unlawful to possess more than one (1) shark per vessel per day or if no vessel is used, it is unlawful to possess more than one (1) shark per person per day and One (1) Atlantic sharpnose (no minimum size) and one bonnethead (no minimum size) per person per day may be landed in addition to allowable bag limits for other sharks.
  • Provide outreach to recreational anglers on prohibited ridge-backed species and encourage circle hooks for recreational shark fishing

Pelagic and Bottom Longline Effort Control Measures – Alternative Suite B3 - Establish time/area closures based on high levels of dusky shark interactions – Alternatives B3b, B3c and B3d – Prohibit use of pelagic longline (PLL) gear May, June and November in the Hatteras Shelf area

  • The Hatteras Shelf area is located approximately 30 miles off Oregon Inlet and is the “home” fishing grounds for 8 to 12 boats based out of Oregon Inlet. These are small PLL vessels (required due to shallow NC inlets) with small crews that typically fish 2 to 5 days. Longlines (20 nm required by the Cape Hatteras Special Research Area to protect marine mammals) and soak times (most around 6 to 8 hours due to current) are shorter than other PLL on the east coast.
  • The economic evaluation of this closure grossly underestimated the economic loss to the Oregon Inlet PLL fishermen. Redistributing effort to other “open” areas may not be possible due to vessel size, current, or available catch. Trip expenses would also increase with fuel, food, ice and more travel time versus fishing time. The economic evaluation suggested the displaced PLL could shift to dolphin which would result to changes in gear and would increase the problems with dolphin allocation in the South Atlantic.
  • The Hatteras Shelf closure is based off of interactions with dusky sharks from PLL logbook data and a 33% mortality rate (from Observer Program) was used to estimate the number of mortalities. With the shorter longlines and soak times, the mortality rate on dusky sharks should be lower in the Cape Hatteras Special Research Area. With only 11 interactions for the month, May (Alternative B3b) should be removed from the Preferred Alternatives.
  • In the process of forming the Draft Amendment 5, many of the Oregon Inlet PLL fishermen remarked about their lack of interactions with dusky sharks and questioned the location of the logbook interactions. The fishermen indicated dusky interactions would occur if PLL gear fished inside 50 fathoms but they usually fished on or outside of 100 fathoms where there were very few interactions. The proposed closure area is much larger than the area needed to reduce dusky interactions. NCDMF is proposing two options to reduce the closure area and still allow PLL to fish in this important area. One option is to use the 100 fathom curve in the proposed area and not allow PLL to fish inshore of this line “100 Fathom Curve Adjustment.” The second option is to use straight line Lat/Long Coordinates to approximate the 100 fathom contour “Lat/Long Coordinates to Approximate the Areas Inside the 100 Fathom Curve Adjustment.” (Maps Attached)
  • PLL fishermen need the ability to transit the closed areas if gear is stowed - stow gangions, hooks could not be baited, and buoys removed from the mainline and drum

Pelagic and Bottom Longline Effort Control Measures – Alternative B5 – Current time/area closure modifications – Modify the timing of the existing mid-Atlantic shark time/area closure to December 15 to July 15

  • NCDMF supports the intent of this alternative – closure end date to coincide with the season opening date (July 15) in the ASMFC Coastal Shark Plan
  • The December 15 start date for the closure will disadvantage North Carolina fishermen if quota still remains in the LCS non-sandbar fishery after the start date – move start date to January 1

NCDMF appreciates the opportunity to provide comments on this issue and would be willing to clarify or discuss any of our concerns.

Randy Gregory
NC Division of Marine Fisheries



Fisheries Management SMZs Approved for Delaware Reefs
By John Oswald, Asbury Park Press, 2/15/2013

Forces fighting to get commercial fishing gear off artificial reefs got a boost on Wednesday at the Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council (MAFMC) meeting in Virginia. The council approved several options for designating the sites as Special Management Zones (SMZs) in the Delaware EEZ. The Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife had petitioned the Council for the designation under provisions of Amendment 9 to the Summer Flounder, Scup and Black Sea Bass Fishery Management Plan (FMP). The request was made in an effort to mitigate conflicts between hook and line fishermen and fixed pot and trap gear in use at those locations. The Council approved options 2a, which designates all five of Delaware’s five reef sites as SMZs; option 3b, which restricts fishing activities to hook line and spear fishing; option 4b, which designates the sites as SMZs for the entire calendar year; and option 5c, which creates a 500 meter buffer zone around each reef. Under option 3b, commercial hook and line fishing gear would still be permitted in the SMZs. Capt. Peter Grimbilas, chairman of the Reef Rescue Fund, and a tireless worker to get commercial gear off New Jersey’s artificial reefs called Wednesday, “a really good day.” “The best thing about yesterday (Wednesday) was that finally, the MAFMC is paying attention to what the Sport Fish Restoration Funds are all about,” said Grimbilas. Grimbilas was referring to the fact that a good portion of the funding for artificial reefs comes from the Sport Fish Restoration Fund, which is to be used to support recreational fishing.

Grimbilas said that Dr. John Organ, chief of the fund, has repeatedly warned states that they can’t continue to take funds for reefs that benefit commercial interests.

These actions by the MAFMC are far from set in stone. The recommendations will go out for public comment and then on to the National Marine Fisheries Service for a final decision.

“It just so important that Delaware gets their way because we’re (New Jersey) going to be following right on their shirt tails. “We’re going to be asking for the same things for the same reasons,” Grimbilas said.

Grimbilas said that New Jersey already got it hand slapped for not requesting SMZ status earlier. The state’s funding from the federal government has been put on hold until it resolves the issue of commercial use of its artificial reefs.

“Delaware was smart enough to request SMZs and because they had the wheels rolling, U.S. Fish and Wildlife didn’t cut the funding,” he said.

The request for SMZ status for New Jersey’s reefs won’t be too far in the future. Grimbilas believes DEP Commissioner Bob Martin will be making the request once a proposal can be crafted that will be acceptable to all the parties involved.

Also on Wednesday, the MAFMC approved the Scientific and Statistical Committee’s recommendation to increase the 2013 black sea bass quota by one million pounds. Discussion of the black sea bass quota will continue at next week’s meeting of the ASMFC Winter Meeting in Virginia


Traces of Anxiety Drug May Affect Behavior in Fish
By Pam Belluck, New York Times, 2/14/2013

Traces of a common psychiatric medication that winds up in rivers and streams may affect fish behavior and feeding patterns, according to a study in the journal Science published Thursday.

Researchers in Sweden exposed wild European perch to water with different concentrations of Oxazepam, an anti-anxiety medication that can show up in waterways after being flushed, excreted or discarded.

Researchers reported that fish exposed to Oxazepam became less social, more active and ate faster, behaviors they said could have long-term consequences for aquatic ecosystems.

Scientists who study pharmaceuticals in waterways said the research was intriguing because it examined the potential effect on animals of a specific medication intended to affect human behavior.

“It seems to be a solid study with an environmentally relevant species,” said Donald Tillitt, an environmental toxicologist with the United States Geological Survey, who was not involved in the study. He said it made sense that a medication that binds with a certain brain receptor in people could act similarly in fish, and the measures of behavior — activity, sociability, boldness and feeding rate — “are all important ones that we like to look at when we’re trying to see the environmental effects of pharmaceuticals.”

Still, because even the lowest concentration of Oxazepam in the study was higher than that found in a Swedish waterway that researchers tested, “the relevance of their study to the real world is unclear,” the United States Environmental Protection Agency said in written answers to questions.

The agency said that while “most pharmaceuticals do not seem to pose known risks to humans, animals or the rest of the ecosystem” at the levels they occur in the environment, there are some medications “for which some researchers have noted physiological effects in fish exposed to levels close to those occasionally reached in the environment. These include some ingredients used for contraception, hypertension and mood disorders.”

The agency said how often this occurs and the possible environmental repercussions are unknown.

The study joins a small but growing body of research exploring the possible environmental impact of chemicals in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and other products. Many of these chemicals are not removed by wastewater treatment plants, which are intended to remove bacteria and nutrients, experts said.

The topic is difficult to study partly because concentrations of chemicals in waterways can vary with season, hour and distance from treatment plants, and other medications in water may influence a chemical’s effects.

The United States Geological Survey has found “intersex fish,” or male fish that develop female sexual characteristics, in the Potomac River and its tributaries, raising questions about whether hormone residues might be responsible. A study in the journal Environmental Science and Technology found antidepressants like Prozac and Zoloft in the brains of fish collected downstream from wastewater discharge in Colorado and Iowa. But some antidepressants that were more common in those waterways, including Zyban and Citalopram, were not found as frequently in the fish.

In the Swedish study, researchers first tested perch in the wastewater-treated Fyris River, near the city of Uppsala, and found their muscle tissue contained six times the river’s concentration of Oxazepam, said Tomas Brodin, the lead author and an assistant professor of ecology at Umea University.

Researchers then took baby fish hatched from the roe of wild perch in what they considered a drug-free waterway, and divided them into three groups of 25. One group had no exposure to Oxazepam; the other two were placed in water with what researchers called a low concentration, at three times higher than the Fyris River, or an extremely high concentration, at 1,500 times higher.

The more Oxazepam they ingested the more active the fish were, measured by the number of swimming motions in a 10-minute period. They were also less social, spending less time near a section of the tank with other fish and more time near an empty compartment. And they were quicker to grab and eat zooplankton. At the highest Oxazepam concentration, fish were also bolder, measured by how long it took them to leave a box in the tank and explore new territory.

“Basically, no one left the box before they were subjected to the drug,” said Dr. Brodin, who said he saw the difference when he entered the room each day. The non-exposed fish “were hiding basically,” while the others “were out there, greeting me. They were totally different fish.”

In a statement, Matthew Bennett, senior vice president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said the study yielded “somewhat expected results” because of its higher-than-natural concentrations. He said the behavioral changes were small, and the study methods contradicted “widely accepted protocols that determine how the low levels of Oxazepam found in the environment accumulate in fish. The environmental relevance and potential for long-term impact from this drug, which has been in use for decades, are therefore debatable.”

Joel A. Tickner, an environmental scientist at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, who was not involved in the research, said he considered the study significant. “These effects may be very subtle,” he said, but “what they’re finding is it’s biologically relevant.”

Dr. Brodin said the implications were unclear for perch, which might benefit from Oxazepam exposure by becoming more efficient eaters or be disadvantaged because enhanced risk-taking behavior might increase their vulnerability to predators. Zooplankton, algae and other organisms could also be affected by changes in fish behavior, he said.

Dr. Tillitt, the toxicologist with the United States Geological Survey, said, “We’re smart enough and we should be able to design chemicals that fulfill these same sorts of functions but with less stress on the environment.”


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