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Fisheries Management & Legislative Report

by Tom Fote
(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association November 2017 Newsletter)
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Contents:

Summer Flounder

From the 10th of October to the 19th of October, I was at the ASA Summit and the ASMFC meeting. It was interesting that at both meetings the big topic of discussion was what New Jersey did on summer flounder. I find it disingenuous that many states are upset that New Jersey did what it was supposed to do. In the last few years, the states at the Summer Flounder, Black Sea Bass and Scup Board have not treated New Jersey equitably. They said they wanted to create regions on summer flounder but all they did was drag New Jersey into a region with New York and Connecticut. This was for their advantage, not New Jersey’s. When Rhode Island and Massachusetts were placed in a region at the same board meeting that New Jersey was placed in the region with New York and Connecticut, they were allowed a different outcome. At the follow-up board conference call a few weeks later, Rhode Island was allowed to drop out of the region with Massachusetts. When New Jersey could not get our motion seconded to leave the region with New York and Connecticut, New Jersey filed an appeal on the 2017 regulations. The Commission’s appeal process in its present state is a joke. New Jersey wrote a comprehensive appeal that covered a number of points. The only point the sub-committee would allow was our weakest point. The appeal process needs to be changed so all commissioners are made aware of what a state has to say. This should not be decided by a small group. New Jersey took the only course of action open to us and decided to go out of compliance and made a case to the Secretary of Commerce. This is allowed under the law. We did nothing wrong. With the Secretary of Commerce, we worked out a conservation equivalency that would meet the requirements of the plan. Bottom line is, so far the numbers show that New Jersey accomplished the 30% reduction required by the addendum. We actually obtained a 34% reduction with the pounds of fish. The additional requirements to come into compliance forced us to develop an education process for hook and release. NMFS gave us credit for a 7% reduction for this process. Based on the numbers so far, we actually accomplished a 41% reduction. In the next newspaper I will cover what will happen at the joint meeting of ASMFC and MAFMC in December. Read Paul Haertel’s article below that does an in-depth analysis of the numbers for black sea bass and summer flounder. Sign up for JCAA alerts so you will know when everything is posted and the meeting date is finalized.

ASMFC Approves Amendment 1 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Tautog

Norfolk, VA – The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission has approved Amendment 1 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for Tautog, which includes new management goals and objectives, biological reference points, fishing mortality targets, and stock rebuilding schedules. The Amendment institutes a fundamental change in tautog management, moving away from coastwide management towards regional management. Specifically, the Amendment delineates the stock into four regions due to differences in biology and fishery characteristics: Massachusetts – Rhode Island (MARI); Long Island Sound (LIS); New Jersey – New York Bight (NJ-NYB); and Delaware – Maryland – Virginia (DelMarVa).

The 2016 stock assessment update indicated that all regions except MARI were overfished, and overfishing was occurring in the LIS and NJ-NYB regions in 2015. As such, LIS and NJ-NYB would be required to take harvest reductions, while MARI and DelMarVa would not have to take harvest reductions, but are proposing regional measures.

Amendment 1 replaces the goal of the FMP to sustainably manage tautog over the long-term using regional differences in biology and fishery characteristics as the basis for management. Additionally, the Amendment seeks to promote the conservation and enhancement of structured habitat to meet the needs of all stages of tautog’s life cycle. The plan objectives were modified to achieve this new goal.

Under Amendment 1 the four regions will implement measures to achieve the regional fishing mortality target with at least a 50% probability. No consistent schedule is required to achieve targets, but if the current fishing mortality exceeds the regional threshold, the Board must initiate corrective action within one year. A stock rebuilding schedule can be established via an addendum.

In addition, Amendment 1 establishes a commercial harvest tagging program to address an illegal, unreported and undocumented fishery. The tagging program will be implemented in 2019. Reports of illegally harvested fish have been documented in cases against fishermen, fish houses, and at retail markets and restaurants. The tagging program, which will accommodate both the live and dead commercial markets, was recommended by the Commission’s Law Enforcement Committee to increase accountability in the fishery and curb illegal harvest. Tags will be applied by the commercially-permitted harvester at harvest or prior to offloading. Tautog must be landed in the state that is identified on the tag.

The states will submit implementation proposals by December 1, 2017 and all measures in the Amendment except for the commercial tagging program will be implemented by April 1, 2018. The commercial tagging program must be implemented by January 1, 2019.

The final Amendment will be posted to the Commission’s website on the Tautog webpage the week of October 31st. For more information, please contact Caitlin Starks, Fishery Management Plan Coordinator, at cstarks@asmfc.org or 703.842.0740.

Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board
Meeting Summary - October 19, 2017

As the Atlantic Striped Bass Technical Committee (TC) and Stock Assessment Subcommittee (SAS) continue their work on the 2018 benchmark assessment, they request guidance from the Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board (Board) regarding the management plan objectives to facilitate development of biological reference points (BRPs) that best meet those objectives.

While some Board members are comfortable with the current BRPs, other Board members expressed concern that the BRPs are too conservative for various biological, ecological and socio‐economic reasons, and are restricting fishing unnecessarily. These differing opinions raises questions about whether the objectives of the Atlantic Striped Bass Fishery Management Plan (FMP) have changed since the implementation of Amendment 6 in 2003. Determining the best balance between preserving stock biomass and allowing fishing is ultimately a management‐level decision. Accordingly, the Board chose to convene a workshop to discuss the direction of management in more detail and to establish a working group of the Board to continue those discussions and provide the necessary guidance to the TC and SAS. The exact timing of the workshop is yet to be determined, but the final guidance to the TC and SAS is expected to occur at the May 2018 Board Meeting, or the August Meeting at the latest. The Board also approved the 2017 FMP Review and State Compliance.

For more information, please contact Max Appelman, Fishery Management Plan Coordinator, at mappelman@asmfc.org or 703‐842‐0740.

Summer Flounder, Scup and Black Sea Bass Management Board
Meeting Summary - October 18, 2017

The Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Management Board met to consider Draft Addendum XXX; receive an update on preliminary recreational harvest estimates through wave 4 (July‐August 2017); consider a wave 1 recreational black sea bass fishery for 2018; and consider state compliance and FMP Reviews.

The Board was presented the updated Draft Addendum XXX, which proposes options for management of the recreational black sea bass fishery based on the recommendations of the Black Sea Bass Recreational Working Group. The Draft Addendum offers alternatives for recreational black sea bass regional management and allocations. The main recommendation was to delay considering approval of the Draft Addendum for public comment to allow more time for developing an additional management option focused on improving data collection, compliance with the management measures, and an evaluation of the recreational fishery performance. The Board agreed and will consider the Draft Addendum at the joint meeting with the Mid‐Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) in December.

The Board received preliminary recreational harvest estimates through wave 4. Coastwide harvest estimates for summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass were below the 2017 recreational harvest limits for all three species based on the preliminary information, as well as lower than harvest through this wave a year ago. Projections of recreational harvest for all three species will be presented to the Board and Council at their meeting in December as part of the 2018 recreational specification process.

The Board received a presentation on a possible wave 1 recreational black sea bass fishery for 2018. At their meeting last week, the Council approved a recommendation to NOAA Fisheries to open the black sea bass recreational fishery in federal waters for February 2018. As part of the recommendation, the 2018 RHL will be reduced by 100,000 pounds to account for expected harvest during the February season. After discussing the Council’s motion and considering the process by which this fishery would be monitored and accounted for, the Board approved the same motion. Adjustments to the 2018 recreational measures to account for this estimated February harvest will be required only of states that participate in the February fishery. State participation will be discussed at the Board and Council joint meeting. As part of the Board and Council’s approved motion, management measures for the recreational black sea bass February season (February 1‐28) will be a 12.5 inch minimum size limit and 15 fish possession limit per person.

The Board was informed of inconsistencies between the FMP requirements for the scup incidental possession limit and mesh size requirements and Massachusetts’ state regulations for participants in the small mesh squid fishery. The Board moved to postpone consideration of the Scup FMP Review and state compliance until the 2018 ASMFC Winter Meeting in order for the state to address the issue. The Summer Flounder and Black Sea Bass FMP Reviews and state compliance will be considered for approval by email vote following the ASMFC Annual meeting.

Last, the Board discussed recent reports of noncompliance in the recreational for‐hire fisheries for summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass. The Board moved to task the existing Black Sea Bass Recreational Working Group with developing options aimed at reducing non‐compliance in the summer flounder, scup, black sea bass for‐hire fisheries.

For more information on summer and scup, please contact Kirby Rootes‐Murdy, Senior Fishery Management Plan Coordinator, at krootes‐murdy@asmfc.org and for information on black sea bass, please contact Caitlin Starks, Fishery Management Plan Coordinator, at cstarks@asmfc.org or 703.842.0740.

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