Fisheries Management & Legislative Report

by Tom Fote
(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association June 2018 Newsletter)

Contents:

ASMFC Report

Below there are some of the meeting summaries from the ASMFC Spring Meeting. It is interesting to look at what did pass and what didn’t pass. There is also information about the MRIP transition. I did not put in all the summaries but you can go to the ASMFC webpage and get full summaries and the votes on motions. You can get all the presentations. I know people can’t always listen to the webinars but instead of spending hours searching online to find this information, you can go directly to the ASMFC and get the actual information. The table included in the article about older fish producing more eggs is very small. If you would like a larger copy, just email me.

Attack on NJ Quotas

It seems as though New England is constantly pushing the “so called fact” that all the fish are headed north and therefore New England should get the larger quotas. The truth is New Jersey had in place better recording of commercial catches than many of the states north of us. There are many reasons this happened. The most important is some states were hiding the commercial catch to avoid paying taxes. In addition, they wanted to be secretive about their landings. New Jersey has always had a strict system for recording commercial landings, so our data has always been more reliable. Yes, we have global warming and yes, there is some migration of fish to the north but that is not a legitimate reason to just raise quotas for the New England states. Some of the rise of biomass in the north has to do with actually growing the stocks and the year classes for a number of species including sea bass and flounder. When we look at some of the old data including some of the recreational data, we find that on species like summer flounder and black sea bass, when they get older and migrate from inshore to offshore, the bigger fish have a tendency to move north. The number of fish don’t change in the south. In fact, they increase. But the fish that are caught in the northern region skew the data because they are larger fish. If you look at the number of fish in the younger year classes, those numbers could be as great as ever, especially in the stocks that have increased. The states from New York north have decided that New Jersey should be considered a southern state. If the migration is truly going north from North Carolina and Virginia, then New Jersey should be catching a windfall number of fish. New Jersey recreational and commercial industry must be vigilant in keeping an eye on decisions made by the New England Council, MidAtlantic Council and ASMFC as some members try to manipulate data for their state’s benefit.

If the quotas were allowed to grow as they should as we increase the biomass for a stock, we would not have every state arguing for their share of a smaller quota. I have been around long enough to know that there were white papers produced about how we would handle the growing stocks and allocate those increases among the states. The real problem is we are fishing on quotas that are smaller than what we were fishing on when we first started rebuilding the stocks. We need to increase the quotas on black sea bass, summer flounder and some other species.

MRIP Transition to FES

Kelly Denit (NOAA Fisheries) presented an update on the Marine Recreational Information Program’s (MRIP) transition to the Fishing Effort Survey (FES). This is the same information that was presented at the NMFS Recreational Summit. Kelly’s full presentation should be on the ASMFC webpage. As I said before, this is a breath of fresh air. What Kelly is presenting is that the team working on MRIP transition to FES are looking at the facts and coming up with improved solutions on how we deal with the increasing catch. We need to write letters to the Secretary of Commerce and the Head of NMFS supporting this change. I hear there is some push-back and we should make sure to make our support known. I haven’t been as positive about any proposal in a long time.

ASMFC Meeting Summaries

Summer Flounder, Scup and Black Sea Bass Management Board Jointly with the MAFMC (April 30, 2018)

Meeting Summary

The Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Management Board (Board) and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) met jointly to consider a number of issues. These include (1) approving a joint Summer Flounder Commercial Issues Amendment Public Hearing Document (PHD) for public comment; (2) a draft discussion document regarding a strategic plan for reforming recreational black sea bass management; (3) draft alternatives for the recreational management framework and addendum for all three species; and (4) preliminary harvest estimates from the February 2018 recreational black sea bass fishery.

Summer Flounder Commercial Issues Amendment Public Hearing Document

The PHD serves as an abridged version of the Draft Summer Flounder Commercial Issues Amendment, which the Board also approved for public comment. This action proposes potential modifications to the commercial summer flounder fishery, as well as the existing fishery management plan objectives for summer flounder.

This amendment was initiated in 2014 in response to stakeholder feedback received during the Council’s visioning project regarding concerns with the current summer flounder commercial management program. Specifically, the Draft Amendment seeks public input on four issues:

  1. Requalifying criteria for federal commercial moratorium permits to address latent effort in the fishery – Federal permit qualification criteria have not changed since establishment in 1993. Some stakeholders believe the original permit qualifications criteria resulted in the current number of federal permits being too high relative to recent stock size estimates and resulting quotas. Additionally, given restrictions and stock trends in other fisheries, there is concern that inactive permits may reenter the summer flounder fishery, putting further economic strain on participating vessels. The Amendment offers options to reduce the number of commercial federal moratorium permits based on qualifying criteria.
  2. Modifying commercial quota allocation – The current commercial allocation was last modified in 1993 and is perceived by many as outdated given its basis in 1980-1989 landings data. Summer flounder distribution, biomass, and fishing effort have changed since then, and some believe the initial allocations may not have been equitable or were based on flawed data; therefore, stakeholders requested evaluation of alternative allocation systems. The Amendment offer a range of options to modify and re-allocate the current annual commercial state by state quota allocations.
  3. Adding commercial landings flexibility as a framework issue in the Council's FMP – Landings flexibility policies would give commercial vessels greater freedom to land or possess summer flounder in the state(s) of their choice. Although such policies may be more effectively developed by state level agreements, the Board and Council are interested in having the option to pursue broader landings flexibility policies via framework action/addenda in the future if necessary. This action does not consider implementing landings flexibility policies at this time.
  4. Revise the FMP objectives for summer flounder – Many managers and stakeholders believe that the current objectives have become outdated and could provide more meaningful guidance if updated. Although the revisions to FMP objectives are not proposed as an explicit set of options in the Amendment, they are provided for public comment.

The Board and Council will determine the public comment period as well as the schedule of public hearings following the June Council Meeting, and notify the public through a joint press release. The Board and Council will consider taking final action on this amendment in December 2018.

Draft Strategic Plan for Reforming Recreational Black Sea Bass Management

A draft discussion document on reforming recreational black sea bass management was developed by the Board Chair and Vice-Chair in response to wide-ranging concerns with the current management program. The draft is aimed at providing a starting point for discussion on the development of a comprehensive reform initiative. At the meeting, the draft was presented and briefly discussed. The Board and Council offered support for continued development of the strategy over the next few months, first, through direct input from members, then through a joint working group process. The draft document, as modified through the initial review process, will be brought back before the Board and Council.

Draft Alternatives for the Recreational Management Framework and Addendum

The Council and Board considered draft alternatives for the Summer Flounder, Scup and Black Sea Bass Recreational Management Framework and Addendum. This action was initiated at the December 2017 joint meeting. After considering the recommendations of the Fishery Management Action Team (FMAT), and the Council’s Demersal Committee and a subset of the Board, the Board and Council approved alternatives to include in a draft public hearing document. The draft alternatives include options for conservation equivalency for recreational black sea bass, conservation equivalency rollover, slot limits in recreational fisheries for all three species, and Block Island Sound transit provisions. The transit provision alternatives include two alternative transit zone areas that could apply to recreational fisheries only, or both commercial and recreational fisheries for all three species, depending on the alternatives selected. The Board and Council considered but chose not to include alternatives for evaluating and modifying recreational management measures based on a comparison of catch to the Annual Catch Limit in this action. A draft document will be presented at the August joint meeting of the Board and Council with final action tentatively scheduled for December 2018.

Preliminary February 2018 Recreational Black Sea Bass Harvest Estimates

Finally, the Board and Council received a report on the preliminary harvest estimates for the February 2018 black sea bass recreational fishery. Virginia and North Carolina were the only states to participate in the fishery, and the total harvest between both states is estimated between 4,826 and 5,206 pounds of black sea bass.

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

Bluefish Management Board Jointly with the MAFMC (April 30, 2018)

Meeting Summary

The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) and the Commission met jointly to review and approve the scoping and public information document for an amendment to the Bluefish Fishery Management Plan (FMP) focused on allocation. The Board and Council approved the document for state public hearings, which will be conducted this summer.

The Draft Amendment will involve a comprehensive review of the Bluefish FMP’s sector-based allocations, commercial allocations to the states, transfer processes, and goals and objectives. Specifically, the Council and Commission will consider whether modifications to the FMP’s goals, objectives, and allocation strategies for bluefish are needed.

Scoping is the first and best opportunity for members of the public to raise concerns related to the scope of issues that will be considered. The public is encouraged to submit comments regarding the range of potential issues to be addressed in the amendment. In addition to comments on allocation and transfer processes, the Council and Commission are interested in comments on the following topics:

  • Fishery productivity
  • Ecosystem considerations
  • Changes in the fishery
  • Changes in distribution of bait fish
  • Average fish size
  • Changes in availability, effort, and marketability
  • Impacts of changes observed over time

The scoping and public information document will be finalized and released in May 2018. State public hearings will occur this summer, with dates and locations to be determined. Additional information and updates will be posted at this link.

For more information, please contact Caitlin Starks, Fishery Management Plan Coordinator, at cstarks@asmfc.org or 703.842.0740.

Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board (May 1, 2018)

Meeting Summary

The Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board met to provide guidance to the Stock Assessment. Subcommittee (SAS) regarding the types of biological reference points (BRPs) to pursue in the 2018 Benchmark Stock Assessment. A Board Guidance Work Group (comprised of Board, Advisory Panel (AP) and SAS members) was established in November 2017 to develop guidance recommendations for the Board to consider. To facilitate recommendation development, the Work Group developed a survey to solicit input from all Board and AP members. The survey asked questions regarding the most important values of a quality and viable fishery and overall satisfaction with the state of the stock and management under Amendment 6.

In general, the survey was unable to identify an overwhelming majority regarding overall satisfaction with the management of striped bass under Amendment 6, nor with the current management triggers or reference points. That being said, results did indicate that respondents that are not satisfied with the current reference points felt that the spawning stock biomass (SSB) target is too conservative and/or unachievable under current conditions (e.g., environmental conditions or the conditions of predator and prey populations), and that the development of stock-specific reference points were very important to a successful and equitable management program. Results also indicated an interest in revisiting pre-Addendum IV reference points (e.g., SSB and/or fishing mortality (F) levels based during a period when the stock was considered in “good condition”).

Accordingly, the Work Group recommended the SAS develop a range of fishing mortality (F) and SSB reference points, including revisiting the current and pre-Addendum IV reference point approaches, and to clarify the various implications of different reference point values to allow the Board to explore the tradeoffs of management objectives and characteristics of a quality fishery. The Work Group also recommended the SAS strive to develop stock-specific reference points where possible. The AP met via conference call to review the survey results and Work Group’s recommendations, and to develop alternative recommendations if warranted. However, there was similarly no overwhelming majority among the AP regarding overall satisfaction with the management program or reference points, and therefore the AP supported the Work Group’s recommendations.

Following review, the Board tasked the SAS to develop a range of reference points according to the Work Group’s recommendations and explicitly including a biologically-based threshold for F and SSB. Additionally, the SAS will clarify the various implications of different reference point values to allow the Board to explore the tradeoffs of different management objectives and associated risks levels with each set of reference points.

The Board also received a progress update on the 2018 benchmark stock assessment. The benchmark is schedule for peer-review in November 2018 at the 66th SAW/SARC. The first modeling workshop is scheduled for May 15-17, in Providence, Rhode Island, and a second modeling workshop will likely be in late summer or early fall.

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 (May 3, 2018)

Press Release

Summer Flounder, Scup and Black Sea Bass Management Board Revises Northern Region Recreational Management Measures

Arlington, VA – Upon the direction of the Commission’s Interstate Fisheries Management Program (ISFMP) Policy Board, the Summer Flounder, Scup and Black Sea Bass Management Board approved revised 2018 recreational measures for the Northern Region states of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York (see Table 1). Further, the Board initiated new management action for the 2019 black sea bass recreational fishery and tasked the Plan Development Team to develop a white paper to consider the impacts of changes in black sea bass abundance and distribution to the management of commercial and recreational fisheries.

Table 1. Approved 2018 black sea bass recreational measures.

This action is taken in response to a Northern Region state appeal of the approved 2018 recreational measures under Addendum XXX. The appeal argued the Board’s action under Addendum XXX incorrectly applied technical data and was inconsistent with the Summer Flounder, Scup and Black Sea Bass Fishery Management Plan. After reviewing the appeal, Commission Leadership agreed there was adequate justification to bring portions of the appeal forward to the ISFMP Policy Board.

During the ISFMP Policy Board’s deliberations regarding consideration of the appeal, a potential management program for the 2018 black sea bass recreational fishery was presented to replace the allocations specified in Addendum XXX. The revised management program was developed to meet the needs of the Northern Region without impacting the remaining states, while still constraining harvest to the 2018 recreational harvest limit of 3.66 million pounds.

For more information, please contact Caitlin Starks, Fishery Management Plan Coordinator, at cstarks@asmfc.org or 703.842.0740.

Winter Flounder Management Board (May 2, 2018)

Meeting Summary

At its Spring Meeting, the Winter Flounder Management Board reviewed a proposal by Rhode Island to implement aggregate weekly limits in the Southern New England/Mid-Atlantic (SNE/MA) commercial winter flounder fishery. The proposal was intended to provide greater equity between state and federally permitted fishermen given directed fishing is permitted in federal waters but there is a 50 lb daily possession limit in state waters. Analysis by the Technical Committee (TC) indicated that there are currently low levels of targeted fishing effort in the SNE/MA commercial fishery by state permitted fishermen. In addition, projections suggested that an aggregate weekly limit could alter fishermen behavior and increase landings in the fishery. Given the SNE/MA stock is depleted and the 50 lb possession limit was intended to achieve the lowest possible fishing mortality, the Board did not approve the proposal for aggregate weekly limits. As a result, a 50 lb. daily possession limit remains in state waters for the SNE/MA commercial winter flounder fishery.

For more information, please contact Megan Ware, Fishery Management Plan Coordinator, at mware@asmfc.org or 703.842.0740.

Interstate Fisheries Management Program Policy Board (May 3, 2018)

Meeting Summary

The Interstate Fisheries Management Program Policy Board (Policy Board) considered the Northern Region’s black sea bass appeal and received reports from the Executive, Artificial Reef and Law Enforcement Committees.

The Policy Board was provided an overview of the Appeal Process and the specifics of the appeal brought forward by the states of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York regarding the 2018 recreational measures approved as a result of Addendum XXX. During the Board’s deliberations, the states, collectively referred to as the Northern Region, presented a potential management program for the 2018 black sea bass recreational fishery to replace the allocations specified in Addendum XXX.

In support of the proposed management program, the Policy Board directed the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Management Board to approve the 2018 recreational black sea bass regulations 2018 as presented, as well as initiate new management action for the 2019 black sea bass recreational fishery and tasked the Plan Development Team to develop a white paper to consider the impacts of changes in black sea bass abundance and distribution to the management of commercial and recreational fisheries (see press release under Summer Flounder, Scup and Black Sea bass Board below for more details).

ASMFC Chair Jim Gilmore provided an overview of the Executive Committee meeting earlier in the week (see Executive Committee meeting summary for more details).

Dr. Lisa Havel provided an update on the Artificial Reef Committee, which met jointly with the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Artificial Reefs Subcommittee in February. Both groups discussed the success of the 2017 Artificial Reef Symposium at the American Fisheries Society Meeting in Tampa, Florida. Dr. Havel represented the Commission on the steering committee for the symposium. The groups also discussed the state of historical resource reviews for artificial reef permits, progress on BP-funded reef projects in the Gulf of Mexico, compared state SCUBA diving programs, and were provided a presentation on collecting reef use data using aerial surveys. There was a guest presentation on sea turtle considerations in reef module designs. Each state also provided updates. ASMFC will host the next meeting, which will take place in early 2019. The Committee plans to create a document containing each state’s artificial reef monitoring protocols, which can be used to aid in monitoring standardization along the coast. Per the request of the Policy Board, Dr. Havel will work with the Committee to look into artificial reef and recreational fishing potential in the planned wind farms off the Atlantic coast.

Law Enforcement (LEC) Committee Coordinator Mark Robson updated the Board on the activities of the LEC (see LEC meeting summary). Based on a LEC recommendation, the Commission will send a letter of support to NOAA Fisheries to continue funding Joint Enforcement Agreements, which was zeroed out in the 2019 Presidents Budget Request. The Board will also send a letter to NOAA Fisheries asking for continued development on ropeless fishing technologies to address concerns raised by both the LEC and the American Lobster Management Board, and to pursue other actions to protect right whales.

Kelly Denit (NOAA Fisheries) presented an update on the Marine Recreational Information Program’s (MRIP) transition to the Fishing Effort Survey (FES). The FES replaces the coastal household telephone survey and provides a more accurate estimates of fishing effort. As part of the transition to FES side-by-side benchmarking occurred where it was found: (1) estimates from the FES are several times higher than those from the CHTS; and (2) on average, the private boat estimates were almost three times higher, and in the shore mode, they were about five times higher. This varied by mode, state, and wave, so in some cases they were higher, and in others they were lower. The Transition Plan was developed by NOAA Fisheries, the states, Councils, and the Interstate Commissions. The Plan outlined a series of steps necessary to make a smooth transition from the CHTS to the FES: (1) side-by-side benchmarking to compare results from the two surveys, which has been completed; (2) develop and peer review a calibration model to go between the Fishing Effort Survey and the CHTS, which has been completed; (3) adjust the angler intercept survey and develop and peer review a calibration model to go between the Fishing Effort Survey and the CHTS, which has been completed; and (4) re-estimate total catch, which will be incorporated into stock assessments and management decisions. Members of the Board commend MRIP staff for their work on these very important changes to MRIP.

For more information, please contact Toni Kerns, ISMFP Directory, at tkerns@asmfc.org or 703.842.0740.

[News Contents] [Top]