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Bill Brings Flexibility to Fisheries Management

By JOHN GEISER
CORRESPONDENT

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr.'s, D-NJ, bill to add flexibility to the Magnuson-Stevens Act and save the summer flounder fishery should receive strong support in Congress.

The measure is designed to correct a fisheries management problem that should never have arisen in the first place: a rigid schedule for an element of nature.

The attempt typifies a growing hubris in the environmental community. Protectionists are unwilling to admit that statistics, models and beliefs have no effect on the recruitment of summer flounder this year or any year.

Management officials, backed by law enforcement, could close the summer flounder fishery in 2009, but they cannot by will or fiat put 100 million juvenile fluke in the ocean at the same time.

This is where Pallone's bill comes in. Fisheries management officials must have flexibility - the ability - to adapt to the vagaries of nature.

The Save the Summer Flounder Fishery Fund's rally in Manasquan on Monday night was designed to get additional public support for this effort.

Money is being sought from fishermen to scientifically prove what is really going on in the marine environment where fluke are concerned, and persuade Congress to pass legislation to enable management officials to adapt to change without threatening the food supply, livelihoods and recreation of those who depend on the fishery.

Pallone persuaded the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Oceans to hold an oversight hearing Dec. 5 on rebuilding overfished fisheries, particularly summer flounder.

The congressman said the fishermen who testified at the hearing convinced him that current rebuilding targets set by the National Marine Fisheries Service and mandated by Congress are unattainable in the time frame.

In other words, reaching a total biomass of 214 million pounds and a spawning stock biomass of 197 million pounds at the end of 2012 is impossible.

The estimated spawning stock biomass at present is somewhere around 93 million pounds and the total biomass around 104 million pounds.

James A. Donofrio, executive director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance, made some hard-hitting comments when he was in Washington for the subcommittee hearing.

"Fishing mortality has decreased over 80 percent, and the total stock biomass and spawning stock biomass have increased 251 percent and 280 percent, respectively," he said. "No one, not even the environmental community, can deny that this represents good progress.

"To put the summer flounder's recovery in context, let's compare it to striped bass," he continued. "During the same period from 1988 to 2004, the striped bass biomass increased 202 percent.

"As we all know, the rebuilding that occurred in the striped bass fishery has been described by NMFS, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, and many others as a rebuilding success," he added.

Despite the building of the biomass to record levels, some environmental groups claim the stocks are unhealthy and must be increased.

"Some in the environmental community are calling for a shutdown of the summer flounder fishery," Donofrio said. "In fact, one group recently called for a 10-year moratorium on all summer flounder fishing."

Greg Hueth, one of the co-founders of Save the Summer Flounder Fishery Fund, said a paramount aim of the organization is to hire fisheries biologists who will address basic problems in the summer flounder research.

These include outdated tuning indices, inadequate sampling techniques, unrepresentative data collection and unfounded modeling assumptions.

Tony Bogan, another of the founders, stressed that pressure on Congress is vital in giving management officials flexibility, and that effort will be pushed by SSFFF with as much vigor as the scientific approach.

Dave Arbeitman, also a founder of SSFFF, said contributions are pouring in to fund SSFFF's initiatives.

"We get checks in the mail every day, and more and more people are stepping up to offer their support," he said. "This is what is needed, if we are going to solve the problems in this fishery."
 

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?????????????

While I haven't seen Congressman Pallone's legislation yet, I've been told that it essentially duplicates Congressmen Jones' and Franks' bill. I really hope that's not the case, because if it is, it's a fairly good indication that Congressman Pallone's office is playing "politics" with an issue that is critical to thousands of people and hundreds of businesses from North Carolina (Congressman Jones' constituents) to Massachusetts (Congressman Franks' constituents).

Tony B., do you have a read on this?
 

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I thought that I had read that Pallone signed on as a co-sponsor on the Jones bill. I just assumed when I read the story that the paper was just stroking their favorite congress critter, by saying it was his bill.
 

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MakoMike wrote:
I thought that I had read that Pallone signed on as a co-sponsor on the Jones bill. I just assumed when I read the story that the paper was just stroking their favorite congress critter, by saying it was his bill.


Mike, that quote saying Pallone was a co-sponsor was not even a NJ paper if I remember correctly.

Nils, speak to Greg D. for specifics. Based on comments from Cong. Pallone at the SSFFF meeting last week it does not sound like a mirror of the Jones bill. Obviously some language will be the same (only so many ways to say certain things) but not merely a carbon copy. I am hoping that the concerns of both many fishermen and some environmentalists with the language (or lack thereof, depending on which one you are talking to) will be addressed in this new bill.

As to the "politics" of things, is anyone surprised that the Democrats would come out with their own version of a bill? I can go back to e-mails from Sept. where we had discussions about when a Dem or Repub would come out with a bill (the joke was "after the other one does")

In my mind, and long before any announcement of a bill from anyone other than Jones, I always assumed a Dem. version of the bill would come out and that's the bill that would grow legs and start moving. It is after all a Democratic congress. If I recall correctly I even said as much to someone on this site in an email.

So as far as Pallone's motives go, I will stay positive. As to duplication, regardless of language that is the same, in my own personal opinion things typically go better when you back the winning horse. I think it's important for us to wait until next week when the bill is supposed to be introduced and see who the co-sponsors are, read the language and make a decision from there.

Capt.TB

This post edited by CaptTB 08:35 AM 01/30/2008
 

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Pallone

Nils dont be so negative . The Jones bill needed to address some additional issue which I will not discuss on this site and Mr Jones talked to me about that at the hearing in Dec.
The Pallone bill was worked on with Jones,Frank, Pallone and RFA was there in the process. stand by for the introduction.
Jim

This post edited by RFAONE 10:51 PM 01/30/2008
 

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Jim -

I wrote "I really hope that's not the case." Nothing negative there and nothing negative meant, just some legitimate concern. We've both seen instances in DC where the best of intentions got sidetracked.

Thanks,
Nils
 

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Nils, Jim, and Tony:

Sounds like recreationals and party/charter folks are leading the way with this.

Any word on contributions from commercial folks toward the goal of funding independent scientists for more data on Fluke?

Thanks,
Mike F.
 

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flatts1b wrote:
Nils, Jim, and Tony:

Sounds like recreationals and party/charter folks are leading the way with this.

Any word on contributions from commercial folks toward the goal of funding independent scientists for more data on Fluke?

Thanks,
Mike F.

Garden State Seafood Association, one of the founders of PMAFS, is currently the single biggest contributor to PMAFS for sending Dr. Rothschild to the upcoming SAW for Summer Flounder (a number of other groups and 2 universities are also part of PMAFS and others are contributing $$ as well) SSFFF has also pledged a small amount of $$ to PMAFS, although the bulk of their funds are going to their scientific and legislative endeavors.

Capt.TB


This post edited by CaptTB 10:19 AM 01/31/2008
 

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Thanks for that Tony.

It just seems from earlier comments (see below) that the recs and comms share the same goals here (updated data) and should be working together - literally pooling money into the same fund with the same stated purpose.

Yet it seems as if one hand doesn't know what the other is doing...

Best,
Mike F.


NilsS wrote:
Tony's dead right on this, and it's not just about fluke, but about who will be fishing and how they will be fishing in the future (and whether those decisions will be made by the fishermen or by a bunch of the Big-Oil Main-line mega-rich and their minions).

Bottom line - we need better science and better laws, and nobody's going to give them to us, we're going to have to get 'em ourselves.

Ref the science, one thing I'll strenuously suggest is that we want scientists on our side who can - and do - get along with the NMFS and Council people, particularly the front-line people. Doing it by confrontation, though undoubtedly more instantly satisfying, isn't the way to get it done, 'cause it's the government people's game, their ball, their field, their concession stand and their scoreboard. We have to aim for the point where our people are a cooperating part of the management process, and that's not impossible, though a bit more difficult to do. And more expensive.

And it can't be a one-shot deal. The scientists you hire this week have to be around for forever, and you have to be collecting money to pay 'em forever. And if their money doesn't come from the fishing industry, they aren't working for the fishing industry. Simple as that.

Togmaster, we're never going to have all the answers, but the more we do have, the better we can make the management system.
 

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flatts1b wrote:
Thanks for that Tony.

It just seems from earlier comments (see below) that the recs and comms share the same goals here (updated data) and should be working together - literally pooling money into the same fund with the same stated purpose.

Yet it seems as if one hand doesn't know what the other is doing...

Best,
Mike F.

I disagree. We know exactly what PMAFS is doing and who is doing it, and SSFFF is an open book. As each step is taken by SSFFF it's immediately posted on the WWW. PMAFS itself is a long term effort (answering Nil's point about constant presence) but is currently starting with an effort that is the first step in the long term process, but also has short term potential benefits. SSFFF is accentuating that with it's efforts to some degree, and taking a more detailed approach towards dealing with the immediate problem. One has a primary focus of assuring there is a long term, the other is designed (assuming it works as designed) to make sure the long-term stays that way.....long-term. To me they are in perfect sync.

I do not know where you get the impression that one does not know what the other is doing but nothing could be further (farther?) from the truth. Especially since many of the participants are actively involved with both efforts. SSFFF is unique from PMAFS in that it is dealing with the legislative issue at hand, something PMAFS was never intended to do nor is it capable of doing, and it is also a one trick pony. PMAFS is a long-term cooperative research project, SSFFF was created to deal with an impending issue, period.

Mike, PMAFS stands for the "Partnership for Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Science" It was started several years ago by RFA, United Boatmen, GSSA, Rutgers" to be a mirror of the North East Consortium, but obviously for Mid-Atlantic fisheries. In the time since it started it is now made up of RFA, United Boatmen, JCAA, GSSA, Rutgers, Cornell and perhaps a few I am missing. UB NY has been actively soliciting funding as have others, and it is designed to do research/scientific work in fisheries where the existing science is either lacking, questionable, non-existent or all of the above. Funded both privately and through grants and federal/state ear-marks. (at least, that is the goal long-term)

Capt.TB

This post edited by CaptTB 12:00 PM 01/31/2008
 
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