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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Went to the joint ASMFC/MAFMC Advisors meeting yesterday in Linthicum, MD...includes of representatives from ASMFC, including Rick Cole of Delaware as chair, and the advisors consist of a variety of party and charter boat operators, and tackle shop owners, from North Carolina to New England.

Really glad I went to this one rather than the meetings next week in Philadelphia..only 3 non-panel members attended, and unlike council meetings, there wasn't a just a short period for brief public comment..I was able to make extensive comments throughout the meeting just by raising my hand. Much less formal than a council meeting. No actual decisions are made, but it's far easier to get an opinion registered than at the Council Meetings; and you still get the extensive handouts describing possible fisheries plans.

For what it's worth, the Council meetings will be on December 12th, at the Sheraton Society Hill, One Dock Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; (215) 238-6000. Summer Flounder starting at 8AM in the morning, then Porgies and Sea Bass in the Afternoon. If anyone can attend, you really should. If you can't, I believe after the meeting you may be able to review pending plans and make a comment through e-mail at Input.htm

1)SUMMER FLOUNDER (or "Fluke")

A)First off, while there is plenty of bad news, one very bright spot is that there will no longer be any differences at all between state waters regulations and federal waters (the "3 Mile Line") regulations for Summer Flounder. It's almost dead certain that the policy of "conservation equivalency" allowing each state to meet their required catch by setting their own regs will be continued; however, now, those regulations will apply beyond the three mile limit in that state too; last year regulations beyond 3 miles were far different than state waters regs, there were complexities regarding NMFS permits, etc....that has been eliminated. When you go to your state meeting to pick your regulations, you will be picking the regs for your Federal waters, too, and enforcement will be based on the home port you return to.

B) As most of us know, the overall allowed quota for flounder has been increased a lot; however, coastwide, catches were not decreased as much in 2001 as they needed to be, so most states have to implement harsher regulations for 2002. As noted, conservation equivalency will continue, but it will continue basically assigning each state a % quota of the total catch based on the catch in 1998.

Combining the total allowed increase in quota for 2002, with how much each state was able to comply with their quota for 2001, this is how much each state must reduce their catch for 2002:

MA: No cut needed, could actually loosen regulations if they wished

RI: 8.1% cut needed

CT: 8.2% cut needed

NY: No cut needed, could conceivably loosen their regulations a LITTLE bit but I doubt you'll see that done.

NJ: Must take a 24.3% cut

DE: Delaware went over their 2001 quota by the EXACT same amount that the 2002 quota was increased, so this means that Delaware can leave their regulations in place, but can't loosen them. They could, of course, lower the minimum size and have a much shorter open season, etc. but they can't make any changes that might increase catch.

MD: Must take a 13.6% cut

VA: Must take an ENORMOUS 50.5% cut

NC: No cut needed, were very close to the target.

This isn't based on a full set of data; "waves" 1-4 of the Survey Data are in; wave 5 (Sep-Oct) where quite a few flounder are caught in some states, isn't in, but reasonable projections were made; it is possible the above numbers may change a little based on wave 5.

C) Some tables were provided for each state to guesstimate what regulations states might be able to implement (assuming each state retains the same open and closed seasons it had in 2001)

NJ: As best I can tell, NJ could try 4 fish at 16.5" to make its cut. To have 16.5? but keep the 8 fish bag, the season would have to be shortened a little bit. To keep a 16" size and the same open and closed seasons from last year, NJ would have to have a bag limit of ONE fish. If NJ went to a 17" size, at 8 fish it would have about a 40% cut, so it seems if NJ went to 17" they could lengthen their season quite a bit, for example, in September, though I have no idea how much.

Again, the above are VAGUE guesses and may differ wildly from what you see offered at your individual state hearings in the spring...the general rule is?and REMEMBER this. BAG LIMITS DON'T MATTER. Unless you cut your bag to 2 fish, and no one is going to do that, statistically you can't cut your catch in any meaningful way by cutting bag limits. So don't even bother recommending your states' 20% reduction be achieved by cutting the bag limit from 8 to 6 or 8 to 4 or something and keeping the same size and season.

D) There are some "coast-wide" options proposed, but again, it seems overwhelmingly likely state by state will be done again, because coast-wide options with closed seasons inevitably screw over VA, MD, etc. However, it may be possible to have a 4 fish bag, 17.5" size, no closed season coastwide; actually, that doesn't seem that bad, since most states under 17" last year have to go to a 17.5" limit or close to it this year anyway, if state-by-state was used.

E)Long-range stuff...and this applies to all the other species...everyone in ASMFC, and MAFMC, it seems is in favor of "Multi-Year Management"...and all of the advisors, myself, and I suspect every rec fisherman is or should be...this would mean that, instead of fiddling with the regulations EVERY year, they would get fiddled with every 2 or 3 years. People are at least examining it, but fisheries management is entangled in a lot of laws, etc...and this isn't right around the corner. But it's refreshing to hear it talked about. There would be emergency clauses to break in in-between a cycle if things seemed to be getting REALLY out of whack, but otherwise, a lot of money would be saved having fewer meetings, fishermen would be less confused by having radical changes every year, etc. This is NOT going to happen this year, however.

F) One very frightening prospect is having to "pay back" recreational quota overages. This, again, is something being looked at, but it doesn't seem THAT imminent. They want comment on ideas of how to do it..and I personally don't think it can be done for a rec fishery with state-by-state quotas and only an estimate of the catch based on sampling. However, the commercials, for obvious reasons, really are very keen on having it applied to rec fishermen. I was told there was a lawsuit currently in the courts to force recs to pay back overages; I have no idea where it is or when a decision may come or how likely it is to be unfavorable; but if there WAS recreational overage payback, Virgina's rec flounder would be CLOSED in 2002. One thing to note is, because there IS no payback, Virginia really didn't "lose" anything by going matter what regs they had last year, even if they'd had a 16" or 16.5" size, they likely would have had to go to a 17.5" size this year no matter what.

G) Finally on Fluke, there was some discussion of ?slot? limits being allowed...this is also something you wont see this year...the problem is it is INCREDIBLY hard to calculate the appropriate regulations...a lot of people seem to want regs like one fish at 16? and then 2 more at 17.5? or over or something, but due to the way Flounder is managed it?s very hard to implement in a way to ensure the quota is met.

2) SCUP (known as ?Porgies? to most folks south of Massachusetts)

Not a huge deal to me personally since I fish the Mid-Atlantic (but it may be soon as there are signs that porgies may return in big numbers in DE and maybe MD very soon, as they were in the 60s) but it looks like more MASSIVE cuts. While the population is estimated to be rising very quickly, recreational catches are exploding.

A) In a change, it will be possible this year to have ?conservation equivalency? state by state, so they can choose their own regs to meet the required catch cuts. However, this will only apply in STATE waters; inside 3 miles. Thus, it will be like summer flounder last year, with differing regs in state and federal waters. There currently isn?t a plan in place, like for flounder in 2002, to allow the federal waters regs to match the state regs. Thus, each state will likely have their own porgy regs, but the regs beyond 3 miles will be the same all the way up and down the coast.

B) The overall catch must be cut by 39%.

There are 5 basic options:

a) 9 inch minimum size, 3 fish limit, and no closed season (states with higher min. sizes, i.e., Rhode Island in 2001 must keep them for 2002).

This one will obviously go over like a lead balloon for everyone and clearly isn?t going to happen.

b) 10 inch minimum size, 20 fish limit, open season from July 1 through October 3.

c) 10 inch size, 20 limit, open season from August 15 through October 26

d) 9 inch size, 15 fish limit, pen season from July 1 to September 28 (R.I. must keep 10 inch size.)

e) 10 inch minimum size, 20 fish limit, each state allowed to set its own open and closed season based on conservation equivalency.

The odds are VERY heavily in favor of e), because various states like NJ and MA fish for porgies at completely different times. People are going to riot over that min. size and bag limit but there is no way around them.

3) Black Sea Bass

I was greatly surprised this wasn?t as big a disaster as I feared; with transference of effort from flounder to Sea Bass, and much-improved Sea Bass catches, and the small (only 10%) increase in allowed quota, I was VERY afraid that in 2001 rec fishermen went WAY over. Turns out we didn?t; only need a 17% cut for next year (which is still very large.) One potential fly in the ointment is wave 5 (Sep-Oct) data is NOT in, and NJ had a very early fluke season closure this year, Sept. 11; as best I can tell, all the fluke boats switched to Sea Bass. There?s some danger of a massive wave 5 NJ catch increase gumming up the works. And NJ already catches by far the most Sea Bass of any state.

A) Unfortunately, there are NO provisions for conservation equivalency for Sea Bass. And the VAST majority of the catch is in Federal waters, outside of 3 miles. What Sea Bass desperately needs is the same rules as are now starting for Summer Flounder in 2002...lobby your local fisheries commissioners to try to get such a system in place as soon as possible. The reality is, when you have regulations including closed seasons, it is IMPOSSIBLE to come up with coastwide regulations that are fair; the closed seasons inevitably end up in the Spring and Fall, screwing southern states the most while not cutting the catch of northern states at all.

B) Here are the proposed options:

a) 11 inch minimum size, 15 fish bag limit, season open from May 24 through December 15

b) 12 inch minimum size, 25 fish bag limit, no closed season

c) 11 inch size, 25 fish possession limit, open season from June 18 through Dec 31

d) 11 inch minimum size, 25 fish limit, open season from May 24 through October 30

e) 11 inch minimum size, 15 fish limit, open season from May 30 through Dec 31

The ones with 15 bag limits are wildly unpopular; don?t expect any of those to be adopted. I would be happy with 20, myself, but expect a 25 fish bag no matter what.

Southern states are violently opposed to all the 11 in. size seasons with closed seasons in May, and also very opposed to the option closing Oct. 30; that?s the prime time and many boats are fishing for little else. Losing April is bad enough.

However, many people are strongly opposed to a 12? min. size; I personally am not, since I try to avoid fishing at times and on trips where you are sorting through hordes of shorts to have a few keepers..,I avoid keeping fish under 12? and on the boat I fish on (a 7AM-2PM headboat in Maryland) for the most part I?ve caught plenty of 13-14? fish with a few 3-4 lbers the last couple years. But I do understand many boats and in other locations are scraping along to find keepers even at 11?.

It was recommended that the board develop some options with an 11.5? minimum size and you will likely see such options at the meeting in Philadelphia; and I suspect that is what you end up with, with a season opening perhaps on May 1, and running into November sometime.

Statistically, there is no recorded catch in January and February, despite the activities of boats like the Jamaica and a couple others in NJ fishing the 18 hour, 70 mile trips for giant sea bass...MRFSS doesn?t catch them in the survey; it will be possible to have the season open in Jan. and Feb. to accommodate this fishery.


For the few that have probably read this far, let me know if you have any questions; there was a little more discussed, just got the really important stuff out.

If you DO go to the meeting in Philly..go prepared. Study the options, and give your opinion..but DO NOT:

1) Stand up and give a 5-minute rambling disorganized tirade against commercial fishing or fishermen; this serves no purpose, annoys the council members, and has exactly 0% chance of mattering. I see this happen constantly at rec fish meetings and it really wastes time. Heck, I often agree with a lot of it, but it?s simply not the place for it and really makes you look like a doofus.

2) 1,000 people could each stand up and ask for the 40%-60% recreational-commercial split of the summer flounder quota to be changed to 60%-40%, and it won?t happen. It?s not what is up for discussion at these meetings. Politics is the art of the possible; things like rec-commercial splits are deeply embedded in law and regulation, and that issue needs to be brought up with your congressman or the people on the House and Senate fisheries panels.

2,214 Posts

Thank you for a very informative report. As I see it, the more that a fish stock recovers, the deeper the cut in the quotas, due to the increased catch. This is a failed policy and I do not understand the logic to it. There are no whiting left in our waters at all, yet if it were possible, we would be allowed to sink the boat with them. There were porgies in every mud puddle this summer and yet they are proposing draconian cuts in the harvest. All this does is put further pressure on other species such as tautog, which seem to be in a decline. When will they learn to look at the "global" effect each change in policy has on the fish, instead of managing each fish on an individual basis?


26 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Basically what happens in a rapidly recovering fishery is, the stock assessments take SO long to do, that the increase in the measured biomass (and increased allowed quota to catch) lags behind the estimated recreational catch by about a year. So, the faster a stock is rebounding, the harsher the rec cuts.
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