Battle brewing over flounder limits based on disputed study

August 27, 2015 — Yet another clash between commercial and recreational fishing interests is coming to a showdown, this time over southern flounder and it now involves the North Carolina General Assembly.

On Aug. 20, 13 legislators, led by Sen. Bill Cook, R-Beaufort, sent a letter to Division of Environmental and Natural Resources Secretary Donald van der Vaart asking him to rescind the authority he gave to the North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission to “vote on stock-reduction policies that would have grave economic consequences to commercial fishermen statewide.”

The battle over harvesting southern flounder has been percolating for the past few years. Certain recreational fishing interest groups, particularly the Coastal Conservation Association, have called for a massive reduction in catches of the fish, including a complete ban on commercial harvesting.

 Things heated up even more when a DMF-commissioned stock assessment of southern flounder released in January was rejected by a peer-review panel consisting of Dr. Steve Midway of Coastal Carolina University, Erik Williams of the National Marine Fisheries Service and Genny Nesslage of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission — the latter two federal or federally chartered entities.
                                                          
Read the full story at the Outer Banks Voice
                                                                                    

Gulf of Maine shrimp fishery may allow fewer fishermen in future

August 26, 2015 — Gulf of Maine shrimp might come back on the market eventually but there could be fewer fishermen catching them.

Regulators are considering putting a limit on the number of shrimp fishermen, which include a small number of fishermen from Gloucester and other portions of Cape Ann, who can participate in the Gulf of Maine’s beleaguered shrimp fishery in an attempt to revive the shuttered industry.

A board of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is developing a proposal to control the number of fishermen who can fish for the shrimp that are prized for their sweet, tender meat. The plan will likely be the subject of public hearings next year, and could apply as soon as the 2017 fishing year, said commission spokeswoman Tina Berger.

The fishery has been shut down to shrimping since 2013 because of historically low levels of recruitment and spawning which has left the shrinking shrimp population in a perilous state.

Read the full story from the Associated Press at the Gloucester Daily Times

 

 

NOAA Fisheries Seeks Comments on Proposed Rule for Atlantic Herring

August 27, 2015 — The following was released by NOAA Fisheries:

NOAA Fisheries is seeking comments on proposed measures for limited access herring vessels as part of the Atlantic Herring Fishery Management Plan. The New England Fishery Management Council recommended these measures to improve catch monitoring and address discarding in the herring fishery.

These proposed measures would require:

  1. Fish holds to be certified and observers to collect volumetric catch estimates for a cross-check of vessel and dealer data;
  2. Fish holds to be empty of fish before leaving port, unless a waiver is issued by an authorized law enforcement officer when fish have been reported but cannot be sold;
  3. Slippage (i.e., catch discarded prior to sampling by an observer) to be reported via the vessel monitoring system;
  4. Moving 15 nautical miles following an allowable slippage event (one due to safety, mechanical failure, or excess catch of spiny dogfish); and
  5. Terminating a fishing trip and returning to port following a non-allowable slippage event (one for any reason not listed above).

We have concerns with the proposed measures 1 and 2, above. We are seeking public comment on the justification for these proposed measures and whether the utility of the measures outweighs compliance and enforcement costs.

Read the proposed rule as published in the

Federal Register. Submit your comments online through regulations.gov, or send your comments by mail to:

John Bullard

Regional Administrator, Greater Atlantic Region

National Marine Fisheries Service

55 Great Republic Drive

Gloucester, MA 01930.

 

 

Fishing managers taking comments on changes to herring rules

August 25, 2015 — PORTLAND, MA — Federal fishing managers are looking for comments about the issue of localized depletion in Atlantic herring fishing.

Localized depletion is when fishing takes more fish than can be replaced locally or through migration. The request for feedback comes as the New England Fishery Management Council is working on an amendment to make sure future Atlantic herring catch limits are based on “scientific uncertainty” and the status of the herring stock.

Read the full story at the New Jersey Herald

New England fishermen say federal money needed for monitors

August 25, 2015 — Federal fisheries regulators want fishermen to pay to have somebody watch what they catch and what they throw back.

And, while Gov. Charlie Baker told federal officials last week that they should foot the bill, local fishermen are hoping the state will reconsider and use its share of federal disaster money to pay for the observers required on commercial fishing trips.

The extra eyes on deck cost $710 daily, and fishermen say that hits smaller vessels especially hard.

“What small business can afford to be $710 in the hole before they even open their doors?” Chatham fisherman John Our said.

Expenses are already high for fuel, crews, bait and gear, fishermen say. Haddock, though plentiful, are too far offshore for them to catch, and their traditional species of choice, cod, have disappeared from local waters, mired at historically low population levels.

Cape boats now have to travel farther to catch monkfish, or land skates and dogfish from local waters at just a fraction of the price of cod.

A typical skate trip, at 35 cents per pound and grossing $1,100, would be left with less than $400 to split between the boat and crew, said Chatham fisherman Jan Margeson.

“We don’t gross enough money to afford this,” said Margeson, who proposed allocating federal disaster money to fishermen who actually carried observers.

The fleet will pay an estimated $10,000 per vessel annually to cover the cost of the observers, but its fishermen catch very little of the groundfish species that are in trouble, Our said.

Read the full story at the Cape Cod Times

 

No changes to monitors, Bullard says

August 18, 2015 — Who says no one writes letters anymore? The battle over at-sea monitoring and other issues within the Northeast multispecies groundfish fishery is just full of them.

On Tuesday, NOAA Regional Administrator John K. Bullard sent a letter to the New England Fishery Management Council declining two more requests the council made in June to modify the at-sea monitoring program, while saying the request for analyzing ways for streamlining the at-sea monitoring (ASM) program is underway.

On Monday, Gov. Charlie Baker, following up on his pledge made last Thursday during a trip to Gloucester, waded further into the at-sea monitoring fray with his own letter to U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, whose department oversees the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Baker’s letter, signed by members of the state’s congressional delegation, sought Pritzker’s support for NOAA’s continued funding of ASM rather than following through with the federal agency’s plan to shift the cost of at-sea monitoring — estimated at $600 to $800 per observer trip — to the already-beleaguered permit holders when federal funds run out, projected now to be at end of October.

Baker’s letter also questioned the necessity of NOAA’s expansion of other forms of monitoring within the Massachusetts and New England lobster fleets.

Bullard’s letter on Tuesday to NEFMC Executive Director Tom Nies followed the same rejective tone as his letter about two weeks ago that rejected the council request — also made at its June meeting — for NOAA to use its administrative authority to suspend all groundfish at-sea monitoring for the remainder of the 2015 season.

 

Read the full story at the Gloucester Daily Times

 

 

NOAA Fisheries Announces 2nd Reduction in Northern Red Hake Possession Limit

August 19, 2015 — NOAA Fisheries announces that the possession limit for Northern red hake will be reduced from 1,500 lb per trip to 400 lb per trip effective on Monday, August 24. This revised possession limit will be in effect for the remainder of the 2015 fishing year (April 30, 2016) to ensure the total allowable landings will not be exceeded.

The northern red hake possession limit must be reduced from 1,500 lb to 400 lb when landings for the fishing year reach or are projected to reach 62.5 percent of the total allowable landings.
Read the rule as filed in the Federal Register, or read the permit holder bulletin on our website.
Questions? Contact Reid Lichwell, Regional Office, at 978-281-9112 or reid.lichwell@noaa.gov.

Tuna Fishermen and Boaters Advised to Watch Out for Whales

August 19, 2015 — NOAA Fisheries reminds all fishermen and boaters to keep a safe distance from whales. Whales can get hooked in tuna rigs or tangled in monofilament line. We recommend boaters keep a distance of at least 100 feet from all whales (and at least 500 yards from endangered North Atlantic right whales, as required by federal law).

 In recent years, we have received increasing numbers of reports of tuna fishermen trolling their gear too close to humpback whales. This can result in injuries to both the whales and the people.

 Humpbacks create bubble clouds to corral their prey, and then lunge through the center to swallow the small fish. Fishermen or boaters in these bubble patches run the risk of colliding with a massive 79,000-pound humpback whale as it rapidly approaches the surface. When a whale collides with a vessel, it can be gravely injured and die from its injuries. Collisions with whales have also thrown boaters from vessels, causing injuries and even death.

 In addition to the potential risk of a collision, the close proximity of a boat may cause a whale to stop feeding. All whales in U.S. waters are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which makes it illegal for people to harm, injure, kill, chase, or harass whales or any other marine mammal. Harassment includes any activity that results in changes to the whales’ natural behaviors, such as feeding. Penalties for Marine Mammal Protection Act violations are fines of up to $20,000 and up to one year in prison. In addition, some whales are protected under the Endangered Species Act, such as North Atlantic right whales, humpback whales, and fin whales.

 Get more information on safe boating near whales.

Stock assessments important for fish and fishermen

August 14, 2015 — Why was the striped bass limit cut to one fish?  Why are you allowed to take 9″ scup from select shore areas and the minimum is 10″ from a boat and other shore areas?  And, why have we been restricted to one black sea bass all summer?

The answer to these and similar questions lies, in part, with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) ability to manage and prioritize fish stock assessments for recreational and commercial fisheries so fish managers can make decisions based on the best available scientific information.

Earlier this month NOAA released a final version of a new stock assessment prioritization system.  NOAA manages over 500 fish species nationally but only has the recourses to conduct about 200 fish stock assessments a year with its partners.  So, they had to develop an objective and transparent way to prioritize assessments.  Details of the final assessment system report can be found at www.st.nmfs.noaa.gov/stock-assessment/stock-assessment-prioritization.

Stock assessments are fundamental to the sustainable management of our Nation’s fisheries. They represent the best scientific information available used to determine the status of fish stocks and guide the setting of harvest regulations that prevent overfishing and attain optimum yield from our Nation’s fisheries.

Read the full story at the Cranston Herald

 

Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council Decision to Reallocate Red Snapper Hurts American Consumers and Provides False Hope to Recreational Anglers

August 13, 2015 — The following was released by Share the Gulf:

Today the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Gulf Council) voted to reallocate several hundred-thousand pounds of red snapper away from the commercial fishing sector to the purely recreational sector. Share the Gulf is coalition of more than 44,000 chefs, restaurateurs, conservationists, seafood suppliers, commercial fishermen and consumers that has opposed the proposal.

“The vast majority of Americans do not own an offshore boat; they access the fishery through their favorite restaurants and grocery stores. This vote erodes their right to this shared American resource and hurts the businesses that provide it to them. Thankfully thousands of chefs, fishermen and seafood lovers made their voice heard or this could have been much worse,” said Stan Harris, CEO of the Louisiana Restaurant Association.

The proposal, known as Amendment 28, has gone through numerous iterations as it has been under consideration by the Gulf Council for years. Currently the red snapper fishery is divided almost 50-50 between the commercial and recreational sectors. Some alternatives considered in Amendment 28 could have shifted millions of pounds of fish and done untold damage to commercial fishermen, the seafood supply chain, restaurants and grocery stores.

“I voted against this because it takes millions of consumer meals off the market while not even providing a full extra day of fishing for recreational anglers. Some on the council were trying to shift millions of pounds of red snapper, so this could have been worse had people not stood up and fought for their right to access the fishery even if they don’t own a boat,” said David Walker, a commercial fisherman from Alabama who also sits on the Gulf Council.

“This was a poor decision by the Gulf Council because it hurts consumers and local businesses while not actually helping fisherman. Recreational management is so broken that this will not give them more than one extra day of fishing. Hopefully, now that this distraction is finished, we can focus on fixing the management system to give private anglers the fishing opportunities they deserve,” said Jason DeLaCruz, owner of Wild Seafood Company in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Read the release from Share the Gulf