Saturday, January 30, 2010

Fish Report 1/30/10

Fish Report 1/30/10
A Dandy
A Wander Among The Explorers
Stop Thief!
Fishing Schedule: Toggin Again - Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday - Light Winds Forecasted - Tog Trips - February 2cnd, 3rd & 4th, 2010 - boat sells out at 12 - green crabs provided - cabin heated - leave at 7:00 for these trips (or a tad earlier) - Return no later than 3 - 3:30 (usually) - $100.00 buys a spot - Reservation a must, that phone number in signature - Email does not work for reservations - call - leave a good phone number, cell, in case of cancellation.
The Protest <> United We Fish: A Rally for the "Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act."
Local Readers: The Ocean City Fishing Center and Sunset Marina have donated a bus to go to the Fisherman's Rally Wednesday, February 24th - some seats left - $20.00 deposit - part of which may get used if more buses are required - Contact OCFC at 410 213 1121.
Hi All,
Entered two more days in the logbook. Wednesday was a great day on the water--for January. Nicked away at 'em but never saw anything pushing even 8 pounds.. an OK day though.
Weather forecast for Thursday had a front passing through late. Marine forecasts are significantly, tremendously, better than what we had decades ago. That's a great thing when scheduling short notice trips: perhaps though another hidden guvmint subsidy for the fisheries.
All along they were calling for westerly gusts to 40 in the late afternoon just north of our region..
Weather Service then changed 'late' to '1 PM' causing a twisting, lifting of an eyebrow.. 
1 PM, 11:00 AM - what's the difference.
Eh, snuck in a good bit of the day. Ran for home with no limits that I know of but a couple good fish; Greg's dandy nudging, but not quite 16 pounds; dinners, plenty of tags, and 1/2 off another trip for the clients.
We'll try again soon.........
Meanwhile, snow's piling up. Take a few minutes to read through this unique perspective of our marine fisheries management. Allow me to wander through a bit of history and use that to illuminate our errors of today..
I hold fisheries restoration as a young science. It wasn't long ago that 'working in marine fisheries' meant looking for ways to extract more wealth, more catch, from the sea. As such, that this is its beginning and nowhere near the middle, that the science involved is not well-seasoned; we can then compare marine restoration of today to the early discoverers.
Alvero Mendana (Men don Ya) discovered the Solomon Islands in 1568. He certainly took as careful note of its location as was possible. However, due to the great difficulties of finding longitude then, Philip Carteret was the next explorer to see those Islands in 1767.
..199 years later.
Neither explorer nor discoverer, Anson's circumnavigation was solely for killing & capturing--disrupting the Spanish fleet in anyway. Departing England in 1740 with 1,854 men he made good on his task, returning victoriously with treasure--and 188 men; scurvy having caused a great many deaths.
You might have thought political spin was a modern invention.. Anson killed 1,200 some people, left a bunch more behind, and was treated as a hero. 
Incredibly too, we know that scurvy was recognized, even prevented, as early as 1614 by the British through ascorbic acid; the dissemination of information just wasn't there. It would be a few years after Anson's voyage that Lind conducted one of the very first clinical trials isolating vitamin C as a cure for scurvy. It would be many years more before that work was widely adopted.
A chain of islands, treatment of a horrid malady: both 2 centuries in cementing upon the world's knowledge.
Copernicus anyone?
Information in our era travels faster and faster, is more easily tested for accuracy.. Then tales of new-found lands, the northwest passage, sea-airs causing a man's gums to rot, even sea-monsters had to be considered no matter how factual or fabricated they were: nearly anything was thought possible.
..speaking of the fabled NW passage, Amundsen first transited it from 1903 to 1906 through arduous exploration: As of 2009 it is now open to navigation for a portion of the year. Much of that cold melt-water flows to the Labrador current.., I'll leave that segue alone.
Just remember, Mendana's island discovery was shelved for 2 centuries while new scientific tools were developed to find more precise location: That scurvy's cure was nailed down centuries before treatment was widely accepted... 
In the late 1990s I was trying to figure out how our black sea bass population had grown so huge in such a short period; why areas that I had fished for long years were getting larger, that the actual fishable reef footprint was increasing--Why I had gone from anchoring with exacting precision over a couple rocks to, in that specific locale, drifting long distances while catching a fish I have yet to catch over sand.
What was going on?
We had our nine inch size limit, that was obviously working. Hook scars & tag returns were conclusive, but live releases didn't explain anywhere near these far-far greater numbers of fish.
Nor the expansion of reef-like habitat..
Inconceivably, according to Kurlansky as early as the year 1376 complaints were made to Parliament about habitat loss from towed fishing gear.. Another author even claims two fishers were executed in 1583 for using chains on their beamtrawls -- too destructive of the seabed. 
..The several century information lag stretches to six when the subject of the science is covered with water? Or, is that unfair since fisheries restoration is so new.. Is it new after all?
I think that our region's expansion of sea bass--where in the 1980's we had months when we knew we may only catch 7 or 8 fish a day, to, in those same months, having trips with 7,000 & 8,000 fish caught, but mostly released, by the late 1990s. I think this population explosion was primarily fueled not by our self-imposed catch restrictions, but by seafloor habitat expansion due to meager summer flounder quota regulations that kept trawl effort inshore allowing cobble-sized rocky bottoms further out to recolonize with reef growth.
I promise this, there was a lot of newly grown reef in less than 120 feet of water by 1999.
That good fortune lost, much of it is was again impacted.
Yet other areas are presently regrowing.
It seems to take the better part of a decade of no stern-towed gear impacts for growths to have colonized where the ecological function of reef is fully restored.
I couldn't begin to grasp that until I lowered an underwater camera.. Some videos on my website.. There's a large and growing body of marine science focused on just this issue.
True Statement - Currently our science has no hard-bottom reef habitat in the nearshore waters of the Mid-Atlantic.
Virtually every recreational & commercial fisher will vigilantly man their respective ramparts at the least whisper of 'protecting' areas of the ocean - those wicked Marine Protected Areas - MPAs.
As Anson was held aloft as a hero yet allowed his surgeons to kill so many crew by their ignorance of vitamin C -- So too do we glorify succesful fishery rebuilding by the harshest of catch regulation stemming from poor understanding.
Those who would most benefit from utilizing vitamin C's preventive effects and now habitat protections fight for their right to remain reef-free, No Lemons! No MPAs! We'll never prevent a gear impact via habitat protection through gear protected areas, we'll forever allow the Russian roulette of reef loss and re-growth dictated by the whim of fishing effort in a destructive class: Dogma carved in stone, we shall allow no MPA to pass--except striped bass in the EEZ of course..
Our data-poor science hidden by water, it would never withstand shoreside scrutiny: the parade and applause of rebuilding's victory hides the tragedy of conquest's cost, its celebrants remain ignorant of what heights could be achieved, its users fated to cycle with ill-found regulation.
One of the greatest discoverers, a man who actually did what he was credited with; Cook's famous voyages were, I believe, the first circumnavigations to be completed without serious incidence of scurvy. This the late 1760s, he didn't quite have the reasons down-pat but his efforts of innovation returned rewards that many would try to duplicate. One can assume his charges were glad to have lived.
Anson's voyages seeking conquest and submission, despite the celebration of his trophies on return, resulted in death.
Fishing businesses are going to fold - are folding - despite some fish stocks being considered rebuilt, despite that 'dwindling' is the very poorest choice of adjective for these fish populations. It is now, in 2010, that history will have to decide if fishery managers were, like Cook, innovators utilizing flexibility when tasked with discovering solutions; or as Anson who adhered rigidly to the letter of ill-cast orders, causing subordinates' deaths in pursuit of the King's wants..
Both were well regarded in their time: History has not been as kind.
The great untruth of our present day restoration effort remains as Mendana's islands, discovered but still below our collective knowledge threshold. Lindholm, Auster & Kaufman's "Habitat-mediated survivorship of juvenile cod" should have been enough to pound it into management's thought process. 
Fish production--the success of their spawn, that young fish are growing-in to replace what has been taken--can not be separated from habitat.
In the United States, in the 21st century, fishery management has yet to put that simple notion into use in the Mid-Atlantic.
No, we only use catch restriction.
I hold that Alabama's red snapper fishery--their huge percentage of quota--is solely the product of fishery-manufacture through artificial reef: That, given habitat fidelity, there can not be 'restoration' where previously no fishery existed: That their economic power-house, red snapper, must be thought of as created and not re-created.
The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council claims black sea bass are 103% restored, that the fish have exceeded rebuilding measures: Yet the Council has never recognized the existence of natural reef, let alone taken action to protect, enhance and conserve these habitats as is called for in federal statute.
I hold that artificial reef is, in very great part, responsible for the Council's claim of this fishery's restoration here; that without key habitat for spawning success, restoration would remain greatly delayed: That based on my knowledge of this region's sea bass fishery: Were all artificial reef removed, taken away, the fishery would instantly collapse solely from our current catch effort; that the shipwrecks and remnants of natural reef alone could never support even a fraction of our current landings.
I also hold that if all the players in fishery restoration ever seize upon this idea we'll exceed our present concept of what the cbass population could be; that habitat theory transfers directly to many fisheries: Indeed, must benefit nearly all.
On public property, the fruits of our artificial reef building must be shared with those that never help lift, that only lean; that never donate nor work, that only extract. Now these fruits are being taken, denied to us, by those who need claim them for their paperwork too, who need meet a restoration target but fail to understand the underlying mechanics of habitat for their success.
I have cried "Stop Thief!" for some 6 months now trying to recover the fishery which I have worked so hard to restore. In coming weeks we may see the quota doubled; this, thankfully, some extension of our meager two month sea bass season.
But we will not get all of our sea bass season back..
The fishery is now restored from scratch to beyond expectations and was never closed but a week or two -- all while never-ever considering that reef-fish might need reef as squirrels need trees. 
Its a disgrace that fishing businesses must now face, even with a doubled quota, a great loss of season.
Despite any plea of ignorance, there is no worse theft than that granted through authority of the Federal Government.
Stop Thief!
There will be many reasons why fishers and their friends will go to the Capitol steps on February 24th. I am going because we must restore flexibility to the Magnuson Act: We must allow science to discover a better method of restoration before all the teeth have fallen from the rotting, scurvied gums of America's fisheries.
Its not about habitat. Its not about recreational/commercial conflict. Its not about MPAs. Its about restoring stability to regulation. Its about calming the waters so that innovation can find its way back into the process: We must have the Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act.
Having read this far, you likely have some interest in the outcome of this fight. Write a letter, another letter, to your favorite DC representative. CC your State fisheries staff. I promise this: The all-time king of astroturf -not real grass roots- environmental organizations, Pew, will be steadfast in their opposition. That will cause other--even fully habitat oriented--organizations to meekly toe the line no matter the truth, no matter our ignorance, no matter that the solution to fisheries' scurvy lies well in hand but unused.
I say "Screw you Pew." So long as I have rocks on which to write the truth I shall load my sling
..and press send.
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076

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