Fish Report 12/17/10
Our Darkest Hour
A Regional Plan
Lots Of Stats
I've stepped in it now.
In public comment -at the microphone- during sea bass management's debate I compared Council & Commission's use of MRFSS catch-estimates to Jack Nicholson's patients taking their pill in One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest..
There was no intent to insult when I took the mike; only to point out yet another serious flaw in MRFSS recreational catch-estimate data.
Analogy thought and spoken in unrecoverable instant, I knew I had sliced too deeply, That I had trespassed far beyond the respect I hold for all who work in Fisheries -- But especially those whose communications have helped so very much.
Of that I am sorry.
Believe me, there are people who are trying hard to make fishing better while keeping businesses alive in our darkest regulatory hour; People whose efforts are wholly unsung in a system that is difficult to work with; People who deserve this public apology for a public insult.....
More on the Council & Commission meeting in a bit. First my perspective on the 2 day Ecosystems Workshop.
Scary would be a good start.
There were lots & lots of descriptions of Agency missions, of "Partnerships" & "Next Steps" -- Screens & screens & screens & screens full of stuff I thought of as government-based eco$ystems; the fiscal components that keep oxygen, food, and a roof over some folks. Tales of adding to the mission, of piling on the work; But receiving neither money, materials or people in return were a theme..
That I did not see any use in some presentations simply reveals my ignorance of how an idea becomes reality in this multi-department/multi-agency government reality. There is no cost-free ecosystems work, no cost-free fisheries work of any kind.
It will be task enough to find key components of our marine habitat and simply preserve its remnants.
What I envision, What I endeavor to see done is to look far beyond simple preservation for restoration possibilities that offer far greater fisheries production.
There were presentations from our north & south, works far ahead of the mid-Atlantic; Their presentations of habitat & ecosystem considerations ongoing.
There were presentations from lower-down the food web that were of obvious import to me: Layer upon layer of GIS charting that screamed need of regional management, Tales of fantastic data unmined & unused because there are not enough to do the work, Charts detailing production hotspots all through the water column--Work that, again & again, decried our current regulatory convenience of coastwide data & management plans: Work that points plainly to better results from management in eco-regional division.
There was also a presentation I thought dangerous; Dangerous because 'ocean acidification' could be used as another scapegoat--Used as climate science now shows how we'll never restore Atlantic mackerel, scup nor red hake to their southern reaches
..even though we caught codfish almost every month this year; a cold-water northern species from where habitat management is begun
..even though we continue to see a decline in spadefish and amberjack; both warm-water southern species I've known to be common here.
Scup, mackerel & red hake will remain lost fisheries because of 'warming waters' despite that we could soon resume targeted cod trips--This after a 35 year hiatus..
Climate change offers excuse for Can't when there's been no effort toward Can. We should guard against 'ocean acidification' doing same.
By far the scariest part was meeting and listening to our country's coral experts, the people whose job it is to know where corals are and preserve them.
Perhaps restore them?
It was obvious that our non-reef forming corals, so important to coastal economies, have caught them unaware.
I had honestly expected to unload the job, to hand it off..
Not so much.
I hope they dig-in with their great wealth of resources - Get started.
I presented a video to the ecosystems committee that's now on the web. A simple YouTube search will find it: Maryland Corals - Nearshore Reef MAB or Capt. Monty's Reef Video.. Comes up as Capt. Monty's Promo Video 2010 with a description in the 'more details' section.
I suppose my video effort for the workshop might have been characterized as demonstrating need, of showing why ecosystem work could have profound effect on fisheries restoration; that Reef Restoration Makes Fishery Restoration Simple.
I included artificial reef tire units in the video purposefully. They are the primary reason artificial reef is viewed by most senior managers as a waste of time & money; A project of their time that, after great effort, turned to disaster.
Built mostly as mosquito control & to get rid of mountains (yes, mountains) of unsightly tires; Those tire-units were very poorly designed and sited. They broke up and to this day wash ashore in storms.
I looked into a dumpster full on Assateauge 2 years ago--took pictures; could plainly see where corals had grown..
Units built in the early 90s however, the ballasted units of 4 to 8 tires fastened together with rebar-reinforced concrete, haven't budged an inch; Are still where the Army Corps scattered & piled them; Are among the most heavily fished reef units I know of..
And offer visual evidence of even their lowly stature's contribution to our "non-reef building" coral-reef habitat restoration/preservation.
No, I don't want to revisit tires as reef.
I want rocks. Big rocks.
Lots of 'em.
Little ones too.
And concrete. We can do great things with concrete.
Steel boats as well.
I think what I absolutely failed to communicate at the workshop was this: We have thus far created thousands of square yards of artificial reef to replace square miles--millions & millions of square yards--of natural reef, Some now lost more than half a century to industrial fishing gears.
The video was met with derision by one Councilman who felt restorations were going just peachy without any habitat work.
That management has it all under control.
The next day would show how wrong he was: That fish actually are doing OK on the habitat we have..
But, because of bad MRFSS Catch-Estimate Data, and -I think- because we are trying to restore past populations to remnant habitats, fish population rebuilding mandates & deadlines are crushing recreational fishing industries.
Denied our restorations given in best faith during the Great Recession, management's unyielding use of the Marine Recreational Fishing Statistics Survey--MRFSS--has finally come to:
Hammer back. All cylinders loaded.
For many businesses the regulatory Russian Roulette of MRFSS catch-estimate data has finally come to no good choices, to no empty cylinders.
Ranging from 1 fish over a longer period to 25 fish over a few weeks & now 13 inches: Six options, six cylinders.
Each the end of all I have worked for.
Council & Commission's deliberations a slow, steady trigger squeeze.
Maryland's Mike Luisi & Howard King led the charge for regional management, regional sub-division, A temporary repair of a badly misaligned restoration plan.
Many states supported the motion. It passed.
The Chair of the ASMFC, Vince O'Shea, lent considerable weight in a room with many heroes; NC's Pres Pate too.
Not present were even more.
But it has to get done soon -this regional division- and done well.
Much more on that in my next report.
Failing succesful division, the default-measure regulations will close sea bass fishing much of the year, will ensure many party boats sell-out or file for disaster relief.
Damned if I want their relief money.
Double damned if I'll swallow their bullet.
Always accompanying these statistics for Council & Commission is the statement: "Angler Effort Is Difficult To Predict."
Says that for every MRFSS catch-estimate data set.
But no, actually MRFSS is difficult to predict.
That's why the National Science Foundation said get rid of it and NOAA did.
That's why we have MRIP's recreational catch-estimates coming into play and MRFSS leaving.
You do not need to understand the math, just look at its product. Below are some key data sets that are going to throw a pile of work on a lot of people for Christmas - A ton of work that may yet fail to produce a serviceable Regional Management Plan - A ton of work that could be flushed by a single irritated bureaucrat.. Below are key data sets that have put the whole recreational sector over-quota on cbass.
As you'll see: If you're not actually out fishing, Angler effort can be difficult to predict.
Especially in a recession.
If used to predict trends however, I'd say something is working up north..
And failing down here.
Almost as if a regional fishery situation had developed.
So ingrained is MRFSS catch-estimate's indisputable infallibility that when Maryland's flounder shore-fishers were thought to have caught what party/charter boats will catch in 15 years, That shore-bound anglers caught more in the fall--in 2 months--than all our paying clients will in all the months of 15 years: Attempts to overturn that statistic failed.
When daylight is finally cast upon this data --all recreational catch estimates-- trends will emerge that reveal billions of dollars either left on the table or given to commercial fishers because ghost-caught quota --reported catches that never happened-- gave them our fish through default.
MRFSS catch-estimates are destroying businesses, destroying faith in management, and -in using them blindly- are leaving true fisheries restoration to the same fate: Russian Roulette.
When the necessity of using biological behaviors to maximize spawning potential, Of migratory behavior to reveal the wrecking-ball that is industrial trawl effort convergence upon regional sub-stocks with habitat & spawning site fidelity, Of the so-simple idea --and so shocking!-- that sea bass, tautog & lobster live on the coral reefs which have received no attentions from any agency: All factored into management one day, I am certain billions of dollars have been squandered in our present MRFSS catch-estimate management.
An argument for eco-regional management next week.
Meanwhile, do not dare to question the validity of the catch-estimates below. What recession? Everyone's going fishing up north! And 50% of their sea bass are keepers!
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076
Species: BLACK SEA BASS - Massachusetts Private Boats - May & June
PSE is half the possible plus/minus error, As in a political poll where the complete margin of error might total 3% -- In MRFSS the PSE is half the possible error value..
TB = Shorthand for Throwback/released fish
Species: BLACK SEA BASS - Massachusetts - Private Boat - All Year -
Species: BLACK SEA BASS - Massachusetts - Private Boats - All Year- Releases Too
Kept & TB
Species: BLACK SEA BASS - Rhode Island Private Boat Landings - May & June
Species: BLACK SEA BASS - Rhode Island Private Boats - All Year
Species: BLACK SEA BASS - Rhode Island - Party/Charter - All Year
Species: BLACK SEA BASS - NY - Private Boats - September & October
Species: BLACK SEA BASS - NY - Private Boat - September & October - Releases Too
Kept & TB
Species: BLACK SEA BASS - NY - Party/Charter - All Year
Species: BLACK SEA BASS - Connecticut - July & August - Releases Too
Kept & TB
Species: BLACK SEA BASS - Connecticut Private Boats - July & August.