Thursday, January 13, 2011

Fish Report 1/13/11

Fish Report 1/13/11
Going MLK Day Too
Overfishing Ended - Yippee?
Philosophy Examined 
Hi All,
Fishing Section:
We'll go Saturday (sold-out), take a lay-day, then try Monday, Martin Luther King Day, too.
Tog Trip - Monday, January 17th, 2011 - 6 AM to 5 PM - 11 Hours - Crabs Provided - $150.00 - 14 Sells Out 
Fisheries Philosophy Section: Party Boat Skipper vs. World Renowned Scientist.
This may not go well....
Though it really is a balanced article, this piece hit me in a sour way. Read, "Is Overfishing Ended? Top US scientist says yes"   
Hurray, Dr. Murawski claims overfishing is ended..
Sounds good; Except there has to be some fishing for overfishing to occur.
All those fancy numbers; A pretty press release; Great article picked up by the AP.. Overfishing Ended.  
Near as I can tell there ain't much difference between ending-all-fishing and ending-over-fishing.
I promise it's a great huge leap from there to a restored fishery: In no way should 'ending over-fishing' be construed to necessarily mean 'good fishery management' has occurred.  
We certainly can't overfish weakfish. No legal ones to catch. Hasn't been for 20 years. The fact that there hasn't been overfishing on weakfish here in forever has neither restored fish nor fishery.
Overfishing ended on Atlantic Mackerel back in the early 90's too.
Used to be a huge big deal; Three weeks to a month or so of incredible fishing. TV station film-crews, Newspaper coverage; All the boats loaded with people. 
In 1981 I made 78 dollars one day cleaning mackerel at a dime apiece..
That early spring fishing was incredible for as long as anyone could remember.
Soon; no one will remember.
Management made a deal with foreign processors for US trawlers to harvest this "Underutilized Species," Atlantic mackerel. 
That deal happened in 1992 if I recall, management created & then ended overfishing in about 7 weeks.
Haven't had the fishery since.
Still, one quote from Jay Lindsay's overfishing article really highlighted the disconnect between file-cabinet and smelly-cooler for me: "It's a nearly ironclad rule of fishery management that species become far more abundant when they're being fished at the appropriate level..." Dr. Murawski 
Murawski's been doing this a long time. His is a very well-respected philosophy. Though I disagreed with his overall view of 'overfishing ended' as a milestone achievement, I couldn't agree more with that one statement, "..that species become far more abundant when they're being fished at the appropriate level.."
That is exactly why ending overfishing doesn't accomplish a dern thing; Why overzealous management has our region's reef fish in retrograde.
In fact --next to habitat restoration & creation-- understanding exactly what Dr. Murawski's 'ironclad rule' can do for fisheries restoration is key to getting fishermen out of this management-created purgatory.  
I think the "ironclad rule" goes out the window when a stock ages--when a population's average age is normal; That the near-miracle of increased production--and therefore more abundance--occurs within finite areas of habitat and is a phenomenon arising from within a particular school of fish or --larger-- a regional sub-stock; That for management to make use of the "ironclad rule"  they must have, A) New habitat settled primarily by young fish, or B) A fish population whose average age is (perhaps well) below the mean spawning age of a stock in stasis, Fish whose average age is far younger than an unfished stock at habitat holding capacity: It's ironclad now; If production is enhanced by the proper level of fishing, Then production must therefore taper when the stock structure mimics an unfished population..
If "..species become far more abundant when they're being fished at the appropriate level.." then it follows that a stock with no fishing - or no 'overfishing' - will generate less production; That a species with a large size limit short-circuits the ironclad increased production effect; That although less numerous because of fishing pressure, this over-managed population loses the ironclad rule's benefit because youngsters' impetus to spawn younger disappears when surrounded by older fish..
I believe it is when fish encounter fishing pressure --or some other spike in mortality-- that they spawn earlier -and- it is the average age of nearby fish that turns on/off these earlier spawning urges.  
It is because black sea bass are protogynous hermaphrodites -they all begin life female and only some turn male- that the effect is fairly easy to see.
I very seriously doubt he'd agree with me but Dr. Murawski's ironclad rule is PRECISELY why I saw this region's cbass population climb so miraculously when I was pondering why in the Billy Blue Blazes places I had fished for years were growing: Not only was the actual area of habitat expanding due to lessened trawl pressure, but with the then 9 and 10 inch size limit every fish over 8 months or so of age was in the spawning class. 
Now every 3 year old is..
And habitat has diminished.
Managing for habitat expansion and using fishing pressure to force early spawning will create mega-stocks.
It is PRECISELY where management is not going.
But so badly needs too.
It is this ironclad rule--and my observations of it on artificial reef--that allow me to boast 'We can take any reef fish above historical population.'
Conversely, Dr. Murawski's ironclad rule also illustrates nicely why more & more & more catch-restriction has less & less effect.
Every species will have a balance point that maximizes the surplus production effect. We've exceeded it with sea bass; In management's exuberance to stay within MRFSS based overfishing guidance we have now lost the 'ironclad' surplus production benefit to the fishery entirely.
Ending over-fishing sounds so nice.
So does "Angler Effort Is Difficult To Predict."
Force feeding MRFSS to Council & Commission to prevent statistical-hallucinations of overfishing is Choking Industry.
Regionalize Sea Bass Management--Commercial & Recreational Quotas.
If at all possible, ignore political boundaries for eco-region division; e.g. both sides of Delaware Bay share quota & regulation; in similar fashion so should the Hudson/ LI Sound region.. 
Begin slowly lowering the cbass size limit to about 11 inches.
Protect remaining habitats.
Build more artificial reef. 
Squirrels/Trees = ReefFish/Reef.
With that foremost in mind a little management would go a long way.
Instead, more & more management is going nowhere.
We must seize the opportunity now found in sea bass to begin a new era of management: Regionalize the recreational sea bass quota.
But don't stop there..
Cheers All,
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076

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