Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Fish Report 12/13/11

Fish Report 12/13/11
My Bad
Pack of Dogs
In my 12/11/11 report I wrote "the fed's talking about a 10 fish cbass limit outside 3 miles" in the upper section. After researching single, individual sentences for hours in the lower "Course Correction" piece, I let that "10 fish" info in w/o checking.. Wrong. That was for scup/porgy and is probably giving someone else headaches. What will come of sea bass this year is unclear to me.
Hi All,
Wish I had some new dates to announce. Will write again as soon as there's a calm.
Sure enjoyed recent trips.
Friday we had good sea bassing with a lot of bluefish and a few spiny dogfish in between.
Monday we had good numbers and decent size sea bass everywhere, at least until getting dogged-up. Had to move often because of dogfish--Packs of 'em--before finally settling in on a piece without too many of the small sharks.
There were also a few nice cod both days to maybe 8 pounds--two of which went home w/me for dinner; and a few more shorts that were tagged with the SMAST program. (MA School for Marine Science and Tech)
Couple scup too -- No, we are not porgy fishing -- We had two (2) nice fish each day though.
Bottle of oxygen in a smoke filled room; The tax-paying/payroll making part of my business needs these winter trips. Thankfully, they're good for the soul too.
Missing Capt. Bob's service Friday wasn't.
Many tog comments focus in on poachers as a crime against the fishery, as a reason why we're in trouble with tog.
Confusing fact with fictional MRFSS catch data doesn't work -- I've been doing just that since 1998.
The reason MD can't tog fish anymore in December is MRFSS catch data.
The reason we can't fish Jan/Feb/Mar/Apr/May cbass anymore is because of the data below.
The reason our coral habitat is still off regulators' radar, despite very clear legal mandates, is because the catch data's so screwy its hard to discern truth in it--How can habitat make any possible difference if they believe in the wild swings represented by MRFSS recreational catch estimates.
Its also the reason management hasn't wondered, "Hey, what happened to all the little cbass they used to catch?"
Somewhere in this regulatory system there has to be a big desk that can see the data below for what it is.
Maybe they have a Rose Garden, can use the fertilizer.
The Marine Recreational Fishing Statistics Survey (MRFSS) is Bad Science -- Its not just destroying businesses, its destroying the reputation of fishery science & management.
Below from Fish Report 12/11/11 - "Course Correction."
The first 5 data sets have put incredible strain on recreational businesses. We have to wring the truth from it to know where we really stand and how to fix it.
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076
Sodium explodes if exposed to water, Chlorine a poisonous gas: Together sodium chloride become a beneficial mineral, table salt.
Having the Science and Statistical Committees dictate management measures without far more accurate catch data keeps the volatility of its components unmixed, explosive, poisonous to fishers..
Now Accountability Measures & Annual Catch Limits demand even finer measures, better catch estimates.
We were supposed to have the Marine Recreational Fishing Statistics Survey (MRFSS) replaced by 2009.
Hasn't happened. Below I have just a few recent samples of this Bad Science.
No one's even looking for truth that I'm aware of.
Where truth is the the foundation of science, MRFSS erodes fishers' faith in management with each wave.
The MRFSS data should be frozen in 5 to 7 year averages until it has been sieved & repaired. I was there in the bad-old-days; Fish will be fine.
It is absolutely true that using MRFSS catch-estimate data as a precise measure --especially from two-month wave data to decide seasonal adjustments in a third-tier fishery-- is unreasonable for regulation's purpose.
While I can not speak directly to estimates from outside my region, I recently had several Massachusetts for-hire fishers laugh out loud when I showed them the MA private boat estimates for wave 3, 2010 -- one of several wave spikes that have created the illusion of recent over fishing.
Just five data sets follow.
A very poor excuse for science.
Species: BLACK SEA BASS - Massachusetts - Wave 3 - May/June - Private Boat
2003 16,282 36.6
2004 17,177 46.7
2005 53,349 32.3
2007 28,281 85.3
2008 65,376 29.1
2009 26,827 38.9
2010 221,028 31.3
2011 70,305 31.6
Species: BLACK SEA BASS - Rhode Island - Wave 3 - May/June - Private Boat
2003 1,745 46.9
2004 5,686 29.4
2005 6,160 57.2
2006 1,975 70.4
2007 3,601 43
2008 0 0
2009 989 90.4
2010 36,182 50.7
2011 0 0
Species: BLACK SEA BASS - Massachusetts - Wave 4 - July/Aug - Private Boat
2003 39,289 36.7
2004 33,003 35.5
2005 43,478 42.6
2006 27,518 44.1
2007 13,062 71.3
2008 13,548 69.4
2009 164,483 25.6
2010 138,748 35.1
2011 31,565 29.3
Species: BLACK SEA BASS - New York - Wave 5 - Sept/Oct - Private Boat
2003 101,350 31.7
2004 29,863 49.2
2005 7,749 50.3
2006 58,398 32.7
2007 42,352 25.7
2008 54,352 34.7
2009 105,256 45.1
2010 325,074 24.4
Species: BLACK SEA BASS - New Jersey - Wave 5 - Sept/Oct - Private Boat  
2003 238,830 22.1
2004 350,981 28.3
2005 73,860 43.6
2006 97,767 44
2007 18,116 69.4
2008 160,799 35.8
2009 32,815 34.6
2010 234,150 44
Just these 5 data sets, wildly divergent from the mean & incredibly divergent from the historical trend of for-hire fishers catching more sea bass than the private boat fleet; These few sets alone account 812,000 fish above the mean, a substantial part of the modern recreational quota. Just this difference is more than twice as many sea bass as the entire Mid-Atlantic party/charter fleet is said to have caught in all of 2010.
Recently, Dr. Chris Moore, Executive Director of the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, sent out a letter to recreational participants at a conference. He concluded by stating data sent in by For-Hire operators, Vessel Trip Report data--catch forms filled out every day ..that our fears are unfounded because VTRs are used to fact-check recreational catch estimates, at least for party/charter.
Um, well,
The Official Estimate for Maryland Party/Charter sea bass in May/June 2010 is Zero. I officially reported --and WOULD NOT have received fishing permits the following year had I not-- 2,026 cbass in just the first week of season. 
In 2011 I reported 848 cbass for the first 4 days I fished in May. The official MRFSS estimate for all Maryland party/charter sea bass for all of May/June is 713.
There are other boats sending this data in.
"Can't change it."  
"Not Our Fault."
"Just Following Orders."
This has to get fixed. Accountability should run both ways
The single most important aspect of VTR truthing --just a concept of mine-- is the ability to determine percentages or, via participant research, "mode-share" of catch based off VTR-verified data...
For instance, there's NO WAY Maryland private boats (here "private boat mode") EVER took more sea bass than MD partyboats -- EVER.
We could determine private boat effort accounts < 20% of MD sea bass catch and raise a red flag for closer scrutiny if that 20% is exceeded.
There's NO WAY that NJ's shore anglers caught ALL the mid-Atlantic's shore-based tog in March/April 2010 -- There's NO WAY those same NJ shore anglers caught 67,376 more tog that spring than ALL the party & charter boats in ALL the Mid-Atlantic.. In fact, the MRFSS estimate for those poor guys sitting on buckets at every Jersey jetty that spring --who typically have no noticeable catch then-- is higher than the whole year's for-hire tog/blackfish estimate for the whole coast.
That is exactly what the catch data claims.
I don't care who you are, that's dumb.
Managers, who mostly don't fish, shrug their shoulders, "Angler effort sure is hard to predict."
MRFSS is a cancer eating fisheries science from the inside.
Every state has different percentages -- Find out what they are and use the VTRs to calculate if MRFSS is even in the ballpark.
Finding the truth of catch is vital to righting our restoration strategies.
MRIP's recreational registration should be available soon. That will be an even greater tool in determining the truth of catch.  
Regulation based on data this loose creates a tremendous waste of economic potential. It scarcely does the fish any good either because alarms are ONLY raised when OVERFISHING has occurred: That's ALL management has been trained to care about.
In a better management system there would be many other considerations & attempts at truth: In a better management system the klaxon would have sounded when NJ's private boats caught 0 tautog in '07; Would have blared like an Air-Raid Horn when Maryland partyboats caught "zero" sea bass in early summer 2010.
Management needs to get real information about catch, Needs real information about habitat too; They need to look hard at physiology, age at maturity.
From a knowledge of habitat we could base a true picture of where our restoration lies based on present-day holding capacity. With knowledge of spawning-biology, philopatry (homing/natal fidelity) & engineered/protected habitat expansion we can take the Mid-Atlantic's reef fish populations higher than any historical number.
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076

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