Sunday, February 05, 2012

Fish Report 2/5/12

Fish Report 2/5/12
More Toggin
Percentage of Catch Method
New Tog Dates:
Tuesday & Wednesday - 2/7/12 & 2/8/12 - 7 to 3 - $100.00 - 12 Sells Out.
Thursday - 2/9/12 - Long Tog - 5:30 to 5:30 - $150.00 - 14 Sells Out.
Green Crabs Provided -- No Live Fish Leave The Boat.
Hi All,
I've had to cancel a few trips due to changing weather forecasts, Sunday's included. Looked good all week. Raised to 20 to 25 NE with gusts to 30 on Friday and is now just 15 to 20 NE with rain.
Nice calm coming this week; light westerlies. With high temperatures in the low 50s it should almost be like Key West
..or not.
If you're going, better to dress for forecasted lows.
Regular readers are well aware I think recreational catch data leaves much to be desired. After decades of habitat work, I began looking at catch data much more closely when the 2009 emergency cbass closure almost destroyed my business.
More than an economic inconvenience, the faith management places in recreational catch data is undermining all of fisheries restoration.
Management will not concern itself with cbass production from a new or restored 1/4 acre reef, a real annual increase of several thousand fish available to fishers; They will not worry over maximized spawning potential nor the vital need of including habitat fidelity in quota management; Not while swings of several hundred thousand fish in a state's landings scarcely merit a shoulder-shrug...
A stock assessment (fish population guess) is the basis for determining how many fish commercial & recreational fishers are allowed to take per year -- our quotas.
A large factor in any stock assessment is, "How many fish were removed since the previous assessment." This number is then compared to various scientific trawl surveys and perhaps tagging data that indicate how many fish are still out there alive..
How many fish are 'recruiting' - how many new fish have grown large enough to become legal and replace what has been caught is an important measure.
Commercial catch data comparatively firm: They sell their fish by the pound and those weights are then reported to NOAA. Sure, some catches slip through the system, but its usually a very small percentage of error compared to recreational overestimates.
Recreational catch data, however -- the Marine Recreational Fishing Statistics Survey, MuRFSS, with its fantastic assertions of catch -- has very little to offer in way of sound data ..but they all use it.
Accepted at face value by a "Stock Assessment Workgroup," spikes in catch are factored into fishery assessments.
In sea bass, for instance, I believe a minimum of 812,000 extra fish were thought removed in 2010 just from private boat over-estimates.
They never existed--were never caught, but those paper-fish were used to close part of the fishery, then used again later to "balance our checkbook" in an accounting of the sea bass population.
Large withdraws with a steady or increasing bank balance demonstrate fiscal health.
New stock assessments calculated using "withdraws" that didn't happen offer a poor measure of how many fish are recruiting; a poor measure of how a population is rebuilding.
Bad data is bad poison to fisheries science.
Now MuRFSS, ordered replaced by 1/1/09, is finally on its way out. The new Marine Recreational Informational Program -- MRIP -- discouraging so far, appears even less accurate.
I've often pointed-out insanely high estimates such as OC's shore-bound flounder fishermen catching more in a few weeks than MD party/charter will catch in 15 years; Or Massachusetts private boats catching more cod in 4 weeks than the whole coast's party/charter fleet will catch in 3 years: But this is just the visible part of recreational catch estimates' failing -- the easy part.
It runs much deeper.
I believe every recreational fishery has traditional percentages that can be assigned; That MD sea bass, for instance, are usually divided more than 80% party/charter and under 20% private boat. Sure, there are annual variances, but it would take a fantastic increase of boats for private boaters to suddenly take as many cbass as MD charter/party..
Whether striped bass in Rhode Island, fluke in New York, croakers in Virginia, or blackfish in New Jersey; there's a simple percentage that's generally caught by the for-hire fleet.
And, importantly, for-hire fishers surrender catch data daily, the vessel trip reports -- VTRs.
Certain their MRFSS/MRIP catch estimate models are founded upon sound statistical principals; I am often amazed at the derision, the condescension expressed by fisheries staff concerning Vessel Trip Reports. With officially sanctioned MRFSS catch estimates of even 1.5 million fish too high; some in management think our legally required daily Vessel Trip Reports unfit to paper-train a new pup..
North of Cape Cod there is a looming closure--or regulations so tight that their cod fishery may as well be closed.
I've done a bit of work with it because I know their pain.
I asked Capt. Greg Mercurio of the Yankee Capts what he thought the percentage division was of private/for-hire caught cod. Not surprisingly, he thought private boats never exceeded 10% of the total recreational cod catch where he fishes -- even in high-summer; that For-Hire boats catch more than 90% of recreational cod.
Below you'll find two MRFSS data sets for NJ sea bass. Strikes me that early MRFSS data showed these for-hire/private boat splits more cleanly. That, over time, the private boat percentage of catch has grown terrifically, while party/charter's dwindling numbers instead show management's intended effect of reduced catch.
Yes, there are more private boats than 30 years ago, but there's not 10X more ..or 100X more. Regulation should noticeably affect these angler's catch too.
Numbers below are the actual data sets for all cod caught, including releases, from Rhode Island to Maine. (for the first time ever, in the new cod stock assessment all recreational released fish count as dead)
For-Hire - 2010 - Maine to Rhode Island - MRIP: 438,244 -- MRFSS: 452,791
Private Boat - 2010 - Maine to Rhode Island - MRFSS: 2,614,257 -- MRIP: 1,142,379
Lets say Capt. Greg is spot-on, that private boat cod catch rarely even approaches 10% of the party/charter catch and could never be greater..
Using percentages of recreational catch derived from the MRFSS For-Hire estimate, there would have been between 43,824 & 45,279 private boat cod caught in 2010
..that's 2,568,978 less than the MRFSS estimate.
At an average of 5.83 pounds per fish (derived from MRFSS data) this represents 15 MILLION pounds of fish that recreational fishers never caught in 2010
..but are factored into the stock assessment
..are used to calculate recreational quota
..6,804 metric tons in 2010 that didn't happen
And, because there are still fish out there that show up in other aspects of stock assessment; despite short-term pain, over time recreational over-estimates lead to higher commercial quotas -- where stocks are thought to be taking tremendous hits from rec fishers yet are still 'rebuilding' -- filling commercial quota with real catch is a far more factual business.
Recreationally, we put fewer & fewer on the dock while taking the blame for more & more
..and get less & less.
Summer Flounder?
It would be very simple to discover what fishers think recreational percentages are, then build comparative data sets with VTR data. Where there is great divergence, examination is needed.
Management will not concern itself with reef production, with maximized spawning potential, nor the vital need of including habitat fidelity in quota management; Not while swings of several hundred thousand fish in a state's landings scarcely merit a shoulder-shrug...
Bad data is bad poison to any science.
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076
Species: BLACK SEA BASS - NJ - All For-Hire - Total Annual Catch - MRFSS
2000 1,079,453 17
2001 1,393,976 10
2002 1,185,582 10.3
2003 1,399,212 7.5
2004 670,531 11.7
2005 280,356 11.3
2006 343,429 12.5
2007 414,052 10.2
2008 214,373 8.5
2009 199,744 11.7
2010 152,037 10.5
2011 122,525 28.2
Species: BLACK SEA BASS - NJ - Private Boats - Total Annual Catch - MRFSS
2000 840,290 17.5
2001 524,531 17.2
2002 567,939 16.5
2003 504,064 16.4
2004 502,007 21
2005 386,159 22.9
2006 348,804 32.4
2007 592,154 31
2008 241,160 27.2
2009 408,594 19.7
2010 396,316 28.5
2011 (unfinished) 29,068 31.4

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