Thursday, November 08, 2012

Fish Report 11/8/12 - No Response

Fish Report 11/8/12 - No Response
Sea Bass Remain Closed
Hi All,
Boat's back in the water. Too nasty to do anything else Wednesday as that Nor'Easter brushed by.
Still have a lot of painting to do. Mostly primed, finish paint should all fall into place as weather warms this week & early next.
Hope to get some tog trips in before they close; We're hustling. Time lost to weather & advocacy not terribly helpful.
Among many, I recently sent a letter to my Senators, the Governor, Under-Secretary Lubchenco & Commerce Secretary Blank advising them tax payments for the year would likely cease and, though I'm proud to pay the lowest possible rate of unemployment insurance because I work my crew year round, my rate would likely increase; if, that is, I can keep the business afloat.
Its not a lot of money & I doubt they care.
I've not had an official response to my requests for data review or expanded northern habitat's effect on our sea bass population. Am talking with managers - even high up - but I have no idea if "Please Let Us Have Our Sea Bass Back" is getting any traction.
Please really hasn't worked very well.
This black sea bass closure is based on the same sort of recreational catch data I have shown time & again to be inaccurate; often much worse than an educated guess.
It takes no time at all to dig up fresh meat, to find other estimates easily presented to the public for what they are.
Neither science nor sound statistic, Recreational Catch Estimates become like a pry-bar in a burglar's kit. Because NMFS will suffer no examination of this data, Will offer no test except whether an estimate exists on screen, Will not endure the least public scrutiny in management's use of MRFSS/MRIP as hard data; With this pry-bar they pilfer windows of season, raise size limits; steal our fisheries in dark of night.
"But MRIP is so much better!" they say.
I don't think its any better. I think it's using precisely the same measure of angler effort as MRFSS. That's why we had the "Angler Registry" the saltwater fishing license. I supported the license because I know it will upend these outrageous catch estimates when they use a realistic angler effort. I'm certain many of the new MRIP estimates stray farther away from reality than MRFSS ever did, while others are far too low.
Rhode Island, for instance, offers excellent tautog fishing. I see their spring season runs all of May. I know guys who charter boats up there; have listened to their wonderful tales.
Our nation's catch estimating system somehow missed out on Rhode Island's for-hire fishery. Although they have as many as 25,000 tog being caught during May/June from this small but very rocky coast: from 2004 to 2012 the official MRIP catch estimates have exactly 70 tog being landed by charter/party in wave 3, May/June for the entire 9 year period. The old program, MRFSS, was a bit more aggressive, estimating catch in those same 9 years at 85 tog.
I should imagine we could find that in a single day's fishing aboard one RI party boat.
Then too, in with my favorite tautog estimate where NJ's shore-bound tog slayers from 1994 to 2008 are estimated to have landed zero/no fish in Mar/Apr yet in 2010 are said to have caught 72,000 -- While these anglers snuck under the wire with the old MRFSS estimating program, Our nation's newest program, the one mandated by congress as a repair: MRIP exposes the real truth of their catch. From 1990 to 2009 the Mar/Apr NJ Shore Tog Total Equaled 11,000 Tog Landed. In 2010 it moon-launched to 173,000...
19 years = 11,000 tog.
2010 alone = 173,000.
Damn Right! That's The Way America Estimates Fish!
Texas Sized!
Now, because those who see our fisheries only in a computer screen place enormous value in catch statistics, in these unpredictable & unreliable estimates so concocted in vagary that no argument for habitat can be built with them; Because They Believe NJ shore caught 173,000 & NJ private boats caught 105,000 tautog in spring 2010 ---Because these estimate are believed correct, New Jersey's For-Hire Party/Charter Skippers should receive NOAA's highest honor for marine conservation.
You see, NJ's party/charter professionals are thought to have only landed 3,000 tog in spring 2010.
That's 275,000 less tautog than NJ's more aggressive anglers caught..
Wait: Wouldn't the truth show charter/party skippers are the more aggressive fishers? Isn't the truth that there is No Truth in that estimate whatever -- None?
In Delaware the estimate runs opposite. Our nation's catch estimates claim DE's For-Hire guys took a modest 7,500 spring tog between 2008 & 2011 while that state's private boats took zero/no fish. I think DE's party/charter probably told management they caught a lot more than that and certainly shore/private boat had more than zero catch too..
In Maryland MRFSS claims our private boat guys caught 18,500 tautog in Mar/Apr 2010 but less than half that in the MRIP. Its claimed by both estimating programs that MD's jetty/shore fishers caught more tautog in Mar/Apr than all of DE's fishers put together..
Anyone even vaguely familiar with our region's tog fishery will instantly recognize there is no plausibility in that statement: Ocean City's shore-bound fishers could never catch what all of Delaware's combined tog anglers would - ever.
Maryland's combined tog effort couldn't.
With a fishery as demanding of extremely robust hard bottoms as tautog, managers could, in no way, tease out habitat's importance to this fishery from present-day catch data. A student of this data must conclude catches occur almost at random, that recreational effort is very difficult to predict and habitat variance/increase is of no measurable consequence.
Instead, we're growing tog like crazy on our artificial reefs. NMFS will thank us for our efforts with another closure and tighter regulation.
Those tog data sets are simply what I pulled up first. Next I looked at Pounds Of Sea Bass Landed.
From 1982 to 2004 Massachusetts private boats are estimated to have caught 784,000 lbs of sea bass combined--in total--all together: The entire Atlantic Coast's party/charter effort is estimated to have exceeded their 22 year cumulative total in 7 of those years and come within a 150K of that 22 year accumulation 5 more times: So, prior to 2004, Atlantic Coast party boats usually caught in a year what Massachusetts private boats would catch in 2 decades.
Now, suddenly, MA's private boats have completely reversed those earlier proportions in grand fashion, even catching more than 4X as many pounds of sea bass than the entire coast's party boats in a single year..
For 2010 our new catch estimating program, MRIP, estimates the entire Atlantic Coast's party boat sea bass landings at 139,000 pounds during May/June -- tighter regulation has had great effect. The same estimating program claims MA private boats landed 610,000 lbs in that period.
MRIP has all Atlantic Coast party boats as having caught 56,000 lbs of sea bass in the spring of 2011 while MA sporties caught 124,000..
Then in May/June 2012 all US East Coast party boat landings are estimated at 246,000 lbs while private sport boats in MA are estimated at 566,000 lbs.
Boy. What a fantastic barrel of codswallop that is...
But that's exactly why we're said to be over quota.
That's why I don't know if I can keep my crew, Keep my life's work held together until Christmas..
I do not doubt warming waters have exposed more & more rocky substrate, not only in latitude north but in fathom's depth; and I do not doubt this new substrate is being used by returning sea bass above Block Island as a spawning ground--I do not doubt they are catching more sea bass
..but these assertions of private boat catch are incredibly too high, can withstand no measure of scrutiny.
But that's why sea bass are closed.
That's why I'm wondering if I'll make payroll through Thanksgiving.
Where reduced seasons now create a shadow of our economic past, Where in the management area's southern range we are completely closed in vital spring, winter & fall seasons because these iniquitous statistics still suffer no test nor logical review: we see MRFSS/MRIP catch estimates have squandered real science's opportunity to shine.
While a more truthful measure of catch would be helpful; Reproductive Biology; Philopatry/Habitat Fidelity in regional quota; and Ecology in Population Dynamics are what fishery restorationists need most.
I was part of the cause..
When marine regulation first began, the Chesapeake Bay State (Maryland) didn't bother to publish coastal regulations. No one in Ocean City had any idea what the regulations were going to be.
Sure fishery management would do great things for fish & fisher--I was already seeing wonderful improvement; I would go around to tackle shops, collect $100.00 each and print the regs in a self-published pamphlet.
This brochure also included 'suggested' regulations like size limits on cod, spadefish & triggers. Early editions included our suggested 9 inch sea bass size limit & 30 fish creel from before state & federal regulatory action.
When data would come in slow or managers were having a time with the margin of error spread; Folks like myself who were trying to go to print and state fisheries staff trying to create in-state seasons; Simply the fishing public trying to schedule charters: Everyone would be beating Council/Commission up---Hurry!
The fix was to use statistical centerpoints to expedite regulation.
I remember well this change's effect on sea bass regulation in 1998. During a short August sea bass closure I ran clients far offshore looking for our last few 'ling-cod' - aka red hake. Clients were exposed to needless danger because we had good numbers of sea bass inshore. Regulation created only from catch estimates' misguided certainty is why we now have to explain what kind of fish it is when clients catch the odd red hake ..they've never seen one.
Expedited -- Faster -- Centerpoints made management plug & play. Put the catch estimate's centerpoint in, out comes a more streamlined management process.
A product of marine regulation's dawning days, I believe centerpoint's use is policy, not law.
Our "Best Science Available" also includes PSE -- Its part of every single estimate. Proportional Standard Error (PSE) is similar to 'margin of error' always seen in political polls.
However, where a presidential race's estimate would never see light of day if exceeding 4% - the wave/mode recreational catch estimates often carry PSEs of 60 or 70..
Just two tables: Here is Rhode Island's May/June For-Hire Catch Estimate From 2004 to 2012. Years absent are zeros. (Note the absolute certainty given in the PSE of 2008's catch.. Now That's Funny!)
Estimate Status Year Wave Common Name Total Harvest (A+B1) PSE
And Massachusetts May/June Private Boat Sea Bass Estimate - Note PSE column.
Estimate Status Year Wave Common Name Total Harvest (A+B1) PSE
In MA's 2004 estimate the real statistical answer, the whole entire answer is roughly, "Massachusetts private boats caught between 33,000 and 12,000 sea bass."
The way PSE actually works--but less well known--the number in the column represents half the full range of possible error. This 22,000 sea bass centerpoint's high side could actually run to 43,000 or 800 on the low..
A shining example of science, the 2010 centerpoint of 448,000 sea bass could actually be between 143,000 & 753,000 or --still truly correct-- between zero and well over a million sea bass landed.
Sorry boys, here's your last check.
NMFS says we're over-quota.
Delaware, Maryland & Virginia; all its recreational fishers, all together are estimated to have caught just 4% of this year's quota. With data above and plenty more just like it, this inexact science is now used to close our fishery.
I don't believe John Bullard (the new NE Regional Administrator for NMFS since Dr. Kurkul retired) has to, absolutely must, accept centerpoints; especially because they truly represent the worst estimates ever called science..
But everyone he's ever known did.
When at last we begin to use true science; Real, Honest, Quantifiable & Testable science on this coast's reef fisheries, I believe we can engineer higher populations than have ever existed--even w/o warming water's addition of thousands of square miles of granite bottom..
From NMFS-NE-143 Black Sea Bass Source Document: "Temperature, not the availability of structured habitat, appears to limit black sea bass distribution north of Cape Cod.
Where in 1977 Mercer's study had the region's sea bass fishery waning at about Block Island even New Hampshire has catch.
Whether artificial reef, allowing protected natural hard-bottoms to regrow, or warming water's northward march across boulder bottoms: Reef Restoration (& reef increase of any other kind) Makes Fishery Restoration Simple.
..conversely, using bad catch-estimate data alone is making things very rough; hard to stay afloat, destroying our economic model.
Where management thinks "recreational effort is hard to predict" we For-Hire fishers think it's fairly straightforward. Everyone in the industry has to schedule & order supplies..
Now closures based on completely unpredictable data; That's hard to predict.
Using these data sets without further consideration is killing industry, destroying businesses. This one poor crutch props up a bad excuse for science: How could we ignore Reef in a Reef-Fishes life Cycle? How could we force bankruptcy upon businesses with data no one believes? How could we ignore increasing age at maturity's vital importance to population maintenance & increase?
What will college texts write of it in future years..
What will the Washington Post write of it next week?
See a recent letter to Commerce Secretary Blank & Co below..
Thanks to all who are writing too.
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076
Greetings at the head of Commerce, of NOAA; Greetings also to the White House & Senator Mikulski & Senator Cardin's offices; Governor O'Malley's too..
Symptomatic of US reef fisheries: Sea bass north of Cape Hatteras are now closed by emergency ruling based on horrible catch estimates. My small but steady flow of tax contribution has been slowed, halted even, in this fishery's regulatory failing. I currently pay the lowest possible rate in Maryland unemployment tax because we fish year round--mostly on reefs we built ourselves ..that rate may soon have to go up; or cease being paid altogether.
While catch restriction is an absolute must in any plan to restore vitality to our seas, the National Marine Fisheries Service's use of recreational catch estimates in their exact statistical creation and without employing their margin of error is destroying the human side of fisheries while not doing much at all for the fish.
The new catch estimating program, MRIP, actually makes the claim in spring 2010 Massachusetts' private sport boats caught 4X what the entire east coast's party boat fleet landed in black sea bass.
I have a party boat - we carry large parties of anglers. Some in my trade carry over 100 people. We're good at what we do. There's no possible way MRIP's assertion is true. I have lots&lots&lots of bad data sets if interested..
That one estimate & so many others like it have created the illusion of "overfishing" - of recreational sea bass fishers being over-quota.
Sea bass fishing on party/charter boats has long been a tradition on Delaware, Maryland & Virginia's coast. Now, including all sport-boat effort, we are estimated to have landed just 4% of the Mid-Atlantic's sea bass.
..but in MRIP we see private boats in Massachusetts are estimated to have taken more than half of this fishery's quota. Indeed, catching incredibly more than the entire East Coast's professional for-hire effort....
I began self-regulation before any Government action. We threw back hundreds of thousands of sea bass--fish that all swam away to spawn--before it was required by law. From our own tagging we also learned that these fish return to spawn at the same reef..
Yes, another major failing. We have coral reef ecologies along DelMarVa. It's even likely they're zooxanthellae based.
But they remain absent management's knowledge & control; remain absent any available science, no matter every sea bass & lobster fisher knows of them.
The divergence between fact & reef ecology science is so bad NMFS' own black sea bass Essential Fish Habitat source document has sea bass wintering in soft silt -- burrowing into the bottom in a featureless Mid-Atlantic Shelf.
That's a far cry from the rugged hard-bottoms where fishermen target sea bas in every season.
Because sea bass exhibit reef fidelity, Because they will unerringly return to the same reef each summer to spawn: No amount of exaggerated catch to our north could ever factually impact our region's sea bass population -- no amount of catch.
Yet we are closed by emergency regulation.
Coastal waters warmed over 5 degrees (J. Turner) in southern New England between 1987 & 1997. This created a tremendous habitat expansion for this rock-dwelling species, an expansion carrying the population much farther north than mentioned in any earlier scientific findings.
Year after year false accusations of overfishing have shrunk our season and tightened regulation: It isn't helping the fish; Its killing industry.
We Need Goverment Help To Save Us From Government.
If management would instead wisely use their catch estimates' full margin of error (PSE) & employ Reproductive Biology, Philopatry & Population Ecology, our region's sea bass population could swiftly be made greater than we have known.
Instead, regulation is sweeping this fishery away with no reaction whatever from government.
We Need Help.
We need our sea bass back to remain in business.
I need sea bass back to keep my crew off unemployment, to remain solvent..
Thank You,
Monty Hawkins
Berlin, MD

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