Monday, April 14, 2014

Fish Report 4/14/14

Fish Report 4/14/14 
Help Wanted 
RPB - Make Comment 
Blue Seas 

Opening The Last Of May & All Of June To Sea Bass Reservations. Announced Via Email, We'll Soon Resume Tog Fishing. 
If you've ever wondered how 'they' booked a corner spot.. 
Reservations at 410 520 2076.

Reef Dinner at the Marlin Club, Sunday, May 4th, Tickets at the door, starts at 4:30 – Donations For Raffles & Auction Coming, Will Cheerfully Accept More! 

Greetings All, 
Have had a few inquiries about working the Morning Star's deck; even one, Bill, that's quite encouraging. 
Still need another.
Training will begin this week and may only take a couple days, even a couple hours: guy's got skills. I cannot fish until training's done. Might get a few light-rail tog trips going very shortly. 
Otherwise, the boat has a fresh coat of non-skid. Only a few small projects remain. 

While I struggle to keep my business afloat in this regulatory morass, this period of fishery management where recreational catch-estimates keep management chasing their own tail, where so many have lost hope,"It will never get better" - Government Continues. 
I've had input for years regarding our new ocean partner, Wind Energy. Been too busy to follow more recent work. Didn't notice time expiring for 'comment' on our Regional Planning Body.  

The fact that we will have wind-power in the Mid-Atlantic has created a need for more-encompassing ocean governance. 
NOAA has failed in their responsibility to the Magnuson Act's Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) provisions concerning our nearshore corals; and seafloor habitat's role in fisheries restoration. This failure demonstrates how ill-prepared NOAA is to represent all fishers to this new ocean super-power, Wind Energy. 
Despite blatant errors, NOAA also continues to use uncorrected recreational catch-estimates. Even estimates no one believes are levied upon the recreational community as though an honest measure of catch, our true extraction of quota. Greater & greater regulation stemming from these catch estimates demonstrates, precisely, NOAA's lack of sincerity concerning the recreational fisheries. 
That NOAA has so-focused their funding in our region's estuaries while remaining ignorant of the Mid-Atlantic Bight's biological ocean processes has left a dearth of information which prevents managers from using  sound judgement; not only where ocean energy is concerned, but in creating a simple path forward for fisheries restoration. 

Where NOAA has failed, there now exists a collection of state representatives from VA, MD, DE, PA, NJ, & NY that have been formed into a Regional Planning Body. (RPB) 
If, for instance, fishers have an issue with Wind Power, our fishing representatives to the MAFMC & ASMFC would have very limited say. They'll still have firm control of fisheries, but virtually no control of Wind Power. 

However, the RPB will have been designed from the outset to incorporate the many different ocean users and be a much stronger ally if a case can be made for dispute. Conversely, if we will not represent ourselves, the RPB could be an overwhelming foe.

The Mid-Atlantic RPB released its Draft Framework a long while back. 
I really like some of its language & do not disagree with any of it. (except that it reads an awful lot like guvmint stuff..)  
They looked into my allegations of hard-bottom reefs at once. Seems they don't want big energy to alter our coral reef habitat remnants. 
They want comment via email at 
And, because I've had my plate too full – there are only 2 days left to comment. 

Below are my key points from the Draft that was released for comment at 

The RPB does not anticipate including in its planning efforts the major bays and estuaries of the Mid-Atlantic. 

Promote ocean ecosystem health and integrity through conservation, protection, enhancement, and restoration. 

Goal #1 focuses on protecting and conserving our ocean and coastal resources through efforts that improve our understanding of ocean resources and habitats, account for ecosystem changes, consider traditional values and scientific data in regional ocean planning, and foster collaboration across jurisdictions around ocean conservation efforts. 
Draft objectives:  Understanding, protecting and restoring key habitats 

My comment to the RPB will simply be to support the above underlined sections. Maybe I'd add: Discovering, Understanding, Protecting & Restoring Key Habitats.. 
Its always just paper or computer screen until real action occurs. The RPB's flowery language is as pretty as Magnuson's. NOAA plays pick & chose with Magnuson: They'll close a fishery based on catch estimates no one believes, while ignoring corals that are, oddly, nowhere to be found in the 'best available science.' 
The people I've met & know who are involved with the Mid-Atlantic RPB are sincere & smart; real smart ..and not one of them ever had relations to the Bureau of Commercial Fishing.. 

Despite truly heroic efforts of individual scientists, I do not think NOAA's done a good job in the Mid-Atlantic: Not at all. 
Nor do I think they'll do a better job when big-energy comes. 
The Mid-Atlantic's RPB is, at least, commencing their activities with seemingly sound principles. 
Our State representatives to the RPB should be more accessible than the federal side of NOAA Fisheries. 

To illustrate how far NOAA has left our marine region unstudied: 

Some readers may not be aware of the oyster's powerful ability to filter water. Here's an excellent one-minute demo: 

Now that we've run out of shell, oyster restorationists are finally using large rocks, which, unfortunately, have been ground into little rocks to build reef. These rock reefs are, miraculously, creating the first honest oyster reef restorations in the Mid-Atlantic's history. Restoring oyster catch, the oyster fishery, was never going to alter water quality in our favor; nor was a spat-on-shell based put & take fishery likely to restore economic vibrancy to oysterman. 
With the success of Harris Creek I believe estuarine reef restoration has truly begun. It could be made better if they'll leave those rocks whole, if they'll stop grinding them up in an attempt to mimic oyster shell. Using big rocks, boulders; substrates jutting-up off the bottom as a live reef; big substrates will create the water-filter/brood-stock preserves we need to turn our ocean blue. Watermen will discover methods to catch natural spat; perhaps as local legend, Carson Beldin, did decades ago when he'd apply concrete to Christmas trees and soak them near spawning oysters. Innovation will come, watermen will find a way to turn trillions of oyster larvae into future profits. Meanwhile, honest estuarine hardbottom reef restoration will create enormous benefit to many fisheries..

Marlin have been pushed east for 70 years in declining water quality. No amount of catch restriction could ever restore marlin to Jackspot Shoal today. Barely 20 miles SE of Ocean City, this once upon a time 'hot-spot' was how our town came to be called the "White Marlin Capital of the World." Boats would fish the Jackspot's blue waters for tuna & marlin daily, even running down from New Jersey. With water quality decline deepening in the late 1970s, with our nearshore waters growing greener & greener in each passing decade; today there's only a couple days a year when the water looks as if it might support feeding marlin. 
It doesn't. 
Instead, they're much further offshore in still-blue waters.  
I also believe it's no coincidence weakfish, a sight-feeding predator lost from about the early 1980s, have failed to respond to management; That atlantic mackerel are 'north & offshore' where the water temp would be about the same but water quality better; That bluefish, an easy target 6 or 7 miles off the beach in my youth are now 35 miles and more offshore; That squid, once the marlin bait of choice rigged on heavy wire and caught fresh daily aboard nearshore commercial trawlers; squid too are rarely found inshore these days.. 

An oyster REEF restoration program will alter fishery restoration's success in our favor: All these species and more will benefit. 
It's easy to see millions more juvenile sea bass surviving those first critical months. I'd wager too that were modern scientists witness to historical oyster reefs, the tautog would instead be called an 'oyster wrasse.' 

I'm glad they ran out of shell. 
We've known for a long time that oyster reefs were a key component of estuarine restoration. 
Now to restore our marine nearshore reefs so that we too can enjoy the benefits of soon-cleaner water 
..but NOAA has no idea of our nearshore corals nor that the ocean's turned green. 
I think Wind Power will require a far greater level of governance than NOAA's been willing to provide. 

Send an email. Make comment. 

Capt. Monty Hawkins 
Partyboat Morning Star
Ocean City, MD

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