Monday, March 28, 2016

Fish Report 3/28/16

Fish Report 3/28/16  
A Windy Went & Hopefully Calmer Tog Trip Coming 
One Reef Ball 
Blinded By Bad Data

Going Toggin: It's STILL a COLD WATER BITE! Getting a lot more bites & throwbacks--tagging more. Some anglers will likely do OK - not everyone. 
Going Wednesday, March 30th - 7AM to 3PM - $110.00 - 12 Sells Out

Opening May 15th Through May 31st For Sea Bass. I do not anticipate easy bag limits. Last year's opener, in fact, was some of the worst sea bass fishing I've ever seen. But last fall was consistently good! What do you do.. We'll be allowed 15 sea bass at 12.5 inches. Call to reserve. The worst thing you can do is involve me w/your reservation.. I fish for a living, they do reservations for a living! 

All Winter Trips Posted Via Email. There's just no use trying to go everyday in winter.. (that includes March, April, and early May.) 
Reservations Required - See Below. Be a half hour early! We always leave early! 

Skunks are always possible while tog fishing. 
Really. It's a frequent occurrence, even with a good bite. Not an easy fishery; the very best toggers sometimes get their head handed to them despite folks all around having done well. 
Then too, sometimes the whole boat can do very poorly. 
If you can't take the heat, and there ain't much of that either, stay out of the kitchen. 

Water's Getting Warmer In Pockets. Storms Have Flipped Temps Upside Down & Backward. An Odd Winter For Sure..

Crew Have White Crabs For Sale AT THE DOCK for the low, low price of just $5.00 per generous dozen. There Is No Guarantee We'll Have Whites For Any Trip. Sometimes they all die. That shrinkage is why I prefer greens. We may be bringing some whites with us in the ocean. Green Crabs (not Whites!) Remain Provided As Boat Bait And Are Included In All Fares.   

Going Toggin Anyway! Tog Only, Sea Bass Are Closed Because NOAA Has Accepted Poor Statistical Catch Estimates As If They Represented 'Certain Knowledge' For Decades. NOAA Has No Idea How Best To Manage The Sea Bass Fishery. (yet) 
No Live Tog Leave The Boat - Dead & Bled - Period. (I Believe The Live Tog Black Market Has Hurt This Fishery ..But Nowhere Near As Much As Bad Sea Bass Regulations)
Agreed With Or Not, All Regulations Observed – Maryland: 4 Tog @ 16 Inches 

If You Won't Measure & Count Your Fish, The State Will Provide A Man With A Gun To Do It For You. We Measure & Count — ALWAYS — No Exceptions! 

Reservations Required at 410 520 2076 - On My Rig You Can Reserve What Spot You're In. Please See For How The Rail's Laid Out..
LEAVE YOUR BEST POSSIBLE CONTACT NUMBER - Weather Cancelations Happen - I Make Every Attempt To Let Clients Sleep In If The Weather's Not Going Our Way..  

Be a half hour early! We always leave early! 
..except when someone shows up right on time. 
Clients arriving late will see the west end of an east bound boat. With a limited number of reserved spots, I do not refund because you over-slept or had a flat..

Dramamine Is Cheap Insurance! (Meclizine's Better!) Crystalized Ginger Works Great Too. It's Simple To Prevent Motion Sickness, Difficult To Cure.  
Honestly - If you get to go on the ocean once month, once a year, or even less; why risk chumming all day? Similarly, if you howl at the moon all night, chances are good you'll howl into a bucket all day.  

Bring A Cooler With Ice For Your Fish – A 48 Quart Cooler Is Fine For A Few People. Do Not Bring A Very Large Cooler. We DO have a few loaners - you'll still need ice. 
No Galley! Bring Food & Beverages To Suit. A few beers in cans is fine for the ride home.   

12,713 Reef Blocks Deployed at numerous sites. Active presently are Doug Ake's Reef with 2,406 - St. Ann's 1,459 - Al Giles Barge 677 - Eagle Scout Reef 756 - Sue's Drifting Easy Reef 147 - Nichols' Concrete 578 - Upside Down Tank 132 

Please Support the Ocean City Reef Foundation!
We're Nowhere Near Reef Building's True Potential. 
Thank You! 
Photo: Nick Caloyianis. 
I'm thankful for Nick & Clarita's help. Michael Eversmier, Rick Younger, Ted Green, Jeremiah Kogon, Nick & Clarita - These folks will jump from a perfectly good boat to push our understanding of reefs forward.
This pic of natural hardbottom reef off the Maryland coast is simply what "wrecks" looked like tens of thousands of years--millions--before the first ship ever sank. 
Thankfully, fish & corals ain't too bright. Throw some rock, concrete, or steel overboard; fish and growth's response to any hard substrate is always the same. 
Reef building, absent government regulation, is generally about this complex: Roll rocks or concrete off a barge. (You could just sink the barge too.) Wait 5 Years. Marvel at Reef & Reef Fisheries Production Occurring Precisely As On Any Natural Substrate. 
With government regulation it's a heck of a lot harder. Perhaps one day soon we'll arrive at a more helpful stage in fisheries governance..

In this picture we see a reef ball that was deployed for about 10 years. Bill Goldsborough, who may have snapped this pic, described the growth as "pre-contact" ..what reef would have looked like before Europeans came to the Americas.. 
Maryland's artificial reef permits have been stalled over on the Chesapeake for a good while. They're all expired. 
Government likes to put a couple feet of shell substrate down and then drop hatchery-raised oyster spat on top of that. That's what power-dredgers like too.
This reef ball was just sitting on the bottom. It was not "pre-spat," just a naked reef ball that someone either made or bought. The oysters grew there because they could. With shells lying flat on the bottom, they can't.
I think boulders, or any pre-cast concrete product, would serve just as well as reef balls. Better, actually, because we could buy more 'off the bottom' substrate than with the same funding spent on reef balls.. 

Maryland recently gave away one million dollars in federal oyster reef building funds to 'study' whether rock from the previous administration was working. 
Meanwhile, MD's watermen just had their best year of oystering in a long, long time. But it's the watermen who want to stop building oyster reef w/rock. Doesn't dredge well. You get stuck. 

Ocean's turned green & getting greener. We're worried about oysters as if they were put & take trout in a mud-puddle. 
I think growing oysters is no more difficult than growing coral. 
Roll large substrates off a barge and let oysters do their thing. 

Greetings All, 
Weatherman pulled an overnight wind trick. Forecast went from about 10 knots east Saturday, to about 20 knots north, then coming east. 
Calm as you'd care to have as we left the inlet, wasn't long before the wind shifted NE & wave tops started streaking. I'll translate what those streaks mean on calm water -- You're Gonna Get Your (anatomy) Kicked. 
Never quite got to the butt-kicking stage--close though. I wasn't going to go wandering around too far with waves a scarce breath from serious. 
Clients Saturday had 3 keepers & released a bunch more. We tagged 15 or so.. 
Had a pool winner & a reef-raffle winner; took them in early with a fat credit toward another trip. 

Looks as though there's only one trip remaining in March. Ben Franklin's 'in like a lamb, out like a lion' holds true true enough to keep me at the dock.. 
Not swinging for the fence Wednesday. Kicking around in the backyard hunting bites in barely warm-enough water. It's fun if they're chewing.

Because MRIP catch estimates have tripped the recreational overfishing/overquota alarm yet again, New York is headed toward a FIFTEEN INCH sea bass size limit & very small bag.. 
CT, RI, MA aren't far behind. Have led the way, actually. 
What rubbish. 
With just a 9 & 10 inch size limit we created the largest population of sea bass anyone can remember. (Never mind that's because we don't remember the 1950s when commercial fishers landed more cbass than in all the decades since.. Sorry. This is positively NOT a simple situation to repair. We do not have one large, leaky pipe. There are many.) 
In 2003 I absolutely believed we were at habitat capacity - that all our natural & artificial habitat simply couldn't hold many more sea bass at all. Was some good fishing..

The reason we began self-regulation in the pre-management period with a nine inch limit (1992) was because scientific observation then had "all sea bass spawning by 9 inches, some twice." Management, when they got around to it in 1997, also went with a 9 inch limit. 
Those same scientific observations of all 9 inch sea bass in the spawning population, also believed those spawners were "2 to 3 years old." 
Today we know a 2 or 3 year old sea bass is 9.5 to 13.5 inches or so. Some grow faster, some slower. While early science's aging-analysis lacked veracity; those early scientist's length measurements cannot be challenged. 
"All 9 inch sea bass have spawned, some twice" is exactly what we saw back then. Using today's aging (positively dialed-in) would mean "All age one/9 inch sea bass have spawned once, some twice." If, instead, all two to three year-old sea bass had spawned once, some twice, scientists would have had to instead say, "all 9 to 14 inch sea bass have spawned once, some twice." 
But no, in those days it wasn't at all unusual to see a 7.5 inch blue knot-head male sea bass. In fact, every sea bass in the ocean from May to late July appeared to be spawning.

Reproductive response of a species perceiving itself at 'habitat capacity' is to slow down. Lesser organisms just keep reproducing until they crash. Population growth is always constrained at some point by availability of one resource or another. A virus able to reproduce every few hours in exponential population growth would quickly be able to fill a good part of our solar system if not checked by resource restriction. Exponential population growth means it doubles & doubles & doubles. That the virus can reproduce so swiftly but is only able to achieve exponential growth for a short while is because of resource constraints which we might come to think of as 'habitat.' The virus runs out of nutrients (or planet?) and cannot sustain continued doubling. 

In an example by Dr. Nowicki of Duke University, the professor describes how, no matter how counter-intuitive, simply doubling the width of a piece of paper 50 times would result in 44 million miles of paper.. 

OK, doubling a population with a single spawn's big deal – not likely to happen many times in a row, if at all. (a very simple explanation of exponential population growth )
But fish are prolific spawners..  
Dr. Nowicki also lectures that exponential growth occurs in nature in newly colonized areas of habitat or after catastrophic population declines...

Seen anything like that in the papers? Maybe some newly-warmed rocky bottom? Or species just coming under management after true overfishing? 
I'm telling you, we had exponential population growth in sea bass along the DelMarVa coast from the mid 1990s to the early 2000s. With extraction far higher than today's or even yesteryear's - sea bass were taking over all our reefs. I believe it would be a fairly simple thing to keep a small percentage of each region's sea bass 'fooled' into this crisis spawning mode.
What I didn't know in 2002 & 2003, and it remains wholly unrecognized in management of any species to my knowledge, is that raising the size limit to 12 inches would shut-down age one spawning. 
I believe this is precisely true today: No under 9 inch sea bass are spawning. What was true until 2001 or so --all sea bass have spawned by 9 inches, some twice-- is now completely false. 
We used to see hundreds of under-9 inch males everyday during pre & early management. I can only remember seeing one under 9 inch male in all of 2015. I've had my crew watch for them for years now.. 

Once spawning at 7.5 to 9 inches, now our sea bass BEGIN to spawn (judging only by the formation of the "nuchal hump," that bright blue knot on a male sea bass's forehead) by age three. We are just starting to see the bright blue nuchal hump at 11 or 11.5 inches.. They soon become legal and are last seen sizzling in hot grease, which is notoriously bad for spawning production. 

I was alone --all alone-- at several Council meetings in the mid-1990s when asking for recreational sea bass regulation. 
When it began in 1997, and then when we went to a 10 inch limit; then 11; even that first 2002 twenty-five fish limit -- I applauded. 
I thought 12 inches, however, was wasteful. Too many throw-backs. 

As regulation began, it was also true our pool-winning cbass would be close to 5 pounds, even over. That's real weight, not some boast. 
When Spawning Production Outpaces Extraction, you're going to see big fish -- ALWAYS. If you don't catch them, they grow. No place is 'special' and grows big fish uniquely. Big fish are simply fish what didn't get caught.  
We're going to learn that lesson over & over again until we get it right. Probably until management learns how to master spawning production in young fish. In sea bass, and many other reef fish, using age at maturity as a management tool is made possible because of habitat fidelity. You don't need to keep every reefs' population under heavy fishing pressure to create accelerated spawning; management can select which reefs receive the pressure. In the accidental experiment we ran in early management, we "selected" reefs where half-day party boats fish. That 10 mile arc was where the heaviest fishing pressure forced spawning in very young fish. Some of the larger wrecks & artificial reefs a little further out also had all 9 inch fish in the spawning population. 

Some will say, "that's not conservation at all!
Actually, no. 
It's management. 
If we got management right we could take reef fish to any population we chose, so long as we did not overshoot habitat holding capacity. 
And, if you read the section above on artificial reef, you already know I think we can make as much reef habitat as we'd like also.  
It's also true that when we had exponential population growth, I'd frequently see clients keeping only fish larger a good bit larger than legal size. The appearance of conservation is made more simple in times of abundance.

Some people know partyboat skippers are not conservationists. Their clients either.  
I'm a party boat operator who made people who had never experienced any regulation throw fish back. For 5 years I enforced regulations on tog & sea bass, plus a host of other species, that had absolutely no federal or state regulatory back-up. Even today there are people who don't like throwing back fish. It was crazy-way worse 25 years ago. Between 1992 & 1997 I put my crew, myself, & my boat in often-tense & dangerous situations because self-regulation/conservation was obviously working. We'd catch sea bass every day with hook wounds;  sometimes even 3 or 4 hook wounds. Seeing spawning color in many, we were positive throwing fish back was going to work -- and then saw it work.

What we were doing, essentially, during those early years of management was making fish do the work of growing their population. By forcing age-one spawning over the most heavily-pressured inshore reefs; more distant reefs (outside 10 or 12 miles) became emburgeoned, filled to capacity with incredible numbers of large sea bass. 
Party boats fished those reefs. So too did bass trappers. Things would go fine unless a trawler targeted a low-lying natural reef. With all the growth removed, remaining fish either left or didn't fare well. (See habitat videos at || Where you see bare rock at 5:05 to 5:55 is where I'd witnessed  trawl impacts occur. Though surely something to be mindful of; there have not been, in my opinion, enough habitat impacts in our time to lower sea bass production noticeably. Considered from a post WWII historical perspective, however, that would not be the case.. || this video begins with pictures of a once amazing reef laid low & transitions to video of a robust boulder reef of unknown origin. It might be natural. It might be jetty boulder that fell off a barge in heavy weather. I can't tell. Fish & coral sure don't know either. While I'm at it, here's what some of these same reefs look like after BOEM scared the tar out of our sea bass with sub-bottom profiler surveys: ..)

While some see conservation like a crooked banker sees his own swelling wealth; where 'conservation' is fine so long as it's other investors who suffer while his accounts grow, where everyone else keeping-less is great--so long as the banker can keep his; where others' pain is well-suffered so long as bundled mortgage securities sell strongly under the illusion of being a sound investment: We must not allow fisheries conservation & restoration to be steered by the selfish: We must not allow the illusion of conservation to serve in the revitalization & restoration of our marine fisheries. Confidence in fisheries management is collapsing like public approval of big banks after Leman Bros filed for bankruptcy in 2008. We must not allow bad MRIP data to further worsen management's result. 
We must be especially vigilant of those who strongly support the data in cherry-picked pieces; data used in such fashion that they might vilify others for their own personal enjoyment & personal benefit. 

If fishery management is going to work, we must either know the truth of catch---or ignore it altogether and look only for positive/negative population response in fishes..
I'm working on a comment for the National Academy of Sciences for their MRIP investigation. These scientists; truly & honestly America's best & brightest, want the truth of MRIP. 

Since I'm in the research anyway, let's look at what's driving NY toward a 15 inch size limit on sea bass & ask: "Is this conservation driven regulation? ..or more-simply a compulsory deepening of bad-data's influence on management, a mandatory inclusion of wildly incorrect data driven by NOAA's assertion that MRIP's data must be treated as America's "best available scientific information." 

NOAA to everyone else in fisheries management: 'Ain't Telling You Again. Don't matter if MRIP's true. Use It.'
Here's an excerpt from Fish Report 6/9/15:
..In NY's 2014 summer catch-estimate we see a similar pattern as in Massachusetts' spring sea bass estimate & CT's fall estimate. 
Here in summer---the very period when professionals have more difficulty catching sea bass---MRIP has NY's Private Boats catching phenomenally well. 
New York MRIP
Estimate StatusYearWaveCommon NameFishing ModeTotal Harvest (A+B1)PSEHarvest (A+B1) Total
Weight (lb)
PSELandings (no.) without
Size Information
Odd that such huge sea bass catches occur lately, especially given that NY now has their strictest regulations ever. 
New York's Private Boat July/Aug catch-estimates for 1982, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 99, 01, 02, 03, 04, 06, 07, 08 & 2011, All Added Up & All Together, are thought to have been 958,706 pounds---that's less than 2013 & 2014's July/August total. 
Today: Tight Regulation - Eight Fish - 13 Inches ..but record shattering catches.  
Unless you're out with a professional who knows where they live, what they're biting & how to anchor just so or drift....

MRIP has NY summer catch growing greater still in 2015. 
What we see with MRIP's estimate data is fantastically consistent: where there is a factual increase, the data will show an other-worldly high estimate. Where there is a decrease, the fall will be complete. 

As a recreational for-hire skipper, I have to report sea bass landings to NOAA on forms they provide called Vessel Trip Reports, or VTRs. 
There is positively NO use of recreational For-Hire VTRs by MRIP. Period. No information FROM PARTY/CHARTER CAPTAINS is used to create MRIP's estimates. None. 
It does not happen. MRIP especially does not use our self-reported VTR catch information. Managers, in fact, are specifically not allowed to use VTR data from Party/Charter to determine if quota has been reached or exceeded. 

That's how come I can report catching sea bass on nearly all my VTRs over the course of a year - yet Maryland Partyboats catch zero sea bass in the MRIP estimate. (We catch sea bass even when targeting fluke/flounder.) I'm confident Ocean City, MD sea bass party/charter operators are surrendering honest estimates of their catch. 
MRIP's "estimate" for MD party/charter sea bass landings for all of 2015 is officially at 56 sea bass and 49 pounds. If MRIP had included just one boat's VTR data, the estimate would be much higher. 
The statistically vaunted PSE, or margin of error (sort of,) says the true & actual 95% confidence level for MD's Party/Charter MRIP estimate is between zero & 160 sea bass kept, & zero to 142 pounds landed.. (this tiny handful of sea bass was, statistically, caught only on charters - not party boats)
Yet one of Maryland's top fish data guys, Dr. Alexei Sharov, was sea bassing with me on my partyboat back in December one day & saw, just in his part of the boat, more sea bass caught & kept than the official annual estimate for all of 2015.. 

No trickery. Captains & clients have not figured-out how to fool the system into believing our burlap sacks contain potatoes & not sea bass. 
Our method of estimating catch, NOAA's "New & Improved" MRIP, is simply a very bad system. 

Above I showed one small method of searching for likelihood in NY's Private Boat summer sea bass landings in 2013 & 2014 -- showed how 24 previous years (most completely unregulated) were not enough to equal just two recent years of heavily regulated catch. 

How about this year's NY Private Boat catch? Size limit was 13 inches, bag limit 8, & their season didn't begin until July 15th.. 
(Note: the idea an estimate is 'preliminary' is useless verbiage. Managers demand estimates swiftly to calculate landings. How far over or under quota determines a following year's regulations. 2016's regulations will have long gone to print before 2015's estimates becomes 'final.' Commercial Catch shown here is from an entirely different NOAA website. It's not estimated, but weighed.) 

NY Private Boat Only
Estimate StatusYearCommon Name
Number of 
fish caught
of error
Pounds Caught
Private Boats
PSEPounds Caught 
FINAL2014BLACK SEA BASS327,17723.0620,15124.3224,103
PRELIMINARY2015BLACK SEA BASS451,68817.9811,55317.8Not Publicly Reported Yet

All Mid-Atlantic For-Hire (Every Party/Charter Boat From NY to Virginia) 
Estimate StatusYearCommon NameTotal Harvest (A+B1)PSEHarvest (A+B1) Total
Weight (lb)
FINAL2014BLACK SEA BASS542,03914.2734,47514.4
PRELIMINARY2015BLACK SEA BASS635,98421.61,001,03421.6

All Private Boats Atlantic Coast: 
Estimate StatusYearCommon NameTotal Harvest (A+B1)PSEHarvest (A+B1) Total
Weight (lb)
FINAL2014BLACK SEA BASS1,554,00910.92,881,64912.9
PRELIMINARY2015BLACK SEA BASS1,423,3798.92,558,6849.3

All Atlantic Coast For-Hire: 
Estimate StatusYearCommon NameTotal Harvest (A+B1)PSEHarvest (A+B1) Total
Weight (lb)
FINAL2014BLACK SEA BASS835,29110.31,166,41710.3
PRELIMINARY2015BLACK SEA BASS826,22116.91,327,02516.7

If the data's right, then the two-thirds cut in sea bass catch seen in Party/Charter since the beginning of sea bass regulation is likely caused by regulation. Party/charter's catching a LOT less sea bass than we used to. And we really are. Yet the tripling of catch, the 3X HIGHER increase in private boat sea bass catch since 2009 is because.. What? Why is that
If you think outboards are a new invention, you never saw Delaware Bay in the mid/late 1970s.. And GPS isn't that much better than LORAN - especially for big reefs & wrecks..

Management will say, "The fish became available" and "We've been unable to constrain catch with tighter regulation." 
Well, how come cbass were available to Party/Charter back-when? And dern sure regulation HAS constrained For-Hire catch..

You know how if you want to really tighten security, you hire someone that lived the life of a thief? There are those who see the decline in Party/Charter catch as simply our clients' ability to HIDE FISH.
They believe Party/Charter clients & crews know how to CHEAT. 
That's why today's numbers are so mis-matched.
They can just tell ..only sometimes the value of our own life-lessons doesn't apply to everyone.

Ohhhh! I get it! Not only does MRIP-dot.guv not see Party/Charter catch when we land it at public docks with public parking lots; we purposely send in low numbers on our mandatory VTRs so that when sector separation comes---this where Party/Charter gets separate quota from Private Boats so we can stay open even after others are closed---by UNDERREPORTING we'll get an astoundingly small percentage of the recreational quota and not get any benefit from sector separation at all. 

Yeah, no. 
That makes no sense. 
But isn't that what always happens when trying to make bad information conform to logic?
Since the beginning of time, myth has taken the place of knowledge where knowledge is absent.

Yes, some believe MRIP's Private Boat estimates. All their catch assertions, really. They want to support MRIP. Want to be 'team players' ..and some have to use MRIP or be fired. 
On the fringes are those sure their mythology cuts to the truth; are certain Party/Charter are scamming the system. 
I hope to convince readers otherwise..

There is a thief though. It's bad data. 
Bad MRFSS & MRIP recreational catch data has undermined so much of management & fisheries sciences' integrity that accusations fly - THEIF! TRICKSTER! 
The data's run away for so long, many For-Hire fishers want to build a wall; want to separate different sectors of recreational fishing; want to get the heck away from these pirates in Grady Whites & Boston Whalers. Sector separation is happening now experimentally in the Gulf w/red snapper. Gosh, maybe they'll have separate water fountains too..

According to the data, after all, it's ONLY private boats who are holding restorations back. Commercial & For-Hire operations are remaining within quota. Private Boats ARE NOT - In Any Fishery I've Seen. The EXACT path suggested in MRIP's catch estimates is to treat private boats like we did foreign trawlers at management's dawning. Throw 'em OUT.

How messed up is that. 
Yet some still express undying devotion to MRIP's catch estimates: "It's the best available scientific information! We have to use it."
Be a simple matter to sum it up in the fisherman's vernacular .."How messed up is that" will have to do.

Let me compare NY's Private Boat catch to other data sets - big, broad data sets:
The NY Private Boat guys "caught" 812,000 pounds of sea bass in 2015 & 620,000 lbs in 2014. 
NY's commercial guys, who have to catch fish to feed their family, those guys who really do fish in much heavier weather; they caught 224,000 pounds of sea bass in 2014. (Commercial landings are delayed a year. 2014's the latest info available to the public. Yes, there are cheaters. They get a lot of publicity..)
All the commercial guys in ALL of the Mid-Atlantic caught 718,000 pounds in 2014. That's just a 100,000 pounds more than NY's Private Boats that same year and 100,000 pounds less than NY's Private Boat estimated 2015 landings. 

Dayummmmm... New York's rod & reel anglers put a spanking on the entire Mid-Atlantic's commercial guys! Trawling & trapping really isn't all that, is it? 
Then there's the guys who carry all the people who cannot afford a boat, or have their boat put up in storage, or are in for repair; or have better sense than to buy a boat! NY's For-Hire crews, carrying these No Boaters, only "caught" about one-fifth that state's Private Boat landings in 2014 & began to catch up quick in 2015 with just over half.. 

So, from "The Best Available Scientific Information Available," we plainly see special regulations and enforcement are needed for NY's Private Boats. 
Even beating the pants off all trawlers & trappers; they obviously cannot be trusted. 
In fact, bet your bottom dollar some will assert the reason commercial trawl & trap catch is lower than NY Private Boat is because the commercial guys too cheat. Everyone cheats when that's what your eyes want to see..

Is the For-Hire industry & all Commercial so adept at illusion, at dockside sleight of hand? Have we so developed our ability to cheat that we can fool NOAA into believing little plastic boats are worse for fisheries sustainability today than foreign factory ships in the early/mid 1970s? 

Or is the MRIP data what we should not trust.. 

MRIP absolutely believes that because there are so many more private boats, they must generate incredibly more catch than Commercial or Party/Charter--sometimes even both put together. MRIP also believes many Private Boats are unregistered & unlicensed pirates who report NOTHING. 

A friend of mine often says, "If you put three recreational guys in a room, you'll get five opinions."
There's a heck of a lot of dot.orgs, dot.guvs, dot.rec & dot.commercial - all of them fancy their particular mythology for explaining how recreational fishers have run away with everyone's quota.  
Instead, everyone desiring conservation, restoration & bioeconomic stability in US fisheriees; indeed, the integrity of laws we enforce that can send people to prison: all are being mislead by blatantly false data. 

That some use bad data to crush other's opportunity while ensuring their own is simply a sad, unchanging, way of the world. 

If you have any thoughts on MRIP's accuracy over it's short life, the National Academy of Sciences is investigating MRIP right now. They're accepting specific comments on specific aspects of catch estimation, or comment on specific estimates. Please see Fish Report 3/23/16 for more information. 

Ignoring an ocean of potential, we'll soon have a pea-green jellyfish factory where outboards from one port can outfish the rest of the world.
If that's not the ocean you'd like to leave, if you'd prefer a better legacy from our time in charge, help managers who want to break NOAA's addiction to bad data. Do some research on your own & make a comment. Write your state fisheries & state reps - write Members of Congress in DC too. 

Sea bass are a keystone species, but not in the traditional sense. By creating abundant populations of sea bass; and, importantly, allowing access to to those populations, we can lower fishing effort on many species. Cod, blueline, tautog - even fluke to some extent; by allowing anglers access to sea bass, managers will reduce catch on others. 

If management will begin paying close attention to biological signals, we can drive production far higher than any would guess. 
Fishery management's true path is in forcing fish to make more fish & providing good habitat for those fish. 
Restoration's true path will not be found by extinguishing overfishing shown only by catch estimates a 5th grader wouldn't believe.. 


Capt. Monty Hawkins 
Partyboat Morning Star
Ocean City, MD

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