Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Fish Report 12/14/09

Resume toggin January 1st. Trips will be announced via email on very short notice because of weather concerns.
Fish Report 12/14/09
Another Chance?
Hi All,
The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council - MAFMC - just sent a press release listing the sea bass season as June and September 2010, 25 Fish - 12 1/2 inches..
And I do mean June & September only - closed the other 10 months.
In the press release, however, was a small glimmer of hope: In addition, the Council voted to convene a joint meeting of the Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) and the Black Sea Bass Monitoring Committee to share available data and relevant information regarding the 2010 black sea bass recommendations for purposes of allowing the Regional Administrator to consider whether it would be appropriate to adjust the black sea bass quota through an emergency action. 
Perhaps, just maybe, there's a chance to bring some sensibility to this plan.
The joint Monitoring Committee did want to double the sea bass quota for 2010 before the Science and Statistical Committee shut 'em down..
I'm confident that it will depend on readers and others.. I will explain what I think is wrong with the sea bass management plan below.. Beneath the report are some detailed pointers on where to focus comment should you be so inclined.......
NOW: The Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey - MRFSS - Which everyone sez as Murfs.
Crazy Uncle Murfs hasn't much time left in this world. We've known he's senile for some while; that's why the Fed spent a pile of money creating MRIP, which stands for Murfs Rest In Peace. Eh, no.. Um.. Marine Recreational Information Program.. That one, the one with the 'registration' so we can actually count how many people went fishing and for what...
Locked up all the firearms.. but you can't think of everything. Ol' Uncle Murfs was down by the barn and found an ancient sack of DDT. He's been mixing it with the salad dressing over at NMFS/NOAA - has 'em thinking that now is a great time to put faith in MRFSS' LAST SET - the last set of annual data from a dying program; just as it was finally given a dishonorable discharge by the National Research Council..
It was MRFSS that gave us the famous MD 2007 September/October shore summer-flounder landings - party boats had 1,700 fish, fishers from shore had 36,017.. Those boys were on point too, was just the year before that they were skunked in the same 2 month period.
I was selling tickets for $100.00 - the beach/bridge were free - and that's just the error in one fishery for 2 months.
We paid dearly for allowing those numbers to see the light of day; they were subsequently treated as gospel.
Crazy Uncle Murfs has some sea bass numbers for us to look over for 2009 - and these are directly from the "SCIENCE & STATISTICAL COMMITTEE" data sets. MD party boats caught 1,300 sea bass - private boats ZERO - Charter boats ZERO... Standing in a Delaware sports betting parlor we might be able to arrange a wager.. Puttin' my coins on the 'MRFSS is wrong' side.
Isn't much above the early American Salem witch trials.. Really, the data is that wrong. Economically, they're feeding us the witch-cake, not the dogs.
Its a terrible thing to call science.
But it's not just Uncle Murfs' dry-sponge from the Green Mile. No, I think the sea bass plan is in need of a serious overhaul. Easiest part is the release mortality figure - I guarantee this is a relic from the earliest meetings, when sea bass were just a thorn.. That 25% dead release ratio was pulled straight from thin air. I have carried a lot of scientists/biologists just this year to look at exactly that and couldn't kill a fish on release.. Even in 125 feet of water - ZERO mortality.

25% Release Mortality is a terrible thing to call science. Especially since we're throwing more back than ever: That if that percentage were correct we'd be killing far more by throwing them back than what we drop in the Fry-Daddy.
We are paying sticker price: Almost makes Uncle MRFSS look saintly..
And finally, it is my gravest concern that the biggest fault with the black sea bass rebuilding plan is that it is 'coastwide.'
I wrote of it in 2003, that our stock could get pummeled in the winter period. In very early 2004 that is exactly what happened. Trawlers were catching so many sea bass that they were calling trap boats with any quota to steam way offshore and take fish off their hands..
Effort spiked where our region's fish winter - and we tanked that spring. Our spawning stock didn't really reacclimate until last season..
We know sea bass have site fidelity, that they'll return to the exact same reef. We know using a coastal stock plan is only a convenience.
And, like any convenience, those who enjoy it do so at a price.
The sea bass that lives off VA Beach will never see MD. The MD fish will never see even southern Jersey. Jersey fish will never see MA..
But if you've got quota for 50,000 pounds - you're going to find where the best fish are. Have to - jumbo sea bass are worth a lot more per pound.
If that tumbles a region's spawning stock - tough - go 150 miles south next winter.
Without regional quotas black sea bass will never stabilize; will never really recover - the population will just continue to oscillate by region.
Pretty tough to call that good governance - or the best use of science.. 
It certainly is the present use of science.
There's a lot that could be done to salvage the sea bass stock, stabilize it - and then take it higher than its ever been.
Following the uncaring, unthinking path trod by Uncle Murfs all these years will not do.
But first we need the strongest reconsideration of the original plan to double the 2010 quota - after all, the stock assessment has sea bass at 103% rebuilt - see http://www.mafmc.org/Jason/MAFMC_Stock_Status_CURRENT.pdf 
Throwing an industry under the bus to 'save' a more than fully rebuilt stock..
If you'd like to comment on these immediate issues see the links below.
If you'd like to support the "Flexibility in Rebuilding America's Fisheries Act of 2009" that I've discussed in past fish reports contact your state's federal representatives.
If you'd like to go fishing for something in the next few years, I suggest you do both.
There's a lot going on that's good in fisheries. Clear these hurdles and we'll see some of it.
Best Regards,
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076
This is the page for the Council's committee that has black sea bass.
Lots of email addresses, catch more flies with sugar.. Strangely, I don't see the people here that I know do a lot of the lifting.. Jessica Coakley heads the sea bass component... 
This is the way to the Commission's Black Sea Bass Technical/Monitoring Committee --  go to: http://www.asmfc.org/ then click managed species - then click black sea bass - then click technical committee and scroll down the page till you see sea bass again.. Sheesh! - But there you are - a wealth of email addresses..


This is the page for the Science & Statistical Committee:  http://www.mafmc.org/committees/science.htm  There are no email addresses listed here - you could google the names, but you'd have to have a sound scientific or statistical argument.. Above I've tried to offer one.
Corals.. Eh, another day! I promise cbass do not fall from the sky..
If you live in the Mid-Atlantic, your state director of fisheries should know precisely who to contact - and is very likely a great place to address comment....

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