Friday, February 19, 2010

Fish Report 2/19/10

Fish Report 2/19/10
Sue Foster Nails It
Back to the Front!
A few openings for the Monday, Feb 22 tog trip left. See the very bottom of this email if interested.
Hi All,
I did open the book for a tiny sliver of summer--May 22 to June 30th. In a typical year I'd have opened the reservation book on January 1st to sea bass bookings from May 1st through Thanksgiving. Usually, since May offers the best grade of cbass, it books first.
Can't do that this year. Had to refund a lot of reservations last fall too when an 'emergency' closure of the sea bass fishery was enacted.
Cash-flow is the blood of business, it is as oxygen; No business can do without, at least not for long. You can see the effects of blood/oxygen/cash deprivation on any drive through a business district of today.
For two thousand years those who were physicians fancied blood-letting as a wonder cure..
Physicians of today still do--in highly specialized circumstance, and then only in the form of transfusion.
Our fishery managers need to closely examine their procedures here.. We're bleeding out.
Press releases tout the newly doubled sea bass quota - where the Science and Statistical Committee (SSC) reconvened with the Monitoring Committee & new information was brought to the fore regarding the first sea bass quota.. With all information available now input, the quota was doubled; yet still retains a comfortable safety margin that protects spawning stock*.
{*Um, well.. I think that needs work too - been saying so for over a decade; doesn't need to be belabored here.}
NEWS: Quota Doubled!
Hurray! That ought to do it!
Fooled: our Senator's Staff write; our State Fisheries Staff write; NOAA & NMFS write; Many others, friends from the environmental side, customers even..
Sue Foster, our regionally famous OC tackle dealer, said it like this:
"It's amazing. They take away 90 percent, give back 35 per cent, and we're supposed to be grateful?"
Yes, the quota was doubled: But recreational fishers still have a 44% reduction due--owed against this year's catch--because of the now-discredited & dead program, MRFSS*, which still has us having overfished last year. (*Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Program.)
That doubled quota no easy task..
Managers & Regulators--many fishers too--have the thousand yard stare. They are--We are--Shell shocked.
Straight from Wikipedia: "Combat Stress Reaction, Shell Shock.. Battle Fatigue; The most common symptoms are fatigue, slower reaction times, indecision, disconnection from one's surroundings, and inability to prioritize." 
Battle fatigued..
What the SSC did, double a quota, was astonishing to those long-in the game. I promise: There was a lot of heavy-lifting that went on behind the scenes to have this body reconvened.
It was not a small task; Rather, it was one of the greatest I have seen in fisheries.
Another battle remains; And there isn't anything more fruitless on this planet than a MRFSS battle.. When troops peer over the trench-top between artillery rounds and see MRFSS with their tanks, mustard & chlorine gas, water cooled machine guns and spotter aircraft; thoughts of victory drift far away..
Shell shock.
A lot, perhaps all, of the people that helped fishers first get across enemy lines, fix the SSC quota error, have this thousand yard stare. They are well and truly battle fatigued, they want fishers to go away; They have done enough and need to get back to their work.
I wish we could simply say, "Thank you for all your hard work. Much appreciated." and leave it at that.
My Kingdom to utter such..
Unfortunately, this next battle is our greatest. Actions against MRFSS have always been the 'storm fishers could not weather..' 
We need our front line troops back.
We need truth brought to the attention of the uppermost spheres of our nation's government.
Clearing away all the back screw-ups in MRFSS's catch estimates would be an insanely difficult job.
I think a common sense approach: "We know this worked before: Lets have ____ size limit & ___ creel limit while we await the new MRIP program's data." Such an approach could easily keep our fish populations stable--growing even--while we recalibrate for MRIP and seek truth from the carcass of a not-yet-shredded and land-filled MRFSS..
We fishers will Rally at the Capitol on Feb 24th before noon. We will press ahead. We will try to bring sense to all this.
There can only be one winner; but since MRFSS has already been replaced by a new recreational catch program called MRIP, there could be two losers.
Not without a fight.
If the first wave of troops can not be rejuvenated with a short rest then fishers must send their pleas higher, to the Secretaries and Under Secretaries, to their Senators & Congressmen, indeed to the White House.
We must not let a discredited catch-estimation statistical program--MRFSS--take out a large part of the recreational for-hire industry just before MRFSS gets run through the shredder..
The States; The lower orders of Federal Government  -NMFS & NOAA - are shell shocked.
Fishers must now reach higher.
Fishers must also encourage our marine regulators to snap out of it and join us in our fight against bad data.
I could bring this letter to a close right but I press-on; show a few examples of MRFSS data that has had real economic impact despite there being no possible logical agreement with the data......
In Ocean City, Maryland, our partyboat clients outnumber shore fishers targeting flounder most days--I mean really outnumber the shore fishers.
We, the party and charter boats of Maryland, very likely fish harder and better -with more knowledge & with more maneuverability: We certainly cover far more bottom than shore fishers.
I think these MRFSS numbers, these statistically generated catch estimates are still too high for party/charter --but-- here, in this example are probably within a couple hundred fish of being perfectly correct.
Keep in mind that this first data set represents the clients of  For-Hire professional captains and--very importantly--is for the year, the whole year: And, for MRFSS, these are great--nearly perfect--estimates.
Species: SUMMER FLOUNDER - All For Hire - All Waves - Annual
2006 2,314 21.8
2007 2,639 16.5
2008 2,337 18.6
2009 2,774 38.7
This next set is Maryland's recreational shore effort. Granted, there are shore fishers that are very good at catching fish -- I'd wager they complain about party boats catching way too many.
We want visitors to catch fish!
But, despite some local sharpies, no one would say every shore angler is a trained ninja..
These next MRFSS catch estimates are for Shore Fishers in a single Wave, a Two Month Period---Not All Year as above--Two Months, Wave 5, September & October - Not an annual catch estimate.

Species: SUMMER FLOUNDER - Wave 5 - 

MD - Shore Effort - September/October 













That's one shore-effort two month wave vs. a party & charter boat's annual catch.. 36,017 caught in two months ashore vs. 2,639 by professionals. That's the data that affects us--makes us appear to have greedily gone far over-quota; the data that makes size limits go up & creel limits go down.. all with shorter seasons.
Look at the numbers again.
That is happening in America.
Its every bit as bad in these same years for the 'private/rental boat' MRFSS category.
We fought these data sets hard. In the end it was a "Can't prove a negative" a "Can't push with a rope" argument that kept fishers from having some truth brought in: That all there had to be was more fishers, hundreds of thousands of them I suppose, and they would have indeed caught those kinds of fish - NMFS won..
Always does.
What a bunch of horse-feathers.
And now, outflanking sea bass fishers---red snapper too I hear-told---is another battalion of these crazy catch estimates, the MRFSS catch-estimates that could only be loved by a crazed statistician--because the ones I know, sane, don't like this type of data at all..
We can not push with a rope, We can not argue a negative until true; No one can assert enough proof.. From Wiki: "The argumentum ad ignorantiam [fallacy] is committed whenever it is argued that a proposition is true simply on the basis that it has not been proven false.."
But, look, when you're the government this argument works fine..
All there ever had to be to achieve any catch estimate was more fishers, lots and lots of imaginary fishers...
In each of the following two-month data sets MRFSS asserts 2009 to have been fantastically-incredibly better than any cbass fishing previously known to anglers in these northern regions.
Here too MRFSS asserts that our fisheries bureaucracy allowed the entirety of the coast's black sea bass quota to be captured in one region, despite the proof that habitat fidelity would make that a tragically ruinous event for a single region's fish 'stock' or population..
A quick glance; call it as you see it.
Species: BLACK SEA BASS - Wave 4 - Private Boat - MA
2007 13,062 71.3
2008 13,548 69.4
2009 165,595 25.6
Species: BLACK SEA BASS - Wave 3 - Party Boat - MA
2007 3,015 31.1
2008 526 19
2009 77,136 32
Wave 2 NJ Party Boats
2005 61 71.1
2006 30 99.6
2008 134 100.1
2009 20,543 37.7
Wave 2, 1998 - 2009 New Jersey, Private
2002 9,921 92.9
2007 3,302 74.1
2009 34,418 56.4
Years ago ol' Doc Mann, a WWII combat medic vet, used to stitch-up our bait cutting & fish cleaning slices without a local; all while chain smoking Marlboros in the treatment room.
Soviet and other European factory trawlers used to routinely ply our waters in competition with a growing American fleet.
An era past; This was overfishing!
That and the single greatest loss of seafloor habitat in the world, the unregulated hydraulic-super-dredge surf clam boom: It's all part of our fishing history. 
So is MRFSS.
Many fishing businesses are finely balanced in this already adverse economic environment. I know there is nothing but zeros where I once had a retirement nest egg; I know last fall my boat ran fantastically light, sometimes without prayer of a day's profit; I know this spring the same thing will happen again.
This restored boat, her skilled crew, her skipper of 30 years professional experience; This boat where so many veterans of both war and fishing have had a smile cross their face, where fathers and sons have enjoyed an experience unlike that which can be found ashore, and along her rails where small children have come to be fascinated with our marine world: This boat and many others stand to be lost because we could not win the fool's argument, because we let blatantly bad data into an already shaky system..
A system whose data must be extracted from beneath the sea and, apparently, from thin-air.
Its not good governance and needs to change.
It will be letters struck on a keyboard; pen to paper that wins this fight. There will be no real bullets, no real bombs..
The bankruptcies however.. 
Shake it off!
Back to the front!
Set aside the MRFSS data - or at least truth these sets with data submitted by professionals -- the Vessel Trip Reports, VTRs..
Find some truth.
The Fish are doing fine.
Save the Fishers.
I'll see you in DC.
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076
Opening tog trips for this weekend coming - Feb 20-21-22 -
West winds forecasted - Boat sells out at 12 - Green crabs provided - Cabin heated - Leave at 7:00 for these trips (or a tad earlier) - Return no later than 3 - 3:30 (usually) - $100.00 buys a spot - Reservation a must, that phone number in signature - Email does not work for reservations - call - leave a good phone number, cell, in case of cancellation.
Also opening the book for sea bass trips from May 22cnd to the end of June. Even though these dates are not 100%, I'm pretty sure we'll have open season then.
The folks at the reservation service are ready to book.

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