Friday, March 12, 2010

Fish Report 3/12/10 A

Fish Report 3/12/10

CG Inspection Stuff

Culled Out..

Truth in Fisheries


Hi All,

Get my life-raft back I'm going fishing.

Have scheduled a CG safety inspection for early April.

The most important thing happens at the end of every day: People walk off the boat. Getting ready for and having CG inspections is about never swimming off the boat...

We've done some maintenance, will do some more between fishing trips. Have to get that life raft back though before we fish. 

By then the water should be ready for another try at tautog.


An article has absolutely blown up on the web--Culled Out. It fit a model that some would like to see moved forward and was even picked up by a major news outfit--Fox.

ESPN has apologized 

Snopes has blasted it 

A student of propaganda could make a study of it.. 


It just so happens that I was at a meeting today (3/12/10) of the Coastal and Watershed Resources Committee where the ongoing activities of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean --yes, MARCO-- and Marine Spatial Planning, MSP were discussed.

Our region's contribution to Ocean Policy --MARCO-- was the last Regional Council to form under Bush 43's guidance. MSP is its crucial tool; cutting edge charting, zoning, a way to permit big-energy so they can get busy with wind & oil.


I absolutely promise; This my deepest, fullest guarantee: Had I not been at this meeting that discussed MSP & Ocean Policy the word 'Fish' would not have been uttered. Energy people & policy wonks are not concerned with fishing. At all. Unless they are forced to be because there is an overlap. There is.


MARCO & MSP---our Ocean Policy--is about Energy - Big Energy.

I am active in voicing comment because I think Big Energy isn't going to give the south end of a north-bound rat if we "Used to fish there".. I'm there to protect our region's fishing grounds--All of 'em.

It so happens too that coral reefs remain un-found off our coast.. Right where they want some windmills.

I want wind-power too--Big Time.


And I want Big-Energy's help..


This week, and many others, big-water trawlers towed across corals that no human has laid eyes on and caught the heck out of fish in 50 - 60 fathoms. I'd wager their dead-discards would keep us fishing this season..


We remain ignorant of habitat crucial to our region's fisheries.

I think big-energy will be the impetus, the driver, for its discovery.

We fishers ought to make sure.


Sakes knows the flame that Jacques Cousteau ignited, that spirit of discovery that sent a generation of explorers to sea, has seemingly died--or been buried in bureaucracy..

Corals that no human has seen - Really.


The flounder you might catch in a back-creek in coastal Virginia or on the edge of the shoal behind OC's convention center will spend the winter in the deep--near the canyons.

The squid that fed a white marlin until it ate a ballyhoo.. 

It all ties together.


I wrote the piece below as on Op-Ed.

Will make as much noise as possible when my raft is back.

Goin' Fishin.




Capt. Monty Hawkins
Party Boat "Morning Star"
Reservation Line 410 520 2076






"Obama administration will accept no more public input for federal fishery strategy" shouts the headline. "No More Input" decries the article titled "Culled Out."

The Interagency Policy Task-Force --every guvmint agency with ocean ties & all the regional councils like MARCO-- filed a framework report that included the Marine Spatial Planning that's been chugging along for a good while.

A framework report cause for alarm?

Odd, I never saw a 60 day comment period closing as such big news. True though; No more input. At least until the next phase. 

Been better to shout it out when the comment period was open; Get people to examine it.  


There was a window to comment months ago on the interim report too; many public meetings. 


Marine Spatial Planning, MSP.. so much controversy. "Entire Watersheds Could Be Shut Down" this article cries. 

MSP is not about creating fish quotas. For many fishers that's all management is, the next quota review: It's what fishermen pay attention to. 


Our Ocean Policy and Marine Spatial Planning is about Windmills and Drill Baby Drill. It's a way minimize conflict and, if we pay attention, MSP can ensure that culturally important fishing grounds and fish habitat aren't needlessly lost as we press on with new energy for our nation.


Ever heard of the nearshore corals off Maryland? I wish you had: YouTube Common Seafloor Habitat Mid-Atlantic.


Ocean Policy, including Marine Spatial Planning, isn't about taking away fishing areas; It's about preserving them as the US moves into a new era of energy development.

These government task forces are charged with Promoting Energy. Sustainably if possible. Any other tasks are a distant second: I seriously doubt stealing our fishing spots is one of them.

They could run us over by accident though. Have to let them know we're here.


I made comments on the draft policy and final framework; received feedback too. The next policy phase will seek more charting input from fishers. I know it will in our region.   

But that will be after the sport-fish conference call on March 15th with NMFS's new head, Eric Schwaab: And after the rec-fish summit in mid-April in Silver Spring. These are giant communications steps. Never been done before to my knowledge.


Critical time too.


As a party boat operator in Ocean City, MD. with 30 years experience, I am fighting for my business' very existence because of recreational catch-estimate data rotten enough to make a menhaden processing plant blush.   


As fishery rebuilding plans have advanced--often with great success--the effects of less than perfect marine science and data's complex illusions are creating havoc as we close in on some species' restoration.

For instance: In September & October 2007 shore fishers targeting flounder in Maryland are officially estimated to have caught what MD party & charter boats will catch in 15 years.

We are often falsely accused of going over-quota; Have repeatedly fought the data and lost: Lost because we could not prove guys fishing on the bank weren't catching like an Alaskan factory trawler: Lost because 36,017 flounder from shore in two months seemed to regulators a reasonable number even if Maryland's professional crews caught well under 3,000 that year: Lost because although the data is astonishingly poor, as the 'best science available' it is inarguable--It must be used. We suffer shortened seasons, emergency closures, size limit increases and creel limit reductions because of statistical analysis that, literally, couldn't survive the light of day. 


This bad data is building, cumulative: Getting worse.

Marine Spatial Planning is not the problem nor will it be. Fishermen would be foolish to allow big-energy in without some manner of safety-net.

America does need to move forward with energy policy. Fishers need to look ahead as well.

Oil wells and windmills will actually contribute to marine production, will create reef communities. However, as the Chesapeake's fishers learned with the closing of the gas-docks by Homeland Security, sometimes what's good for fish doesn't remain good for fishermen.


I'm proud to tell you Maryland's coastal anglers did not wait for the government; That we had self imposed regulations on many species long before management--sometimes 1/2 a decade before regulation; That we have privately funded much of our reef restoration/creation: That we are staunch conservationists.. whose businesses are being destroyed by bad catch data, poor stock assessments: A general lack of flexibility. 


Even the skippers fishing after WWII never had ocean flounder fishing as we now do.

Still 'rebuilding' the summer flounder population though.


There's been no discovery of those corals I mentioned earlier; especially the areas long-lost. 

Regulators fail to realize the positive effect of artificial reef construction on black sea bass & tautog populations: Haven't calculated the negative effects of losing enormous swaths of once productive reef-like seafloor either.


Recognize numbers on paper though.. Use it too, no matter how rotten.


The challenges of rebuilding, fishing on rebuilt stocks, and finding those species left behind are not insurmountable. Bureaucratic rigidity is making it mighty hard though..


All those fishermen, commercial & recreational, that recently rallied in DC were there for the Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act.

Fishers need managers that can manage as we navigate; Follow a compass course yes, but dodge a new sand-bar.. Held rigidly to data sets of ill-found science --this math that would have made Madoff's staff envious-- our regulators are running us hard-aground.

There's no Flexibility in the Great Recession..

That is destroying the fishers.


What fishermen need now is truth & wisdom: Truth in stock assessments, Truth in catch estimates, Truth in news reporting and Wisdom in our governance.  

Strikes me we could use some of that near-everywhere.


Capt. Monty Hawkins

Berlin, MD.

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