Small-scale reef building that adds up over time; on my last fishing trip we dropped reef-block number 11,404 over the stern rail. Now 2,226 at Doug Ake's Reef – 1,299 at Saint Ann's - 410 at Al Giles’ Barge - 624 at Eagle Scout Reef - And, newly begun, 24 at Sue Foster’s Drifting Easy Reef..
Please Sponsor Our Larger-Scale Reef Building At ocreefs.org - Thank You!
Writing as tropical storm "Bill" goes by, fishing the last couple days has been plenty tough. Eking a catch out of it though, despite working really hard for a fish fry.
Had some very good days in the previous week, however, including 2 very decent days on flounder with some fluke limits & another couple days with the best sea bassing this year. Truth I swear: even Hurricane Murray himself limited on fluke one day..
If that report leaves you with no idea what you'll catch if you come fishing with us - perfect. We won't know either until about 1 o'clock that afternoon..
I do know you'll get 100% effort and the best gear & bait my crew & I can muster. Dan & Wes are the best crew I've had in years; best since Ritch & Mike worked the rail together. Fish cleaning is now as close to perfect as I've ever had.
Still seeing a few cod nearly everyday but with just an occasional 22 inch keeper. I wonder if our artificial reefs have begun a new sub-population of cod. That's not to imply "our reefs" as in just the reefs we've built along coastal Maryland, but 'ours' as in NJ/DE/MD & VA.
Cod along DelMarVa are positively at their highest abundance since the early 1970s. That strongly indicates a resurgence of fish because management has taken root.
Despite this grand new abundance of cod where cod haven't existed at all in decades, "Accountability Measures" based on NOAA's catch estimates now have recreational cod fishers closed from Cape Sea Bass, Massachusetts, (used to be Cape Cod) to the US/Canadian Border. If you fish for cod recreationally -where cod come from- for your home table, you are not allowed to keep any.
Trawl or gill net? Yup. That's OK. They have legal, if diminished, quota.
But not recreational. NOAA has estimates, MRIP catch-estimates, showing rod & reel guys up there took too many cod & must 'pay it back' in Accountability Measures. NOAA has estimates showing recreational fishers are the problem, showing they are far too greedy.
Sez so on a computer screen. That's why they are CLOSED.
"Closed" is happening a lot more often nowadays.
If you think "it can't happen here" to, say, summer flounder, you've not been paying attention.
Personally, I think it's inevitable that each recreational fishery will experience spikes in MRIP recreational catch-estimates that trigger Accountability Measures & Closures..
Haven't seen a red snapper off Maryland yet. Should-do any day I reckon. Lots & lots of them in fact. Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC) & plenty of others are convinced our present-day dearth of sea bass in the lower & central Mid-Atlantic is a result of population shift north; that cbass are fleeing our suddenly-too-warm southern Mid-Atlantic waters for New England instead. I figure (sarcastically) red snapper & grouper will soon occupy our now-nearly vacant nearshore reef habitats..
Odd. At a recent Advisory Panel meeting we were shown commercial Vessel Trip Report totals (VTRs) where much of the Mid-Atlantic & Southern New England region's entire commercial harvest of sea bass occurred nearshore along DelMarVa and further offshore along NJ.. Those are real commercial fish catches - not statistical illusion.
As I have shown time & again in my fish reports, it is only in MRIP's recreational catch estimates where small private boats in just one state, in just one two month period, are said to have captured more than the entire recreational quota. Because sea bass quota is divided nearly 50/50 - that means NY's & MA's private boats killed more sea bass in two months last year than all commercial effort caught ALL YEAR.
How in blazes can we be catching cod on our reefs in brand new multi-decadal highs while sea bass "flee" the very same reefs because of too-warm waters? How can sea bass be flourishing in the panhandle region of western Florida if our Mid-Atlantic waters are too warm?
How in the world can anyone believe small private boats from just two states can outfish all East Coast commercial sea bass harvest or out-catch many times over all US party/charter effort?
What on earth would make someone with a scientific mind declare red snapper harvest suddenly 10X greater by private boats than party/charter? Both sectors thought nearly even for decades, Accountability Measures are now occurring because MRIP catch estimates show private boats landed 10X as many red snapper. Estimates gone wild, most of the year is closed to recreational anglers because of catch estimates. Yet where state-water seasons are open far-longer, the red snapper fishery is well controlled & flourishing on man-made habitat.
How can scientists suddenly declare 'all recreational cod releases die' when those same scientists have been gathering hook & line tag returns for at least 125 years. And, just as suddenly in March/April 2010 when all recreational releases were shifted over to the "dead discards" column; private boat catch soared to 19X party/charter in a time of year when any familiarity with the fishery would point hard in exactly the opposite direction. Party boats & some charters would have been fishing for cod when the Boston bomber hid under a private boat's tarp on April 19th..
In a time when Private Boat catch probably equals no more than 5 to 10% of party/charter cod landings, the official catch estimate showed Massachusetts Private Boats had instead & single-handedly decimated the Gulf of Maine's cod population. .
Recent red snapper estimates for Florida's East Coast have closed the recreational blueline tile fishery off North Carolina, South Carolina & Georgia.. Habitat fidelity seen in all reef species, in what universe could reef fish restoration & management be so disconnected from habitat? Why on earth shut down everyone's blueline fishery over fears of bycatch created by a single state's estimate that isn't remotely true?
How can management continue to ignore artificial reef substrate's ability to successfully increase reef-fish populations?
Consider this too: the top six agenda items acted on by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council at their June meeting were 100% based on recreational catch estimates - at least those problems requiring deliberation sourced from catch estimates..
Management is no longer brand new. We should be on pace to grow fish populations to amazing new highs & indeed have in some cases. But we're still holding our breath as each set of estimate data is released. This should be really easy by now - but it's not because management's completely tangled in a web of catch-estimate lies.
Recently the US House of Representatives in Washington, DC passed the Magnuson re-write: HR 1335 - the "Strengthening Fishing Communities & Increasing Flexibility In Fisheries Management Act." I think many recreational anglers helped get that through.
The Bill's passage means the House Magnuson re-write has now gone to the Senate. I have no info on what the Senate is considering so far. Doesn't mean there's been no consideration, just that I'm not aware of any. I presume it's in the Senate Fisheries Sub-Committee. If you live in New Jersey that makes YOU a key player. We need Democratic support & Senator Cory Booker is on the Fisheries sub-committee.
Delaware & Maryland anglers are key too. In fact, all but two Senators from Virginia to Maine are Democrats. In this deeply divided world of partisan politics, we badly need bipartisan support for relief of bad data to our recreational fisheries.
If we do not have Democratic support, we will probably not even get a vote in the Senate. Even if successful, there must be enough Democrats to REALLY get the President's attention.
I'm no expert at politics or parliamentary procedure, but I have heard time & time again from staffers that our elected reps LIKE hearing from REAL constituents. In a world where million dollar bills float around like goose down, fisheries is small potatoes.
We'll need to shout really loud to be heard.
In House Bill 1335 there was a section demanding MRIP be examined by the National Research Council (NRC). The NRC would then be given one year to report back to Congress.
NOAA didn't wait. They've already asked the NRC to review their MRIP program.
The last time NRC looked at recreational catch estimates they BLASTED the Marine Recreational Fishing Statistics Survey (MuRFSS).
That's why Congress demanded repair by 2009 (even if it didn't come out until 2012.)
But they also tied the 2009 catch-estimate repair to Accountability Measures (AMs) in that last Magnuson re-write. Accountability Measures are designed to prevent regulators from bowing to fishers' demand of more tons of fish quota. (There were also harsh new measures proscribing exactly where a quota could be set, regulatory measures requiring lots & lots of 'safety cushion'..) Under AMs if quota is exceeded then it must be 'paid back.'
Commercial fishers sell their catch by the pound. Regulators have a pretty dern good idea of their catch. Simple check-book math shows whether Accountability Measures are needed.
Recreational fishers, however, have their catch 'estimated.' The only thing regulators know for certain is that they have a real mess on their hands. Basing Accountability Measures on MRIP catch estimates is like taking numerous Pay-Day loans in a row. With each assertion we've exceeded an already-smaller quota because of previous over-quota assertions (which are also based solely on catch estimates and never-ever an actual count of catch), Accountability Measures will eventually take every recreational fishery either to the point of becoming economically unviable or just CLOSED.
MRIP's catch estimates come out every two months. With Accountability Measures based on bad catch estimates currently required by law, (regardless whether ANYONE AT ALL actually believes an estimate is correct,) we're playing Russian roulette in every recreational fishery.
So, in the House's 1335 Bill they require:
“(A) IN GENERAL.—Not later than 60 days after the enactment of this paragraph, the Secretary shall enter into an agreement with the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences to study the implementation of the programs described in this section. The study shall—
“(i) provide an updated assessment of recreational survey methods established or improved since the publication of the Council’s report ‘Review of Recreational Fisheries Survey Methods (2006)’;
“(ii) evaluate the extent to which the recommendations made in that report were implemented pursuant to paragraph (3)(B); and
“(iii) examine any limitations of the Marine Recreational Fishery Statistics Survey and the Marine Recreational Information Program established under paragraph (1).
“(B) REPORT.—Not later than 1 year after entering into an agreement under subparagraph (A), the Secretary shall submit a report to Congress on the results of the study under subparagraph (A).”.
The authors of HR 1335 plainly have an idea something's wrong with the recreational catch estimates. But they didn't pick up on the severity of our situation. In order to prevent the continued loss of more & more recreational fisheries, we need the Senate's version of HR 1335 to specifically STOP and UNDO all Accountability Measures until we have factual knowledge of recreational catch.
Recreational fisheries cannot withstand the same levels of "Accountability" as commercially weighed & sold fish so long as this crud called MRIP decides our fate.
Combining MRIP with Accountability Measures has created a horrific waste of time & money. It's going to get much worse.
There's truly no need for raw estimates use today. There are already smartphone apps such as Rhode Island's for reporting & calculating recreational catch in real time. NOAA, however, is proud to announce they're going with a 'mail-in' system ..cutting-edge 1985 technology.
I'm telling you & I promise all who will read: Accountability Measures have already created needless economic pain. They will be the death of many businesses, perhaps again even by mid-summer in the cod closure up north. Accountability Measures are only beginning to take their toll in the Mid-Atlantic. "CLOSED" will be the end result.
If you think it's only a cod/cbass/red snapper problem - think again. Flounder/fluke could easily, very easily, be Accountability Measures' next victim.
Fishery management's Magnuson-forced dependance on recreational catch estimates has to go.
We need the Senate's help. We REALLY need Democratic Senators help.
See Sample Letter Below.
Please - Write to your Senators. If you already know which staffer you want to write, you're getting good at it.
We need to get good at it.
If you think "Never" or "Can't" - I beg 4 more minutes of your time. Here from a guy surrounded by Can't
during perhaps the world's darkest hour.. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ydi_KGXA9lk
(Churchill's address to Harrow School - He's got the right take on "never.")
"Never Give In, Never Give In, Never, Never, Never. In Nothing Great Or Small, Large Or Petty; Never Give In Except To Convictions Of Honor & Good Sense. Never Yield To Force; Never Yield to The Apparently Overwhelming Might Of The Enemy ..
Our is not the sacrifice some experience even today.
It's still important - really important - that we get marine fisheries restoration right. All this distraction caused by bad MRIP catch estimates has to go.
Arm yourself with a ball-point pen or keyboard and fight.
We MUST legislate some sense into this system.
Capt. Monty Hawkins
Partyboat Morning Star
Ocean City, MD
Find Your Representatives.
Dear Senator ______ ,
I'm writing to ask your support for a new Magnuson re-write. While HB 1335 recognizes the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) was probably a gigantic waste of federal money, the House version does not prevent further economic damage & loss of fishing opportunity to recreational anglers as more & more Accountability Measures accrue.
Because of Accountability Measures begun by the previous Magnuson re-write; MRIP's very poor, scientifically indefensible recreational catch estimate data has beaten down some fisheries to the point of despair. Overestimation of catch to the point of delusion has reached all-time highs just when repercussions for exceeding allowable quota are at their worst.
Spikes in the recreational catch estimates such as New Jersey's shore-bound anglers having caught more tautog in two late-winter months than all commercial effort landed all year are causing Accountability Measures to come into play across many recreational fisheries. With seasons already tight, Accountability Measures create more & more closures; often with estimates that no one involved with a fishery--including scientists & managers--believes in the least.
As management struggles with the demands of Magnuson to use bad data with no flexibility, concepts in management such as 'age at maturity shift' & sea floor habitat restoration/creation escape notice.
Cod, Haddock, Black Sea Bass, Tautog, Summer Flounder, Red Grouper & Red Snapper: Anglers From Maine To Texas Need Your Help.
Please Help Rid Accountability Measures' Brutal Economic Effects Until Recreational Catch Data Occurs In Real-Time.
Please Also Demand Of NOAA They Examine Habitat Production In The Reef Fisheries.
Fantastic progress in fisheries restoration awaits.