Friday, April 13, 2018

Fish Report 4/13/18

Fish Report 4/13/18 
Help Wanted 
More on NOAA/MRIP's Recalibration

Greetings All, 
Aside from May 15 to June 3rd sea bass reservations, I have no trips to announce. If instead of wondering when those folks in the stern booked you'd like to be among them, phoning 410 520 2076 connects you to folks who have handled reservations for me nearly 15 years now.. 

Bottom's painted. Working on running gear: props, shafts, couplings. Even changing the heavy duty hose between the stuffing box and shaft log. (A stuffing box is where the propeller shaft enters the engine room - it allows free rotation while keeping out as much water as possible via 'packing.' Over-tighten and you'll create so much heat you could melt the hose; not enough packing/too loose--better hope your bilge pumps can keep up..) The hose was OK, but aging. If it were to fail there'd be a lot of paperwork. 
Shouldn't be much longer & I'll be toggin. 

I do need crew.. Like other great mates over almost 4 decades; one of the best deckhands I've had, Danny, is leaving for the tug boat industry. He won't have to worry with fisheries closures based on bad data anymore.. 
If you know of someone wanting deck work (& I always find work for my guys year round!) please have them email. (No, don't call the reservation line - just email, it's the first test..  ( Do have a couple strong contenders. Please note: our industry is drug tested....

I've been writing lately about a new MRIP catch estimating dilemma, the "Recalibration." 
NOAA's already laugh-out-loud dumb MRIP guesses at how many fish recreational anglers catch are today worse than EVER in history. Now NOAA says they're going to be increased 6 times (X6) for the Shore mode & also go up 3.3X for Private Boats. 
Party/Charter estimates won't budge. 
I'll show just how ridiculous that would be ..errr,
Will Be if we don't stop it. 

Party/Charter landings (the "For-Hire" trade, what my boat is) will remain as is. Because we surrender catch data for every trip, MRIP shouldn't need modification for Party/Charter. Do NOT, however, think NOAA's catch estimating program actually does have For-Hire catch right. The whole business of catch estimating is beyond sad.. 

I've also included a couple letters below. One from Capt. Dan Stauffer on the Fin Chaser, and my own. I sent mine to the addresses below. We have got to write -- as many anglers as possible -- to prevent this "Recalibration" from taking place. This recalibration affects fisheries from Maine to Texas. 
MRIP does need work. It's completely screwy. But INCREASING the worst statistics to ever be called science is not the work that needs done. 

A sharp lady once told me,"When you're trying to accomplish something in politics, everyone's your friend."
There has never been anyone at either the top of Commerce (now Secretary Ross) or at the top of NOAA (now Under-Secretary Gallaudet) who has expressed such sincere interest in fishing, especially not recreational fishing. 
Secretary Ross has already interceded on recreational fishers' behalf twice. Once for New Jersey's fluke regs last year; and he also gave a major increase to the red snapper season in the Gulf. 
The REASON those (and plenty more!) are/were needed is because NOAA's always held recreational catch estimates as infallible. If an MRIP estimate says guys freezing their butts off on New Jersey's jetties looking for the first tog of the year caught more Mar/April tog in 2010 than all Commercial & For-Hire combined, than that's bloody well what happened & quit your whining!
This Is Real Fisheries Data -- All caught and sold by the pound: All Commercial Tautog/Blackfish Landings Throughout The Species Entire Range in 2010 = 286,000 lbs. 
Here instead is a truly outrageous guess at recreational catch--but still treated as though real: NJ 2010 Shore Tautog Landings For Just March & April 2010 = 469,000 lbs. 
Sooooo.... MRIP sez NJ Shore caught nearly twice as many pounds of tog in a few weeks as ALL Commercial effort ALL YEAR, and did that amazing feat while experts in NJ's tog fishery (like Al Ristori) tell me folks are just trying for the first few tog of the year. 
Here's what's "recalibration" does to this shore-only recreational estimate: That NJ Shore-Only Tog estimate climbs to 2,814,000 lbs.. 
So.... Under recalibration All 2010 Commercial would stay the same. To recalibrate, MRIP must increase that late winter/early spring catch six times. Those shore anglers would have now caught (in a few weeks while no tog were actually biting) what is equal to a full decade of all commercial catch.. 
If that makes NO SENSE to you, read on & WRITE!

Sea bass regulation has been in absolute turmoil since 2009. Is this because we're having trouble with a sea bass "restoration" scheme that has not the least inkling there might be sea bass habitat in play? Is this because managers have looked at the astounding number of cbass commercially landed from 1950 to 1961 and realized the most frail of seafloor habitats were lost in the earliest days of fishing's 'industrial revolution.' Adding commercial landings--sea bass sold by the pound--from 1962 to present, all those decades added together, does not equal the number of cbass sold in those early post-WWII years between 1950 & 1961. 

No, marine fisheries restorations have no such historical habitat loss in mind. Today sea bass are thought to be far-far above their population rebuilding target; somewhere around 240% rebuilt in fact. A resounding success. Recreational fishers should be enjoying this "fully rebuilt" fishery. 

The problem is NOAA's Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP, and not MuRFSS Rest In Peace) senses increases in catch and blows them up, while taking any decline and dropping it through the floor. 
Recreational estimates for 2008 are the first year Private Boats are thought to have landed more sea bass in the Mid-Atlantic than the For-Hire fleet with 63% of landings. In 2009 Private Boat percentage climbs again to 74% of landings. In 2010 it was 81.7%.. In 2016 it was 84.3% and in 2017 Private Boat share fell just slightly to 83.3%.. 
Percentages are a funny thing.This 83.3% in 2017 number is derived from Private Boats above Hatteras landing 3,226,000 lbs.. (All Commercial Landings For The Entire Atlantic Coast Are 2,660,000 lbs.) Where Party/Charter only landed 16.7%, that makes Private Boat fully 5X greater than Party/Charter's 646,000 lbs.. (646 x 5 = 3,230) 
It's a common theme in MRIP. Tightened regulations show up in For-Hire estimates as an anticipated decline in catch, while Private Boat generally increases over time no matter what. 

Private Boat catching 83.3% doesn't sound too outrageous to anyone not observing the fishery on an almost daily basis. Although I've never spoken to a Party/Charter skipper who felt Private Boat catch was much more than 50% in his area -about equal- and that mostly on nice holiday weekends - I've yet to get any traction with a method of red-flagging catch estimates using "Percentage of the Catch." 

To say Private Boat lands 5X Party/Charter's catch is, to me, wholly out of touch with our fishery's reality. Off Maryland I'd question Private Boats even catching 20%.. I'd say instead: "Yes, Party/Charter catches 5X Private Boat." 
Even on the busiest days at our reefs, a flat-calm holiday, I've never observed more Private Boat anglers than For-Hire. Takes a lot of Private Boats to equal a couple crowded Party Boats plus a few charters.. An awful lot. Most days there are many more For-Hire patrons than Private Boat anglers. On plenty of trips we see no private boats at all. 

MRIP scoffs at the idea. They say "There are a lot more Private Boats. Of course they catch more fish."
The reality is there are a lot fewer people who own a seagoing Private Boat than among everyone who can afford a fishing trip on a Party Boat or even Charter. 

Now, the whole point of this is to not only show MRIP's current estimates are out of sync with fishing's reality, but that increasing Private Boat catch by 3.3X (or Shore by 6X) is ludicrous beyond belief. 
Under 'recalibration' - instead of Private Boat catching 83.3% or 5X more, they'll have now landed 94.9% of the recreational black sea bass north of Cape Hatteras or 19.4X more sea bass than all Party/Charter. 
Recalibration will also make Private Boat sea bass catch north of Hatteras fully 4X greater than All Atlantic Commercial Landings. 
That's some pretty clever math. 
It just doesn't jive with fishing's reality. 

Lastly, perhaps readers will recall that although Party/Charter summer flounder (fluke) landings decreased across the board in 2016: for Private Boats (especially those in NY & NJ) fluke catch doubled in 2016 from 2015's estimates. 
While NOAA was cutting quota 30% across the board as Sandy's deadly decline on 2012's flounder spawn works its way though the flounder population; MRIP had Private Boat catch double. 
Makes sense to them, I guess. 
MRIP's Logic: Party/Charter professional fishers having a harder time catching fluke? OK, let's double Private Boat catch. 
Where just NY & NJ's Private Boat catch had doubled to 4,157,000 lbs of summer flounder in 2016 -- Under recalibration that would equal 13,718,000 pounds.. That's very nearly double what ALL Commercial effort landed, and 38.5X what NJ/NY's Party/Charter caught.. 

Again, these assertions cannot be true - they're even laughed at by the very regulators who must use this information. But when new regulations are posted, these "catches that never happened" will be factored in precisely. Always are. I believe they'll show we went far over quota and must be CLOSED. 

I've been writing about catch estimates for decades. Have been telling people things like: 
"I guarantee all who will read: We Are Being Robbed. Entire Fisheries Are Being Stolen From Recreational Fishers By Bad Catch Estimates." 
That was before Recalibration.
Where Jesse James used a gun, NOAA's MRIP will use statistics.

Here it comes. Recalibration's Ready. It will create positively HUGE increases in recreational catches from Maine to Texas. 
We're gonna get hammered if we don't write to the Secretary of Commerce, & Undersecretary of NOAA to stop it. 
I'm also writing my Congressman & Senators, plus NOAA staff a tad lower than Under Secretary. 

My letter & Capt. Dan Stauffer's letter plus addresses below. 

Capt. Monty Hawkins 
Partyboat Morning Star 
Ocean City, MD. 




Capt. T Daniel Stauffer

To: Secretary of Commerce Ross

1401 Constitution Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20230


Honorable Mr. Ross

I am writing you this morning urging your immediate involvement in an issue that, it left unchecked, will cost thousands of jobs and tens of millions of dollars in lost revenue.  The issue I'm speaking of is the pending implementation of "recalibration" of NOAA's MRIP recreational catch estimates. If allowed to take place this action will surely close many fisheries and destroy jobs. For years the For Hire & Recreational fisheries have been hampered by horrible catch date produced by MuRFSS and now MRIP. The catch estimate numbers arrived at by these two methods are so preposterous that many, if not most, within the fisheries management community consider them to be a complete joke, but it's no laughing matter. Current law requires they be acted upon even if no one believes them to be in the least bit accurate.  I urge you to take immediate action to confront this pending disastrous "recalibration" before it's too late for my industry, my livelihood, my family and thousands of others just like me.


Capt. T Daniel Stauffer


From: Capt. Monty Hawkins



Greetings Mr. Oliver,

Thank You for speaking at, and attending, the Recreational Saltwater Fishing Summit.

Of the times Secretary Ross has already interceded on recreational fishers' behalf, Commerce's intervention was only required because NOAA's recreational catch estimating program, MRIP, had created an illusion of already-tightly controlled recreational fishing being more dangerous to a population of fish today than even foreign factory trawl in the days before Magnuson & the 200 mile limit.


You were there. Three times at NOAA's rec-fish summit I had the whole room laughing. Fishers, all the NOAA people, all the Council & Commission folks too; everyone was laughing at bad catch estimates I quoted directly from the MRIP website.

Imagine.. These estimates have already been used to choke recreational fishing's commerce – yet are so bad even those at the top of our regulatory bodies laugh at them. Maybe you laughed too.

Something's gone badly wrong. Top managers laugh at how dumb these catch assertions are; yet these statistics are used against us. It is here, in truly putrid data, where recreational "Over Fishing" & "Over Quota" come from. It's NOT REAL – just statistics.

For instance: MRIP holds NY's small private boats targeting sea bass outfished the entire Party/Charter fleet along the whole Atlantic Coast in 2016 – by two times! While all Atlantic Coast Party/Charter landed 828,000 lbs, (and all commercial trawl/trap landed 1,390,000 pounds) - NY's small private boats landed, according to official MRIP estimate, 1,842,000 pounds of sea bass. This could never be true. Shoot, private boaters in NY complain about NY's own For-Hire Party/Charter boats "catching all the fish." If MRIP's assertion were vaguely proximate, it would be Party/Charter complaining bitterly about NY Private Boats

..and, if MRIP were right, NY's Private Boats caught 450,000 more pounds of sea bass than ALL commercial trawl & trap north of Cape Hatteras.

That's just preposterous.

All the regulators gathered in that room you spoke to twice thought it was funny.

I assure you: Bad regulation owing only unbelievably bad data isn't funny.


Fishing for a living 38 years now. I have fought recreational catch data's flaws since 1998. Our wins have been few. The biggest win was supposed to be the switch to MRIP from the old MRFSS system.

I promise you Admiral, this 'new & improved' MRIP recreational catch data program is more out of touch with reality than any that's ever come before --- seriously. Recreational catch data is worse now than ever before.

Another 'for instance:' MRIP has almost 50,000 pounds of sea bass caught from shore in MD in 2016.

I absolutely guarantee: from MD's one seaport, Ocean City Inlet, where a single keeper sea bass might be caught, we have been unable to find anyone claiming to have caught a keeper. Not One! 

MRIP also claims Shore caught sea bass averaged 1.3 lbs. I can't 'average' that for my clients 30 miles offshore!

Actually? Those Shore anglers caught none..


These shenanigans are EVERYWHERE in MRIP's data. Insanely impossible assertions of catch that COULD NOT POSSIBLY BE TRUE are used against us to "prove" we've gone over-quota and must be punished with more closed season – more lost trips – more clients lost.

I am 100% certain: From Texas to Maine, Catch Estimates Are At The Root Of Recreational Fishing's Regulatory Troubles.


Now NOAA wants to make MRIP far worse. NOAA intends to allow MRIP to "recalibrate" their data 3.3X up in Private Boat mode & 6X up in Shore. 

That'll mean NY Private Boats caught 7X more than ALL Atlantic Coast Party/Charter professional businesses caught in 2016 – Those small boats in NY will have even outfished all Commercial effort in the entire management unit by nearly 4X..

Similarly, under "recalibration" Maryland Shore anglers will have landed very nearly half what all Party/Charter landed along the entire Atlantic coast & almost half what all Commercial fishers landed in the Mid-Atlantic that year. 

Does it matter that it's laugh out loud stupid?

No. It's always the case that NOAA's "Best Available Science" counts against us, no matter whether a living soul believes it or not.


I promise you, this is lunacy.

And, as evidenced by an entire conference room of NOAA/NMFS/Council/Commission's best & brightest breaking out in laughter – they already know the numbers are garbage.

Sure doesn't mean they won't use them.


Please Help!

Please send them back to the drawing board with this "recalibration." In fact, take the whole bunch behind the woodshed for having EVER using this garbage in the first place! The West Coast put this data to bed a long time ago. Ours is getting WORSE!

Please ALLOW Council & Commission to use common sense where data is, literally, laugh out loud dumb. Right now they HAVE to use data no one believes. No one!

That data crushes recreational fishing's industry.


Always and forever arm-wrestling some impossible data, we leave our best tools for fisheries restorations in the tool box. Marine reef building has always been of no concern to NOAA. What? Why? Have we too much coral?

When in DC you're only 110 miles from Maryland's corals. Yet the US spends it's coral habitat money in distant lands ..while recreational businesses are forever fending off accusations of "over-fishing" that could not possibly be true.

The Mid-Atlantic ocean has turned green. It's LOADED with algae. Since the demise of our region's natural biofilter, the oyster, marine water quality has slid steadily downward.

Building new reef-fish spawning habitat & biofilters, whether estuarine oyster or marine coral reef, is as simple as rolling rocks off a barge.

Instead, we focus on how to regulate based on MRIP catch data no one trusts – at all.


I beg your aid.




Monty Hawkins

Secretary of Commerce Ross - (Might work.. Writing's better)
1401 Constitution Ave NW, Washington, DC 20230

NOAA Undersecretary RDML Gallaudet, and Francisco Werner, NOAA's Director of Scientific Programs & Science Advisor: 

NOAA Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, Chris Oliver: Deputy Assistant at NOAA Fisheries, Sam Rauch: (also )
NOAA Fisheries 

There's no way I can list everyone's DC & State reps - they all google - type in a name & "contact us" -- there's also -- from here you can find your reps..

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