This past Friday, the fishing community including local NOAA officials, academics, members of the RI Department of Environmental Management as well as commercial and recreational fishermen provided Rhode Island's congressional delegation with input on the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act Reauthorization. The act, which is commonly called the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA), will come before congress for renewal this year.
The Magnuson-Stevens Act is the primary law governing marine fisheries management in the United States. It was originally enacted as the Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976 and amended many times. The two recent amendments were the Sustainable Fisheries Act of 1996 and then the MSA of 2006.
Senator Shelton Whitehouse, D-RI, organized the input session for the congressional delegation and fishermen at the Coastal Institute on the URI Bay Campus. Senator Whitehouse said, "We are in the process of considering the Act and want your input. As you know this is not the only opportunity for input, many of you have and will continue to connect with us about fisheries issues and the MSA but his is a good start."
Congressmen James Langevin, D-RI, in opening comments spoke about a draft MSA bill being circulated by Representative Doc Hastings, R-Wash, "The draft bill proposed by Representative Hastings would strip away a lot of the gains of the Magnuson-Stevens Act." Director Janet Coit of the Department of Environmental Management said that the Hastings bill would weaken Annual Catch Limits (ACL), which have served us well to rebuild fish stocks in RI and the nation.
A common theme related by fishermen and fish managers at the meeting was fishermen participation in data collection and research. Ted Platz, commercial fishermen and an active member of the fishing community and monk fishery said, "We need fishermen to play an active role in fishery research." The collaboration between researchers and fishermen is key, the days of relying on just government sponsored research are gone. It has proven not to be effective.
As a member of NOAA's Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee's Recreational Working Group and an active member of the Rhode Island recreational fishing community, I testified at the hearing.
Highlights of my testimony are noted below.
Impact of Recreational fishing on RI
and the nation
Recreational fishing is a major part of the fishing equation in the nation and in RI. Often times it represents 40 to 60 % of allowable catch in state waters for a species (like striped bass and summer flounder). Recreational fishing has an annual economic impact of $170-million dollars in RI and $56 billion in the US.
and recreational fishing
The Recreational Working Group of NOAA's Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee is comprised of about 35 recreational fishermen and for-hire charter captains throughout the country. This group published a white paper (which I helped write) in December, 2013 that recommended NOAA policy changes and suggested changes to the MSA that should be made to reflect the thoughts of recreational fishermen. Highlights are noted below. E-mail me at email@example.com for a copy of the full report.
• Flexible timeframes for rebuilding stocks
• Setting Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY)/Optimum Yield (OY) to mange for an appropriate stock structure
• Flexibility in stetting Annual Catch Limits and reducing buffers (due to a lack of recreational fishing effort and catch data, fish mangers historically have been conservative when establishing quota
• Fishing definitions should recognize the non-commercial or for-hire charter fishing industry (this is particularly important for the RI party and charter boat industry) as well as subsistence fishing regionally
• Cooperate research with recreational fishermen and other stakeholders should be encouraged with a portion of Allowable Biological Catch (ABC) set aside to test new management strategies.
A good example of cooperative research and new management strategies (as noted above) is the for-hire charter fishing industry summer flounder cooperative pilot in Rhode Island that met with great success in 2013 and is now planning for a second pilot year in 2014. The cooperative reduced discards from 78.1% to 42.8% and reduced discard morality by 45%. The cooperative provided incentives for stewardship and accountably while reducing discards; it improved the experience of charter customers and allowed captains to better manage their charter businesses.
The cooperative tested new innovative software with computer tablets on board that recorded catch in real time, species type and length and the location the fish were caught though a GPS capability. Visit www.rifishforthefuture.org for more formation about the cooperative and details on results and plans for 2014.
and chunking for bass
Two topics will be covered at the Monday, February 24, 7:00 p.m. Rhode Island Salt Water Anglers Association monthly seminar… chunking for bass with Capt. B.J. Silvia and Greg Vespe and Climate Change and Marine Fisheries (past, present and future) with Dr. Jonathan Hare, director of NOAA's Narragansett Laboratory. The meeting will be held at the West Valley Inn, West Warwick, RI. Optional dinner served between 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. with the seminar starting at 7:00 p.m. Non-members are requested to make a $10 donation to the RISAA Scholarship Fund, RISAA members attend free. Visit www.risaa.
org for additional information.
Anglers say striper
fishing down 78%
The results of the Stripers Forever 2013 Annual Fishing Survey were released last week. A total of 1,020 anglers responded to the survey. 78% of fishers report catching fewer fish compared to 4% reporting catching more. Also, 60% said they were catching smaller fish compared to only 18% claiming they were larger.
Brand Burns, president of Stripers Forever said, "Most of the older, larger fish from the great year classes of the 1990s and early 2000s have been removed from the population leaving us with smaller fish and many less fish from the poor year classes that have generally characterized the fishery since 2003… Without a doubt the decline in striper fishing is hurting (the fishing guide industry)… related fishing tourism and tackle businesses."
The survey had a good representative sample from fishers all along the striper's migratory range, and as usual MA and NJ vied for the greatest contributions with 227 and 222 completed surveys respectively. Visit www.stripersforever.org for survey details.
Shore angler fishing
With recreational fishing regulations up for consideration this month many RI anglers hope our fish mangers will continue the trend started last year when shore anglers at select RI locations could keep 9" scup rather than the normal 10" minimum size. The hope is that RI will expand the program to include shore fishing for summer flounder this year in select locations, much the same way Connecticut has done with its Enhanced Shore Fishing initiative including both scup and summer flounder in its program.
Where's the bite
Fresh water ice fishing is taking place on select ponds and lakes that are frozen to safe standards (visit www.dem.ri.gov for ice safety standards and call your local police department to make sure ice is safe before going out on it). John Littlefield of Archie's Bait & Tackle, East Providence, said, "I had customers buying bait for ice fishing all week. Many of them, including some Providence College students, were heading up north." Patti Ferrara of Ray's Bait & Tackle, Warwick, said, "Fresh water ice fishing bait and tackle was selling pretty good last week until the weather turned bad, I suspect things will pick up once the weather clears."
Cod fishing continues to be good if party boats get out to fish but the weather has made it difficult. Reservations are important so captains can plan their trips. Three boats sailing include the Frances Fleet at www.francesfleet.com , the Seven B's at www.sevenbs.
com, and the Island Current at www.islandcurrent.com.
Captain Dave Monti has been fishing and shell fishing on Narragansett Bay for over 40 years. He holds a captain's master license and a charter fishing license. Contact or forward fishing news and photos to Capt. Monti at firstname.lastname@example.org.