No Fluke

More to a vote than meets the eye


I spoke with Bob Ballou, assistant to the director of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, and Rick Bellavance, president of the RI Party & Charter Boat Association about the December 14, 2012 Atlantic Slates Marine Fisheries Commission's (ASMFC) deliberations and votes on Amendment 2 concerning the management of Atlantic Menhaden coastwide. Ballou and Bellavance along with Bill McElroy, treasure of the RI Lobstermen's Association, represented Rhode Island at the ASMFC meeting.

Captain Bellavance said, "The Rhode Island delegation has one vote… so the three of us deliberate, come to a consensus and then cast our vote." Bellavance continued, "There were diverse opinions and proposals on the issue… industry processors of Atlantic Menhaden (primarily Omega Protein that catch 80% of all Atlantic Menhaden) were advocating for a 10% reduction and on the other extreme some environmental groups were advocating for a 50% reduction. We came to a consensus at 20% and ultimately cast our vote in favor of this reduction percentage." Throughout the course of the meeting many voters were taken, some Bellavance said to facilitate discussion on the issue to ensure all points of view at the table were heard.

Many in the recreational fishing community in Rhode Island were disappointed at the 20% reduction approved by the ASMFC. The Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association (RISAA) was advocating for a 30% reduction and Don Smith an ASMFC Atlantic Menhaden panel member and RISAA member said, "At the Baltimore meeting, we were advocating for a 25% reduction and could not understand why the Rhode Island delegation was settling for less."

Robert Ballou of DEM took the time last week to outline in detail what happened at the ASMFC meeting and its impact on the Rhode Island Atlantic Menhaden fishery. Here is what he had to say.

"The meeting was noteworthy for a number of reasons:

1. It resulted in the adoption of a first-ever coastwide quota (total allowable catch, or TAC) for menhaden, reflecting the ASMFC's commitment to end overfishing and achieve long-term protection and sustainability for this ecologically important species, and the people who depend on it.

2. It resulted in a new coastwide quota set at 80% of the average coastwide landings of menhaden over the three-year period 2008-2011 - i.e., 80% of 470 million pounds = 376 million pounds.

3. It resulted in a state-based allocation program, which allocates the new coastwide quota according to the average percentage of each state's landings over the three-year period 2008-2011.

a. Virginia will be allocated 85.3% of the coastwide quota (317 million pounds)

b. NJ will receive 11.2% of the coastwide quota (42 million pounds)

c. The other 13 states will receive shares ranging from 0% (NH, SC, and GA) to 1.37% (MD)

d. RI will receive 0.02% (about 75,000 pounds)

4. It involved a multi-faceted management program proposal, and an unprecedented level of public involvement:

a. In September, the ASMFC approved for public comment a 143-page Draft Amendment, which addressed a range of issues, including new biological reference points, stock rebuilding and fishing mortality reduction schedules, the establishment of a TAC, the process for allocating the TAC, reporting requirements, and various other provisions

b. The Draft Amendment was subject to 13 public hearings in 10 states, including one in RI; over 500 people attended the hearings;

c. The Board received a total of 128,333 written comments on the Draft Amendment

d. Several hundred people attended last Friday's Board meeting in Baltimore

5. At the day-long Board meeting, the Board decided upon the various issues via a series of 40 separate votes.

6. The upshots of the ASMFC's final approval of Amendment 2 to the ASMFC's Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Menhaden, as it relates to Rhode Island's interests, are:

a. Menhaden migrate in and out of RI waters on a regular basis, and are an important component of the RI marine ecosystem. The adoption of new coastwide measures aimed at increasing protection of menhaden, with particular recognition of the important role they play as forage fish, is consistent with RI's long-standing interests vis-à-vis sound conservation of marine fishery resources.

b. RI's landings over the past ten years have generally ranged from about 5,000 pounds to about 100,000 pounds. In 2008 -- a banner year, and an anomaly - 269,000 pounds were landed. RI's average annual landings over the past three years have been about 87,000 pounds. The vast majority of RI's landings are taken by a handful of fish trap operators operating in RI waters in the lower Bay and along the southern coast.

c. RI has had a very progressive state-waters menhaden protection program in place for a number of years. The program, which primarily guards against localized depletion, involves a number of components, the most significant being that mobile gear (namely, purse-seine) operations in the Bay are only allowed to target menhaden when they occur in the Bay in relatively large numbers, exceeding a 2 million pound biomass threshold, or floor. This RI program is not affected by the new ASMFC action, and is slated to remain in place in 2013 and thereafter. {Note: In recent years, there has been just a single purse-seine vessel that has fished for menhaden in Narragansett Bay, with all landings taking place in Fall River, MA.}

d. RI will need to adopt new state regulations for 2013 to manage its new 75,000 pound state allocation. While this will likely involve the imposition of constraints on the fish trap operators, the constraints will likely be modest, since the State's allocation is only slightly less than average annual landings over the past few years. Moreover, the adoption by ASMFC of a 6,000 pound menhaden bycatch allowance for non-directed fisheries, not to be counted against the state quotas, will provide considerable flexibility to the fish-trap operators, and will help to minimize discard mortality.

e. The ASMFC's new menhaden plan includes an "episodic event set aside" totaling 1% of the new coastwide quota (i.e., about 3.76 million pounds), which is available to nine states, including RI, that have relatively low allocations (less than 2% of bait landings, averaged over the past three years). While it remains to be seen how this set-aside will be managed, it is evident that RI will be able to tap into it, to some degree, if/when large numbers of menhaden show up in RI waters."

Here is a link to the ASMFC website that summaries meeting deliberations: .
Striped bass meeting

A meeting of the Striped Bass Advisory Panel of the Rhode Island Marine Fisheries Council will be held Tuesday, January 08, 6:00 p.m. at the URI, Graduate School of Oceanography, Coastal Institute Building, Large Conference Room, South Ferry Road, Narragansett, Rhode Island. Agenda items include a striped bass stock status, the 2012 RI fishery, a review of ASMFC Addendum III to Amendment 6 for the management plan as well as fish trap and commercial seasons and quota allocations. At this meeting, members of the Advisory Panel can submit new proposals for the 2013 fishing season. For more information, please contact Nicole Travisono at (401) 423-1940.

Where's the bite

Cod fishing is good. Angler Frank Gionfrido recently fished for cod on the Lady Kay out of Snug Harbor ( Gionfrido said, "In no time at all we arrived on the fishing grounds south of Block Island… We caught cod non-stop for the next three hours with an occasional Sea Bass (all released) and dog fish. Daphine was high hooked with a 21 pounder followed by Capt. Steve with a 14 pounder and my biggest was 11. All tallied we kept 29 cod (and) released four shorts…". At press time the Francis Fleet and Seven B's party boats have not been able to get out due to high winds and rough seas. Visit them at and for information, schedules and reports.

Captain Dave Monti has been fishing and shell fishing on Narragansett Bay for over 40 years. He holds a captain's master license, a charter fishing license, and is a member of the Rhode Island Marine Fisheries Council and the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association board member. Visit Captain Dave's No Fluke website at, his blog at or e-mail him at


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