SPORTS

Allocations on the table, angler comments requested

By CAPTAIN DAVE MONTI
Posted 2/25/21

Summer flounder, scup and black sea bass are all fish commonly targeted by shore and boat anglers in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut. Fishing for these fish is common now because the biomass of all three of these species has moved north up

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SPORTS

Allocations on the table, angler comments requested

Posted

Summer flounder, scup and black sea bass are all fish commonly targeted by shore and boat anglers in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut. Fishing for these fish is common now because the biomass of all three of these species has moved north up the coast as water has warmed due to climate change.

The greater abundance of these species in our waters for both recreational and commercial fishers will make them more important than ever before as we continue to feel the impacts of climate change.

The challenge before fishermen today is weighing in on a new Amendment to the Fisheries Management Plans for all three species that addresses allocation of these species between the commercial and recreational sectors. And, we have a separate allocation/Fishery Management Plan amendment for bluefish which are overfished.

Science has advanced over the years and recently NOAA has discovered that these fish (summer flounder, scup, black sea bass and bluefish) are being caught in greater numbers by recreational anglers than ever thought before. This new data has led Federal fish managers to adjust the amount of fish they thought were in the water, which allowed higher commercial quotas. Based on these changes fish managers are rethinking how much should be allocated to recreational and commercial fishing sectors. These new Amendments will decide what share of fish should be allocated to the commercial sector and what share would be allocated to the recreational sector.

Anglers need to be aware of the amendments and the impact it will have on their fishing for years to come. New proposed regulation options are complex but need to be addressed with anglers weighing in on alternatives that grow fish stocks to abundance while allocating a fair quota and harvest limit to both sectors.

Recreational fishing groups such as the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association (RISAA) with over 7,500 affiliated members in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut are developing preferred options for recreational anglers. They aim to advocate for them as an Association and will encourage members and anglers to advocate for preferred options too. Steve Medeiros, president of the RISAA, said, “We will develop our Amendment recommendations and forward them to fish manages by the March 16 deadline. Our aim will be to encourage anglers to do the same and offer them some of our thoughts.”

The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (Commission), that provides regulations in state waters from shore to three miles offshore, are seeking public comment on the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Commercial and Recreational Allocation Amendment. Comments may be submitted at any of five virtual public hearings being between February 17 and March 2, 2021 or via written comment until March 16, 2021. Anglers can attend hearings on any date as information given in all presentations is the same.

Recent changes in how recreational catch is estimated have resulted in a discrepancy between the current levels of estimated recreational harvest and the allocations of summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass to the recreational sector. Some changes have also been made to commercial catch data since the allocations were established.

The amendment considers whether modifications to the allocations are needed and considers options that would allow a portion of the allowable landings to be transferred between the commercial and recreational sectors each year, in either direction, based on the needs of each sector.

Information on the summer flounder, scup and black sea bass amendment, the public hearing schedule, how to submit written comments and information about online public hearings can be found in a press release at http://www.asmfc.org/uploads/file/6001eb69pr01_SFSBSB-Allocation-public-hearings.pdf.

Bluefish in the mix to rebuild

The bluefish fishery is in trouble according to the 2019 operational stock assessment which found them to be overfished in 2018, but overfishing was on occurring. This trigged the development of a rebuilding plan for the bluefish stock which would change the Fisheries Management Plan (FMP) necessitating a separate Amendment for bluefish as prescribed by the Magnuson-Steven Act, the federal fishing law of our nation.

Bluefish are significant to anglers, in recent years 83 percent of them have been harvested by the recreational community and the balance by commercial fishers. The fish has an unusually high catch and release rate too, with anglers releasing most of what they catch.

The Council and Commission are seeking public comment on management options under consideration in the Bluefish Allocation and Rebuilding Amendment.

Amendment highlights include alternatives to revise the fishery management plan (FMP) goals and objectives; modify the bluefish allocations between the commercial and recreational sectors; modify the commercial allocations to the states; initiate a rebuilding plan; revise the quota transfer processes; and revise how the FMP accounts for management uncertainty

Comments may be provided at any of five virtual public hearings to be held between March 24 and April 8, 2021 or via written comment until April 23, 2021. The Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine and New Hampshire hearing will be held Thursday, April 1, 6-8 p.m.

Anglers are encourages to visit www.mafmc.org under news for links to the Council’s Bluefish Allocation and Rebuilding Amendment web page, for a copy of the Amendment as well as Public Hearing Documents and public hearing links.

Where’s the bite?

Freshwater. Warm weather and rain may have weaken ice, so be safe and check ice thoroughly and with local authorities before fishing or skating on it. Ken Ferrara of Ray’s Bait & Tackle, Warwick, said, “Local lakes and ponds are in flux, frozen and safe one day and unsafe the next. Anglers ice fishing when ice is safe are doing well. Local ponds like Gorton Pond in Warwick and Worden Pond in South County had been yielding a variety of fish for anglers when ice is safe.” Dereck Macnayr of Red Top Sporting Goods, Buzzards Bay said, “We had ice but it melted last week. When ice was safe anglers were doing well at Little Pond in Plymouth catching pickerel, trout and largemouth bass.” For fresh water licensing information in Rhode Island visit http://www.dem.ri.gov/programs/fish-wildlife/freshwater-fisheries; and in Massachusetts visit www.mass.gov/freshwater-fishing-information.

Cod fishing. Party boats fishing for cod this winter (weather permitting include) the Frances Fleet at www.francesfleet.com, the Seven B’s at www.sevenbs.com, and the Island Current at www.islandcurrent.com.

Dave Monti holds a captain’s master license and a charter fishing license. He is a RISAA board member, a member of the RI Party & Charter Boat Association, the American Saltwater Guides Association and the RI Marine Fisheries Council. Forward fishing news and photos to Capt. Dave at dmontifish@verizon.net or visit www.noflukefishing.com.

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