On this rainy Tuesday afternoon, a few thoughts from yesterday's NYS DEC meeting....
Surprisingly there was a noticeable turnout of people for the 2 pm meeting and for some reason the parking lot at the East Seatucket Bunker was packed to full capacity forcing a few people to park in the lot on the other side of the building. Director Gilmore stated that there was a voting quorum in attendance.
Just a few points of note from the 'Announcement' period of the meeting and this was when Director Gilmore mentioned about a management group which I would surmise is a workgroup made up of regulators from the MAFMC and ASMFC that will focus upon "recreational regulatory stabilization" between the states due to the extremely disjointed possession, size and open seasons that even bordering-neighboring states such as New York and New Jersey are now trying to deal with. There is continued talk on the setting of both stable specifications and the result being stable regulations for a 3 year time frame. Well haven't we mentioned this over the past few years at the meetings? Of course there are issues with this mindset (by regulators) of locking in recreational regulations in such a manner, but I will leave that to the audience here to ponder and debate.
Next I should mention that the minutes from the May "circus" meeting (yes remember the dog and pony show that occurred), was approved without anyone bringing up some of the outrageous and false statements made by certain individuals...during and after the meeting.
On the commercial side, Director Gilmore mentioned a Thursday night (@ 6:30 pm) Summer Flounder Commercial Issues Amendment meeting to be conducted at Endeavor Hall. As he stated, the best option for NYS commercial fishermen engaged in the Summer Flounder fishery will see at best, a 10.5% increase from the total coastwide allocation. Supposedly as Director Gilmore stated, this will somehow bring equity with New Jersey and Rhode Island in the region, and what more can I add. If interested attend this meeting......... (I did get a call about this topic as I was typing, and this individual was surprised that it is being held over at SOMAS since he even asked me "how many NYS commercial fishermen with fluke allocation will show up?" Just saying...)
MRIP Re-Calibration presentation by Richard Cody...
I am going to make this very brief since I doubt there is little difference I or any other person who is versed in MRIP can make after this being the third MRIP re-calibration I have sat through... and I must say it was the most in depth and best with the dialogue of the three. He was in fact the best spokesman as his tone was consistently mellow as well as low key as he walked the audience through the slides, and his rebuttal to any questions was of understanding, never confrontational. With some of the tougher questions posed by MRAC Councilor Chris S., Bob D., Jamie 'Miss Montauk', Captain Jimmy 'James Joseph' Schneider and myself led to the canned response, "do we really want to go down that slippery slope of just picking and choosing (subjectively) which data we remove from the MRIP data sets?" and "the picking out and then removing of any data estimates is dangerous."
I should note that he did bring up the issue with the variance on the estimates - with the 'precision' as measured and shown in the data query tables exceeding a greater than 50 threshold, which leads us to have little if any confidence in that particular data set. In fact and as he stated it is highlighted on the data query tables and a harvest estimate could "in theory" be 'zero' especially as the PSE increases and then reaches the statistical stratosphere of 100 or greater. He did mention not once, but a few times that this was due to the extremely small samples they had for a particular state Wave estimate...and should we say more about this, or am I wasting more of your valuable time that it comes down to more money for APAIS in hiring people to conduct dockside intercepts with the fishing public (NYS currently has 9 people in this program)?
My public comment, and those who were there can attest that I stated on "highlighting that particular query and removing it from use by fishery management as far as as a useful estimate." Of course, as he repeated to everyone in the audience, "it is error flagged".... but it is still used for management purposes as far as effort and total harvest, to wit: "data is data, even low sample sizes for a Wave with a high variance, are useful."
As for the slides and some of the changing INCREASE harvest and catch ratios seen over a time series, and getting back into the "tic infested weeds" of maybe the most troubling issue we fishermen who have been around for decades have been saying, and which was stated by not only me in the public comment, but others, and it can be summed up here:
"MRIP believes in ghost fleets of private boats, roaming off our shores.........and untold gangs of fishermen along our beaches, docks, piers and any other land based structure where a person can toss a line with a hook into the water, as we as the fishing public being able to consistently catch much larger fish on average then some of the most noted captains in the for-hire industry........................................"
Oh yes this was what the fishermen...stakeholders heard that somehow especially over a time series since 1981 from 2018, there are that many more fishermen going fishing at this time! A "mic-drop" moment for all of us who have spent a lifetime on and along the saltwater environment and Mr. Cody explaining to us over the following two hours this mindset that "MORE FISHERMEN ARE FISHING AT THIS TIME PERIOD THEN IN THE EARLY 1980's," before Mike Frisk and most likely his growling stomach, called for a wrap up of the meeting at a little after 4:30 pm (Full disclosure here which I should point out that many had walked out of the meeting by this time).
More so and to give you an idea on what they believe in much greater recreational fishing effort, lets go to one of the most popular fish in the northern region, bluefish, and this is what he stated on effort over the time series (1981 - 2017):
2.5x Higher 'Harvest' over the time series
4x Higher 'Total Catch' over the time series
One little nugget of information that I have neither read or heard was on the use of a cellphone app for recreation effort and harvest reporting, and he mentioned that they have some "alarming" information about the voluntary (or for that matter, mandatory) use of a "report my catch recreational fishing app" and that there is pretty close to a 100% turnover in fishermen using the app after a year. Fishermen may use it one time, then literally (from the data seeing in program in the GOMex) never report again. Nice right in helping the cause in providing another self-reporting data stream from recreational fishermen?
Another nugget that Mr. Cody mentioned is that commercial fishermen when seeing the re-calibration data for the first time (I can attest to this since I was on the HMS AP) is that they pretty much say, "we told you so. There are many more private boats, thus more fishing effort these days."
I ask all of you..."how many times can we repeat that in the past, fishermen caught fish and kept what they caught, and over the last 15 years it has become one where fishermen overwhelming are engaged in a regulatory discard fishery with most of the fish they catch end up becoming unnecessary dead fish due to either the minuscule possession limits in place, or outrageously large minimum size limits, or just catching a fish out of season." As someone stated, "discards are going through the roof," but those within the Silver Springs 'Puzzle Palace' believe that this is the way to manage recreational fisheries.
I do not want to bore you any further with the notes I took from this meeting. Maybe Chris Spies who I was sitting next to could add much more insight here. At this point, and as I told three people I spoke to afterwards, "it is full Titanic speed ahead with the new MRIP, and no matter what we say and who we write to in congress, it will not make any difference as statistical manipulation will end up being what fishery regulators use to set Catch Limits."
To end on a high note here as this is pretty troubling fishery news, a few nuggets of coal to be handed out...
The 'STFU' nugget goes to Mark H....and I believe many are tired and tone deaf to his repeated comments. Heck, if you think the A.P. is not working, don't reapply for the A.P. position anymore.
The 'Ambien' sleeping nugget goes out to a woman in the back who was as I thought, "catching a few winks." I was just told by a MRAC member before, "did you see who was sleeping in the back of the room?" Amazing, but then again, was anything accomplished here that we should stay awake for anymore?
The 'Invisible recreational MRAC member at the table' nugget goes out to one Charlie Witex. Maybe he had some denture work or his jaw was wired shut, but I believe he didn't say one word during the two hour MRIP discussion. I must say, all the other recreational MRAC members, did contribute to the discussion.
The other 'Invisible man at the front of the room' nugget is given to the Chief, John Maniscalco who also sat quietly and left before the meeting ended. One would think that someone who not only has a seat on the MAFMC, as well as being involved in a number of fishery working groups, would of had a short prepared 'bullet point' statement on issues he will be involved in with the upcoming Commission and Council meetings before the end of the calendar year (maybe a word on the upcoming benchmark assessments on summer flounder and striped bass) to make for those attending this MRAC meeting.
Finally, this may have been one of the more mellow MRAC meetings in a while. There was no screaming out, sassing, or even cursing that I can remember from yesterday’s meeting. Everyone maintained proper decorum, and as I said to Joe Paradiso after the meeting, "I believe everyone is pretty much numb at this point with the regulatory news."
I also want to send a big "feel and get better" to Captain Joe 'King Cod' who could not possibly attend. As a number of you have seen on social media, Captain Joe has had some health issues lately.
Ps, I like to thank Doug Z. Ph.D. for passing along some information that might be of interest to fishermen and stakeholders.
Rutgers University Cooperative Extension: Black Sea Bass Discard Mortality seminar, Sept. 25, 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM (TONIGHT)
The next seminar as a part of our Marine Extension Program Seminar Series (MEPSS) with Rutgers Cooperative Extension (RCE) will be on Tuesday, October 2, 2018 from 7:00-8:30 PM.
The featured speaker will be Dr. Jon Hare, Science and Research Director, NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center. Dr. Hare will be giving a presentation focused on "Fisheries in a Changing Climate".
This free evening seminar is open to all who are interested in attending and is being held in conjunction with the October meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, which meets in the same location next Tuesday from 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM (full Council meeting covers three days, Oct. 2-4):
This will be a "HyFlex" seminar where people can attend live at Congress Hall in Cape May, NJ or remotely via webinar.
Physical meeting location: Congress Hotel Ballroom, 200 Congress Place, Cape May, NJ 08204
Please register by Monday, October 1 if you are planning to attend either by coming to Congress Hall in Cape May or remotely via webinar by contacting Kelly Jurgensen (firstname.lastname@example.org | 732-349-1152).
Please forward this announcement to anyone who might be interested and contact me if you have any questions. Also, keep an eye out for announcements of additional seminars this fall and winter on topics related to fisheries, aquaculture, and coastal resource management.