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Entries in fisheries management (55)

Thursday
Oct302014

ASA, RFA Oppose 'Sector Separation' for Red Snapper Fishery

Not surprisingly, the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) also are critical of Amendment 40, which created “sector separation” in the recreational segment of the Gulf of Mexico red snapper fishery. (For more about this issue, see post below this one.) 

From ASA:

The American Sportfishing Association (ASA) is strongly opposed to sector separation and is deeply troubled that this poorly conceived and detrimental plan was passed by the Gulf Council.

In its 2013 position paper on sector separation, ASA urged federal fishery managers to remove saltwater recreational sector separation from all management plan discussions. ASA believes that sector separation will create serious conflicts between private anglers and charter/for-hire captains, and further diminish recreational fishing opportunities for red snapper.

“While we understand the charter/for-hire position, we in the tackle industry don’t see Amendment 40 as being in the best interests of the entire recreational fishing community,” said Gary Zurn, Big Rock Sports SVP Industry Relations. “The economic impacts of sector separation have not been clearly determined, but we know it will have a significant financial impact on the coastal communities and businesses throughout the Gulf region that support recreational fishing.”

From RFA:

President Obama has made it very clear that his "policies are on the ballot" in Tuesday's election - coastal fishermen should understand by now that those policies include blanket marine reserves, privatized fish stock, recreational catch shares, and sector separation.

Despite heavy opposition from individual saltwater anglers, local tackle shops, marinas, most of the for-hire sector captains in the United States, tackle shops, the governors of the coastal states and nearly every standing member of the U.S. Congress, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Gulf Council) voted to divide the recreational fishing community into pieces over the next three years.

In a 10-7 vote, the appointed fisheries managers, led by NOAA Fisheries' regional administrator Dr. Roy Crabtree, approved a proposal to split the Gulf recreational red snapper fishery between charter/for hire anglers and private recreational anglers. The so-called "sector separation" measure approved by the Gulf Council will take the entire recreational quota of red snapper and split it into pieces, with the for-hire sector getting their own share of the quota and private individual anglers getting the rest.

Strangely of course, the recreational for-hire sector caters to individual anglers who book charters or climb aboard head boats to fish for red snapper, making the entire sector separation debate more about divisiveness and less about fixing the problems with federal fisheries management. The new proposal essentially privatizes more of the red snapper stock by stealing open public access away from anglers.

Wednesday
Oct292014

Council 'Shafts' Recreational Anglers as It Creates Sector Separation

As the Fishing Rights Alliance (FRA) so eloquently put it, recreational anglers “just got the shaft.”

That’s because the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council ignored the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) and massive opposition from the public to pass Amendment 40, which creates “sector separation” for the red snapper fishery.

The recreational quota for red snapper in federal waters now will be divided between “for-hire” and private anglers. And guess who’s getting the lion’s share of that quota?

“While the council's vote created the two new components, the recreational sector's 5.39 million-pounds share of the 11 million-pounds Gulfwide red snapper quota will not be split right down the middle,” says Al.com

“Preliminary estimates suggest the for-hire component will be allocated about 40 percent of the total, based on 50 percent of their landings between 1986 and 2013 and 50 percent between 2006 and 2013.”

In other words, if you are an angler with your own boat, you might as well forget about fishing for red snapper in the Gulf for at least the next three years.

"It's very disappointing that you have this level of opposition from anglers, elected officials, state fishery managers and even within the charter industry itself and it still wasn't enough to prevent this flawed management plan from moving forward," says Ted Venker, Conservation Director of the Coastal Conservation Association.

But not at all surprising, coming from an administration that wants to regulate every aspect of our lives, including when and where we can fish. That was evident early on when President Obama created the National Ocean Council, with the intent to “zone” uses of our waters, including inland. And when NOAA began pushing Catch Shares as a management strategy for our fisheries.

Catch Shares basically privatizes a public resource, and “segment separation” is a tactic that the feds used to divide and conquer the recreational sector, as some charter captains bought into the idea. (Catch Shares, though, isn't yet being used to manage red snapper.)

The FRA, however, says, “This ain’t over until we say it’s over,” and vows to fight the amendment. Go here to join the fight.

Here’s an excerpt of the CSC’s letter to the Council:

The suddenly accelerated speed at which the Council seeks to subdivide the recreational red snapper fishery into two individual components or “sectors” is unacceptable for an action that will likely have far reaching impacts on local communities, the economy, state-based conservation funding, thousands of recreational anglers, and ultimately the charter/for-hire industry for which it is meant to help.

A decision of this magnitude requires careful deliberation and calculated safeguards to ensure that the best interest of the American public is first and foremost. Furthermore, there are several concerns regarding

potential statutory violations that must be fully explored and resolved before moving forward with any such fundamental change to the interpretation of the Magnuson-Stevens Act and the way we manage marine recreational fisheries in the United States.

We fear thorough analysis of these concerns has not been sufficiently undertaken by NOAA Fisheries or the Council relative to Amendment 40.

It is difficult to understand why red snapper management is so unique that it requires such a radical departure from methods that have successfully managed the vast majority of our fish and terrestrial wildlife resources. Indications are that the red snapper stock is recovering well ahead of schedule, which suggests that the current problems with red snapper are not biological, but rather man-made.

It appears that some failure of our federal fisheries policy is producing a system in which access to a healthy fishery resource is being funneled through fewer and fewer entities. Unnecessarily restricting public access to a sustainable resource is an undesirable and untenable result for any wildlife resource management system, and one that should be avoided at all costs.

 

Monday
Oct272014

Artificial Reef Projects Expand to Shallow Water

We’ve been using artificial reefs to improve habitat for fish and other aquatic life in deepwater ocean habitat for awhile now. But we’ve just begun to tap their potential in shallow water.

For example, artificial reefs finally are going to be deployed in Florida’s St. Johns River, following years of research and discussion.

“While the artificial reefs will not replace the natural system, they will help. The nooks and crannies will offer small spaces for small fish to hide and live. The concrete will provide a surface for marine growth to occur. Barnacles and oysters are expected to become established on the rocks,” says the Times-Union.

“Not only do they become potential food for fish, they also filter sediment and other particles out of the water, thereby improving water quality. The small fish become food for the larger fish, and so grows the food chain.”

Up in the Great Lakes, meanwhile, a spawning reef of four acres is being built in the St. Clair River, to benefit walleye, sturgeon, and whitefish.

The project at Harts light is the sixth spawning habitat built by the Michigan Sea Grant in the St. Clair and Detroit rivers

During the late 1800s and early 1900s, those systems were dredged to create deep shipping channels. In the process, 800 to 1,000 acres of prime spawning habit were destroyed.

And out in California, scientists have discovered that offshore oil rigs provide some of the most productive fish habitat in the world. They determined that the structures are home to 27 times as many fish as natural rocky reefs in the area.

Friday
Oct242014

Finding Ways to Tame Lionfish

Years ago, Missouri wildlife managers decided to reduce an exploding deer population in a St. Louis suburb. But instead of culling the herd humanely, they bowed to pressure from animal lovers, and, at great expense, trapped and moved deer to a more rural area.

Follow-up research revealed that those deer died of starvation. They had grown so accustomed to eating tulips, roses, and other domesticated plants that they did not recognize wild forage.

Besides showing the folly of trying to manage wildlife by emotion instead of science, this example reveals one of the reasons that exotic species can become so prolific and troublesome in their new habitats. Native species do not see them as food, and, consequently, their populations are free to grow unchecked by predation.

Down in the Caribbean, divers are trying to do something about that by teaching sharks to eat invasive lionfish. The latter are gobbling up native species, especially reef fish.

“From a scientific point of view, we don't know how successful the project is. But, apparently, recent videos show native top predators are starting to eat lionfish without them being previously speared by divers,” says a marine biologist. (Go here to see some great photos of sharks eating lionfish.)

Meanwhile, lionfish populations have declined around Jamaica because another species is eating the invaders --- man.

Dayne Buddo, a Jamaican marine ecologist who focuses on marine invaders at the Caribbean island's University of the West Indies, attributes much of the local decrease in sightings to a growing appetite for their fillets. He says that Jamaican fishermen are now selling lionfish briskly at markets. In contrast, a few years ago island fishermen "didn't want to mess" with the exotic fish with spines that can deliver a very painful sting.

The same strategy eventually may help us control Asian carp in the nation’s rivers and impoundments. Go here to check out my post about that.

Wednesday
Oct152014

Minnesota Considers Expanding Bass Season

Minnesota is proposing to increase bass fishing opportunities.

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) wants to open the season statewide two weeks earlier, at the same time that the walleye season begins. Those two weeks would be for catch-and-release only, except in the northeast, where the bass season already opens two weeks before the rest of the state.

Additionally, anglers would be allowed to keep smallmouth bass during the fall in the northeast. At present, all smallmouths must be released from mid September through February.

Warming winters and expanding bass populations are primary reasons for the changes. Traditionally, the opener was delayed to protect spawning bass, even though largemouth and smallmouth bass account for just 5 percent of fish caught and kept.

“When you look at the facts, we have no recruitment issues with bass. Our electrofishing numbers are extremely high, and the changes will have no impact on that,” said Eric Altena, a DNR fisheries supervisor and member of the Technical Bass Committee.

“We are way above recruitment in most parts of the state, and most waters have an abundance of bass.”

Bass tournaments, however, would not be allowed during the catch-and-release season. Under the proposal, all bass caught until Saturday of Memorial Day weekend must be released immediately.

“The proposal probably could have gone even more liberal, but there wasn’t as much support for more liberal framework,” said Henry Drewes, regional fisheries manager. “But we can do this and still protect the (bass) population statewide.”

Following a public-comment period, the proposals will be reviewed by DNR staff before a final decision is made. If approved, the regulations will go into effect for the 2015 fishing season.