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TimS

Sea Bass Closure - Oops!

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Looks like the folks we trust to balance the nearly impossible task of protecting stocks from overfishing while allowing sustainable harvest just realized they didn't understand the data they were looking at when they made the emergency sea bass closure cwm13.gif

 

 

Thanks, at least in a large part, to Capt. Adam Nowalsky of the Karen Ann II, who has been working very hard to convince the aforementioned managers that they didn't understand the data smile.gif

 

 

In the midst of a six-month shutdown of the black sea bass recreational fishery, science advisers to the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council have concluded that they underestimated the size of the black sea bass population, and now say 2010 catch limits can safely be increased by about 50 percent, "It's not final, but it's a big hurdle," said Chris Zeman, a New Jersey representative on the council. "I was very happy. I remember looking at those (earlier) numbers back in October and thinking, "This can't be right.' "

 

 

Black sea bass have been the latest issue to divide government managers and the recreational angling community, which is banned through March from fishing for the species in federal waters outside three miles. Several New Jersey and New York party boat operators could face civil fines over trips in November when customers kept the bass they caught.

 

 

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials imposed the emergency closure in October, based on survey results that indicated the recreational sector would overshoot its share of the catch in 2009. Meanwhile, the Mid-Atlantic council lowered catch limits for 2010 at the recommendation of its science and statistical committee - despite a reassessment of black sea bass that showed the stock was not overfished as previously thought.

 

 

Last Friday that group and the council's monitoring committee met jointly to review the quota recommendation.

 

 

"They determined that when they had previously met on this issue in July, they did not fully understand that the 2009 quota was already highly precautionary, and reflected the results of a no longer valid stock assessment methodology that had previously indicated sea bass stocks were in precipitous decline," wrote Adam Nowalsky, a charter captain who tracks black sea bass issues for the Recreational Fishing Alliance member, in an e-mail summary.

 

 

The Friday "meeting with the monitoring committee helped them understand that," Nowalsky said. The science panel then decided "that the 2008 landings were the best baseline to use for setting the quota for 2010, because landings at that level have not caused a decline in the stock and the stock is now considered rebuilt, and no overfishing is occurring."

 

 

The new recommendation calls for a 2010 allowable biological catch of 4.5 million pounds, the same as 2008, Nowalsky said. After routine adjustments that will probably work out to around 3.25 million pounds, although the council staff must develop that number, Zeman said.

 

 

To implement a higher catch, Zeman said the council will ask Patricia Kurkul, NOAA's northeast regional fisheries director, to issue another emergency order - this time, to allow anglers to catch more black sea bass.

 

Lets hope they get this emergency action passed as quickly as they got the one to close the fishery through icon14.gif

 

 

TimS

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Amazing what happens when a lawsuit is pending....

 

DrewC,

 

You are so right. And even if they reopen the fishery the lawsuit has to be taken to conclusion because it is the manner in which they closed the fishery, not following their own administrative procedures, that cannot be allowed to happen again in the future. Everyone at the RFA understands this. How much economic damage this has already done and how much more will be done as a result of this totally unnecessary closure before it ends.

 

And just because the brain trust at NMFS has decided to call for an emergency reopening of the fishery because they, duhhh, misinterpreted the data, doesn't mean Jane Lobechenko, the Pew Queen running NOAA/NMFS, is going to follow through and do it.

 

By the way, Adam Nowalsky (skipper of the Karen Ann II) had been doing yoeman's work on this and other important fishery issues and has been working his butt off heading up the RFA-NJ chapter. In case you're worried the organization is filled with people who are in the fishing business, there are plain old surf fishermen in the hierarchy in the organization, too. Surf access will be part of their agenda going forward along with a lot of other real political issues.

 

Join, baby, join. There is a lot of momentum building to protect our right to fish and when you see more of what the RFA is uncovering in the way of bad data being used against recreational fishermen you are going to scream! screamin-meanie.gif

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Beyond all the controversy it would be nice to have the days back where black sea bass fishing was drop and reel on good sized fish and you didn't have to be 60 miles offshore to do it..... We must have had an over-populated sea bass stock back then and today's amount is the norm.

 

John

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Spaniard,

 

There are all kinds of perceptions on the sea bass population, but it has been rebuilding steadily for the past ten years. I had an interesting conversation with one of the marine biologists who has been studying them for many years and he was convinced that there is a totally separate offshore stock that doesn't come inshore that boats target in the winter fishery. I know they range far wider and deeper than many people think because I have caught them deep drop fishing for tilefish as deep as 650 feet. One trip using an electric reel with four baited circle hooks on the bottom I had a gold and blueline tilefish and two sea bass on the four hooks.

 

The sea bass fishing on the artificial reefs here in Jersey has been remarkably good. The past few years the spring fishing has been excellent with many nice fish, not the usual 12.5" barely legals. Maybe it was better in the good old days, but I did fish for them back then and only have the past ten years that I really made trips targeting them.

 

The following are schools of black sea bass I came across 1-1/2 to 3 miles off the beach within a few miles of Manaquan Inlet last spring. A couple were shot over a wreck with TimS on the boat. They were so thick and all the way to the surface. Throw a bucktail in the water and it wouldn't sink ten feet before you had one one. I encountered schools of them on almost every piece of structure I hit the past few springs and well into the summer. Fluke became the incidental catch to the sea bass. That certainly bodes well for the future.

 

525

 

525

 

525

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My perception on it was sea bass fish 10-15 years ago was a lot better. It's not that there are none left to catch but even the pics of your sounder filled with sea bass could all be wiped out in just a few trips to that spot by the party boats.... For me it all boils down to a fishery that even if it is getting better is nowhere near as good as it was 10-15 years ago. Not even close.

 

Did the fishery need an emergency shutdown? Likely not, does it need tighter regulations on bag limits, I would say yes.

 

John

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The emergency shut down had zippo to do with how the stock is fairing, you could have that on a complete stellar stock. it had everything to do with the projected over-runs in the quota. The stocks status is a completely separate issue.

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