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A Milestone in Fisheries Management

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New York Times

January 19, 2012

 

"A Milestone in Fisheries Management"

 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is about to reach a historic achievement. By May, the agency will have set annual catch limits for every federally managed fish species, more than 500 in all. What’s more, this vital task has been accomplished in a genuinely bipartisan manner. The law requiring annual limits, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, was reauthorized in 2007 with support from President George W. Bush and has been carried out by the Obama administration.

 

This step also brings the country’s eight regional fishery management councils, which are established by the act and frame fishery plans for their waters, into accord with the federal agency. Each council is a coalition of state and federal representatives, fishermen and conservationists. The new limits were produced in partnership with the regional councils, which in the past have sometimes set higher catch limits than scientists at the federal agency deemed sustainable.

 

Not everyone supports the idea of annual catch limits or the way they are set. Some commercial fishermen and fishing coalitions complain that there simply isn’t enough data to judge the size of some fish stocks, much less define overfishing limits, made enforceable with fines or seasonal restrictions.

 

They have accused the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of placing the well-being of fish above the well-being of the fishing industry and sacrificing jobs on the basis of scientific research that is underfinanced and fish counts that are performed infrequently. But conservative catch limits are the only way to keep species like cod from being fished out of existence. Annual limits are the most responsible way to ensure that there will be fish — and fishing jobs — in the future.

 

 

 

 

 

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They have accused the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of placing the well-being of fish above the well-being of the fishing industry and sacrificing jobs on the basis of scientific research that is underfinanced and fish counts that are performed infrequently.

 

They would have cut their own throats by now if it wasn't for conservation.

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These new catch limits may come back to bite the redreational fisherman right in our collective butts.

This means if we over-harvest a particular species, the following year we have to pay it back right off the top of the allocation we receive.

Take summer flounder for instance. If we received a 1,000,000 lb quota and harvest 1,500,000 lbs. The over harvest of 500,000 lbs comes right off the top of what we get in 2013. These harvests are all based off of MRFFS data which has already been detrmined to be in error. Black Sea Bass, summer floounder, stripers, bkuefish and scup as well as pelagic fisheries are all at risk as afr as the recreational fisherman are concerned. We'll have closures on all of them before too long.

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These new catch limits may come back to bite the redreational fisherman right in our collective butts.

This means if we over-harvest a particular species, the following year we have to pay it back right off the top of the allocation we receive.

Take summer flounder for instance. If we received a 1,000,000 lb quota and harvest 1,500,000 lbs. The over harvest of 500,000 lbs comes right off the top of what we get in 2013. These harvests are all based off of MRFFS data which has already been detrmined to be in error. Black Sea Bass, summer floounder, stripers, bkuefish and scup as well as pelagic fisheries are all at risk as afr as the recreational fisherman are concerned. We'll have closures on all of them before too long.

 

 

 

What alternative would you propose? Obviously, counting fish in the sea is an imperfect science. However, isn't it smarted to try and use the best scientific methods currently in hand to manage fish stocks to some level we deem sustainable?

 

It certainly would be a bummer to be allowed to catch less fish one year because imperfect count the prior year said we caught too much. I think the bigger bummer, however, would be to just keep catching them indescriminately because we can't ever be sure our counts are completely accurate. It seems to me, this second course is more likely to put us on a path of fewer fish for all, vs. the first one which...while imperfect...is at least human beings best attempt to manage the take. Plan one...the worse case is we save too many fish one year...which would just mean even more the next. I'll take that downside.

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What alternative would you propose? Obviously, counting fish in the sea is an imperfect science. However, isn't it smarted to try and use the best scientific methods currently in hand to manage fish stocks to some level we deem sustainable?

 

The issue is that the 'best scientific methods currently in hand' are so inaccurate that they routinely provide glaringly false information.

 

 

 

It certainly would be a bummer to be allowed to catch less fish one year because imperfect count the prior year said we caught too much. I think the bigger bummer, however, would be to just keep catching them indescriminately because we can't ever be sure our counts are completely accurate. It seems to me, this second course is more likely to put us on a path of fewer fish for all, vs. the first one which...while imperfect...is at least human beings best attempt to manage the take. Plan one...the worse case is we save too many fish one year...which would just mean even more the next. I'll take that downside.

 

What would be a bigger bummer - the above or having quotas drastically lowered because of misinformation which then in turns causes various people to lose the livelihoods? Party boats are hanging on by a thread, as are many small tackle shops, etc. A better model needs to be developed.

 

 

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Since when do we believe everything the government tells us is so. The present methods are woefully lacking in accurate accounting of fish stocks, whether it is NOAA or AFCSME doing the counting. More than one scientist has found issues with the methods presently used. Phone calls to peoples houses who live near the shore is not an accurate accounting method. Recent article in Florida Sportsman says NOAA is goiung to try and fix the problem, wait and see.

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We seen the Feds and the States screw up just about every thing they've ever touched, usually because of the pull of special interest money. But if they're going to err, for whatever reason, it'd be a good thing if it's on the side of fish stocks.

 

It'd sure suck to be a commercial fisherman and take a financial hit because of a stock closure, but time and time again the commercials have shown that they'd be perfectly willing to catch the last fish. Many small commercials are struggling and can't see beyond the next mortgage or boat payment. They need money and they need it now. Thinking 10 years down the road is just not something they can afford to do. Then you have the big boys like Omega Protein, they're perfectly willing to catch the last bunker and reduce it to oil for health products and to feed chickens. Which is why they donate millions of dollars to politicians to keep the money train going as long as it can. So what if every other species that needs the menhaden suffers because they're gone?

 

You have to remember that the buffalo hunters of the 1880's were "commercial's" also. So were the meat hunters who targeted the Passenger Pigeons. Seen any Passenger Pigeons lately? So were the Nova Scotia cod fishermen of the 1960's. They crashed the stocks, and after decades of closure, the cod have never returned to their waters in any number to be a viable fishery again.

 

Can NOAA really do an accurate assessment of what conditions the fish stocks are in. I don't know, one can only hope they can balance the health and survival of fish stocks with the financial needs of the commercial fishing industry.

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These new catch limits may come back to bite the redreational fisherman right in our collective butts.

This means if we over-harvest a particular species, the following year we have to pay it back right off the top of the allocation we receive.

Take summer flounder for instance. If we received a 1,000,000 lb quota and harvest 1,500,000 lbs. The over harvest of 500,000 lbs comes right off the top of what we get in 2013. These harvests are all based off of MRFFS data which has already been detrmined to be in error. Black Sea Bass, summer floounder, stripers, bkuefish and scup as well as pelagic fisheries are all at risk as afr as the recreational fisherman are concerned. We'll have closures on all of them before too long.

 

I have no problem with that, whats good for the goose (commercial) is good for the gander (recs). as long as the stock improves!

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The issue is that the 'best scientific methods currently in hand' are so inaccurate that they routinely provide glaringly false information.

 

What would be a bigger bummer - the above or having quotas drastically lowered because of misinformation which then in turns causes various people to lose the livelihoods? Party boats are hanging on by a thread, as are many small tackle shops, etc. A better model needs to be developed.

 

 

I think this arguement comes down to the perfect being the enemy of the good, and/or throwning the baby out with the bath water...If you follow.

 

The numbers are always going to be challenged, but attemping to develope the best ones, and continually refining them is a better choice than just saying "this is so hard we can't do it..so let everyone keep fishing." That doesn't work for me.

 

And I know it may sound harsh, but if I have to chose between a few people and their jobs during their fleeting and short lives on earth, and protecting a species for all time...I'm erring on the side of caution protecting the species and letting the human's find another way to turn a buck. And they will. Ultimately we (the human species) need to be thinking about the greatest good, for the greatest number. That means protecting them so all mankind can always enjoy them forever, not making sure one group of people in the early 2000's can draw paychecks. I take the long view.

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I have no problem with that, whats good for the goose (commercial) is good for the gander (recs). as long as the stock improves!

 

Problem is, the way they NMFS calculates recreational catch is so screwed up, MRFFS, that the NRC has already stated it should be replaced and congress did too but it's still there.

 

You can't use these soft numbers to manage a hard quota.

All of these federally managed species are on the increase. Why shut them down at all, just because?

 

This is why we need the Magnuson reform to happen.

 

The gander isn't getting the same treatment as the goose.

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