Fast start to fishing in 2017
The fishing community has been buzzing with news since the New Year. It will be an active year, here are some January highlights.
Summer flounder (fluke) regulations will likely test our resolve to put fish first in 2017. A decline in the summer flounder spawning biomass for six years in a row has led to a 30 percent coastwide regulation reduction in both recreational and commercial fisheries for 2017. Some states that overfished last year need to take a 40 percent reduction.
At a Rhode Island public hearing earlier this month the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) related possible recreational options that could reduce Rhode Island catch limits from eight to four fish with an 18” minimum size. Another option increases the minimum size to 19” and most options reduce the length of the fishing season.
These regulation options, developed to meet needed reductions, have stimulated opposition from those less conservation minded. Some fishing industry businesses, less conservation minded fishermen and political leaders that aim to put the interests of businesses in their area first (rather than the fish) have opposed rebuilding options.
The strongest opposition at public hearings has come from New Jersey and New York where the most severe overfishing has occurred and therefore the most severe conservation measures are needed to rebuild stocks in these states.
States opposing rebuilding options have questioned the validity of data collection, analysis and fisheries management policy obtained from the best available science. It is a tactic that has been used many times before…if you do not like regulations you declare that the data is faulty and claim that we should be allowed to take more fish.
At the hearing in Rhode Island, private recreational anglers and those active in the charter boat fishing industry took the position that the summer flounder stock was in trouble and that conservation measures were appropriate.
Capt. Rick Bellavance, president of the Rhode Island Party & Charter Boat Association (RIPCBA), Steve Medeiros, president of the RI Saltwater Anglers Association, and a host of private anglers at Rhode Island’s summer flounder public hearing all supported conservation measures to help rebuild fish stocks. They said they did not like the more conservative regulations but understood that they are important to implement to rebuild. Over 40 fish stocks in the nation have been rebuilt using the best available data to manage fisheries under the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA).
The MSA is the fishing law of this nation. Without it and its strong national “fish first” policy to rebuild fish stocks, we as a nation would not be able to rebuild fish stocks to maximum sustainable yield levels. Maximum sustainable yield (MSY) allows fish to be safely taken at the greatest possible level without depleting the resource one wants to take from, and without otherwise negatively impacting the environment. If we grow fish stocks to abundance more fish will be available for all to catch.
The Magnuson-Stevens Act is under attack in this country by companies that make money off fishing interests such as boat manufactures, large fishing retailers and tourism interests that want to get the most out of fishing so there businesses will grow.
Some see the summer flounder issue on the east coast one of the first 2017 tests of our national fishing law (the MSA). Capt. Rick Bellavance of the RIPCBA said, “I believe summer flounder regulations may be one of the first tests this year to proposed changes in our national fishing laws.” Political leaders (senators and congressmen) who represent fishing related business interests that make money off fishing have suggested (with legislation) that we change and weaken the MSA so states can control fishing in their areas so more fish can be taken.
Summer flounder regulations will test our resolve this year. Will it be fish first in 2017, or the interests of large business interests that make money off the fish?
First RI Food Summit and Food Strategy
Business, government and community leaders gathered at URI for the First RI Food Summit on January 17th. The Summit had 350 attendees with the aim of obtaining their input on a draft of the State’s first comprehensive food strategy. During the Summit participants discussed the role local agriculture; fisheries and food enterprise have in supporting Rhode Island and moving the state forward in these areas.
Key recommendations in the draft food strategy included:
• Alleviate food insecurity and hunger in Rhode Island
• Make food production more accessible
• Create, sustain, and grow markets for Rhode Island’s products
• Prioritize environmental and economic sustainability
• Create and sustain the climate for food-related businesses
Key fisheries related issues were discussed at a fisheries rbreakout session facilitated by Janet Coit, director of the Department of Environmental Management.
Obstacles to entry into fishing were discussed such as fishing licenses and the capital investment it takes to purchase a boat (or farmland).
Responsible fishing was a top concern in the fisheries breakout session. Growing fish to abundance so there are more fish to harvest for all to eat and enjoy.
Chris Brown, president of the Commercial Fisheries Center of Rhode Island that represents several commercial fishing organizations, said, “We are a group of responsible, conservation minded fishermen, that welcome the opportunity to be accountable. Fishing is a privilege and not a right. As the fish in the ocean are not my fish or the industry's fish but rather the fish of all the people in the United States of America.”
The first Rhode Eland Food Summit and draft food strategy were well received by those in attendance. Visit relishrhody.com for a copy of the food strategy.
Anglers and environmentalists receive awards
The Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association held its annual dinner Saturday, January 21st.
Dr. Johnathan Hare, recently appointed Science and Research Director for NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center received RISAA’s Environmental Award for his work on climate change and its impact on fish; Patrick Paquette of Massachusetts received the Conservation Award for his efforts putting fish first as fisheries consultant, advocate and writer. Ed Cook, longtime member and former board treasurer received the Member of the Year Award for his volunteer efforts. Annual fishing tournament winners included Mark Paparelli of Warwick, Angler of the Year and Sophia Garzoli of Plainville, MA, Junior Angler of the Year.
Where’s the bite
Cod fishing has been good but often hit or miss. A couple of days last week both the Frances Fleet and Island Current returned to port early as anglers caught their limit (ten fish per person with a 22” minimum size) or close to it. Capt. Andy Dangelo of the Seven B’s said last Friday when I spoke with him, “We had about 120 fish on board by 10 a.m. and then the fishing shut down.” I fished with the Seven B’s on Saturday and the fishing was off for all charter boats. Capt. Frank Blount of the Frances Fleet said, “Saturday was an off day, we boated about 24 fish but had explosive days earlier in the week with over 300 fish. Overall we had a wild week of local cod fishing. The cod fishing experienced Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday was about as good as it gets and the majority of the fish were "gaffers" in the 7 to 12 pound range and there were some bigger ones that made it to nearly 20 pounds. These are the highest quality, high yield kind of cod fish stuffed with herring and mackerel.”
Captain Dave Monti has been fishing and shellfishing for over 40 years. He 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 and a member of the RI Marine Fisheries Council. Contact or forward fishing news and photos to Capt. Dave at email@example.com or visit his website at noflukefishing.com.