Releases – December 14, 2017
North Carolina will put forward a three-year plan for recreational vessel limits for cobia that does not include a closed season.
The Marine Fisheries Commission voted last week to propose management measures for 2018-2020 to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission as follows: (1) One fish per person, not to exceed four fish per vessel, for charter boats; and (2) One fish per person, not to exceed two fish per vessel, for private boats.
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which is an interstate board with federal authority to manage migratory fish in state waters on the East Coast, recently approved an Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Migratory Group Cobia for state waters from Georgia to New York. The interstate plan complements federal regulations, setting a recreational bag limit of one-fish per person and a minimum size limit of 36 inches fork length. It also sets state-specific recreational harvest targets that allow individual states to set vessel limits (up to six fish per vessel) and seasons to best suit their needs.
States are required to submit an implementation plan to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission for approval, and management measures are required to be in place by April 1. Should the proposed plan not meet technical review, revised measures will need to be submitted.
The commission also asked the Division of Marine Fisheries to study developing a mandatory reporting program for recreational cobia catch.
In other business, the Marine Fisheries Commission voted to: (1) Recommend to the Governor’s Office Anna Beckwith, Robert Lorenz and Tom Roller as nominations for the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council at-large seat; (2) Recommend to the Governor’s Office Sara Winslow, Roger Rulifson and Joseph Smith as nominations for the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council at-large seat; (3) Send the draft Region 4 Strategic Habitat Area report out for public comment at advisory committee meetings; (4) Approve the 2018-2020 Biennial Implementation Plan to the Coastal Habitat Protection Plan; (5) Ask the Division of Marine Fisheries to study reporting issues concerning finfish landings that are caught with a Standard Commercial Fishing License and not sold, and to report to the commission in February with proposals for resolutions of the issues: (6) Ask the chairman to appoint a committee of commission members to develop a definition of a commercial fisherman, with staff support from the Division of Marine Fisheries, and to update the commission at its February meeting; and (7) Send a letter to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council highlighting the importance of the summer flounder fishery in North Carolina and requesting that proposed management concerning quota allocation include a broad range of options that considers the historic fisheries of the member states.
The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission is looking for commercial and recreational fishermen, scientists and other interested parties to sit on various fisheries advisory committees.
Two regional advisory committees–Northern and Southern–and three standing advisory committees–Finfish, Habitat and Water Quality, and Shellfish/Crustacean–review matters referred to them by the commission, such as draft fishery management plans. Committees may also bring fisheries issues pertaining to their region or subject matter to the commission’s attention.
The Marine Fisheries Commission chairman appoints members to these committees for three-year terms, and several terms will expire in January.
To qualify to serve on a committee, applicants must not have had a significant fisheries violation within the past three years.
Individuals interested in serving as an adviser should be willing to attend meetings at least once every two months and actively participate in the committee process, which includes reviewing scientific documents and issue papers to make recommendations on management strategies.
Advisers who complete the necessary paperwork will be reimbursed for travel and other expenses incurred in relation to their official duties.
Adviser applications are available online at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/mfc-advisory-committees or at Division of Marine Fisheries’ offices or by calling (252) 808-8022 or (800) 682-2632. Applications should be returned by Jan. 2, 2018, by email to Craig.Alley@ncdenr.gov or by mail to: N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, P.O. Box 769, Morehead City, NC 28557, Attention: Craig Alley.
Presented with the historic opportunity to put in place much-needed protections for menhaden that recognize their ecological role, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Menhaden Management Board blinked, and instead opted for status quo management. In the months leading up to the vote, public sentiment was overwhelmingly in favor of better menhaden management, with more than 150,000 public comments in favor of Option E that would have taken into account menhaden’s unique ecological role as a forage fish.
“This decision by the Menhaden Management Board is simply shocking,” said Richen Brame, Regional Fisheries Director for Coastal Conservation Association. “The Board had a historic opportunity to positively impact not just the management of menhaden but also the future of iconic species such as striped bass, bluefish, king mackerel, as well as a host of birds and marine mammals. Today’s vote was a misguided step in the wrong direction, and really a step back in time when it comes to marine resource management.”
Menhaden are a primary forage species whose role in the ecosystem is to convert sunlight into protein. Their primary ecological attribute is their abundance, which provides a ready source of forage for a host of marine predators. The battle over menhaden essentially came to a showdown between those who see a need for more conservative management of menhaden as forage, versus the menhaden reduction industry, which has a vested interest in allowing the largest harvest levels possible. Omega Protein is the last industrial harvester of menhaden on the East Coast and takes millions of pounds of menhaden every year, primarily from the Chesapeake Bay and surrounding waters.
“This is one of those events that will cause the public to lose a lot of faith in this management process,” said David Sikorski, executive director of CCA Maryland. “When you have that kind of public outcry and a growing realization that intense local harvest of the forage base is impacting the health of other species in Chesapeake Bay, one of the largest estuaries in the world, and still nothing changes, it leaves the public feeling completely shut out of the management process.”
There were a suite of management options proposed in Amendment 3 that would set reference points, some of which would recognize the ecological role of menhaden as a keystone prey species for marine predators. The vote boiled down to a choice between Option B and Option E. Option B represented status quo management in which menhaden would continue to be managed as a single species without recognizing its true ecological role. Option E would have emphasized the role of menhaden as an abundant prey species. The ASMFC Menhaden Board adopted Option B by a vote of 16-2.
With strong support from founding partner Costa Sunglasses, the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) announced the creation of a Worldwide Anglers Relief Fund (WARF) designed to help speed the recovery of recreational angling communities around the world in the wake of major natural disasters.
IGFA and Costa have seeded the new fund with direct contributions totaling $25,000 and pledged to raise significant additional financial support through marketing and outreach to their members, customers, and industry partners.
“Recent events clearly demonstrate the devastating impacts that catastrophic natural disasters can have on the international recreational angling community,” said IGFA President Nehl Horton. “Anywhere in the world, on any day, at any time, a thriving recreational fishery can be devastated in a matter of hours in a major natural disaster. And the people who are the foundation of those recreational fisheries—the captains, guides, crews, and outfitters who depend on recreational fishing for their livelihoods—often find themselves in the center of the storm. When disaster strikes, we need to help our fellow anglers get back on the water as quickly as possible. We are deeply grateful to our longtime partners at Costa for their vision and leadership in supporting this effort.”
“From the historic fisheries of the Florida Keys and Texas Coast, to the famed marinas of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, the hurricanes in recent weeks have deeply impacted some of our most beloved fishing communities,” said Holly Rush, CEO of Costa. “Professional fishermen are the backbone of these communities and an integral part of the Costa family. WARF will help bring them much needed relief as they rebuild.”
The WARF will accept donations from all those who want to help, and then make grants to local angling organizations and associations to speed recovery efforts aimed at captains, guides, mates, and outfitters. Grant decisions will be made by IGFA in consultation with major WARF supporters and local representatives in impacted areas.
Initial WARF grants will focus on supporting the hard hit angling communities of the Florida Keys, Puerto Rico, the Caribbean region, Cabo San Lucas, and south Texas suffering from the impacts of hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria and Tropical Storm Lidia.
To make a direct, tax deductible contribution to the WARF, please go to www.igfa.org/warf or www.onecoast.net. The IGFA is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.