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Ask Frank Daignault Frank Daignault is recognized as an authority on surf fishing for striped bass. He is the author of six books and hundreds of magazine articles. Frank is a member of the Outdoor Writers of America and lectures throughout the Northeast.

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Old 06-26-2011, 08:28 AM
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Frank Daignault Frank Daignault is offline
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Default Sound Science in Fisheries Management Needed

WASHINGTON, D.C. ? June 23, 2011 ? A bill introduced by Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA) seeks to ensure that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration?s (NOAA) Marine Fisheries Service is required to set catch limits based on sound science.

?We applaud the vision and leadership of Mr. Wittman and the other FSIA co-sponsors,? said Congressional Sportsman?s Foundation President Jeff Crane. ?The sportfishing community is facing an unacceptable situation in which arbitrary deadlines are being allowed to trump the essential need for science-based management of our marine resources. We are grateful to Mr. Wittman and his colleagues for identifying the problem we have in federal saltwater fisheries and taking action on this issue.?

As amended in 2006, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) requires Regional Fishery Management Councils to put in place annual catch limits (ACLs) and accountability measures (AMs) for every fishery by December 31, 2011. The requirements were intended to end overfishing by 2011 but were predicated on two critical assumptions: NOAA Fisheries would make decisions based on up-to-date and accurate stock assessments; and the agency would improve catch data to better anticipate potential problems in a given fishery. Neither of these obligations has been met.

To maintain the conservation tenets of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, FSIA would not apply to stocks that are determined to be overfished. However, it offers three key components that are intended to steer NOAA Fisheries back to the true intention of the 2006 MSA reauthorization:
  • If the agency has not done a stock assessment on a particular stock in the last five years, and there is no indication that overfishing is occurring, an annual catch limit on that stock is not required.
  • FSIA gives NOAA Fisheries three years to work with the regional councils to figure out how to implement science-based measures that are appropriate for each region and its fisheries.
  • To avoid removing fish species from management entirely due to lack of data, NOAA Fisheries is currently designating a limited number of such stocks as ?ecosystem components,? allowing the continued federal management of the stock without the requirement to implement an annual catch limit or accountability measure. FSIA codifies the agency?s designation and expands the universe of stocks protected in this category.
The federal government currently has approximately 528 fish stocks or complexes of stocks under management and only 110 of those stocks are considered ?adequately assessed.? If the agency does not have the data to even guesstimate an annual catch limit for some species, there is currently an option for the agency to simply remove those stocks from all management protections, which is not a desirable result. H.R. 2304 provides a timely path for NOAA Fisheries to manage all of America?s marine fish stocks based on sound scientific data.
The Congressional Sportsmen?s Caucus ? the largest bi-partisan, bi-cameral caucus in the U.S. Congress with nearly 300 Members representing all 50 states ? has lent its powerful voice for this legislation that will safeguard the strong conservation standards of the Magnuson-Stevens Act while addressing the shortcomings within NOAA Fisheries. The bill also has the support of American Sportfishing Association (ASA), Center for Coastal Conservation (Center), Coastal Conservation Association (CCA), Congressional Sportsmen?s Foundation (CSF), International Game Fish Association (IGFA), National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) and The Billfish Foundation (TBF).

This came in to my mailbox. Badly needed, it might bring some sense into managing fisheries. You are invited to reflect upon this if it pushes your buttons.

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Old 06-26-2011, 09:10 AM
lagoonguy lagoonguy is offline
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Default Re: Sound Science in Fisheries Management Needed

In the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s I was involved as a member of a number of advisory committees to Merrimack River Atlantic Salmon restoration, Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Com., NE Fishery Management Council as well as a few state(NH) fisheries agencies. As such, I met and worked with many fishery biologists and managers.

For the most part, they were very knowledgeable folks and dedicated to their professions and the betterment of the species they worked with. Unfortunately, some were very unprofessional and wanted nothing to do with citizen/angler -involvement in what they considered "their business". The later have given the term "fishery management" a bad name. I vividly remember one who's favorite retort to anyone who criticized him or his methods as, "What, you don't think our trout are the best? Just tell us what you want and we will make them that way." And, he was quite serious.

I applaud any effort to make fisheries management more effective and to base decisions therein on sound science. I'm also a big fan of mothers and apple pie.
Seriously, who doesn't want to see fisheries decisions based on sound science?
Bill Hubbard
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Old 06-27-2011, 01:38 PM
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Frank Daignault Frank Daignault is offline
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Default Re: Sound Science in Fisheries Management Needed

The problem is that sound science is a fleeting thing kind of lacking in definition. How do you determine the number of scup or flounder in the ocean? Moreover, how do you establish a base line for that number? The man on the street has lost confidence in the people charged with these measurements because they know tht nobody knows what is out there with suitable accuracy for the formation of management decisions. The above mandate puts the ball in the court of counting something that cannot be counted. Eventually, and don't ask how long it is going to take, management will end up by consensus. I doubt that will be any better.
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