Fishing ,science and reality
Those who know me or follow my blog know that I have been working towards a better system of recreational fishery management working within the framework of laws established by the MSA. It’s been a challenge dealing with the main players like NMFS, Gulf Council, State Commissions and within my own industry for the past 8 yrs trying to find ways to increase access to federally manage fisheries. What I have learned in that process is that the more you learn and study about the process of management, the more you recognize the challenges facing the existing recreational management system. As this knowledge grows it has become perfectly clear that the focus needs to be on major changes in the present 31 yr old recreational Fishery Management Plan or as its called FMP.
The end goal of the MSA is healthy fisheries, the challenge that faces managers when trying to reach that goal are complex. First there needs to be answers to some key questions. What determines a heathy fishery? Who is participating in the fishery? How much of that fishery can be harvested? And how do we address technology and capability of stakeholders to harvest the resource?. This is the side (using both fishery dependent and fishery independent data ) of fishery management that is extremely difficult to establish yet is the most important part of MSA federal law. The goals established by the MSA should be the goals to strive for by all the stakeholders not just a few. Healthy fisheries is everyone’s goal and it has become the focus of most professional fishermen. As stakeholders in the commercial and charter for hire industries we rely on this resource to make a living and support our families.
This is why a new modern FMP in recreational fisheries is the only answer to access issues facing the recreational angler. It is going to take some hard decisions and commitment to shed the politics of the private boat recreational lobby groups to finally fix a broken system. There are three key issues that need to be addressed in recreational fisheries that already has been addressed in the commercial fishing sector. If you establish these three keys to successful management then and only then will recreational anglers finally see a increase in access as these fisheries rebuild. The first one is a system to establishing the universe of anglers. Second is a system that can actually account for effort and harvest rates , lastly the system must be able to stop over fishing annual allocations and improve fishery dependent data. Only a system using a redeemable tag or permit system that does put a small burden on those who want to participate in reef fish fisheries to become more accountable for who,what, when and how much they fish and harvest the resource.
All attempts to find out who is actually taking part in recreational reef fish fisheries has been resisted in force by private boat recreational lobby groups. Why ? because they resist and decry any form of limited entry into the fishery. This lobby who consist of angler groups like CCA,RFA,FRA along with some tackle and boat equipment manufactures like Shimano, costa, Viking yachts, Yamaha and others see any type of accountability like who and how many anglers are harvesting fish as a threat to their capability to raise membership or sell products to recreational fishermen. What they don’t admit or want to consider is the fact that if we have collapsed fisheries or short seasons due to a antiquated management system presently used, that it will have a far worse effect on participation than any form of limited access that a tag or permit system would have on the average private boat owner who are totally unaware of the political dealings of these lobby groups who claim to represent them.
By their politics and deed the private angler lobby ( not private boat anglers themselves) has repeatedly proven that they don’t want to solve or fix the management system because the present failure of status quo management supported the private angler lobby’s plan to create chaos and grass roots anger at the federal management system. They purposely developed this scorched earth policy to create a atmosphere that promoted their state water loop hole for non compliant seasons and to drive support to the state commissions where their lobby groups have far more influence to get their long term goals accomplished. When private anglers realize how harmful their actions have been to heir access to the federal fisheries perhaps they will send them back into the bay’s where they belong.
Most private anglers would gladly accept a tag or permit system if it lets them fish when they want as long as they have a tag or permit. Work, bad weather, family demands and other obstacles that prevent anglers from fishing during the present derby could be avoided with a new FMP. It would give the average private boat angler the flexibility they would desire to access the fishery when it suits their recreational needs. And if the tag or permit system vastly improved the fishery dependent data that would allow them more access and stable seasons. Now with the separation of the 2 distinct user groups in recreational fisheries it’s time for private boat anglers to demand from these lobby groups to stop the scorched earth policies that are stealing their access to EEZ fisheries and come to the table to develop a new private angler recreational FIshery Management Plan that will give them increased access to rebuilding fisheries .
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