Highly Migratory Species Report
By John Koegler

(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association April 1999 Newsletter)

JCAA- April 1999- John T. Koegler HMS-Chairman

NMFS new rules crucify Recreational Fishing Industry.

NMFS new regulations propose a huge number of items that in general do one thing. They eliminate anglers from participating in the offshore fisheries and fail to impose measures on commercial fishers that control or reduce fish mortality. Bluefin tuna, Sharks and Marlin are perfect examples of the how anglers major conservation efforts have been misused to nail recreational industry to a cross

Our desire to save Large Coastal sharks has resulted in a proposal where we will be prohibited from landing any large coastal sharks, while the commercial fishery remains open. NMFS believes we can not tell the difference between juvenile large coastals and small coastals, so they propose to eliminate anglers from landing either. NMFS proposes to limit us to keeping only ONE per trip of 4 species of pelagic sharks, Shortfin Mako, Thresher, whitetip and porbegal sharks. Blue sharks usually landed only to quality for prizes in shark tournaments are to be catch and release only. The conserver's have become the bad guys according to NMFS. Their penalty removes anglers from the fishery or nails you to the cross.

Blue and white Marlin landings will be under tiny quotas. The proposed quotas are so small it will affect most tournaments, by not allowing most marlin to be brought in for a weigh-in. Spearfish a rare species are to be catch and release only. Sailfish a billfish with no commercial regulations will also be size restricted. Tournament fishing has replaced many marlin trips because just catching a marlin has become such a rare event. The conserve's have become the bad guy's and we been nailed to the cross.

If this huge voluntary recreational conservation effort had been recognized in some small way or resulted in a major rebound in the fish stocks, maybe we would not be so mad.

However, no HMS or Billfish rebound of substance has occurred. Our major bluefin tuna conservation efforts in school sized fish has not been rewarded. In fact not only do you get fewer fish but shorter seasons and smaller daily bag limits, not per person but per boat

This HMS regulatory mess has now reached the point where recreationals must fight just to participate in their offshore fisheries. This is occurring while commercials face regulations that maintain their "status quo". No reduction in fish mortality is proposed, as mandated under Magnuson.

. Our desire to save the bluefin tuna has resulted in our school fishery being quota restricted to an almost nothing.

NMFS 1999 school bluefin tuna quota for the northern zone is 43 mt. which is 3,160 bluefin tuna weighing--30 pounds. Three thousand fish is not a fishery. We have over 6,000 permitted angler boats in the north zone plus, another 1,000 charter boats. This is a less than a 1/2 of ONE fish per boat per season limit. It really does not matter what NMFS does. This can not and will not work.

There is solid documentation that indicates US conservation is totally wasted. The Europeans and others are catching our conserved fish. Rarely do they comply with the laws they agreed in writing to observe, even if members of ICCAT. 50 % of Atlantic Yellowfin tuna catch is under ICCAT’s 3.2 kg/7 pound minimum. This minimum size was agreed to in writing 25 years ago. Other ICCAT countries have yet to observe or ever enforce this minimum. In 1996 this illegal catch amounted to 55,000 mt or 121,253,000 pounds of illegal landings. This is 17,321,857 baby yellowfin tuna. Bigeye tuna is even worse with 70% or 55,000 mt in 1996 under the ICCAT minimum legal size.

Finally not only do the rules nail us to the cross but also the small print will soon make criminals out of us. We will be subject to fines and court costs for small items such as not reporting by phone your bluefin landings. There are many other dangerous items that are poorly understood even by those who work on these issues. Some examples are:

The SAFE report Billfish Page 2-78/79

SAFE is NMFS’s NEW annual Stock Assessment and Fishery Evaluation report. NMFS states the SAFE report will be the basis of their future management!

Quote: "The SAFE report will be used by NMFS, the AP's and the public to evaluate the effectiveness of current management measures, and to develop possible regulatory adjustments under the framework procedure".

Given the vast disagreement over NMFS's data and statistics in past years, can SAFE be accepted as the only basis for decision making?

Framework Procedures

Framework provisions have become part of many fishery management plans. Framework provisions have strict mandated requirements on advanced notice, votes at two council meeting before changes become law. All such controls are missing in these proposals

NMFS is judge, jury and executioner with few limits.

An example of NMFS framework procedures proposed without controls.

Billfish Plan: Section 2-79- bottom of paragraph that begins with "The goal">

If the adjustments include implementing recent ICCAT recommendations,

NMFS will hold at least one hearing on the proposed rule". What happens if NMFS is not implementing recent ICCAT recommendations?

NO hearings?

"In any case, effort will always be made to hold public hearing on propose rules, and to include a pubic comment session at all Billfish AP meetings". Who defines "effort"? What remedy is proposed if we find no effort was made? None?

Can HMS be allowed framework without stricter controls and clear stated procedures? Why should NMFS-HMS be allowed framework at all?

Only one club has informed me about their action plan on these awful plans. Beach Haven Marlin and tuna Club sent out an urgent request for action from all members. In their club newsletter Commodore Huge Gantz writes:

"It is my opinion that NMFS has already determined that they will severely cut back on the recreational quotas and put crippling regulations in effect on charter and head boats. If the proposals become law, billfishing, sharking and tuna fishing will be only dreams of yesteryear. The quotas and regulations will eliminate our white Marlin Invitational Tournament. It is highly probable that white marlin will not be allowed to be caught by the time of our tournament. It is also possible that tuna will be closed down before the dates of the tournament.

We can not let this happen. The only people that will have any effect on NMFS and the Department of Commerce are our congressmen and senators. Constituency flak can influence our political official's to pressure the secretary of commerce to se that NMFS does not take our quotas and eliminate us as a traditional fishery.

Sample letters are enclosed as well as the addresses and phone numbers of some of our elected officials. Please do not procrastinate, not only is the future of the club at stake, you future fishing is at stake."

Well done Hugh. Where are the rest of you? This is the end of your offshore fishing. Where are the marine trades?

They go out of business without customers?

JCAA will be assist any group who arranges meeting with congressmen or Senators by supplying an outline of the issues, copies of JCAA position letters and the suggested changes. People to attend with you will be subject to their schedules.

Work hard the future of your fisheries is at stake. Fax me meeting date and times I will mail out a package immediately

1-610-687-4148 fax

Spring, beautiful spring is here.

Happy Easter, everyone


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