Groups Promote Sustainable Fisheries through Cooperative Research

For Immediate Release, August 23, 2010
Contact: Ray Bogan
Partnership for Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Science, 732-899-9500

(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association October 2010 Newsletter)

The Partnership for Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Science (PMAFS), a multi-state, multi-institutional partnership formed in 2008 to address urgent scientific issues limiting successful management of the summer flounder fishery, has been making the most of the $1 million in federal appropriations supporting research in 2010.

PMAFS members including representatives of Garden State Seafood Association (GSSA), Jersey Coast Anglers Association (JCAA), Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA), Save the Summer Flounder Fishery Fund (SSFFF), United Boatmen of New York, Long Island Commercial Fishing Association, New York Fishing Tackle Trade Association, and United Boatmen of New Jersey, along with academic, state, and federal science advisors, have been working to study the dynamics of summer flounder, a vitally important fishery for both the commercial and recreational fishing industries. A 2004 survey (Southwick Associates) estimated the total sales impacts of the combined fishing sectors totaled more than $44 billion, while representing nearly a half-million jobs.

“Much of the science undertaken by the Partnership will be directly applicable to solving the most important impediments limiting the stock assessment programs of finfish stocks such as summer flounder,” said PMAFS science advisor Eric Powell, Director, Haskin Shellfish Research Laboratory, Rutgers University. “The Partnership represents a unique coming together of historically competing groups to promote the development of sustainable finfish stocks,” he said.

Cooperative research programs being conducted by the various groups is ongoing, as the Partnership’s ultimate goal is to utilize academic and recreational/commercial fisheries resources to develop targeted science initiatives. Members hope the information that comes from the scientific analysis can be incorporated into the overall fishery management process. This summer, PMAFS announced the funding of seven initiatives focused on summer flounder.

Sex Composition Of Recreational And Commercial Landings
(Rutgers University, Cornell University, Virginia Institute of Marine Science)
Female summer flounder grow faster and live longer than males; fishing regulations which set minimum size limits may unduly target brood stock females. This project in collaboration with commercial docks from Wanchese, NC to New Bedford, MA coordinated by GSSA and Cornell Cooperative Extension and party boats from Virginia Beach, VA to Hyannis, MA coordinated by RFA and Cornell Cooperative Extension, plus support from summer flounder fishing tournaments, will provide the first comprehensive dataset of the proportion of males to females landed during a seasonal fishery.

Natural Mortality Workshop
Natural mortality rate varies between male and female summer flounder (females live longer), and the measurement of natural mortality rate has proven to be one of the most difficult tasks in fisheries science. This workshop, to be held October 27-28 and the first of its kind in the Mid-Atlantic, brings together experts from the U.S. and other countries to evaluate a range of methods and new technological developments and devise a research plan for summer flounder.

Sex Ratio Of State Surveys
(Rutgers University)
State surveys provide an important database for stock assessment; New Jersey is the only state survey that includes sampling during the height of the summer recreational fishing season. Coordinated by Rutgers and the State of New Jersey, the program will provide information on the proportion of male and female summer flounder taken by the survey to help determine if state survey data can be used to augment landings data in developing future management options in this fishery.

Comprehensive Evaluation Of Reference Points
(University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth)
The management of fisheries relies on a comparison of the status of the fished stock at any time relative to certain biomass and fishery goals, also known as "reference points." Establishing these goals in the summer flounder fishery has been difficult as uncertainty limits sustainable management of the stock. This project will develop a theoretical basis for improved estimates of reference points for summer flounder assessments.

Geographic Variations In Summer Flounder Population Structure
(Cornell University and Rutgers University)
Summer flounder range from North Carolina to Massachusetts, from the inner bays to the edge of the continental shelf, exposing this species to a wide range of environmental conditions over time and in space. Response to the environment may differ between males and females, as well as juveniles and adults, and these differentials in distribution pose challenges in managing the stock. This project utilizes data compiled over the last 30 years to develop an improved understanding of the geographic dispersion of the stock.

Relationship Of Adult Size To Egg Quality And Larval Survival
(Rutgers University and NMFS Howard Marine Laboratory)
Egg quality is thought to vary depending on female size, with larger females generally thought to spawn eggs of higher quality, and the larvae and juveniles considered to possess a better natural ability to survive. The degree to which this is true may determine the importance of large females in the population, which could be impacted by management options that target the harvest of these larger female fish.

Ageing Of Summer Flounder
(Integrated Statistics, Inc. and NMFS Northeast Fisheries Science Center)
The management of summer flounder requires that data from surveys and landings include the numbers of fish at age. Age can be determined from yearly growth increments in scales and otoliths. The fish collected in the landings and state survey projects will be aged to provide additional data by Integrated Statistics in collaboration with experts in fish aging at the NMFS Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole.

In helping secure the necessary federal funding for the Partnership, New York and New Jersey legislators worked closely with members of the Senate and House Appropriations Committee to include funding for these projects in the most recent spending bills.

"The summer flounder population is vitally important to the region," said Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ). "Reliable research is important to have, which will allow us to make the best-informed decisions about these populations."

"This funding is a boon for the Long Island fishing industry," said Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY). "While the Long Island fishing industry is reeling from the economic downturn and sky high fuel costs, this funding will provide necessary data to ensure that fishermen and the Long Island economy are not hurt by unfair fishing laws and rules."

"For far too long, inadequate and archaic data has determined regulations that have affected thousands of lives on Long Island, from Freeport to Greenport to Montauk," said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). "This funding will enable better data collection for the management of these fisheries."

"Sustaining a robust fishing industry is vital to New Jersey's economy," said Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ). "With more accurate data about fish populations and their habitats, we can help to protect the livelihood of commercial and recreational fishermen."

"For too long we have failed to adequately invest in fisheries science, which has created uncertainty about the fish population and uncertainty for New Jersey's fishermen," said Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ). "I am proud to have fought for this funding, which will create jobs and hopefully lead to more of our fishermen being allowed back on the water."

"Commercial and recreational fishing is a proud tradition in South Jersey and a critical part of our economy. A continued federal commitment will ensure that information about our fisheries is accurate, thus supporting the industry for generations to come," said Congressman Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ). "I'm proud to work with South Jersey fishermen to protect this valuable resource."

PMAFS members hope their continued research will be of further benefit to fishermen from Cape Hatteras to Georges Bank, including all Mid-Atlantic Bight states and all significant fishing ports, both recreational and commercial.


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