Fisheries Management
& Legislative Report

by Tom Fote
(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association January 2021 Newsletter)

Contents:

Joint ASMFC & MAFMC Meeting Summaries

ASMFC & MAFMC joint meeting was interesting. The Board and Council discussed the lack of preliminary 2020 recreational catch and harvest estimates as well as the ongoing challenges with incorporating the new MRIP estimates into management. Some members of both bodies voiced concerns regarding the potential to exceed the RHL for these species; however, they ultimately agreed with the Monitoring Committee recommendation to keep status quo measures given the data uncertainties related to COVID-19 for the three species.

As you can see from the reports included below, there were also discussions on other topics. What I find upsetting is the lack of recreational participation during these virtual meetings. I will write a longer piece about this in the next JCAA Newspaper because there is an upcoming February 1 – 4 winter ASMFC Meeting and the Joint Meeting of ASMFC and MAFMC during the same week. Besides the topics we will be revisiting, there will be discussions about Striped Bass and other species that may result in documents for public hearings. If you care, get involved. It is easy online, no traveling, just log on. If you cannot log on, you can listen to the meetings on your schedule and read the summaries at the ASMFC and MAFMC webpages. More detailed summaries of the most recent meetings are on the webpages. Check it out.

Summer Flounder, Scup and Black Sea Bass

The Summer Flounder, Scup and Black Sea Bass Board (Board) and Council agreed to maintain status quo recreational management measures for scup and black sea bass in state and federal waters in 2021.

They also agreed to maintain status quo recreational management measures for summer flounder in 2021 to achieve, but not exceed. This includes the use of regional conservation equivalency with the same regions used in 2020. Conservation equivalency allows individual states or multi-state regions to develop customized measures that, in combination, will achieve but not exceed the coastwide RHL. Regional measures under conservation equivalency in 2021 will be the same as in 2020, with the exception of possible minor adjustments to season start and end dates in some states. While the RHL increased by 8% between 2020 and 2021, the Council and Board agreed with the Monitoring Committee recommendation to keep status quo measures given uncertainty associated with the lack of 2020 recreational data.

Recreational Reform Initiative

The Commission’s Interstate Fisheries Management Policy Board met jointly with the Council to receive an update on the Recreational Reform Initiative and discuss next steps. The Recreational Reform Initiative considers improvements to management of the recreational fisheries for summer flounder, scup, black sea bass, and bluefish. At their last meeting in October, the Council and Policy Board initiated two actions associated with recreational reform: (1) a joint amendment to address recreational sector separation and catch accounting, and (2) a joint framework/addendum to address several other recreational management topics. During this meeting, staff presented a recommendation to address three of the topics originally planned for the framework/addendum through a technical guidance document instead. This would allow the Council and Commission to more efficiently address the various recreational issues associated with the Recreational Reform Initiative. They also reviewed draft timelines for development of the technical guidance document, framework/addendum, and amendment. After discussing considerations related to staff workload given other ongoing actions for these species, Council and Board agreed to further discuss the Recreational Reform Initiative during their next meeting.

Bluefish

The Commission’s Bluefish Management Board and Council agreed to maintain status quo recreational management measures for bluefish in state and federal waters in 2021.

Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Commercial/Recreational Allocation Amendment

The Council and Board reviewed the Council’s public hearing document and the Commission’s draft amendment for the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Commercial/Recreational Allocation Amendment. They approved both documents for public comment with minor modifications. They also discussed the timeline for this amendment relative to other ongoing actions, including the Recreational Reform Initiative. Some Council and Board members preferred prioritizing the Recreational Reform Initiative while others felt that a response to the revised MRIP estimates through this commercial/recreational allocation amendment should be the higher priority. Ultimately, the Council and Board decided to move forward with public hearings for this allocation amendment. Virtual public hearings for this action will be scheduled to begin in late January or early February 2021.

Joint Interstate Fisheries Management Program
Policy Board & MAFMC
Meeting Summary
December 16, 2020

In October 2020, the Council and the Commission’s ISFMP Policy Board initiated a joint framework/addendum, as well as a joint amendment to address several priority topics related to management of the recreational summer flounder, scup, black sea bass, and bluefish fisheries. During their December 2020 joint meeting, they reviewed a staff recommendation to develop some topics through a technical guidance document, rather than a framework/addendum. This would allow the Council and Board to more efficiently develop three concurrent actions associated with the Recreational Reform Initiative. Both bodies also reviewed draft timelines for simultaneously developing a technical guidance document, a framework/addendum, and an amendment. After discussing considerations related to staff workload given other ongoing actions for these species, Council and Board agreed to further discuss the Recreational Reform Initiative during their next meeting.

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