Highly Migratory Species Report
By John Koegler

(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association January 1999 Newsletter)

HMS Anglers------- Betrayed by Proposed New Rules and Regulations

NMFS’s massive two new Proposed regulations, one for Highly Migratory Species (HMS) and one for Billfish, will put anglers out of several major fisheries. (HMS species include sharks, swordfish, all tunas) A combination of new quotas, bag limits or very high minimum sizes will mandate catch and release only for many HMS species. I will address some of the key issues here and the balance next month.

Many thanks to New Jersey Sea Grant’s Dr. Eleanor Bochenek, ASA’s Mike Nussman, JCAA's Tom Fote and several local fishing clubs for their support and for adding HMS/Billfish to their scheduled meetings. Thanks to all who took the time to attend, discuss and learn about the key issues and their alternatives.

In general, the new FMP’s for HMS and Billfish represent an imbalanced manipulation of facts and data on a scale anglers have never faced before. These misrepresentations are precise, deliberate, very adroit and misleading. NCMC’s , Ken Hinman writes that these two FMP’s are a "House of Cards" and despite their 1,800 pages contain less than one page of real commercial conservation.

Reducing commercial fishing bycatch and discards, the key Magnuson issue, is ignored by these two new plans. Despite the scientific knowledge, strongly supported by the Magnuson/Steven’s act, that commercial bycatch and discard combined are major HMS and Billfish mortality factors. The writers of Magnuson knew that without major reductions in commercial fishing discards and bycatch, no recovery of any fishery would occur. Despite this clear mandate, NMFS proposes few rules that affect Both FMP’s ignore commercial discard mortality because it’s not landed, in clear violation of Magnuson. ICCAT recently deferred addressing the key proposal to deduct bycatch from commercial quotas. Proposed recreational rules take effect regardless; without delays.

NMFS will hold 30 regional meetings for the HMS and Billfish FMP's starting on January 11, 1999. We need a strong angler representation at these regional meetings if we expect to make any change in NMFS’s proposed regulations. The only remaining alternatives are legislative and then legal. The proposed regulations are so biased, they can be challenged on legal grounds

The most immediate impact of the two FMP's will be imposed on HMS tournaments, that have sharply reduce their kill to a mere handful of HMS fish yearly. The proposed rules will force major changes in the way recreational tournaments are run. Many anglers can be expected to refuse to participate!

National Standards Guidelines (NSG's)

National Standards Guidelines are written by NMFS to provide advice to regulators in understanding and applying Magnuson to fishery management issues. The process within NMFS that produced them has resulted in several guidelines being the opposite of what the Magnuson law intended. Fortunately, the NS Guidelines do not have the force and effect of law. Unfortunately, in NMFS' crafting of FMP’s (including HMS and Billfish) they applied the NSG's as if they were law.

Congress defined their intent for Guidelines in Magnuson on Page 4-97-453:

Guidelines.-- The Secretary shall establish advisory guidelines (which shall not have the force and effect of law), based on the national standards, to assist in the development of fishery management plans.

This definition was confirmed by a federal suit several years ago that decided that NMFS guidelines, despite the fact they were published in the Federal Registry, do not have the force and effect of law.

Anexample of how the NSG'swere used to misinform are clearly evident in the proposed Billfish-FMP: From the Billfish plan: Pg2-24 An entire paragraph in italics is quoted from the NSG's

which totally change how recreational catch and release is treated in the

FMP. Since NMFS quotes the NSG's, this redefinition applies to all other FMP’s as well.

Page 2-25 paragraph #1 reads: "Although recreationally caught Billfish that are released alive are considered bycatch according to the NSGs"... NMFS explains that recreational Billfish releases are voluntary. Since retention of Billfish is not prohibited by the FMP ,(there is a quota) Billfish catch and release is bycatch!

That the NSG's, and therefore some FMP's, strongly favor commercial over recreational isis evidenced in the last sentence of that paragraph which reads; "Bycatch also does not include Atlantic highly migratory species harvested in a commercial fishery that are not regulatory discards (e.g., blue sharks) and that are tagged and released alive under a scientific tag-and release program established by the Secretary". How did one of the major discards of the longline fishery get an exemption from Magnuson’s new bycatch mandates and have it become part of NSG's?


The new plans give HMS management additional new powers for adjusting HMS/Billfish future management measures. Comparable Council FMP’s operate within strict guidelines and under carefully and fully described procedures. NMFS Framework provisions propose a reduction in public participation and the elimination of meaningful Advisory Panel input. NMFS proposals which change the framework must be eliminated from the Billfish, HMS, and any other FMP.

(Billfish Page 2-78/79 and HMS Page 3-67/68)

The entire process wherein NMFS' HMS division is the Judge, Jury and Executioner has now reached it most preposterous and totally counter productive level. Using data that is deceiving, NMFS treats us conserving, recreational fishers as if we were the bad guys.

Please attend the January HMS meetings and help save your fishery. We need to work together to help convert the Federal fisheries regulation infrastructure into a balanced force that will wisely manage the marine environment; supporting commercial and recreational fishing in an evenhanded manner.

My very best to one and all for a Joyous Christmas and a Healthy and Happy New Year.

Many Thanks for your support in 1998ore tight lines in ‘99. JTK.


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