Fisheries Management & Legislative Report

by Tom Fote
(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association May 2018 Newsletter)


I spent a week in Washington, DC again at the ASA Government Affairs meeting and at the NOAA Recreational Summit.

ASA Government Affairs Meeting

The American Sportfishing Association Government Affairs Committee consists of a Commerce Committee, Freshwater Committee, Saltwater East Committee and Saltwater West Committee. The members of the Committees are from the companies that ASA represents, NGO’s, federal and state agencies, and ASA staff. Before the meetings began I made a visit to speak with the fisheries staff for Senators Menendez and Booker and Congressman Pallone, thanking them for their support of the Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act of 2017. We discussed other issues like offshore drilling, black sea bass and summer flounder. I had just gotten word from ASMFC that there was an appeal from some of the Northern states about the black sea bass quota.

At the ASA meetings, we have members from all regions of the country. There are CEO’s, tackle store owners, and groups like JCAA, all discussion that impact states from Alaska to Maine on saltwater issues. There are also discussions about freshwater fishing in all fifty states. The Commerce Committee discusses issues such as lead ban, soft bait bans, California’s extremely intrusive warning labels, some of which are designed by lawyers to the detriment of manufacturers.

The hot topic was the Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act of 2017. The Fly Tackle Association came out against this bill even though every other major recreational organization and the NGO’s support it, including IGFA, CCA, RFA, JCAA and too many others to list. The Fly Tackle Association received their information from the same people who believe NMFS is doing a great job managing the summer flounder, scup, red snapper and many others. Many of the opponents want only catch and release. They believe that the experience should be enough without actually taking any fish home to eat. The opponents convinced Orvis to announce their opposition to the bill in a post on their webpage. We were planning actions against Orvis but Orvis must have gotten enough feedback that they changed their mind. The letter is no longer on their webpage. If you want a copy of their original letter, send me an email. To get more information about the meeting, go to the ASA webpage to find their press releases.

It was with mixed emotions that I attended the retirement party for Mike Nussman. Mike and I have known each other since the inception of ASA. In the early 90’s when I wanted to bring groups from Maine to North Carolina together to talk about making striped bass a gamefish, Mike was always eager to help. ASA would give us small grants to help defray some of the costs. He also started getting the industry to work with the NGOs and cemented the relationship between ASA and NMMA. Through his leadership, he put the American Sportfishing Association in the best financial position in its existence. Other trade associations look to ASA for how to make things work. I will miss Mike but it is time for him to enjoy his family and go fishing.

NOAA Recreational Summit

At the NOAA Summit you had representatives from all the states with saltwater regions. I spent much time with the Hawaii representatives talking about how differently their recreational fisheries are managed. There were many interesting panel discussions. We also had representation from the recreational fly community that again supported NOAA’s fisheries management decisions.

Three of the people promoting the fly fishing philosophy were two past Council members and one current Council member from New York. One is still a proxy to ASMFC from New York. They missed an opportunity to support not raising quotas. I find it extremely interesting that they have no problem gong after New Jersey’s quotas on black sea bass and summer flounder. As Paul points out in his article, they continue to poach our quota. They never go after the real problem, the restrictive quotas on summer flounder and black sea bass which are based on faulty science. Please read Paul Haertel’s article below.

I think one of the most exciting presentations was from Kelly Denit & David Van Voorhees, Ph.D. They are co-chairing the statistical committee that is looking at how to rectify the discrepancy between the mail-in and phone statistics on recreational trips. The mail-in surveys are showing more participation. My concern has been once we got numbers that were higher they would be used to decide we were overfishing. From their presentation, it does not seem that is the intent. They are using both sets of figures and determining that we have underestimated participation and therefore underestimating the stocks. That could lead to adjustments to previous stock assessments. I have been pointing out this problem since in 2003 New York had a statistical jump in recreational participation because of better data collection, not more anglers. NMFS refused to consider this data then, just decided New York was overfishing. I am hopeful that this new procedure will have a positive impact on how decisions are made. I think Kelly and Dave are finally getting it right.

Wilbur Ross, Secretary of Commerce, was a keynote speaker. He talked about fishing as a kid on the Jersey shore. He said his two biggest fisheries accomplishments thus far were dealing with the red snapper issue last year in the Gulf and dealing with New Jersey’s problem with the summer flounder regulations. Michael Pentony, the new head of GARFO, attended the meeting and we had an opportunity to discuss greater outreach to recreational anglers from Maine to North Carolina. Since he is a Point Pleasant boy, I am hoping he will return for the JCAA dinner.

After talking with people from many different saltwater regions, I found the common thread is that we need more accurate recreational catch data. We also need better stock assessments. When I complain about NMFS, I never complain about scientists doing their jobs. Unanimously, they would like better data so they could make more accurate estimates of stocks and recreational participation. It is clear that Congress needs to budget the money for more accurate data. Hopefully, under this new administration this will happen. I have been hopeful with every administration since 1980 and have yet to have my hopes realized.

Upcoming Joint ASMFC & MAFMC Meeting & ASMFC Spring Meeting Week

There has been an additional day added to the meeting week to allow for a joint meeting of ASMFC and MAFMC. The agenda is below. We will be dealing with summer flounder and bluefish issues on Monday. I still have great reservations about opening the bluefish management plan. My fear is because the recreational sector has been conservative and not caught our quota and have transferred our unused quota to the commercial sector, we will be punished when that becomes a new quota split. So our reward for being conservative is to move our quota permanently to the commercial sector. How will this impact on the striped bass quota when the new benchmark assessment is available and there is excess quota reported. I have always feared the same move on striped bass.

Black Sea Bass

Paul Haertel did a good job of pointing out the history of black sea bass. I want to add that in the early 2000s when we were trying to get the plan in place, and the states kept on fighting over the commercial quota, New Jersey was willing to give up 20% of its permanent commercial quota to make the plan work. That is the only time I have ever seen that happen. None of the other states have ever made that offer. Because New Jersey always had the largest recreational quota, the other states have always wanted to move New Jersey to a region that would improve their quota with no thought given to New Jersey’s issues. The North seems to forget how many times the South has bailed them out of issues with black sea bass and summer flounder quotas, sharing unused quotas. I have never seen the North reciprocate. It is like having a relative who always borrows money but never offers when you need something.

Some of the states are threatening to go out of compliance, using New Jersey’s actions in 2017 to justify their demands. They are threatening the South with coastwide numbers that would hurt the South but not the Northern states if they went out of compliance. The Northern states seem to forget that we didn’t go out of compliance because we asked for more quota. We just wanted to manage our state’s quota in a way that was best for New Jersey and our anglers. We accomplished a 10% greater reduction than was required and a bigger reduction than we would have seen if we left the ASMFC requirements in place. We were being more conservative while the North wants to be less conservative.

Spring ASMFC Meeting Week Agenda
Monday, April 30 10am - Noon, 1pm - 3pm: Summer Flounder, Scup and Black Sea Bass Management Board Jointly with Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council
  • Consider Approval of Summer Flounder Draft Amendment for Public Comment
  • Review Alternatives for Black Sea Bass Framework/Addendum on Recreational Issues
  • Review Black Sea Bass February Recreational Fishery Harvest
3:15 - 4:45pm: Bluefish Management Board Jointly with the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council
  • Review and Consider Approval of Public Information Document/Scoping Document for Allocation Amendment
Tuesday, May 1 9:00 - 11am: Coastal Sharks Management Board
  • Review Results of North Atlantic Shortfin Mako Stock Assessment
    • Discuss Potential Management Response
  • Review Results of Sandbar Shark Stock Assessment
  • Update on Endangered Species Act Listing Status for Oceanic Whitetip Shark
  • Review and Consider 2016 Fishery Management Plan Review and State Compliance Reports
9:00am - 5:00pm: Law Enforcement Committee (A portion of this meeting may be a closed session for Committee members only)
  • Review and Comment on Ropeless Fishing Technologies
  • Review of 2018 Action Plan Items
  • ASMFC Species Management Issues
  • Federal Agency Reports
  • State Agency Reports
11:15am - Noon: Shad & River Herring Management Board
  • Consider Approval of Shad and River Herring Sustainable Fishery Management Plans
    • Technical Committee Report
      • Massachusetts (Merrimack River)
  • Report on the Funded Research Proposal on Blueback Herring
  • Review and Consider 2018 Fishery Management Plan Review and State Compliance Reports
Noon - 1:15pm: Legislators and Governors’ Appointees Luncheon
  • Introductions
  • General Comments/Discussion
  • Discuss Non-compliance
1:15 - 2:45pm: Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board
  • Provide Guidance to Stock Assessment Subcommittee Regarding Biological Reference Point Development for the 2018 Benchmark Stock Assessment
3:00 - 3:45pm: Atlantic Herring Section
  • Discuss Potential Impact of River Herring/Shad Caps and Mackerel Fishery Possession Limits on Atlantic Herring Fishery
  • Review Technical Committee Report on Scaling Up of Spawning Fish Samples Involving Less than One Hundred Fish
4:00 - 5:00pm: Northern Shrimp Section (Meeting will not be available via webinar but interested parties may listen to proceedings via conference call)
  • Discuss Potential Inclusion of a Second Management Issue in Draft Addendum I to Extend the Current Fishing Season
4:00 - 5:00pm: Atlantic Coastal Cooperative Statistics Program (ACCSP) Coordinating Council
  • ACCSP Status Report
    • Program Status and Committee Updates
    • Review and Consider Approval of FY19 Request for Proposals Package
    • Accountability Standards
6:00 - 8:00pm: Annual Awards of Excellence Reception Wednesday, May 2 8:30 - 10:30am: Executive Committee (A portion of this meeting may be a closed session for Committee members and Commissioners only)
  • Report of the Administrative Oversight Committee
    • Presentation of FY19 Budget
  • Discuss Appeals Process
  • Discuss Conservation Equivalency Process
  • Discuss Commissioner Conflict of Interest
  • Future Annual Meetings Updates
  • CLOSED SESSION: Executive Director Performance Review
10:45am - 12:30pm: Atlantic Menhaden Management Board
  • Review and Consider Approval of Terms of Reference for the 2019 Atlantic Menhaden-Specific and Ecosystem-Based Benchmark Stock Assessments and Peer Reviews
  • Review and Consider Approval of Stock Assessment Subcommittee Membership
  • Review and Consider 2018 Fishery Management Plan Review and State Compliance Reports
    • Review Final 2018 Commercial Quotas
1:15 - 3:15pm: American Lobster Management Board
  • Review Lobster Conservation Management Teams Proposals to Reduce Latent Effort
  • Law Enforcement Committee Report on Enforceability of Ropeless Fishing
  • Plan Development Team Update on Development and Timeline of American Lobster Draft Addendum XXVII
3:30 - 4:15pm: Winter Flounder Management Board
  • Review and Consider Rhode Island’s Conservation Equivalency Proposal
    • Technical Committee Report
Thursday, May 3 8:00 - 10:00am: Interstate Fisheries Management Program Policy Board
  • Review and Consider Northern Region Appeal of Addendum XXX to the Summer Flounder, Scup and Black Sea Bass Fishery Management Plan
  • Committee Reports
    • Law Enforcement Committee
    • Artificial Reef Committee
  • Horseshoe Crab
    • Update on 2018 Benchmark Stock Assessment and Timeline
    • Consider Approval of Non-traditional Stakeholder Nominations
10:00 - 10:15am: Business Session
  • Consider Noncompliance Recommendations (If Necessary)
10:30 - 11:30am: Summer Flounder, Scup and Black Sea Bass Management Board
  • Consider ISFMP Policy Board Recommendation Regarding Northern Region Addendum XXX Appeal, If Necessary
11:45am - 2:15pm: South Atlantic State/Federal Fisheries Management Board
  • Review Public Comment on Draft Addendum I to the Black Drum Fishery Management Plan
    • Consider Draft Addendum I to the Fishery Management Plan for Final Approval
  • Consider Management Action Based on Technical Committee/Plan Review Team Recommended Updates to the Annual Traffic Light Analyses for Atlantic Croaker and Spot
  • Updates on SEDAR 58 Cobia Stock Identification Workshop and Board Tasking of Cobia Technical Committee from February 2018 Meeting
  • Discuss Request to the Secretary of Commerce to Implement Cobia Regulations in Federal Waters in the Absence of a Federal Fishery Management Plan
  • Elect Vice-Chair
EPA to Convene National Leadership Summit to Take Action on PFAS
EPA Press Release, 3/19/2018

WASHINGTON – Today, in a letter sent to governors of 56 states and territories, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced plans to host a National Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C. to take action on Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS). PFAS is a category of man-made chemicals that have been widely used to make products because of their stain-resistant, waterproof and/or nonstick properties.

“EPA’s leadership summit will bring together stakeholders from across the country to build on the steps we are already taking and to identify immediate actions to protect public health,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “Through this event, we are providing critical national leadership, while ensuring that our state, tribal, and local partners have the opportunity to help shape our path forward.”

"The states have been on the front lines of addressing PFAS issues, so ECOS is glad to see EPA recognize their urgency and engage the states early in its process,” said ECOS Executive Director Sambhav (Sam) Sankar. “Many states cannot take action on PFAS issues until EPA makes a regulatory determination, and all states would like to see continued federal research and leadership in this area."

“It is critical that responding agencies at all levels are effectively communicating and coordinating efforts to protect the public’s health," said Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. “We need a national effort to review the expanding scientific research on these contaminants, as well as possible responses and remediation. Having a national dialogue on this growing concern could be instrumental in establishing standards, protocols and best practices that will allow all state and federal partners to comprehensively address these contaminants across the country.”

The National Leadership Summit will be hosted in Washington, D.C. on May 22-23, 2018. During the summit, participants will work together to:

Following the summit, EPA will travel to states with communities impacted by PFAS to further engage on ways the Agency can best support the work that’s being done at the state, local, and tribal levels. Using information from the National Leadership Summit and community engagement, EPA plans to develop a PFAS Management Plan for release later this year.

EPA has also updated the PFAS website to highlight ongoing work by the Agency, including the development of additional toxicity values, analytical methods, and treatment options for PFAS in drinking water. Details on the National Leadership Summit and community engagement events will be posted on the website as materials become available.

Additional information here.

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