Making Waves Fall 2020

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Presidential Endorsement on Page Five

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Making Waves 2016 Making Waves Summer Fall 2020

M A K I N G The Official Publication of the Recreational Fishing Alliance

NE Cod & Haddock Sat Tagged Stripers Marlin Quota Filled Too Many Predators Lots of Breaking News

Fall 2020

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Making Waves Fall 2020



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The Official Publication of the Recreational Fishing Alliance


INSIDE THIS ISSUE From the Publisher’s Desk


Exec. Director's Report: Endorsement for President


Breaking News: Extention of NE groundfish season


Commentary: CLF Petition to halt overfishing of cod


Commentary: NEMFC floats for-hire limited entry


New England and Mid Atlantic Stock Assessments


Breaking News: Atlantic Marlin Quota Reached


Jim Donofrio will explain the RFA's well-reasoned position on an endorsement in the upcoming Presidential Election on page 5. There's commentary by Capt. Barry Gibson on the Conservation Law Foundation's petition to end overfishing of codfish and the consequences for recreational fishermen on page 12. We continue to be involved in the ongoing project to place satellite tags in striped bass with The Fisherman and Gray Fishtag Research. John DePersenaire has some interesting thoughts on whether recreational harvest constitutes "seafood" in an ongoing battle with the DOC.



Commentary: Just What Constitutes Seafood


Breaking News: Sharks killing sailfish


Satellite Tagging Stripers The Project Continues


NOAA Allows Sea Lion Removals


Too Many Protected Predators


The issues closes with a release by NOAA on allowing the "removal" of stellar sea lions from salmon spawning rivers in the Pacific Northwest and Capt. Mike Pierdinock's article on too many protected predators and their impact on fish stocks in New England. We hope you find the issue interesting and informative.

News & Views



elcome back for another edition of Making Waves, the award-winning RFA news magazine. As the COVID pandemic continues to plod along in what appears to be an endless cycle of ups and downs in cases both here in the United States and around the world, most of us strive for a little normalcy through recreational fishing. And while fishery management took a forced vacation through the worst of it, things are starting to bounce back and that means the RFA has been busy with political and regulatory issues galore.

About the Cover

It's been a stellar year for tuna off the Mid-Atlantic and it's still going on right now. Chuck Many with a nice bluefin.

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Executive Director's Report by Jim Donofrio RFA Endorses Trump for President


he Recreational Fishing Alliance is proud to endorse President Donald J. Trump for reelection to a second term as president of the United States. This is a bold statement made during one of the most divisive periods in American history and a contentious election campaign between two candidates with very different backgrounds and visions for our country. Yet it is a wellreasoned position for us to take. Let me explain. At the RFA, we understand what a Biden/ Harris administration would do to fisheries access and the damage it will potentially cause to the recreational fishing and marine industries that depend on angler access to sustainable fish stocks. Actions taken earlier in Joe Biden’s political career, and most recently as Vice President in the Obama Administration, paint a clear picture of what to expect under his presidency. More regulation, more waters closed to recreational fishing and an open-door policy toward the radical environmentalists.

trate and influence NOAA Fisheries and federal agencies like the Department of Commerce. After Clinton’s two terms a whole new mindset began to invade the NOAA Fisheries and subsequently the National Marine Fisheries Service. It became apparent that there was a growing number of people placed in administrative positions in these organizations that were pushing policy objectives taken right out of the PEW, EDF and NRDC playbook. Keep in mind that much of this takeover was accomplished during the Republican administration of George W. Bush.

It became obvious that people in positions to influence agency policy and actions at NOAA/NMFS were always turning to what they called a “Precautionary Approach” to management, building layer upon layer of hurdles to overcome that negatively impacted recreational fishing access. These people were quite comfortable using what later was found to be flawed science and faulty data to push it through some of the most egregious manIt wasn’t that long ago, when Bill Clinton was agement decisions in the drafting of fisheries president, that his Democratic administration management plans, a good deal of which did was very easy for representatives of the recre- little to rebuild fish stocks, but hurt the two ational fishermen to work with. That openprimary user groups, commercial and recreaness allowed us to get a lot done, but that tional fishermen. was at a time before fisheries management Some of those same decision-makers still rewas hijacked by the extreme environmental side within NOAA/NMFS, and President movement lead by a handful of very powerful Trump is slowly replacing them with people NGO’s that spent millions of dollars to infilwho will follow the real science where it

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leads and not support regulation for regulation’s sake. Hopefully, during a second term, the swamp of enviro acolytes can be further cleaned out.

Making Waves Fall 2020

subjects as fixing the systemic problems negatively impacting the way NOAA/NFMS manages recreational fishing in the future.

The RFA has maintained its non-partisanship The RFA stands firm in its conviction that the over the years and anyone who follows the management process requires stronger and work we do knows that we work closely with more accurate science and honest data to members of Congress on both sides of the combine recreational access to sustainable aisle and support the election campaigns of fisheries while continuing to rebuild our ma- those who, through their willingness to work rine resources to even greater levels of abun- with us, and their efforts on behalf of recreadance. It goes without saying that our sector tional marine anglers and the industry, have can only benefit from such an approach in earned that support. As a political action organization, we make our decisions on who to the future. support and endorse on that basis only. After The RFA is hopeful that after November 3, serious review, these are the reasons we feel 2020 we will be able to continue our discusPresident Trump has earned our endorsesions with the President and the new policy ment. people he puts in place on such important

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NOAA Fisheries Enacts Final Interim Rule Extending Recreational Gulf of Maine Cod and Haddock Seasons


n August 13, 2020 NOAA Fisheries enacted a final interim rule to extend the recreational Gulf of Maine (GOM) cod and haddock seasons for the federal 2020 fishing year (May 1, 2020 – April 30, 2021). While specific details are provided below, in summary this action: 1) extends the fall for-hire recreational fishing season for GOM cod; 2) adds a springtime GOM cod recreational fishing season for all recreational anglers; and 3) extends the springtime GOM haddock recreational fishing season for all recreational anglers.

implemented by conditioning all 2020 ForHire Permits (see Statement of Permit Conditions). DMF then expects to implement the springtime adjustments to the recreational GOM cod and haddock seasons by regulation over this coming winter. Gulf of Maine Cod

Prior to this federal rule change, the recreational GOM cod season was scheduled to occur from September 15 – September 30 with a one-fish per angler bag limit and 21” minimum size for all recreational anglers. With this rule change, the for-hire In response to this action, the Massachufishery has been extended an additional setts Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) is 14 days to September 8 – October 7; priproceeding to implement complementary vate recreational anglers will still be submeasures for state-waters. Given the late ject to a September 15 – September 30 timing, the extended fall for-hire recreaseason. Additionally, an April 1 – April 14 tional fishing season for GOM cod will be season has been added for both for-hire

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and private recreational anglers. During these open seasons, the one-fish per angler bag limit and 21” minimum size shall remain in effect. The extended fall for-hire season is intended to allow the for-hire fleet to use the fall season to make up for the loss of access to the fishery in the spring. Travel and other COVID-related restrictions imposed by states in March and April effectively closed the for-hire fishery. While state restrictions of for-hire fishing have been lifted or modified, limits on the number of people who may gather remain in place and constrain

the number of passengers for-hire vessels may accommodate. Gulf of Maine Haddock Prior to this federal rule change, the recreational GOM haddock season was scheduled to occur from April 15 – February 28 with a 15-fish per angler bag limit and 17” minimum size for all recreational anglers. With this rule change, the fishery will be extended to include the entirety of April with the closed season only occurring from March 1 – March 31. No changes to the bag limit or size limit were

FY2020 GOM Cod Recreational Fishing Limits Angler Mode Open Season

Private Angler

For-Hire Angler

Bag Limit

Minimum Size

September 15 – September 30

1 fish


April 1 – April 14

1 fish


September 8 – October 7

1 fish


April 1 – April 14

1 fish


FY2020 GOM Haddock Recreational Fishing Limits Angler Mode

Open Season

Bag Limit

Minimum Size

Private Angler

April 1 – February 28



For-Hire Angler

April 1 – February 28



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Commentary by Barry Gibson, New England Regional Director

Conservation Law Foundation Petitions NMFS to End Atlantic Cod Overfishing


he Boston-based Conservation Law Foundation has delivered an 88-page petition to the National Marine Fisheries Service “to compel NMFS to end overfishing of Atlantic cod and rebuild the two stocks (Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank) in this fishery in as short a time as possible as required by the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA).” CLF asserts that the MSA mandates, which include cod, are being violated in New England. The petition calls for the following measures to be implemented: •

A mandate that there be 100% at-sea observer coverage for all commercial groundfishing trips.

that the remedies are based on a two-cod-stock structure theory, and will we continue to use this structure for future management? And can it be scientifically supported? Does it make more sense, at this point and what we know now, to go with a one, two, or three-stock structure? There is thought that rebuilding with the two-stock model, which has been around for many years and may now be obsolete, won’t support a successful rebuilding program under current conditions. This issue is going to need a lot of vetting.

Another concern is the lack of current stock information. Many legs of the 2020 Spring Trawl Survey were canceled, and the Fall Trawl Survey has been canceled in its entirety.

A prohibition on directed commercial and recWe know that the cod stock boundaries have reational cod fishing. changed over time, and this hasn’t been taken • Area closures to protect all identified cod into consideration in the CLF proposal. The range spawning locations and areas of favorable of Atlantic cod has expanded in recent years, parhabitat for juvenile and adult cod. ticularly south of Cape Cod and down into the Mid-Atlantic States. Why is this happening? • Use of modified fishing gear throughout the range of Atlantic cod to reduce incidental There are climate change and habitat questions. catches. What is the effect of the Gulf of Maine warming faster than any other body of ocean water? Has • Additional measures to reduce the mortality of continued trawling and dredging on Georges incidental catch of cod in the recreational fishBank negatively impacted the bottom to the ery. point where it may be hampering cod spawning and/or reducing critical habitat for juvenile cod? The petition, however, has spurred a number of questions and concerns. One of the key issues is •

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What about the effect of Covid -19, which has significantly reduced fishing effort and removals in the recreational and commercial fisheries? Finally, would the CLF proposal lead to a unilateral Secretarial Amendment by NOAA rather that a plan developed by the New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) with full transparency and public input? NMFS has asked the NEFMC to review the merits of the petition and provide input and guidance. The Council’s Recreational Advisory Panel, Groundfish Advisory panel, and Groundfish Committee each discussed the petition in mid-August, and have forwarded their comments to the full Council, which will likely begin initial discussions on the topic at its September meeting. The RFA will be closely monitoring the progress of this petition and providing input to NMFS and the New England Council as appropriate. We are not convinced that that a complete moratorium on the recreational cod catch is necessary for an accelerated rebuilding schedule for the stock(s), and such a prohibition would likely be the final nail in the coffin for the already beleaguered forhire groundfish fleet ranging from Rhode Island to Maine. We will be following with the proceedings on a day-to-day basis and report back as things develop.

Directed recreational fishing for, and possession of, Atlantic cod would be prohibited -- perhaps for decades -- if a petition by the Conservation Law Foundation presented to the National Marine Fisheries Service is successful and the CLF's proposed measures are ultimately implemented.

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Commentary by Barry Gibson, New England Regional Director

NEFMC Launches Potential Limited Entry Program for NE Groundfish For-Hire Fleet New England Council Finally Addresses Limited Entry in the ForHire Fleet – but is it Too Late?


ack in the late 1990s, when recreational groundfishing for cod, haddock, pollock, and other bottom fish in the Gulf of Maine was in high gear and the charter and party boat sector was doing quite well, for-hire operators who had been in the business for years started to become concerned. Many commercial lobster and gillnet fishermen began to switch over into the for -hire sector, as daily charter fees rose to $1,200 and upwards. This was considered “easy money” by the commercials, who received Coast Guard captains’ licenses via the many “Captain’s Schools” that had sprung up, and who quickly re-outfitted their boats to carry rod-and-reel anglers. One of the big problems for those who had been in the for-hire fleet for years, even decades, was that the new entrants (which also included lots of “newbies,” newly licensed captains with recreational boats) started undercutting on charter prices, some by as much as 50%. This put the historic participants at a financial disadvantage, and many started losing business to the new entrants. So in response, about 20 members of the for-hire sector from Maine to Montauk, NY, met in Rhode Island to discuss the issue. Although it wasn’t

unanimous, it was voted to ask the NEFMC to consider creating an amendment to implement a limited entry program for the for-hire sector, much the same as the commercial sector has done several years earlier. In short, the NEFMC ducked the subject, year after year, by claiming that there were other, more important issues to be addressed. Each fall, the Council votes on annual priorities to be undertaken, and if the for-hire request even made it onto the list, it never made it high enough to be considered. One of the obstacles was that the NEFMC, whose membership has always been dominated by commercial fishing interests, had little incentive to create a limited entry program that might prevent commercial fishermen from getting into the for-hire sector if and when they wanted to. Several different control dates (dates after which those who entered the sector were not guaranteed future access if a limited entry scheme was implemented) were established by the NEFMC over the years, but were mostly bones that were thrown to temporarily appease the forhire sector. Nothing happened until this year, 2020. The

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addition, the cod stocks, particularly the Gulf of Maine stock that most of the for-hire boats fish on, are a fraction of what they once were. The current party/charter cod season is an anemic four weeks this year with a onecod bag limit per person, which does little to attract new entrants into the sector. In other words, growth in the for-hire groundfish fleet is basically at a standstill anyway, so will a limited The feasibility of a limited entry program is finally being explored by entry program actuthe New England Fishery Management Council, more than 20 years ally solve anything at this point? after a plea by beleaguered for-hire operators was first presented. NEFMC finally agreed to explore the feasibility of a for-hire limited access program, and has hired an outside contractor to solicit and catalog public input as to what such a program might look like. Who would be eligible? What would the criteria be based on, perhaps catch history? What would be used as a control date? Would the permits be able to be sold, or simply turned back in to NMFS when an operator exited the business? These and many other questions will need to be answered before the NEFMC can make a decision to move forward – or not

One of the overarching questions, at this point, is whether a limited access program in the for-hire groundfish sector is actually needed any more. Many of the participants who were around when the issue was first discussed in Rhode Island have long been out of the fishery, some forced out because they could no longer compete with the new entrants who were undercutting prices. In

Some believe, and correctly, that a limited entry program is needed in the event the cod stocks begin to rebound. They feel the current participants should be the ones to take advantage of any future increased bag limits and/or seasons. Also, there has been much discussion lately about a separate sub-ACL (Annual Catch Limit) for cod just for the for-hire sector, so that charter and party boats would not be impacted by any overages that might occur in the private-boat sector, a subject that has caused some concern. If a limited entry program is indeed implemented it could include a separate cod sub-ACL, although this measure might also be able to be created without limited entry. Bottom line is that there are lots of aspects to a limited entry program that will need to be discussed and resolved before an amendment can proceed. RFA’s two top New England representatives are members of the NEFMC’s Recreational Advisory Panel (RAP) and will be directly involved.

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Fishery Stock Assessments In New England and the Mid-Atlantic Stock assessments describe how many fish are available for harvest, numbers of young and mature fish in the population, and how many fish die from natural causes or fishing. Story Courtesy NOAA Fisheries New England/Mid-Atlantic Why We Conduct Assessments We study the size and age composition of fish populations off New England and the Mid-Atlantic, focusing on federally managed fishery species. We do this in order to:


Monitor the abundance of fish stocks


Measure the impact of fishing activity

Evaluate biological aspects of the ecosystem Together, each element describes stock health through a stock assessment. In our study area, New England/Mid-Atlantic, we assess approximately 40 different fish and invertebrate species, and contribute to marine mammal assessments.

Stock Assessments Use Data From All Sources Commercial fishermen and fish dealers, recreational fishermen, and research scientists all collect and contribute to fisheries data. Together, these data help us develop our stock assessments, which in turn help us determine sustainable harvest levels for each fish stock.

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Fitting the Assessment to the Need and the Data We use several types of assessment approaches to adequately capture what is happening in a population, ranging from simple to complex. We use simple methods for species for which data are scarce, that have low catch rates or a small population size. We use more complex methods for stocks that are intensely harvested and for which data are more plentiful. Simple assessment models rely on research survey data and sometimes commercial catch data when available. The resulting assessments typically provide a relative measure of a population’s size and information on whether the population is increasing or decreasing. For more complex assessments we use mathematical and statistical models that depend heavily on data collected by and from commercial and recreational fishing operations. This is especially important for species that have more than one stock within the total population. The resulting assessments provide detailed information that links fish size and age, reproductive success, and total population. These assessments can also show what catch will be in balance with the stock’s ability to reproduce and replace that catch in the following years.

Getting the Best Possible Advice to Fishery Managers We use a rigorous process to develop the multiple types of assessments. Each gets ample expert review before the results are presented to fishery managers. Most of that information is developed through management track assessments. These are routine, scheduled, and provide updated advice to directly inform management actions. They support the New England and Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Councils and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission . We also plan twice-yearly research track assessments. These complex scientific efforts can: •

Focus on research topics or on one or more individual stocks

Evaluate an issue or new model that could apply to many stocks

Consider extensive changes in data, model, or stock structure

Research track assessments can provide the basis for future management track assessments.

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Catch and Release Only For Blue Marlin, White Marlin, and Roundscale Spearfish for the Rest of 2020 in All Areas of the Atlantic Ocean


ased on the best available landings information, NOAA Fisheries has determined that the Atlantic blue marlin, white marlin, and roundscale spearfish 250landings limit has been met and exceeded for 2020. Under applicable regulations, only catch-andrelease fishing is permitted for these species for the rest of the year.

eral category or Swordfish General Commercial that fish in registered Atlantic HMS Tournaments, may catch-and-release (or tag and release) Atlantic blue marlin, white marlin, and roundscale spearfish of all sizes. Atlantic sailfish may continue to be landed (retained) consistent with applicable regulations.

Anglers are reminded that Atlantic From September 30, 2020, billfish that are released must be through December 31, 2020, NO- handled in a manner that will AA Fisheries is requiring catch-and maximize survival, and without re-release fishing only for Atlantic moving the fish from the water. blue marlin, white marlin, and For additional information on safe roundscale spearfish in all areas of handling, see the “Careful Catchthe Atlantic Ocean. and-Release� brochure. Questions? HMS Angling and HMS Charter/ Headboat category permit holders Contact the Atlantic HMS Management Division at 301-427-8503. and persons aboard vessels permitted in the Atlantic tunas Gen-

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Enter the RFA's Ultimate

TRIP OF A LIFETIME SWEEPSTAKES Ever wanted to go to experience the amazing billfishing in Guatemala? Feeling lucky? Support the RFA and have a chance to win this amazing trip of a lifetime through your membership and donation.


he staff at the RFA is excited to put up for grabs what is truly the finest Trip of a Lifetime prize we've ever offered. Courtesy of Captain Mike Sheeder of Intensity Sportfishing and Herb Rosell who represents Sailfish Oasis Lodge we will be giving away a trip for two to experience Guatemala bluewater fishing at its finest.

Christmas, one winning ticket will be drawn at random and the winner and a guest will receive a trip to Sailfish Oasis Lodge that includes four nights stay and three days of fishing aboard the Intensity with Capt. Mike Sheeder and his crew. It will cover private transportation to and from San Jose airport to the lodge, all deluxe gourmet meals and, a private bungalow and use of all facilities. The winner will also receive a travel To Enter voucher for $1000 towards airfare to Guatemala Here's how it works. In December, just in time for for a total prize value in excess of $15,000. The

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winner will arrange travel dates directly with the Herb Rosell, the US representative of Intensity Sportfishing and Sailfish Oasis Lodge. If the winner would like to add additional fishing days, side trips to experience more of Guatemala or bring additional guests, arrangements can be made at that time and will incur appropriate charges.

The Boat & Crew

Not a member? Join and your first ticket will be included as part of your $35 annual membership dues. Sign up for 3 years for $90 and receive three tickets with your membership. Additional tickets are available to all new members at the time of joining or by calling.

“For more than 20 years the Intensity has been offering fly and conventional angling clients the finest billfishing in the world,” says Sheeder. “We consistently receive the highest recommendations and reviews from both novice and experienced anglers. We can’t wait to invite you to step aboard and begin your own fishing adventure. Make your fishing dreams a reality.

You’ll be fishing the sailfish mecca of the world, Guatemala’s Pacific Coast. Located along the Central American “billfish highway,” this is where sails along with striped, blue and black marlin, tuna and dorado cruise amongst underwater mountain ranges located less than 10 miles from the dock. You’ll be fishing on the most famous RFA members will automatically receive five tick- billfish boat in Central America with more releasets at the discounted price of $100 in the mail. es made from it’s deck than any other—the aptly The single ticket price is $25. Follow the instrucnamed Intensity. You’ll fish with Captain Mike tions to activate your tickets. The mailing will take Sheeder, one of the top producing billfish capplace in early April 2020. You can request additains of all times along with his crew of highly tional tickets online at the RFA store skilled mates who consistently rate at or near the ( or by calling the RFA headtop of the IGFA Billfish Release leaderboard every quarters at 888-JOIN-RFA and requesting them. year.

The Lodging

Pacific sailfish are insanely abundant in Guatemala. They frequently top 100-pounds, and there is always the chance of having a blue or striped marlin attack the spread.

Welcome to the Sailfish Oasis Lodge where sunsets are celebrated every afternoon with refreshing drinks. Located in a secure residential community only five minutes from the marina and a 90minute drive from Guatemala City, Sailfish Oasis offers relaxing accommodations in a lush tropical setting. You’ll stay in a beautiful private bungalow done in local hardwoods and deco-

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Relax by the pool with one of the lodge's signature rum coolers after your days on the water. rated with local textiles and furnishings. Each bungalow is equipped with air-conditioning, comfortable beds and a private bath with plenty of hot water. Anglers and their guests are welcome to disconnect from the rest of the world in the lodge’s resort swimming pool surrounded by manicured lawns and flowering plants or to reconnect with friends and office via complementary WiFi service. Come dinnertime, you will gather around our private bar serving our signature cocktail “Canaso” or the libation of your choice. You can enjoy a selection of hors d’oeuvres while swapping tales of your day’s fishing in the open-air rancho style dining room. Dinners are a multi-course affair celebrating the finest in Guatemalan cuisine featuring fresh locally sourced organic ingredients. Sailfish Oasis prides itself in ocean-to-table dining. Signature dishes like dorado ceviche, giant prawns marinated in a ginger and Sailfish Oasis Lodge is located in a private, gated sweet chili sauce, pan-fried dorado community minutes from where the Intensity docks. topped with toasted

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face. Currents moving east from Mexico and west from Panama collide off Guatemala, creating enormous nutrient-rich eddies that attract and hold baitfish, which in turn attracts gamefish. Everywhere you look there is marine life. Not just sailfish, but whales, spinner dolphin, sea turtles and diving marine birds. Best of all, about 75 percent of the time this marine show happens in flat seas. Calm conditions that make Guatemala the ideal spot for first time fly fishermen wanting to catch billfish or new-to-offshore Each bungalow is beautifully decorated with fishing families seeking an introprivate bath, air conditioning and Wi-Fi. duction to the sport. In short, anyone who doesn’t like rough sea The Fishing conditions will find the ocean off the Port of San Sailfishing off Guatemala is phenomenal, the Jose a pleasure. best found anywhere in the world! Ah, but so is Sailfish, blue and black and striped marlin, wathe fishing for mahi, yellowfin tuna, wahoo and hoo, tunas and dorado are caught yearmarlin. Catching 15 out of 25 sailfish bites plus round. However, the peak billfish season is Octoscores of dorado and tuna is a routine day here. And when the waters are teaming with bait, as is usually the case, the catch rate can climb to three or more times that number. Guatemala holds the single day record of 124 sails released on conventional tackle and 57 on fly. No other fishing destination approaches the billfish numbers found off Guatemala. The reason for this amazingly consistent productivity has to do with the submarine mountains found just offshore. The bottom structure and the ocean currents that interact with it A blue marlin is always in the picture or you can plan your feed oxygenated water trip when they are most abundance. or upwellings to the sur-

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Dolphin and yellowfin tuna are caught year-round and often find their way onto the dinner table as ceviche, sushi or cooked to your liking for dinner. ber through June. The summer months are tops for dorado and inshore species such as roosterfish, Cubera snapper and grouper on light tackle. Guatemala offers the finest saltwater sportfishing in the world and the Intensity has consistently been the top boat.

Conservation Guatemala is a leader in billfish conservation, which has played a big part in making this area a favorite destination for offshore fishing enthusiasts the world over. Guatemala was the first country to embrace and enact laws requiring the mandatory use of baited circle hooks in its off-

shore fishery. It also has a strict no kill billfish policy. Because of these policies, it has been able to sustain its reputation for the most sailfish releases in the Pacific every year since records have been kept. Capt. Sheeder proudly contributes to conservation research by keeping accurate records and data on his average yearly 1,500 to 2,000 billfish releases.

Check Them Out To learn more about Capt. Mike Sheeder and his crew go to or call Herb Rosell at 305-632-4372 with questions.

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Commentary by John DePersenaire, RFA Managing Director Fishery Management Plan Specialist

Just What Constitutes Seafood?


his idea that the commercial sector owns the word seafood has been bugging me since Secretary of Commerce Ross took aim at the US Seafood deficit back in 2017 and committed to closing that gap. Never once did he look to the recreational sector in this work despite every definition of seafood I can find clearly includes fish and shellfish harvested by recreational anglers. If you missed it, NOAA issued a notice in the federal register seeking recommendations for a comprehensive interagency seafood trade strategy. Both the Executive Order from President Trump in May, and now this more recent announcement, failed to even mention recreational fishing and that annoys me to no end. Commercial fishermen aren’t the only ones that provide seafood or feed the nation. Recreational fishermen are comparable on just about every level; sales, jobs, income, contribution

to GDP, harvest, and on and on, but for some reason, every administration fails to see that recreationally harvested fish are indeed seafood. Clearly, the word seafood carries political weight and I understand the commercial sector probably wants to retain the political advantage of owning the word. But nothing I have found in extensive research and none of the definitions I have seen for seafood exclude fish landed by recreational anglers from the definition. Add to that the fact that I am not thrilled about the approach Secretary Ross seems fixed on for closing the seafood gap. His plan is basically to export more US caught seafood and to ramp up aquaculture, which is a very narrow approach. With all that in mind, I assembled the following comments to submit to the RFI on behalf of the RFA. John DePersenaire

value of US commercial fishermen and what they provide to this council in terms of food production and jobs. RE: RFI Response: Interagency Seafood Trade Task Force RFA aims to maintain working relationships with individual commercial fishermen and commercial fishing orDear Members of the Interagency Seafood Trade Task ganizations in order to work constructively through isForce: sues important to both our sectors. Please accept the following comments on behalf of the RFA also recognizes the intent of Executive Order Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) in regard to the re13921 issued by President Trump on May 7, 2020. RFA quest for information issued by the Interagency Seafood is particularly supportive of the statement in section 1 to Trade Task Force. RFA is a national organization with a “get more Americans back to work and put healthy, safe mission statement to fight for the rights of saltwater anfood on our families table.” The U.S. fisheries are the glers, protect marine and fishing tackle jobs and ensure best managed in the world and RFA believes it is approthe long-term sustainability of our Nation’s marine repriate for the Administration to make investments for sources. RFA recognizes the importance and traditional July 15, 2020

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ing gear. Therefore, a summer flounder, blue crab, bluefin tuna, or Atlantic cod landed by a recreational angler Specific to key sections of Executive Order 13921, RFA is just as much seafood as these same species landed by supports Section 2 (a) that seeks to “identify and remove commercial fishermen. unnecessary regulatory barriers restricting American fishermen and aquaculture producers.” While RFA EO 13921 fails to define seafood for use in this execuagrees that U.S. fishermen are subjected to unnecessary tive order or for actions that will be taken to advance its regulatory barriers, RFA is cautious about advancing aq- objectives. Therefore, it can be assumed that any one of uaculture producers too rapidly. Aquaculture developthe myriad of definitions for seafood in popular use ment, particularly ocean based facilities, hold potential could be used with this executive order. RFA sees absonegative impacts to important habitat and native fish lutely no reason that fish landed by recreational anglers stocks and these important issues should not be glossed should not be considered seafood. Based on every defiover until fully vetted. RFA supports NOAA remaining nition we have reviewed, seafood is not a term that can the lead federal agency and conducting the appropriate be assigned exclusively to the commercial fishing indusenvironmental impact statements under NEPA for all try. Furthermore, EO 13921 speaks about actions suggested to benefit U.S. fishermen. Fishermen is a broad aquaculture facilities proposed in the marine area. term that covers all individuals that catch or attempt to RFA supports Section 2 (b) to combat illegal, unreported catch animals from the marine environment. The term and unregulated fishing (IUU). RFA and the recreational fisherman is not sector specific. No one would ever sugfishing community have been at the forefront of request- gest that the term fishermen excludes anglers that fish ing the U.S. government take a firm stance through infor recreation or personal consumption. Thus, all beneternational fishing treaties to curb IUU fisheries. The fair- fits, goals and objectives outlined in EO 13921 to benefit ness aspect aside, which should be plainly apparent, fishermen must include both commercial and recreationthere are serious conservation impacts that result from al fishermen. IUU fishing and impact domestic commercial and recreational fishermen. The obvious impact is the reduction of RFA points this out because it is extremely disappointed available quota and fishing opportunities for U.S. fisher- that EO 13921 does not recognize the contributions that recreational fishing makes towards providing the men. U.S. public with fresh, domestic caught seafood. While RFA supports Section 2 (e) that seeks to safeguard our not all recreational fisheries have a significant consumpcommunities and maintain a healthy aquatic environtive component such as marlin, sailfish and some other ment. Fishing communities are essential for both com‘sport’ fisheries, the primary motivation for many anglers mercial and recreational fishermen to access our marine is to consume their catch. From an economic standresources. Fishing communities include tackle shops; point, recreational fishing generates income, supports marinas that hold private, for-hire and head boats; piers; jobs and contributes the gross domestic produce just as boat ramps; and water access points. All are essential in commercial fishing does. RFA can find no rational reaensuring that the American public has adequate oppor- son why recreational fishing should be excluded from tunities to access U.S. fisheries. It also goes without say- this effort by the Administration to “promote American ing that a healthy aquatic environment is critical to seafood competitiveness and economic growth.” In fact, many species critically important to both commercial RFA finds it insulting and disappointingly consistent with and recreational fishermen. RFA does not support the a long and unfortunate bias against the recreational fishroll back of any environmental laws, regulations, or reing industry by NOAA Fisheries under previous Adminview processes that would result in a net degradation of istrations. our nation’s estuaries, rivers, bays, waterways and In terms of staff, research dollars, and management oceans. funding, the U.S. Department of Commerce and its subWhere the RFA finds fault with Executive Order 13921 ordinate agencies such as NOAA Fisheries, have historiand recent notices to enact the mandates of EO 13921, cally prioritized commercial fishing interests over that of is the conscious decision to exclude recreational fishing the recreational fishing industry. RFA and many in the in achieving the goals of the order. In our review of mul- recreational fishing industry had hoped this Administratiple definitions of seafood, in no instance did they extion would undo this institutional bias that has placed clude fish harvested by recreational anglers. The most the interests of the commercial fishing industry over that common definition of seafood includes some variant of of the recreational fishing industry. We had hoped that the following definition; “any shellfish or finfish from the this Administration would put both of these sectors on sea used for food.” None of the definitions we have equal standing and acknowledge the important role seen restrict the definition of seafood to shellfish or finthat both play in providing the United States public with fish caught by commercial fishermen or commercial fish- domestic seafood. It is our expectation that these comthe benefit of U.S. fishermen.

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ments will spur the Administration to reflect on this over- line gear. The magnitude of landings are only possible when the number of recreational participants is high. sight and provide equal interest. Appropriate regulatory frameworks for popular, healthy Perhaps the White House and the newly created Inter- fisheries can help spur interest in these fisheries and agency Seafood Trade Task Force are not aware of the drive more participation. This would help close the seamagnitude in terms of jobs, landings and economic out- food gap. put of the US recreational fishing industry. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2) International management and compliance has a sigthe most recent economic estimates of recreational salt- nificant impact on U.S. recreational fishermen and the water fishing include 472,000 jobs, $68 billion in sales businesses and jobs supported by recreational fishing. and $39 billion in total contributions to gross domestic RFA suggests the U.S. State Department and Commerce product. When compared to similar categories attribut- Department take more aggressive action through intered to the commercial fisheries, the recreational values national fisheries treaties where U.S. fishermen are disadrepresent over one third of the combined US fishing out- vantaged due to IUU, noncompliance, misreporting, and lack enforcement by other contracting parties. These put. actions often result in lower overall quotas which in turn In terms of landings, recreational anglers are estimated result in less opportunities for recreational anglers, lower to have landed 334,907,475 pounds of seafood in 2019. recreational harvest and economic output. In the same year, the recreational sector is estimated to have released over 600,000,000 pounds of fish. These 3) Explore ways to reduce regulatory discards in the recdiscards can be classified in several ways including regu- reational sector and convert mortality associated with latory discards (below or above a minimum/maximum discards to harvest. The idea is to find conservation neusize limit, above a bag limit, out of season), or a personal tral solutions that will increase the potential for recreadecision made by the angler to release the fish. Based tional harvest without resulting in a net increase of overon these numbers, in no way should recreational fishing all mortality. be considered insignificant or excluded when crafting 4) Review all federal laws that hold jurisdiction over the domestic seafood policy. management of recreational saltwater fisheries and As to the RFI, RFA offers the following response to ques- make suggestions for changes that would allow greater tion 1. The remaining 6 questions are not relevant to recreational access to U.S. marine resources while ensurthe recreational sector and again demonstrate the bias ing longterm sustainability. towards the commercial sector. These questions also 5) Explore ways to increase recreational participation. demonstrate a very narrow focus put forward by the Administration to address this issue solely by increasing Increasing recreational participation, in concert with some of the above mentioned suggestions, will allow for the export of more domestically caught seafood. RFA believes is not the ideal solution for a whole host of rea- increased recreational harvest without the unwanted sons and in fact, this approach may exacerbate pressure consequences of highly efficient or destructive fishing gear. on certain species and have broad ecological consequences. In closing, RFA believes it is paramount that the Administration acknowledge that fish and shellfish harvested Recreational angles do not export any fish they land. Thus, every pound of fish harvested by recreational an- by recreational anglers is seafood. Perhaps this acknowlgler remains and is consumed in the U.S. These landings edgement will help end the decades long institution bias against the recreational fishing industry and help estimates should be applied toward the total domestic achieve the Administration's goal of closing the U.S. seaseafood production on an annual basis. As explained above, recreationally landed fish fall under every defini- food gap which the RFA supports under certain scenarios. tion of seafood and this acknowledgment alone will

help in closing the seafood deficit.

RFA strongly encourages the Administration to include the interests of the recreational fishing industry and the Given that the questions put forward in the RFI are priimportant role it can play in the goals and objectives of marily focused toward commercial fisheries, RFA would the Interagency Seafood Trade Task Force and the forthlike to offer additional comments for the Task Force to coming Comprehensive Interagency Seafood Trade consider as it works towards the development of a ComStrategy. prehensive Interagency Seafood Trade Strategy. 1) The harvest attributed to recreational anglers on an annual basis is significant. What is unique about these landings is that they result from low impact, hook and

Thank you for your consideration and our industry looks forward to providing input towards this important work.

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Shark Populations Proving Detrimental to Sailfish Survival News Item Courtesy The Billfish Foundation September 8, 2020/in Advocacy, Hot Issues, News


harter and private recreational fishing captains primarily are conscientious in practicing conservation-smart measures for their business depends on the availability of fish. Most billfishing captains practice catch and release, some also tag and many use non-offset circle hooks. But best practices make no difference. e when sharks attack and kill thousands of hooked fish, including sailfish, blue marlin, white marlin, bottom fish and coastal pelagics. Commercial fishing captains are experiencing much the same.

tality rate based on observations from a large number of boats fishing the same areas at the same time. But with sharks killing large numbers of hooked sailfish, the decline in their abundance may be accelerating with the decline of the fishery. Top Captains Speak Out

One well-known and respected South Florida charter boat captain, Bouncer Smith, shared that in deciding to retire in July 2020, he considered the bleak looking future for sailfish charters in South Florida caused by sharks. Private boat capDue to overfishing, two decades ago the National tain Doug Covin of Jupiter, Florida, echoes Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and coastal states Smith’s concerns. Covin added that financial inbegan restricting Atlantic shark harvest, prohibit- vestments in private boats usually is higher than ing the landing of at least 20 species. Now with charter boats, enlarging the negative economic increased abundance, feeding habitats are being impact if they leave the fishery. Covin learned modified by focusing on hooked fish. Captains from 4,000 social media responses to his query if report sharks seem to key off noises emitted from others were experiencing shark attacks on boats’ transducers, engine noise changes when hooked fish that thousands are frustrated. gears shift into neutral for an angler to fight a fish One captain fishing off the east coast reported 10 and from sounds of thrashing hooked fish, all yellowfin tunas killed in one trip by sharks before adding to the sound of a dinner bell. landing the authorized limit for one client. The The renowned South Florida charter and private federal yellowfin bag limit is 3 fish per person, per boat catch and release sailfish fishery hooks thou- day trip. So if a boat carries 4 anglers and each sands of sailfish each season, without a high mor- loses 10 yellowfin to sharks, that totals 40 dead

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In the Mid-Atlantic, Captain Rich Barrett on Shark Byte, with a highly competitive team recently fishing The MidAtlantic Tournament, had a shark attack an estimated 800pound hooked blue marlin, which might have won the event, but was disqualified because of the mutilation.

Sailfish tagged with a TBF tag decapitated and mutilated by a shark. This is becoming an increasingly common occurrence. yellowfin tunas plus retained bag limit. If the 4 anglers land their 3 fish bag limit each, that means 12 additional yellowfin tunas would be killed totaling 52 killed yellowfin by one boat on 1 trip. If 30 boats fish for yellowfin that same day, the total number yellowfin tuna that could be killed by sharks and legal bag limit retention could reach 1,560 on 1 day. Out of North Carolina, TBF Board Member and charter captain Charles “Fin” Gaddy, fishing out of Oregon Inlet, North Carolina, with 30 other boats, says, “the situation is horrific with probably over 100 hooked fish killed a day by sharks. Hooked fish get taken within a minute after being hooked.” Charter Captain Rom Whitaker, owner of the famous and historic Release fishing out of Hatteras, North Carolina and who served on NMFS Advisory Committee for Highly Migratory Species, says, “he witnessed the increase in shark abundance and attacks growing over the past 10 years and repeatedly told NMFS staff members that a problem was growing, but no action resulted.”

Captain Patrick Ivie, well-known for his successful billfishing out of Orange Beach, Alabama says “sharks are super bad in the Gulf, including for the bottom fishing boats as well.” Another shark killing of a likely tournament winning blue marlin, estimated to weigh 600 pounds, occurred in a Memorial Day tournament in the Gulf, which also had to be disqualified because of mutilation.

Not until reviewing dealer reports on June 11, 2020, did NMFS staff realize that 83% of the annual allocation of large coastal sharks and 64% of the hammerheads commercial fishing allocation had NOT been landed. They finally implemented an increase in commercial landing limit from 36 to 55 large coastal and hammerhead sharks per boat for the balance of this year. Species included Blacktip, Bull, Lemon, Nurse, Silky, Tiger, Spinner, Great/Smooth and Scalloped Hammerheads. No one fishing today can afford to lose sight of the fact that in 2014 two environmental organizations filed Endangered Species Act (ESA) petitions to list dusky sharks as threatened or endangered in 2014. Fortunately, the petitions were unsuccessful. A listing could mean no fishing by any gear in waters where a dusky shark might be hooked. A management solution to rebalance the situation is crucial before sailfish stocks and the dependent businesses collapse or before some start killing attacking sharks. Other fisheries, recreational and commercial, remain at risk as well.

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Making Waves Fall 2020

The Project Continues Editors Note: We have been eagerly following a project undertakend by The Fisherman and Gray FishTag Research to implant and track the first satellite tags in Atlantic striped bass. The data gathered from the first two fish was startling, to say the least. Who would have imagined the most popular "inshore" gamefish on the East Coast would travel to distant offshore canyons and hang out there for a month or more during the summer. The following two articles detail the tagging of the next fish to be implanted with pop-up tags this past summer in the Hudson River and at Montauk, New York. Once again, author Jim Hutchinson takes us along on the tagging safaris with his descriptive prose. Both articles are courtesy of The Fisherman. The RFA has become involved with the project by helping to promote it to our members and with donations dedicated to tagging additional fish in the coming years. Tags cost approximately $5000 each. Contact the RFA office if you would like to make a donation.

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After overcoming “COVID” related obstacles, the groundbreaking Northeast Striped Bass Study is underway again! "I don’t know Chuck, I think you can get a bigger one.” The striper in the net was 46 inches long, a solid 36-pounder. She was a good fish by most standards; but perhaps in relative terms, she was nothing like either the 52- or 54-pounder caught the day before aboard Tyman, a 28-foot True World run by striper fanatic Chuck Many. Affixing a green Gray FishTag Research spaghetti tag just to the port side of her dorsal, angler Dave Glassberg named the fish Ellie and safely slid here back to swim again. Minutes later, Many netted a second good fish for Bob Bowden, a 43-incher. Looking over at Chuck, I asked, “we can go bigger, right?” Superstitiously speaking, sending that fat upper 30-pound striper named Bella B over the side of the gunnel was probably worse than pulling a bunch of bananas out of a canyon bag on an overnighter. Not one personally to bet on the favorite pony in the big race, I pushed for the trifecta. Our Gray FishTag Research tagging team set 38 inches as our minimum size for the 2020 Northeast Striped Bass Study; from the looks I was getting onboard Tyman after the first two qualified candidates were set free without a satellite tag, I began to wonder if we weren’t pressing our luck.

DOWN, NOT OUT The inaugural Northeast Striped Bass Study successfully deployed a pair of high-tech satellite tags on two post-spawn striped bass leaving the Hudson River last spring. It was the morning of May 21 that a trophy-hunting team comprised of the nonprofit Gray FishTag Research, Navionics and The Fisherman stepped aboard Rocket Charters in lower Manhattan in search of quality tagging candidates. The trip would include an onwater transfer to the Highlands, NJ based Fin Chasers Charters crew for a successful double-tide of striper fishing in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty. While upper 40- to lower 50-inch stripers were a strong possibility, the team set the 2019 size limit for quality candidates at 34 inches. Before the day was out, a 34- and 42-inch pair of striped bass named Liberty and Freedom were released with Wildlife Computer MiniPAT devices attached. The tags archive data on water temperature, pressure and light conditions; programmed to stay affixed to the fish for 5 months, the tags by design will float to the surface at the end of the cycle where they relay summaries of stored data via Argos Satellites back to the staff at Gray FishTag Research. PSATs have been used only on a limited basis in striped bass research, typically to track a week or two of post-release behavior for gathering mortality estimates. But 5 months of tracking with the latest, greatest technology on the market had not been done before. By last fall, both tags had mi-

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Making Waves Fall 2020

miles away from where our Tyman crew was now releasing 40-inch-plus class fish. Heading into 2020, the Gray FishTag Research project team had big plans. For starters, a fundraising effort resulted in major contributions from industry heavyweights like Navionics, Tsunami Tackle, AFW/HiSeas, Southernmost Apparel and the Recreational Fishing Alliance through the Manhattan Cup; it was soon bolstered by individual donations from Fisherman readers, regional advertisers, and local fishing clubs. “We were looking at six, maybe seven of the MiniPSAT devices,” said Mike Caruso, publisher of The Fisherman and an advisor for Gray FishTag Research. “The plan was to have multiple boats ready to go at one time, with a full Gray FishTag Research team in New York again during the week of May 18th. It was going to even more groundbreaking than in 2019.” Suffice to say, the COVID-19 pandemic put the kibosh on those grand plans. A strategic session between anglers and researchers planned for the Salt Water Fishing Expo in March was cancelled, as was the next two months of fishing with anyone other than immediate family members. Production of the tags themselves by Wildlife Computers in the state of Washington was shut down, and the entire project was suddenly up in the air.

Chuck Many with Rona, a 46-1/2-inch, 43-pound striped bass caught just east of the town of Sea While the coronavirus may have Bright on the northern coast of New Jersey on knocked us down; it did not knock us May 28. out! raculously been recovered, one along the beach in Massachusetts during the summer, the second down the Jersey Shore in October, roughly 13.5

THIRD’S A CHARM While Northeast states were often labeled “ground zero” during the global pandemic, the state of Washington was hit incredibly hard and

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saw even greater closures and restrictions than most. When things started slowly reopening there this spring, the crew from Gray FishTag Research was quick to inquire about MiniPSAT devices for the Northeast Striped Bass Study. On April 28, I received an email from Roxanne Willmer from Gray FishTag Research with optimistic news. While Wildlife Computers in Washington was mostly closed during the pandemic, scientists were still working on the specific programming of the satellite tag for the nature of our study. “I have been in touch with our rep throughout the past weeks and yesterday when we spoke I was advised that they can get two tags completed and sent for the study,” Willmer said of the effort, explaining how the team at Gray FishTag Research was able to secure the tags, just in time for the study. The first two SAT tags showed at my door on May 11, with the tag applicator sticks and catch cards arriving about a week later. Roughly one week off our originally planned deployment schedule of May 18, 2020, we got together by phone with the first two of three deployment teams (Tyman and Fin Chasers) and set an immediate plan to hit the Hudson for postspawn stripers, the same location as in 2019. Regrettably, the New York Harbor bite was slow in between moons, and the afternoon outgoing tide of Thursday, May 28th looked to be plagued by stiff SE winds. So when Chuck Many called the day before about the epic bite he was having with the Wakefield brothers, Joel, Lee and Seth, I was back with the Gray FishTag Research team to discuss options.

called an audible. The two boats would still meet at Captains Marina in Staten Island on the afternoon of May 28th in search of a pair of post-spawn Hudson River stripers. But just in case, we would hedge our bets a touch by starting the morning 2-1/2 miles east of the Sandy Hook in New Jersey in search of those specimens boated the prior day aboard Many’s True World. When Glassberg reeled in our third fish that morning and laid her to rest on the measuring board, the 46-1/2-inch length was impressive enough; but the overall girth and the ample shoulders on this 43-pound striper made her immediately tag-worthy. After placing a damp towel across her head, we picked off a scale, sank the MiniPSAT device into her starboard side, and a second green Gray FishTag Research spaghetti tag into her port shoulder. After a quick snapshot, we watched as Many swam her with the current until she kicked off into the depths. After releasing Rona, we slow-trolled live eels under planer boards – one of Many’s surefire methods of fishing for Jersey Shore giants – for another hour and a half without another touch. Luckily, I didn’t let it ride on a superfecta!

THE CORA-RONA CURE The two teams worked their butts off in the SE chop in the afternoon, tossing livies against the stanchions of the Verrazano, drifting across Robbins Reef, and ultimately anchoring up on our 2019 marks alongside the Statue of Liberty. A third planned deployment team consisting of Jerry Gomber from Tsunami Tackle aboard Capt. “We simply don’t have much to report right now Howard Owens’ 26-foot Sailfish was fishing down on Raritan Bay with great success. “I was in the lower Hudson,” I explained to the folks at Gray FishTag Research. “There is still a reported by myself all morning,” Owens texted me that afternoon. “My first fish was a 54-inch.” spawn up the Hudson near Kingston, but what we do have right now is a good body of monster We all knew where the bite was; in fact, on the way into Great Kills on Staten Island to meet the fish from what we believe is the Chesapeake rest of the team the Many’s crew stumbled onto a stock just off the beach.” Bill Dobbelaer, Presibunker busting blitz of big stripers crashing the dent of Gray Fishtag Research listened intently surface just off Sandy Hook. We quickly deployed alongside Willmer, while Caruso jotted notes another three Gray FishTag Research spaghetti about the next day’s deployment plan. And we tags in fish to 40 pounds before leaving the fish

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to go find fish where they simply weren’t. At the end of a long day, with one MiniPSAT tag deployed out front, our immediate goal was to find another quality fish in the same spot as in 2019 for control purposes in the name of science. As they say, the best laid plans.

Making Waves Fall 2020

-3/4-inch striper was laying in the same measuring board where literally thousands of striped bass have rested before. She was green, she was clean, and quite honestly, she was perfect.

The team could’ve rolled the dice again, looking for that elusive 50-pounder. Monday morning In another Gray FishTag Research meeting the quarterbacking again the following day as I put following afternoon, Wilmer and Dobbelaer de- pen to paper for this story, I had to laugh. The livered more good news; another SAT tag was team would enter the names of another 11 stripbeing shipped to our Gray FishTag Research ers that morning on catch cards, each stuck with team for another deployment. With hopes of green streamer tags from Gray FishTag Research another wave or two of big stripers tumbling out in hopes of returns somewhere down the road; of the Hudson River post-spawn in June, we we even tagged a 19-inch bluefish which got a little too close to the hooked-headend of a live called a second audible. eel. But that first fish of the morning – a 35With two tags in the bush and the other still in pounder named Cora - was deployed with the hand, I immediately texted Many and a second second of our first two Wildlife Computers Minday was set for tag #2. With big, old, fat, fecund, iPSAT devices. She would be the largest for the female fish (BOFFFs) running North Jersey’s front day. beaches, occasionally exploding on bunker schools in sub 60-degree water temps, we Back at the fishfinder, we watched as Cora hopped aboard Tyman out of Gateway Marina in streaked straight back towards to the bottom, the Highlands a second time at 5:30 a.m. on pulling up hard and heading north off the screen; northerly being a path one might expect June 3. of these spring run giants. Freedom and Liberty Together again with Many and Glassberg, I was in 2019 didn’t exactly do as predicted of course, pleasantly surprised to also find old friend and heading E/SE to the Northeast Canyons for the former Striper Mania skipper Lou Grazioso summer. onboard to manage the day’s fishing. Many deploys upwards of eight or nine outfits at one time With another SAT tag coming north in another while drifting eels and live bunker under floats week or so for the Tsunami and Navionics deand planer boards to tempt big stripers off the ployment teams - hoping to catch a few of those bottom. Just 15 minutes after setting our spread, big breeders falling out of the Hudson before the Grazioso – in his best Gloucester accent – shout- month of June is out, and perhaps with this ed from his position in front of the fishfinder whole coronavirus drama shrinking in the rearview mirror - I look forward to hearing more from screen, “we got a streaker Jay.” Cora and Rona again sometime in October. But It was appropriate enough; the Northeast Striped first, we have to find their Hudson River sisters! Bass Study was born in a Gray FishTag Research advisory meeting when Caruso, former Navionics staffer Paul Michele, and Hard Merchandise’s Capt. Dave Marciano wondered aloud about putting SAT tags in striped bass. In an instant the Shimano Torium clicker aboard Tyman was screaming like a Wicked Tuna episode, as Glassberg went to work again on a big bass at the other end of the line. Minutes later, a healthy, 45

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As we left off in the July edition of The Fisherman, there are currently two 46-inch jumbo stripers swimming around somewhere in the North Atlantic with MiniPSAT devices affixed to their shoulders.


s part of the 2020 Northeast Striped Bass Study - sponsored by Navionics, Tsunami fishing tackle, AFW/HI Seas, Southernmost Apparel, the Recreational Fishing Alliance (Fisheries Conservation Trust) and hundreds of The Fisherman’s readers and regional fishing clubs including Berkeley Striper Club, the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association, High Hills Striper Club, and the Long Island Beach Buggy Association - the stripers named Cora and Rona were caught, tagged and released on two separate trips, May 28 and June 3, just east of Sea Bright, NJ.

least get three during the coronavirus pandemic for late spring and early summer deployment (with hopes of more to come by fall). But heading into the Independence Day weekend, the immediate task became where to find a third qualified candidate to carry the MiniPSAT device for four months of tracking; then came the news from Montauk. “Capt. John Paduano and Savio Mizzi have both caught many big fish snapjigging bucktails drifting in the rips off of the Point over the past couple of weeks,” said The Fisherman’s senior editor Fred Golofaro in the days leading up to the Fourth of July, adding “John had a 56- x 33-inch fish last week that calculated out at 71.5 pounds, and Savio had one caught on his boat of about 60 pounds.”

Regrettably, unlike our success in the lower Hudson back in May of 2019 with the fish we named Liberty and Freedom, we were unable to find suitable candidates in New York Harbor in our quest to ensure that two post-spawn Hudson Riv- With the window open on big stripers from Moner stripers were tracked via high-tech satellite tauk to Block Island in July, a new plan came to tags. fruition and the tagging team headed east.

As has been the mantra going back to March, Could these be the same fish as we saw earlier COVID-19 may have knocked us down, but it did- this season off the Jersey Coast? Are they Chesapeake fish, or Hudson? “There are still a lot of unn’t knock us out! knowns about these big fish,” said Bill Dobbelaer, EASTBOUND & DOWN President of Gray Fishtag Research, reminding us With the body of big, migratory stripers having all of the travels made by Liberty and Freedom in mostly moved on and out of the NY Bight in mid- 2019, to the canyons and back. “But if there’s big June, the Northeast Striped Bass Study team refish in a place like Block Island or the rips off Monconvened by phone to develop a new plan. With tauk, let’s do it,” he added. hopes of securing four or five Wildlife Computers MiniPSAT devices through Gray FishTag Research While most boats had been using live bait like heading into 2020, we did were thrilled to at eels and legal-size porgies for the big fish, Golo-

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faro knew that bucktails have also been taking a lot of cows. “We were out on the water at first light and were catching some small fish into the slot when Savio connected with the right fish,” he said, recounting the deployment operation on July 3. “We were looking for a fish over 45 inches and this one measured out at 46 so we decided to go with her rather than hold out for an even bigger fish,” Golofaro added. The fish was lightly hooked in the lip, a perfect candidate for carrying around a tracking device for the next five months. “We moved around between Great Eastern, the Porgy Hump and Pollock Rip, where Savio hooked Independence,” he said of the aptly named holiday weekend striper, the fifth striped bass since 2019 to carry a Gray FishTag Research tracking device.

Sometime later this fall, we hope to learn more about three fish currently deployed with MiniPSAT devices; and our fingers are crossed that these three tags end up being found just as the other two were back in 2019.

Making Waves Fall 2020

headlines every year), and by physically retrieving the tags. In the case of our current striped bass subjects, the tags are programmed with a charge to “disengage” after 4 months versus 5 months as they were last year’s study, again based on questions related to the COVID-19 effects on our timing. In 2019, Liberty’s tag came undone earlier than expected, washing up along Sagamore Beach, MA where a woman walking the shoreline stumbled upon it. Using the information written on the side of the tag itself, she was able to contact Gray FishTag Research, shipping the tag directly to the study team in Florida. Then on October 22, just 4 days after popping free from Freedom, the second Wildlife Computer MiniPAT device washed up along the beaches of Asbury Park.

Surprisingly, Liberty and Freedom didn’t behave as one might expect stripers to behave. As per the information collected in Liberty’s tag, after being caught in the lower Hudson on May 21, she made a quick trip down the Jersey Shore before heading northeast along the south shore of Long IT’S IN THERE! Island around Memorial Day before meandering On May 21, 2019, our Northeast Striped Bass along in a south/southeasterly direction, spendStudy team consisting of staff from The Fishering most of June in parts of Ryan, Nantucket and man, Navionics and Gray FishTag Research head- Clipper canyons, cruising mostly in the 40- to 80ed out on the lower Hudson aboard Rocket Char- foot depths. ters out of Manhattan in the morning, with an afternoon onwater transfer to Fin Chasers Char- Freedom, as reported in our January edition, left ters out of New Jersey. The double shift of fishthe Hudson heading in a southeast direction ing within sight of the Statue of Liberty resulted above the Hudson Shelf Valley, making it to the in a pair of SAT-tagged fish, a 34-inch striper westernmost tip of the Hudson Canyon just innamed Liberty and a 42-incher named Freedom. side the Babylon Valley – a distance of roughly The MiniPSAT tags used in the Northeast Striped 100 miles – for the Memorial Day weekend. The Bass Study incorporate light-based geolocation information collected inside that Wildlife Computfor tracking, time-at-depth histograms for measur- ers MiniPSAT tag revealed that Freedom spent ing diving behavior, and a profile of depth and the next month within about 20 nautical miles of temperature. The information – light-based geo- that point, eventually zigzagging her way location, time-at-depth histograms and profile of through Block Canyon out towards Veatch Candepth and temperature - is all stored inside the yon before heading north towards Nantucket waterproof tag’s circuitry. There are just two Shoals in early July. ways to extract that stored data on tracking, diving behavior and temperature profiles of tagged “They have no question, the tag stayed on the fish for duration,” Dobbelaer said later. The beaufish, by the physical tag surfacing and “pinging” ty of these high-tech tags is that based on the info to the orbiting Argos satellite in space (thinking of how the shark “pings” make national tracking, diving and temperature profiles con-

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This candidate has her head covered with a wet towel to keep calm and cool through the measurement and tagging process, which ideally should take less than 2 minutes to ensure the health of the fish upon release. tained with the tag, the idea that a larger predator like a white shark was dispelled by the actual scientific data. THE NEXT STEPS And then there were three. Based on the disengagement charge working how and when it’s supposed to, we should expect to get the first “pings” from Cora and Rona by the end of September, with the Argos satellites hopefully relaying information to Gray FishTag Research scientists from Independence sometime in October. Each of the three fish also carries a corresponding green streamer or spaghetti tag so that even once the four-month tracking period is done, we still might be able to learn more about these fish and their destinations in years to come.

The 2020 Northeast Striped Bass study looked different than originally planned thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. Rather than a handful of lower Hudson River post-spawn fish, our belief is that at least two of the tagged fish are Chesapeake post-spawn fish; the third and final striper from Montauk, Independence, is anyone’s guess. In addition to the satellite tags deployed, the team placed another two dozen Gray FishTag Research spaghetti tags in fish from 18 inches in length to 46 inches. Ultimately, all data collected by Gray FishTag Research is open access and available to the public when requested in writing. For the Northeast Striped Bass Study team, which includes all of our sponsors and investors, the ultimate goal is to

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continuing tagging as many striped bass as possible. As for the satellite tags, the mantra “bigger is better” certainly applies, whether those fish are migrating north and east in June and July, our south and west come September and October.

another 4-month study window later this year to perhaps carry the migratory tracking efforts on jumbo stripers into the winter.

“We have additional SAT tags here at Gray dedicated to the Northeast Striped Bass Study, and we certainly don’t want to stop at just the first three tags,” she said in July. With that, Northeast Striped Bass Study members are taking a look at

But so long as those tags perform as designed, floating to the surface to “ping” the Argos satellite – or perhaps again being discovered along a stretch of beach between Massachusetts and the Jersey Shore – our hope springs eternal. .

There is of course risk involved. In 2019, the tags were programmed to stay on for 5 months, yet “We are still looking at a fall run of stripers,” said Liberty’s tag released approximately two months Roxanne Willmer from Gray FishTag Research, early while Freedom essentially carried to term. “we just need to get together as a team to see There are any number of obstacles along the way what those details look like.” Willmer said several which could keep Cora, Rona and Independence blue marlin studies in Cabo San Lucas and Costa from retaining their MiniPSAT devices the full 4 Rica are up in the air at this point due to the months like rolling into a big boulder in Block IsCOVID-19 pandemic, but the Northeast Striped land Sound, getting caught up in a dragger’s net Bass Study for 2020 continues. or even being eaten by a large predator.

MEET THE TEAM Thanks to Gray FishTag Research, The Fisherman is proud to continue in the efforts of this powerful scientific work; it wouldn’t be possible of course without the generous financial support of valued partners including Navionics, Tsunami, AFW/HI Seas, Southernmost Apparel, the Recreational Fishing Alliance (Fisheries Conservation Trust) and hundreds of Fisherman readers and clubs including Berkeley Striper Club, the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association, High Hills Striper Club and others. Gray FishTag Research is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization; an international and fully interactive fish tagging program, it’s powered by the world’s largest network of fishing professionals consisting of approximately 10,000 charter boat captains and mates. The data collected by Gray FishTag Research on fish species across the globe is analyzed and used for scientific purposes and shared with any interested parties at no cost. To learn more about Gray FishTag Research and how you can make a charitable donation to the Northeast Striped Bass Study go to

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New Permitting and Reporting Requirements for Recreational Blueline and Golden Tilefish Effective August 17, 2020

Beginning August 17, all recreational vessels fishing for blueline or golden tilefish must have a permit and report catch within 24 hours of returning to port.

Who Does This Impact? • Vessels fishing for or retaining tilefish from Virginia to Maine. For-hire vessels holding an existing GARFO permit who take private recreational tilefish trips. •

States may have additional permitting or reporting requirements for recreational fishing. What Do I Need To Do? • Obtain a Private Recreational Tilefish Permit from the Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office (GARFO). Report your trip with one of the available reporting options. How Do I Get a Permit? Start by registering an account on GARFO Fish Online. • Create a user name and password. •

Existing permit holders may apply through their current Fish Online account.

Click Initial Private Recreational Tilefish Permit. How Do I Report? You must report all trips that either targeted or retained tilefish to GARFO within 24 hours of returning to port using an approved electronic vessel trip reporting (eVTR) system. Questions? eVTR: Contact Lindsey Bergmann, (978) 282-8418 or Jim St.Cyr, (978) 281-9369

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Editor's Note: Sometimes we see a confluence of actions by NOAA and observa-

tions made by professional fishing captains that make us scratch our heads. Could the recent announcement (see below) by NOAA Fisheries authorizing the removal (with extreme prejudice) of sea lions to protect endangered salmon runs on the West Coast be a precursor to similar actions in New England, where the gray seal population has exploded to numbers never seen before endangering fish and fisheries. Following the announcement is an article written by RFA Massachusetts chapter chairman Capt. Mike Pierdinock in 2017 warning of just such an impending problem on the East Coast. Note that the numbers used in this article were updated to include 2020 estimates of gray seals population.

NOAA Fisheries Authorizes States and Tribes to Remove Sea Lions Preying on Protected Fish Task Force endorsed approval of application under Marine Mammal Protection Act. August 14, 2020


tates and tribes can remove California and Steller sea lions from a management zone on the Columbia River and its tributaries where they prey on at-risk salmon, steelhead, lamprey, sturgeon, and eulachon, under a new authorization by NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast Region. Top and above right: Sea lions consume salmon and steelhead at Willamette Falls on the Willamette River south of Portland. Credit: Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. The approval provides more flexibility in managing sea lion impacts on salmon and steelhead. For the past two decades, the growing issue of sea lion predation in the Columbia Basin has been closely monitored. Management solutions have adapted to address it. Under Section 120 of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), thousands of threatened and endangered salm-

on and steelhead have been protected from predation. The Endangered Salmon Predation Prevention Act amended the MMPA in 2018. It allowed removal of sea lions from a stretch of the Columbia River between the I-205 bridge on Portland’s east side and McNary Dam. The amendments also allow removal of sea lions from tributaries of the Columbia River below McNary Dam with spawning habitat of threatened or endangered salmon or steelhead.

Removals Part of Larger Strategy to Protect Salmon Sea lions prey on adult salmon and steelhead migrating upriver from the ocean to Bonneville Dam, Willamette Falls, and other tributaries to the Columbia River. That is a crucial point in the salmon life cycle, after the salmon have survived the ocean but just before they return to their home

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flexibility to manage these impacts.”

Authorization Follows Task Force Recommendations As the MMPA requires, NOAA Fisheries earlier this year convened a Task Force to review the application and provide a recommendation. The Task Force is made up of representatives from federal and state agencies, tribes, and conservation and fishing organizations. The Task Force recommended that NOAA Fisheries approve the application and grant the new authoriSea lions consume salmon and steelhead at Willamette Falls zation. on the Willamette River south of Portland. Credit: Oregon Applicants for the authorization Department of Fish and Wildlife. were: rivers to spawn.

The states of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho

Studies indicate that sea lions may remove large • The Nez Perce Tribe proportions of migrating salmon and steelhead. • Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Their total consumption has been estimated at more than 10,000 salmon and steelhead in some Reservation years. • Yakama Nation “This is one element of a comprehensive strategy that also addresses impacts at dams, hatcheries, and through harvest,” said Chris Yates, Assistant Regional Administrator for Protected Resources in the West Coast Region. “Removing sea lions is not anyone’s first choice, but this provides the states and tribes

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Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs

ly euthanized.

The approval also includes tribes that help manage sea lion impacts on the Willamette River.

Bounties and market hunting once drove California sea lions toward extinction, but they rebounded under the protection of the MMPA, now numbering more than 250,000. The eastern stock of Steller sea lions has also increased over the last decade to more than 70,000 animals.

The authorization allows for removal of up to 540 California sea lions and 176 Steller sea lions over the next five years. The numbers are based on:

Recommendations from the Task Force

More Information

Protected Salmon and Steelhead on the West • Information in the application describing the Coast risk to salmon, steelhead, sturgeon and eulachon Endangered Salmon Predation Prevention Act of Expected benefits to these fish from sea lion re2018 movals MMPA Section 120 Pinniped Removal Program Unless a zoo or aquarium is interested in taking the sea lions that are removed, they are humane- Pinniped-Fishery Interaction Task Force

Is the Lack of Fish in New England Waters Due to Overfishing or Over Population of Seals, Dogfish & Commorants? by Capt Mike Pierdinock - circa 2017


ome claim that the lack of forage fish and other select species near shore is a result of overfishing, climate change, habitat destruction and other environmental factors one or any combination of which may be the culprit. One of the problems with fishery management is that in many cases the fishery is not managed to take into consideration localized conditions with species management encompassing many states or the entire coast. For instance in Massachusetts (and elsewhere) we are plagued with a booming seal, dogfish and cormorant population. These species have to eat to survive and they are certainly doing so. Is the lack of forage fish and oth-

er select species a result of these water bound vacuum cleaners that eat everything in sight? The federal and state agencies that mange and regulate these species can point to success stories associated with the rebound or increase in population of seals, dogfish and cormorants or as we refer to them as “fish eating machines.” There doesn’t appear to be lack of suitable habitat and food for these species resulting in booming populations. The problem with these species is lack of predators to control them so they will not have a detrimental impact on our fishery. Let’s go over some compelling evidence described below.

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The most recent assessment pegs gray seal populations on just Cape Cod at over 50,000 individuals.

Gray Seals In the early 2000 timeframe our striped bass population had returned to healthy levels and anglers enjoyed striped bass throughout. At that time a population of approximately 1,500 gray seals was found around Monomy Island and the Chatham area of Cape Cod. As of today there is an estimated 50,000 to 75,000 gray seals inhabiting the north and south shore of Massachusetts, Cape Cod area and the Islands. The increase in seal population appears to correspond to the healthy population of striped bass and subsequently other species such as cod and haddock in the early to mid 2000 timeframe. This food source and suitable habitat with the lack of predators to prey on the gray seals has resulted in a booming gray seal population. To no surprise, an increase in the seal population has resulted in the return of great white sharks to our waters looking for a tasty meal. Needles to say the gray seal population has significantly increased; great white shark sightings are bountiful near shore and the striped bass population near shore is now lacking. The population of great white sharks is not at a level to cull or control the booming seal population.

According to the National Marine Fishery Service (“NMFS”) a gray seal consume 4 to 6 % of their body weight per day. A mature 800 pound male gray seal can eat 32 to 48 pounds of fish per day. Let’s conservatively assess how many pounds of fish they eat per year? Assume an average of weight of a seal

@ 400 pounds with a fish consumption rate of 4 to 6% of their body per weight/day. This equals 16 to 24 pounds of fish ingested per seal/day. Lets assess the impact to our fishery as a result of 1,500 seals (early 2000) to 16,000 seals (2016) today. Year 2000 - Population of 1,500 gray seals consume 8.7 million to 13 million pounds or 4,380 tons to 6,570 tons of fish per year Year 2016 - Population of 16,000 gray seals consume 93 million to 140, million pounds or 46,720 tons to 70,080 tons of fish per year. Year 2020 - Population of 50,000 gray seals consume 292 million to 438 million pounds of fish per year. Wow! Did the striped bass population in early 2000 and subsequently cod, haddock, mackerel

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and herring provide the food source for a booming population of gray seals? We have watched a reduction in our striped bass population and herring near shore since early 2000 to 2016. Last year the annual striped bass quota for Massachusetts was reduced by 25%. How many pounds of striped bass are the seals eating per year? I am sure that they are not the sole source or cause of the reduction but the numbers speak for themself. The increase in food demand for seals had to come from somewhere?

proposed to cull 70,000 gray seals in the Gulf of St Lawrence over a four year period in an attempt to conserve the cod stock. The European Union has also proposed gray seal culling west of Scotland as a result of the detrimental impact of the gray seal on the cod fish population. Has the time arrived for a gray seal cull?


Gray seals are not the only culprit. The next fish eating machine is dogfish. We have observed In general, I have observed a shift in the location dogfish by the hundreds near as well as off shore there is no lack of them and they are a nuisance of striped bass into deeper water the last few years. In the early 2000 timeframe the majority of to catch and destroy our nets, line and tackle. Live or dead bait will be stripped clean of the striped bass that I landed would be in 30 to 40 feet of water. The past few years I am encounter- hook before your bait hits bottom since they typically are found in schools. When fishing for cod ing them in 80 to 100 feet of water. I have enand haddock use of a baited hook is not possible countered them by the hundreds and caught once they arrive by the hundreds in our waters. them as bycatch while fishing for tuna or sharks far offshore beyond the EEZ where they are con- Baited hooks never hit them bottom where the cod and haddock are found since they get sidered a game fish and need to be returned to live another day. Near shore recreational anglers stripped clean well before nearing the zone or bottom where cod and haddock is located. The and charter boat vessels observe gray seals responding like “pavlovs dogs� when they hear the same can be said with live or dead mackerel or engine of the boat they wait for the hookup and bunker when fishing for tuna or striped bass. strip the striped bass, bluefish or whatever select They are opportunistic feeders and have a voraspecies right from the hook. cious appetite eating whatever prey is abundant There are many other environmental factors that and butcher our mackerel, herring cod and haddock. Depending upon the study their daily inhave impacted our striped bass population that are well documented but the federal and state regulators do not want to address this topic. Gray seals are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Culling was a common practice back in the day to keep the population at bay. Our federal and state regulators do not want to touch this matter since it a political hornet nest with the NGOs and the public that love the cute cuddly gray seals. In our world this is not the case they are varmints. Dogfish are believed to be the most populous species of fish The Canadian Government has

in the North Atlantic, yet they remain protected by NOAA.

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gestion rate ranges from 0.25 to 2% of body weight that ranges from 7 to 15 lbs. Studies have recognized their devastating impact on forage fish as well as cod, haddock and other species. Some reports estimate that 70% of the juvenile cod in our waters are ingested by dogfish.

Cormorants The last fishing eating machine are cormorants that are in general, found near shore as well as inland throughout the Unites States, Canada and throughout the world ingesting fish typically less than 6 inches in size. We see them butchering our forage fish or juvenile fish in our shallow waters or tributaries. Fish farms throughout the United States and elsewhere are plagued with them. Their daily fish ingestion rate fish typically ranges 1 to 1.5 lbs. of fish per day. This adds up when they are picking off juvenile fluke/flounder/

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haddock or other species in our waters. They eat and desiccate constantly there no doubt when you find their roosting areas and guano well deposited where they hang out and spend their day. They are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. There are many states in the Unites States and Provinces in Canada that permit the culling of cormorants due to their detrimental impact to the fishery. Has the time come? Whether we are dealing with cute or cuddly fish or game they can quickly become varmints that need a culling when they impact you personally. But for those that live on that rose flower covered mountain top well beyond our shores the gray seal, dogfish and cormorants that butcher our fishery need to be protected. We need action by federal and state regulatory agencies to work together to deal with this problem and consider the impact of these critters on our fisheries.

In areas of New England and southern Canada cormorants literally blacken the sky with their vast numbers. During migration periods amassed flocks can stretch to the horizon.

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NEWS & VIEWS out of the NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center. It captures seasonal changes in the ocean environment, information used for multiple scientific inquiries. Over its 33-year history, some seaAugust 04, 2020 sons have been missed and the number of annuThe Summer Ecosystem Monitoring, Northern al surveys has varied, and methods have been Shrimp, Autumn Bottom-Trawl, and Summer/Fall developed to bridge these data gaps. Plankton surveys have been cancelled for 2020. The Northern Shrimp Survey is conducted aboard Due to the uncertainties created by the COVIDthe R/V Gloria Michelle, a 72-foot ship main19 pandemic and the unique challenges those tained by the Northeast Fisheries Science Center. are creating for NOAA Fisheries, we are cancelA major use of survey data is setting shrimp fishling four research surveys off the East and Gulf ery quotas. The shrimp fishery is closed until Coasts of the United States. The cancelled surveys 2021. include: The Autumn Bottom Trawl Survey, also run out • Autumn Bottom Trawl Survey (NEFSC) of the Northeast Fisheries Science Center, has been conducted since 1963. It provides crucial • Summer Ecosystem Monitoring Survey resource and ecosystem data, especially for fish(NEFSC) ery stock assessments. A future bottom longline survey and new work on industry-based sources • Northern Shrimp Survey (NEFSC) of data may help mitigate data gaps. Summer and Fall Plankton Survey (SEFSC) The Summer/Fall Plankton Survey is run out of These are difficult decisions for the agency as we NOAA’s Southeast Fisheries Science Center. It costrive to balance our need to maintain core mis- vers the entire continental shelf in the Gulf of sion responsibilities with the realities and impacts Mexico region from Brownsville, Texas, to Key of the current health crisis. West, Florida. It is the only fishery independent Since March, we have been rigorously analyzing survey available to measure the spawning capacivarious options for conducting surveys this year ty of the adult population of Gulf of Mexico King and are taking a survey-by-survey, risk-based ap- Mackerel. It is an important supplemental survey proach. After much deliberation, we determined for red snapper and several other reef fish. that we will not be able to move forward with Next Steps these surveys while effectively minimizing risk These cancellations follow similar difficult canceland meeting core survey objectives. lation decisions of the ship-based work we had The Cancelled Surveys planned from April to July. NOAA Fisheries is The Summer Ecosystem Monitoring Survey is run continuing to assess the status of other surveys in

NOAA Fisheries Cancels Four Ecosystem Surveys for 2020

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all our regions. We are working through numerous survey scenarios relative to community pandemic safeguards and safe work practices so that we maximize the science available for fisheries management in this challenging year.

cially valuable species contributed to a higher population today than the target level set by scientists. Learn more about U.S. fisheries management Understand why U.S.-caught sharks are a sustainable food choice

Are All US Sharks Overfished? August 07, 2020 The majority of sharks harvested in the United States are species with above-target population levels. And we have rebuilding plans for all overfished species. The world’s oceans are home to around 500 species of sharks. With so many species, it’s difficult to talk about the status of shark stocks overall. Regardless of the species, federal laws and regulations work to ensure that shark fisheries in the United States are healthy going into the future.

2. The terms “overfished” and “threatened” mean different things. It’s a common misconception that overfished species are at risk of extinction. But the categories of overfished and overfishing are not directly related to threatened and endangered designations under the Endangered Species Act.

To understand the difference, it helps to know another term: maximum sustainable yield. This is the largest catch level that a species can sustain over a long period of time. If a stock is declared overfished, that means its numbers have fallen too low to produce its maximum sustainable Read the facts below to learn more about what it yield. An overfished status doesn’t say anything means to be overfished and how we sustainably directly about whether the species is endangered manage our shark fisheries. or likely to become endangered. 1. U.S. law requires that shark fishing rules foster NOAA Fisheries is dedicated to rebuilding overlong-term biological and economic sustainability. fished stocks. Of the 43 shark stocks managed in the Atlantic Ocean, six are overfished. We have Fishery management in U.S. federal waters is govput rebuilding plans in place for each of these erned primarily by the Magnuson-Stevens Act. with strict catch limits based on the best available First passed in 1976, the act requires that all fishscience. These limits are closely monitored and ery management plans meet 10 National Standenforced. ards. That means the approximately 50 species of sharks managed in federal waters are fished un- Learn more about efforts to rebuild sandbar der rules designed to: shark populations •

Prevent overfishing

Rebuild overfished stocks

Learn more about how retention limits help us sustainably manage shark fisheries

3. Our largest shark fisheries target healthy • Increase long-term economic and social bene- stocks. fits of fisheries The vast majority of sharks harvested in the UnitEnsure a safe and sustainable seafood supply ed States are species with above-target populaGulf of Mexico blacktip sharks are a good exam- tion levels. In the Atlantic, for example, 94 percent of all U.S. shark landings in 2018—including ple of these rules at work. A popular food fish, bycatch—were of five species, which are neither blacktip sharks experienced a slight population decline in the 1990s. We established a quota spe- overfished nor subject to overfishing: cifically for this population in 2015. That combined with retention limits tied to other commer-

Spiny dogfish shark

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Smooth dogfish shark

based management.

Gulf of Mexico blacktip shark

Atlantic sharpnose shark

U.S. fishermen operate under some of the most transparent and robust environmental standards in the world. We use annual quotas, retention limits, naturally attached fin requirements, and other tools to prevent overfishing. Our management also keeps fishermen on the water and ensures fresh seafood is available to consumers.

Two of these—spiny dogfish and Gulf of Mexico blacktip—have actually experienced population growth over recent decades.

Learn more about how spiny dogfish have beneEffective enforcement is also a critical component fited from sustainable management of our fisheries management approach. NOAA 4. Some of the shark stocks at risk overseas are Fisheries conducts patrols both on and off the strong in the United States. water. We also monitor vessel activities, conduct investigations, and use other measures— including emerging technologies—to ensure fishery management rules and regulations are followed. Learn more about our shark fishing rules and regulations Learn more about how we support international shark conservation

New Report Points out Major Flaws in Wind Farm SEIS

July 29, 2020 - A new report released last week by the Science Center for Marine Fisheries (SCEMFIS) found that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) “paid insufficient attention” to the total impact of offshore wind beyond the proposed Vineyard Wind project in its latest environmental report. SCEMFIS researchers also found that BOEM failed to address the scope and scale of offshore wind’s impacts on fisheries surveys beyond categorizing them as “major.”

It’s true that unsustainable fishing, habitat loss, and other practices such as shark finning have greatly depleted some shark populations overseas. In the United States, we’re committed to ensuring sustainability through science- BOEM released its supplement to the draft environmental impact statement (SEIS) last month for

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the Vineyard Wind project off the coast of Massachusetts. The SEIS sought to analyze the cumulative impacts of every reasonably foreseeable offshore wind development on the U.S. East Coast in the coming years.

adequately explore, the SCEMFIS team found. For instance, the SEIS considered impacts on the ecologically important “cold pool” of water that extends seasonally off the U.S. East Coast, but only focused on impacts during some parts of the year. Seasonally, this region experiences one of “In the case of the present SEIS, one cannot evalu- the largest transitions in ocean stratification of ate the total impact of the proposed development anywhere in the world. Weakening the cold pool of the Mid-Atlantic Bight as insufficient attention could help generate “the most catastrophic ecois paid to the impact beyond the Vineyard Wind logical event on the continental shelf the world project, whereas the cumulative impact is the is- has ever seen,” the researchers wrote, so great sue of greatest concern,” the SCEMFIS team care must be taken to show the chance of an imwrote. While the SEIS analysis is “extensive across pact from offshore wind is “vanishingly small.” potentially affected resources,” its frequent “lack Such science is not present in the SEIS, they of detail” is a weakness, they wrote. wrote. The most important direct economic impact of offshore wind on fisheries could be the impact of turbine placement on stock assessments, the SCEMFIS report found. Surveys are unlikely to be conducted in wind areas, in which case it is assumed that no stock exists there. This would likely lead to quota reductions, especially due to increased uncertainty in the assessments, and the resulting long-term effects would not be able to be resolved by a single-year compensation plan.

Additionally, the SEIS mentioned climate change “without coming to grips with the seriousness of the problem,” according to the SCEMFIS team. While the SEIS considered the current state of resources in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, it failed to adequately consider changes in species and fishing distribution that are likely to continue as a result of climate change, the team wrote.

The biggest indirect threat to fisheries is a likely increase in marine mammal entanglements in and near wind areas, according to the SCEMFIS report. This could result from an increased density of fishing gear due to a reduction in available fishing areas and a new source of entanglements from offshore wind construction and operations that could be mistakenly attributed to fisheries. Greater threats to marine mammals would lead to greater limitations on fishermen, and the SEIS should have classified these impacts as “major” instead of “moderate,” the researchers wrote.

The report was written by Eric Powell (University of Southern Mississippi), Andrew Scheld (Virginia Institute of Marine Science), Pat Sullivan (Cornell University), Josh Kohut (Rutgers University), Thomas Grothues (Rutgers University), Daphne Munroe (Rutgers University), Paula Moreno (EcoMarine Integrated Analytics, LLC), and Gavin Fay (University of Massachusetts Dartmouth). The scientific results and conclusions of this report, as well as any views or opinions expressed, are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the SCEMFIS Industry Advisory Board, member companies, VIMS, USM, NOAA, or the Department of Commerce. The report can be found on the SCEMFIS website here.

In total, the SCEMFIS report found the Vineyard Wind SEIS needed further work on eight key isWhile the SEIS correctly categorized such impacts sues: the totality of impact across the Mid-Atlantic, as “major,” the SCEMFIS team wrote, “it does not physical oceanographic processes, climate address the scale and scope of these impacts.” change, adequacy of the database on finfish and The SEIS also seemed to overlook potential benthic invertebrates, long-lived biota, fishchanges in vessel transit routes that make certain ing/surveys/stock assessments, marine mammals, areas no longer profitable to fish, the team wrote. and economics.

There are also several potential environmental impacts from offshore wind that the SEIS did not

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Chairman Robert T. Healey Jr. Treasurer John Kasinski Board Members Bob Healey, Sr. Pat Healey Nick Cicero Mike Leech Nate Odum Andrew Semprevivo Tony Novelli Jim Motsko Mark Odom Carl T. Huffman Bob Flocken Martin Peters Libby Yranski Bob Shomo Jr. Andy Dormois

Making Waves Fall 2020

Viking Group

Viking Yacht Company Viking Yacht Company Viking Yacht Company Folsom Corporation World Cup Blue Marlin Tournament Mexico Beach Marina & Outfitters Seakeeper, Inc. Contender Boats Ocean City White Marlin Open Main Street Properties Elec-Tra-Mate, Inc Hi-Liner/Diamond Fishing Products Yamaha Marine Group National Marine Manufacturers Assn. Johnson and Towers Inc AmeraTrail Trailers

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The Official Publication of the Recreational Fishing Alliance

The RFA Mission Safeguard the rights of saltwater anglers Protect marine, boat and tackle industry jobs Ensure the long-term sustainability of our nation’s fisheries. Anti-fishing groups and radical environmentalists are pushing their agenda on marine fisheries issues affecting you. The Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) is in the trenches too, lobbying, educating decision makers and ensuring that the interests of America’s coastal fishermen are being heard loud and clear. Incorporated in 1996 as a 501c4 national, grassroots political action organization, RFA represents recreational fishermen and the recreational fishing industry on marine fisheries issues on every coast, with state chapters established to spearhead the regional issues while building local support. “The biggest challenge we face is the fight to reform and bring common sense and sound science into the fisheries management process," says James Donofrio, RFA founder and Executive Director. “Anti-fishing and extreme environmental groups are working everyday to get us off the water.” Despite the threats to diminish access to our nation’s resources, Donofrio says that RFA offers members hope in an organization that’s designed from the ground up to fight back. “As individuals, our concerns will simply not be heard; but as a united group, we can and do stand up to anyone who

The Recreational Fishing Alliance Headquarters P.O. Box 3080 New Gretna, New Jersey 08224

Jim Donofrio

John DePersenaire

Gary Caputi

Executive Director

Managing Director

Communnications Director

Barry Gibson

Jim Martin

Sharon Scaltrito

New England Director

West Coast Director

Office Manager