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SPECIAL SIX PART RFA EXPOSE: The Absurdity of Fisheries Management    

Saving New England’s Recreational Cod Fishery Meet Tred Barta – Member RFA Board of Directors RFA-SC Chapter Challenging Feds on Black Sea Bass RFA-CA “Say No” to Expanded Marine Sanctuaries

Volume 2, Issue 1 Volume 2, Issue 1 March 2013


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Making Waves |

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March 2013


Making Waves |

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Page 31 Volume 2, Issue March 2013

FROM THE PUBLISHER’S DESK Gary Caputi

T

Inside this issue:

his issue of Making Waves is filled with incredible information that is sure to enlighten, enrage and thoroughly engage our members and interested parties. Not to be missed is the seven-part series, “The Absurdities of Fisheries Management” compiled by RFA staff members and written by Managing Director Jim Hutchinson. It highlights some of the most irrational, illogical, egregious and frequently ludicrous decisions and directions taken by the National Marine Fisheries Service and the regional councils since the reauthorization of the Magnuson Stevens Act in 2007. It is a tour de force of critical analysis of the abysmal position recreational fishermen find themselves as a result of this horribly flawed legislation!

4 Executive Director’s Report: On Staying the Course

You’ll find the profile of RFA Board of Directors member, Capt. Tred Barta—yes THE Tred Barta—one of the most interesting and inspirational you’ve ever read in any publication, but you will hear Tred in his own words rededicate himself to the Recreational Fishing Alliance and pledge to raise a million dollars for it in the coming years! NOW THAT’S NEWS! Also in this issue is the story behind how the recreational season for cod and haddock in New England was saved by our New England Regional Director and his astute and well versed band of brothers. They worked smart and fast in the face of what promised to be a massive cut in both commercial and recreational quotas sifting through the most recent landings data to come up with a plan to salvage the recreational season for 2013! Kudos are most definitely in order. Check out RFA staffer, John DePersenaire’s exploration of “catch cards” as a potential method of improving recreational catch and landings data. With the horror show anglers have had to deal with in the past under the Marine Recreational Fishing Statistical Survey (MRFSS) and its supposed predecessor, the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) Lord knows we need better data and NMFS has no intentions of trying to get it on their own any time soon! Naturally there are RFA Chapter Updates toward the back of the publication and you will note a growing number of companies coming on as sponsor/advertisers. We respectfully ask that you take the time to click their links, check out their products and support them, because they support YOU!

RFA Issues & News

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Profiles: Tred Barta RFA Board Member

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Catch Cards: Improving Rec Data

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Breaking Legislative News: Stopping Idle Iron to Save Snapper

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RFA-NE Saving Recrea16 tional Cod Season Absurdities of Fisheries 20 Management: Parts 1 throught 7 Jersey Shore Beach N Boat Tournament

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State Chapter News RFA Boots on the Ground Around the Nation

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Executive Director’s Report

A RIGHT TO FISH: Maintaining the Mission By Jim Donofrio,

RFA Executive Director

I

hear a lot disturbing talk these days from friends, fellow RFA members and even the people who I run into on a regular basis about the current political situation in DC. I’ve made no secret about my disdain for this president and his first -term policies on ocean fisheries. However, all that we see today is just part of a systemic breakdown of our freedoms culminating over many years, from both sides of the aisle and through several different administrations. Many of those who are disturbed by the process are saying they’re done with politics. But is that really the answer? Is that what we want from our nation, for free Americans to turn their backs on our own political system? I say hell no! Although many elected officials have truly violated our trust and put their own self-interests ahead of America’s needs, I still have hope for and belief in our system, that there are still a few who are willing to act on behalf of what our Founders first prescribed. Fortunately, we do have some honorable members of Congress who are willing to carry out their constitutional duties and represent America in a way that makes us proud here at the RFA to support them. These members who support the RFA mission, those who are willing

to challenge NOAA, and have agreed to disagree with the extreme environmentalists roaming the halls of Congress need our financial commitment to beat back the heavy flow of funding from opposing special interests, and to stay in office on behalf of their constituents’ rights. The vehicle to help that is the RFA Political Action Committee, or RFA/ PAC.

RFA’s Mission To safeguard the rights of saltwater anglers, protect marine, boat and tackle industry jobs and ensure the long-term sustainability of U.S. saltwater

What sets the RFA apart from many other fishing groups or ‘conservation’ organizations is that we are designated by law as a 501 (c)(4) political action organization. RFA was founded in 1996 to be a watchdog for individual sport fishermen and the sport fishing industry, not a lapdog. Our members are vocal, and through the RFA/PAC, we’re able to turn up the volume on that voice! As an active member of the RFA, your RFA/PAC contributions insure that our lobbying team has continued access to members of Congress and their staff in a very personalized manner. RFA staff spends face-to-

face time directly in those DC offices, making sure that your voice is heard on Capitol Hill. Is it a slow moving process? Absolutely. Do I feel at times like just throwing in the towel? Well, quitting is failure, and failure is simply not an option. Through our exclusive, unchanging mission to protect and serve our members, have I pledge to work through this partisan bickering in order to save the republic, and to get Congress focused on constituent issues from the RFA perspective. If you’ve read our recent ‘Absurdities in Fisheries Management’ series, which is presented in full later on in this particular RFA newsletter, you’ll have noticed individual quotes from our Founding Fathers. One reader responded how he was “uncomfortable with all the quotes of dead patriots.” I hope that you, like me, will never feel “uncomfortable” with honoring our nation’s history, with pride in our past, and fervor for the future. We must never give up that fight; it is our duty as living patriots to maintain optimism for American values, despite all the political rancor and debate. At RFA, we don’t believe that fishing is a privilege – we believe it is your right, and our mission tells us so!


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RFA Issues & News By Jim Hutchinson, RFA Managing Director

Each news item includes corresponding hyperlinks. For more information, simply click on the link to read the release in its entirety.

SENATORS: GOVERNMENT FISH-COUNTING METHOD NEEDS SCRUTINY In a March 4 piece in USA Today, it was reported that a bipartisan group of senators is pressing for an independent review of how the federal government calculates fishing stocks in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic. The assessments are used to determine catch limits and have long been a source of contention for the fishing industry and environmentalists. The senators, led by Republican Marco Rubio of Florida, are asking the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Congress' watchdog arm, to look into how the National Marine Fisheries Service determines which fishing stocks to analyze, how often they're examined and how much it costs federal taxpayers to conduct the inventory. They also want the GAO to address reports that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which oversees the fisheries service, "may not be placing a high enough priority on conducting robust, peer-reviewed stock assessments on fisheries on the Gulf Coast and South Atlantic." "We have a systemic problem within NOAA right now on how they do stock assessments," RFA executive director Jim Donofrio told USA Today. "Fishermen around the country are suffering. We're not even sure how they're getting their numbers. It's absolutely stunning." Donofrio recounted a case in which the government announced after conducting a stock assessment that scup had been overfished in an area off the North Atlantic. However, workers handling the assessment trawled the wrong area, and their boat had equipment problems that would lead to an undercount. When they corrected both issues, at the behest of local fishermen, they found scup in abundance, he said. "It just goes to show you that they have to start paying attention to on-water observations and fishermen," Donofrio said, "And we've been ignored for the most part." See USA Today article from 3/4/2013.

NJ GOVERNOR TO ACT ON “POTS OFF REEF” The Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) says the issue with commercial traps littering New Jersey’s artificial reefs may soon finally be addressed comprehensively by Governor Christie’s office. RFA executive director Jim Donofrio said that he and RFA-NJ members have had several productive meetings with both the Governor’s staff and high-level members of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), and feels strongly that the Christie Administration is serious about tackling the pots issue once and for all. “Anglers and angler groups have been fighting hard for over six years to address the access issues at New Jersey’s artificial reef complex because of fixed commercial gear along the structure, and I think we’re finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel,” said Donofrio. Donofrio said the Governor’s office appears to be in agreement with a 2012 legislative appeal by Assemblyman Nelson Albano, chairman of the New Jersey Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, which would prohibit commercial fixed gear from over 95% of the deployed reef materials at New Jersey’s two inshore artificial reef areas. Chairman Albano’s legislation would also prohibit all fixed gear from the state reef system during the prime recreational fishing period from May 15 to October 1, while simultaneously directing the NJDEP to initiate a pot management plan for state officials to account and monitor the actual number of fish pots presently deployed - and by whom - in New Jersey coastal waters. RFA News Alert, 2/28/2013


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NJ GOVERNOR MEMORIALIZES FREE SALTWATER FISHING New York saltwater anglers can continue to fish for free in 2013, and beyond! On February 20th,Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced NY Open for Fishing and Hunting, a plan to streamline hunting and fishing licenses and reduce license fees to support tourism opportunities and benefit sportsmen and sportswomen throughout the state. The proposal is part of the 30-day amendments to the 2013-14 Executive Budget and would reduce fees paid by hundreds of thousands of hunters, anglers and trappers while maintaining support for the state’s fish and wildlife programs. In addition to simplifying the current license structure to foster recruitment and retention of resident and non-resident hunters and anglers while reducing the number of licenses offered and lowering many the associated fees, the Governor’s proposal will also make permanent a free marine fishing registration, which was scheduled to expire at the end of 2013. “I know the recreational and economic value hunting and fishing bring to New York State,” Governor Cuomo said. “The sporting community bolsters tourism across the state. According to a national survey, more than $8.1 billion of economic activity is created as a result of sporting activity in New York. Under my proposal, it will be easier for more New Yorkers and visitors from across the country to take advantage of New York’s rich sporting tradition.” “Members of the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) and New York Sportfishing Federation are especially grateful for the Governor’s efforts to eliminate the saltwater fishing tax in New York, and his announcement today that the marine fishing registration will be permanently free is great news,” said Jim Hutchinson. The free angler registry replaced a feebased saltwater license in 2011, but Hutchinson said the ‘free’ part of the equation was set to sunset on December 31, 2013. “Our members and marine business owners are thankful for the efforts of those who fought hard in Albany to make sure this fishing tax was finally eliminated for good.” The full repeal of the saltwater fishing fee was welcome news on both sides of the aisle. "The salt water fishing license fee should have never been passed in the first place,” said Senator Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) who fought hard upon taking office in 2011 to secure the original three-year moratorium in the 2011-2012 state budget. “As Governor Cuomo said at a Freeport press event in August of 2011, some things in life should be free and salt water fishing is one of them,” Sen. Zeldin said. RFA News Alert, 2/20/2013

RFA RAISES CONCERN ABOUT CALIFORNIA SANCTUARY EXPANSION The proposed expansion of the Cordell Bank and Gulf of Farallones National Marine Sanctuaries set off alarms in the fishing community when the federal government published a map of the area that also contained all the marine protected areas (MPA) established under the Marine Life Protection Act. According to the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA), anglers have been bracing themselves against the extension of these MPAs in state waters, into federal waters outside 3 miles. The National Marine Sanctuary system was established with the support of many fishing organizations because they wanted to protect critical fishing grounds from oil drilling and other industrial uses that could degrade the habitat our fished species depend on. Over time, however, anglers have witnessed a kind of "mission creep," with Sanctuary staff seeking authority to make their own fishing regulations. An example of this was the establishment of no-fishing zones around the Channel Islands. Indeed the Gulf of the Farallones management plan contains outlines of a system of marine protected areas within its boundaries "The RFA submitted a comment questioning why the map originally posted by the Sanctuaries on their website contained the MLPA maps," said Jim Martin, RFA's West Coast Regional Director. "If this is all about protecting the coast from oil drilling, why were they referencing all the new marine reserves?" According to Martin, within 24 hours of RFA submitting question, a new map was posted without the MPAs. "Poof, just like that," Martin said. "I wished it were so easy to get rid of them in reality - and that's what has us worried about this proposed expansion." RFA News Alert, 1/30/2013.


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profiles Tred Barta, Member RFA Board of Directors

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ot many people realize that Tred Barta has been involved with the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) almost from the beginning more than 16 years ago. When we first started publishing the print version of Making Waves it featured a column aptly titled “Don’t Tred on Me” written with the same in-your-face style that has marked all of Barta’s writing. In it he was a frequent critic of fisheries management and legislation, but regardless of the topic he never left you wondering where he stood on an issue. Over the past six or seven years Tred has been a prominent member of the RFA Board of Directors.

throwback to another era and a pioneer of our times all rolled into one— an outdoor sportsman, blue water fisherman, rancher, hunter, television personality, author, and multiple world record holder as a fisherman and hunter all punctuated by his flamboyant optimism and never-ending energy. He grew up in Southampton, NY on the eastern end of Long Island where the beaches, bays and ocean were his

nal, from his book—The Best and Worse of Tred Barta—and from watching him on his popular NBC Sports network television show of the same name. Everything he does is full throttle, straight ahead, the hard way, the Barta way, with a decided preference for always amping up the degree of difficulty. For example, while most bow hunters today favor high tech compound marvels Barta shoots a classic long bow similar to those used by English archers in the Middle Ages and the plains Indians of the Americas two centuries ago.

Captain Tred first came to national prominence as an offshore fishing phenomenon. He is recognized as one of a handful of “I’ve known Tred modern-day piofor at least 30 neers of canyon years,” said RFA fishing along the Executive Director East Coast. He was Jim Donofrio. instrumental in “When I was a capdeveloping and tain his accomplishperfecting many of ments in the canthe techniques yons off Long Isnow commonly land were already used in the sport legendary. Later he not the least of became a member which was utilizing who contributed a ocean surface temlot of time and efperature and fort to our work at the RFA. Whether playground. He attended the Universi- warm core eddies as key locators of you like him or hate him for his outspo- ty of Colorado where he raced Alpine tuna and billfish. He developed and kenness or believe he is all bluster and and Nordic ski combined. He is a fierce mastered techniques for finding and self-promotion I can assure you Tred is competitor and won the Junior Biath- fishing ocean current generated hot the real deal! His accomplishments on lon Championships, after which he spots, skills honed by countless days the water and off are enough to fill trained with the U.S. Olympic Biathlon and seasons offshore in the canyons. many lifetimes and he is a great supAlong the way he is credited with havTeam. porter of our sport and the industry. ing caught more elusive bigeye tuna Most of you know him from his He is always willing and ready to fight on rod and reel than any man alive. longstanding column in Sportfishing for them!” magazine, his in-depth instructional “Tred is a true pioneer of offshore canSo just who is Tred Barta? He is a features for the Big Game Fishing Jour- yon fishing,” said fellow RFA board


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member Capt. Len Belcaro, long-time publisher of the Big Game Fishing Journal and president of Offshore Satellite Services. “Besides being known as the man who has landed the most bigeye, he has also set the standard for today's methods of locating gamefish by using warm eddies and ocean temperature change. And he did this long before the advent of satellite imagery.” Barta is a light tackle record holder extraordinaire having held as many as a dozen IGFA line-class world records. He is the only person to hold what he affectionately calls “the triple crown of light tackle tuna records,” a 65-pound yellowfin on 6-pound line landed after 3 hours of solid effort, a 63-½-pound bluefin tuna on 12-pound line, and a 215-pound bigeye tuna on 20pound line landed in 5 hours and 17 minutes – still unbroken after 20 years. He is also an accomplished fly fisherman having used the long wand all over the world. His 38.6-pound dolphin on 6-pound tippet record is still the mark to beat in the record books. His accomplishments as a hunter are no less extraordinary and far too long to list, but if you like to know more check out www.tredbarta.com.

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spiration for us all. His encounter with a rare spinal condition and the spirit, determination and unrelenting optimism he has shown in dealing with the resulting physical handicap that

challenged as never before when he faced the consequences of a physical condition that could humble even the strongest among us. It tested him in ways he could have never imagined, but through it all he remained resolute and indomitable. He would not only survive, he would thrive finding new ways to participate in the outdoor life he loves with a deep and burning passion. Barta has never been a spectator and he had no intention of becoming one no matter what the physical handicap.

Barta has never been a stranger to the record book as this 65-lb. yellowfin caught on 6-lb. line attests. It set the mark way back in 1977!

In more recent years Tred has been a teacher, educator, conservationist and an unflinching advocate for saltwater angler rights. But it was a dark event in his life that led Tred to become an in-

has made him a hero to millions. In May 2009 Tred suffered a spinal infarction (stroke) caused by Waldenstrom’s blood cancer which left him paralyzed. Tred’s desire to do things “the hard way, the Barta Way” and “never, never, ever give up” would be

Paralyzed from the armpits down he worked constantly to strengthen his body. When the doctors said he couldn’t he consistently proved them wrong. With his strong faith in God and the support of his number one hero, his wife Annie, and good wishes from thousands of fans he adapted. Today he continues to hunt with the longbow and still pursues and catches billfish. Setting new light tackle records is still high on his priority list, he has a new book in the works and is still producing and staring in his TV show.

In a recent phone conversation Tred had a lot of things to say about his journey in life, the situation he has found himself in and his future involvement with the RFA. “There is a tremendous amount of white noise surrounding fisheries con-


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servation and management issues,” he said. “There are so many groups doing good things, all running around in different directions with huge amounts of money being spent, but so little is devoted to where the real issues lie, the very place where the RFA stands heads and shoulders above all the other organizations and groups. “Facts talk with a loud and clear voice and unfortunately the plight of saltwater recreational anglers is at the mercy of legislation and politics in Washington. As bad as that is, it’s a hard and cold fact. The Recreational Fishing Alliance represents the tip of the spear for fishermen like us in Washington and has for the past 15 years! These are not just words this is what I truly believe.

accomplished a lot in my life so far and I have been blessed. I’m no Holy Roller, but I do believe in God, that Jesus Christ is my Savior and I feel that having survived my bout with cancer and resulting paralysis because he has a plan for me. As a result I do not pick my charities or my friends lightly and I don’t take BS from any man! I have

March 2013

how and this is through fundraising and promoting the organization to saltwater fishermen across the nation. In the coming months I will be announcing two new fundraising tournaments to exclusively benefit the RFA in cooperation with Viking Yachts, Jarrett Bay Boat Works, HMY Yacht Sales and Blue Water Yacht Sales with more sponsors to come.”

“I’m going to raise a million dollars for the RFA,” said Barta, “you can count on it!”

Never doubt Barta when he makes a commitment. He raised $1 million for the IGFA Junior Angler Program and $800,000 and counting for the Barta Boys and Girls Clubs of Coastal North Carolina in supported the RFA in the past and the past. Now he is turning his sights, through the adversity that has chalhis talents and his network of friends lenged me in recent years and I believe and sponsors throughout the sportfisheven more strongly today that the RFA ing industry to the task of repeating is the right organization to support to the goal for the Recreational Fishing lead the fight for saltwater fishermen Alliance. going forward!” “There are three things you should never talk about,” Tred said with a little What is that goal? “I’m going to raise a “I am rededicating myself to working mischief in his voice, “sex, religion and million dollars for the RFA,” said Barta, for the RFA in the best way I know politics, but to hell with that! I have “you can count on it!”

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CATCH CARDS: IMPROVING THE FISHING CENSUS By John Depersenaire RFA Policy & Science Researcher Every 10 years the United States conducts a census. In theory and by definition, a census is a complete and thorough report of the population where every man women and child is counted, one by one. The U.S. census utilizes a survey sent to a subset of a population in order to develop an estimate of the total population. The census survey uses known addresses to contact individuals as the subset and is estimated to include 298 million of the estimated 308 million people currently living in the United States. Any survey is going to have a percentage of error, that’s simply a function of standard deviation (relates back to sample size and overall confidence in a final result being as close to accurate as possible). If you were turn back to a high school or college text book on statistical analysis you can get a more academic explanation; suffice to say the higher your percentage of error, the less reliable the final data. In terms of the U.S. census, the percentage of error in the 2010 survey was estimated to be 0.01%, the lowest error since the first very first U.S. census conducted back in 1790. Roughly 10 million people were not

counted which means that 97% of the known population was surveyed which is one reason why the census was so accurate. For comparison, the average presidential election poll has an average sample size of 800 to 1200 individuals. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) utilizes a similar approach when estimating the recreational catch and harvest in the nation’s saltwater fisheries. A survey is conducted over the phone with “fishing households” to determine the number of anglers and how often they are fishing; a secondary survey is conducted in parallel at on-site locations in order to gather information on the catch itself. When combined, these two surveys allow fishery scientists to produce estimates on total harvest, total catch, what species of fish were caught, the number of discards, the number trips taken and the total number of anglers. These estimates are produced by sampling a small percentage of the estimated 7million saltwater anglers. Consider again that the estimated error of the 2010 U.S. population census was 0.01%, whereas the proportional standard error for red snapper harvest in the state of Mississippi in 2012 was 70.1% which represents a very imprecise estimate of harvest. Such a large amount of error produces a range of landings from 7,943 fish to 45,005 fish.

If this same level of error was applied to the U.S. census, the nation’s population could be as low as 93 million (the population size in 1911) or Sample “catch card” used to track angler HMS landings. as possibly high as

523 million (not projected to be reached until 2109). Ultimately, this information is used for assessment purposes and for quota monitoring, and regrettably, the same accuracy of the U.S. population estimates are never achieved by recreation data collection programs for coastal fisheries. Obviously, one would not expect the government to make the same level of investment to estimate recreational fishing harvest as it would to count the number of citizens in the country. However, the outcome of the recreational data collection programs has a profound impact on a multibillion dollar industry. Not all estimates produced by federal data collection programs have associated error as high a 70%. In general, the Marine Recreational Fishing Statistical Survey (or MRFSS) was designed to show longterm trends over multiple years but is often used on an annual basis and on a state-by-state basis against the guidance of the administrators of the program. Coupled with provisions in the federal law that demand that very rigid rebuilding goals be met and annual catch limit not be exceeded, it is clear that more needs to be done to improve recreational data collection, or at a minimum supplement existing programs. Offsite methods, such as catch cards, logbooks, and mail surveys, are not expected to provide the most accurate and representative data. However, current budgetary constrains limit federal agencies and partnering states from providing the funds and/or resources necessary to conduct on-site surveys deemed necessary to dramatically improve accuracy. NOAA is in the process of evaluating the use of mail surveys, while pilot projects have been conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of electronic reporting through smartphone applications.


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Catch cards are a commonly utilized offsite method used by some states to more effectively register angler catch while out on the water. Catch cards are actual cards that need to be carried with the angler during fishing trip and are required filled out or punched whenever a designated species is landed. Several states currently use these catch cards as a way of supplementing field or creel surveys in order to improve overall catch accuracy. The Pacific Northwest states for example have been using catch card programs for many years. Oregon utilizes a sports harvest angler tags - commonly referred to punch cards - in the recreational salmon, steelhead, and sturgeon fisheries. On average the return rate for is 19% and results are typically released 6 to 8 months upon the conclusion of the fishing year. Washington, has a saltwater fishing license and a free catch card for all ages that fish for salmon, steelhead, halibut (in some areas), and sturgeon (in some areas). The catch card is free and issued to any individual who purchases the mandatory Washington State saltwater fishing license. In the most recent year, 352,000 salmon cards were issued.

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Catch cards can only be used to estimate trends, as the limitations include anglers incorrectly reporting locations, dates and/or species errors and errors in data entry caused by difficult to read harvest cards. Despite the limitations, catch cards could be a beneficial data collection supplement to the existing programs especially for species such as red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico where the season is extremely truncated and the assessment is highly dependent upon recreational catch data. Don’t get the two confused – catch cards or punch cards (referred to sometimes as angler tags) are not the same as individual fish tags as has been proposed by some environmental and conservation groups. A scheme presented to the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council back in 2009 recommended a new, limited entry fish tag program, similar to the individual fishing quota (IFQ) or catch share programs currently being developed for the commercial sector. While these capped, limited individual fish tags which may be offered at public auction or through retail outlets would preclude an angler from targeting a particular species

without first possessing the individual fish tag, catch cards on the other hand would be freely disseminated to saltwater anglers as a method of better monitoring the overall recreational harvest. For real-time, accurate information about fishing effort, harvest and the biological characteristics of landed fish in a particular fishery, an onsite access or roving survey is the method of choice and must be a priority for NOAA. The Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act demands a level of timeliness and accuracy that cannot be achieved with the current system, and the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) has long been a proponent of supplement the existing program. Simply put, a system does not exist at this point that can accurately estimate recreational catch at level of timeliness required by the annual catch limit provisions of MSA. If used for its intended purpose and with the addition of supplemental efforts such as catch cards, MRFSS (now called MRIP) could continue to be used to estimate long term trends of recreational catch and harvest so long as recreational fisheries are not held (Continued on page 12)


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Breaking Legislative News February 25, 2013—Orange Beach, AL

Congressman Jo Bonner (R-AL) says, “Government the biggest threat to the recovery of Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper.” Calls for stop to “Idle Iron” program.

I

f there's one thing that the federal government has told Gulf fishermen for more than a decade, it's that our most popular fish is in danger of overfishing. The government has even gone so far as to impose extreme catch restrictions that border on the absurd. That's what makes a recent video showing the destruction of Red Snapper at the direction of the federal government all the more bizarre and infuriating. An undercover video released by Mobile television station WPMI on February 7, showed what appeared to be a series of underwater explosions of an abandoned oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. After the explosions, dead Red Snapper were seen littering the surface of the water. The television report estimated ten thousand pounds of fish - mostly snapper - were killed by the explosions. For a number of years, the U.S. Department of the Interior has overseen the removal of unused oil and gas rigs in the Gulf. However, following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, DOI ramped up their efforts to remove these old rigs, requiring oil companies to submit plans for removal and begin securing platforms immediately. The policy known as "Idle Iron" was intended to ensure the abandoned platforms pose no danger to boats or the environment. Hundreds of these rigs have been removed under Idle Iron, with hundreds more scheduled through 2015. Over the last few years, there has been a growing movement to retain these rigs due to their importance as artificial reefs. Many species of marine life have taken to these man-made habitats, including Red Snapper. I have cosponsored legislation in the House along with Mississippi Congressman Steven Palazzo to protect these artificial reefs, which both marine scientists and fishermen know to be important habitat. Recently, however, the impact of the rigs' removal on local fishing was shown to be even more dramatic than many realized. As the video revealed, the government's practice of using explosives to remove the old rigs is not only destroying valuable marine habitat, but is also directly at odds with other government policy aimed at protecting Gulf Red Snapper. Anyone who has ever eaten at a local seafood restaurant or gone fishing in the Gulf – and that includes just about everyone reading this column – knows just how good Red Snapper can be. It has been described as the crown jewel of the Gulf fishing industry from Texas to the big bend of Florida. Unfortunately, the government has been overzealous in managing Red Snapper fishing to the point of effectively shutting it down. The National Marine Fisheries Service,

through the regional fisheries management council in the Gulf, recently approved the shortest Red Snapper season to date – just 27 days. I have opposed the ever increasing limits on Gulf Red Snapper because there is substantial evidence, both empirical and anecdotal, that the fish stock is healthier now than it has been in many years. Red Snapper are so plentiful that they crowd out other fish. They are also growing larger, further evidence they are not being overfished. Given the unjustified, draconian limits placed upon Gulf Red Snapper by Washington in recent years, it is bordering on insanity for the federal government to pursue a parallel course that is literally destroying thousands of pounds of Red Snapper with each rig they remove. Idle Iron is a stark example of how two different federal departments can work against one another in the absence of oversight. Hours after seeing the video I contacted Mississippi Congressman Steven Palazzo and together we wrote a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar demanding a hiatus in the removal of rigs in the Gulf. To quote from our letter: "At the same time one federal agency is restricting fishing for the preeminent target fish species in the Gulf, another – yours – is literally killing thousands of pounds of fish and destroying the habitat on which they rely. Certainly, Mr. Secretary, you see the hypocrisy here. These fish are the economic life-blood for thousands of our constituents along the Gulf of Mexico, and this insanity must stop – immediately. Mr. Secretary, for these reasons, and in the strongest possible terms, we request an immediate cessation to any planned removals in the Gulf of Mexico under the auspices of 'Idle Iron.' We appreciate your attention and look forward to your quick response." Making sure that our letter was received, I personally presented a copy to Secretary Salazar while on the House floor during the State of the Union speech. I have also met with other Department of Interior officials to convey a strong message that Alabama and other Gulf coast states will not stand idly by and watch the government endanger one of our most precious resources. My staff and I work for you. If I can ever be of service, please do not hesitate to call my office toll free at 1-800-288 -8721. CLICK HERE TO VIEW EXPOSE ON THE KILLING OF THOUSANDS OF RED SNAPPER DURING DEMOLITION OF OLD PRODUCTION RIGS THAT ARE FISH HABITAT.


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RFA Preserves Recreational Cod & Haddock Fishery By Gary Caputi While Draconian cuts await the commercial groundfish fleet in New England, quick action and a deep understanding of the issues by RFA’s New England Regional Director and his associates helped save the recreational season.

N

ortheast groundfish anglers have been bracing themselves for bad news for nearly a year, but it looks like they’ll duck the regulatory bullet for the coming season thanks to a lot of behind the scenes work by the Recreational Fishing Alliance.

al Advisory Panel (RAP), which Gibson chairs, in February of 2012 to discuss an interim plan that would be put into place until a full rebuilding amendment could be developed. “Our cutback was only 22 percent for 2012 so recreational measures were only tightened modestly,” explained Gibson, “but we were warned that the across Stocks of cod and haddock in the the board cuts to follow indicated Gulf of Maine, which were thought we’d have to bite the bullet in to be rebuilding nicely during the 2013.” past half-dozen years, were reassessed in 2011 and to everyone’s Since then sport fishermen, espeamazement the conclusions indicat- cially those in the party and charter ed just the opposite – populations fishing business, have been exwere significantly smaller than an- tremely worried about what 2013 ticipated which meant that the stat- would bring. “If we can’t offer the utory definition of overfishing was opportunity to keep at least nine or reached even though commercial ten cod and a decent bag limit on and recreational harvest levels had haddock, we’re pretty much going to be out of business,” said Capt. been curtailed for many years. Tom Depersia of the charter boat “We were blown away,” said Capt. Big Fish II out of Green Harbor, MA Barry Gibson, RFA’s New England and a member of the RAP. “Our Regional Director. “We thought customers won’t travel from other regulations were finally going to be states and spend the kind of money loosened up, but instead we we need to get for our trips if they learned we were facing cutbacks don’t have the opportunity to go on the order of 75 to 80 percent.” home with a good catch.” In response to the assessment, NaGibson, along with RFA’s Massational Marine Fisheries Service chusetts Director Capt. Patrick (NMFS) officials, including Acting Paquette, who also serves on the Assistant Administrator Sam Rauch, RAP, fielded numerous calls and met with the New England Fishery emails over the months from conManagement Council’s Recreationcerned fishermen and small busi-

nessmen in the for-hire sector and one thing became clear: Anglers just hadn’t caught anywhere near the number of cod and haddock in 2012 that they did in 2011. The lower landings were probably the result of the large sector draggers purchasing inshore quota and working popular recreational fishing areas such as Stellwagen Bank through the winter of 2010/2011, which impacted recreational landings and later in the season reduced effort overall. RFA led the way in decrying this transfer of commercial effort from the offshore to the inshore grounds while it was happening pointing out that this was just one of the unintended consequences of the rush to bring catch shares to the New England commercial groundfish fleet. “If our catch is way down, do we really need further restriction in order to stay under our allocation? That was the question we started asking ourselves,” said Gibson. Knowing that the RAP was scheduled to meet on February 15, 2013 to finalize cutbacks for the 2013 season, Gibson, Paquette, Depersia, and Capt. Dave Waldrip of the charter boat Relentless, began providing their own 2012 catch data to NMFS and NEFMC staffers and pressuring them to analyze all


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the information they could find in order to determine what the trend might be. “We knew we needed that analysis in order to have any hope of avoiding draconian cuts that might not actually have any conservation benefit,” said RFA’s Paquette. The push for the analysis paid off. NMFS bioeconomists Scott Steinback and Min-Yang Lee ran numerous models and were able to offer some solid options. Given the projected size of the Gulf of Maine cod stock and the predicted level of recreational fishing effort, one option was that status quo measures – nine cod per person per day with a 19” minimum -- could be maintained in 2013, with an 82 percent certainty that the recreational allocation of 486 metric tons would not be exceeded. “This was huge,” said Gibson. “We were very pleased that the NMFS folks put in the time and effort to crunch the numbers and develop realistic options. As a result, the RAP voted overwhelmingly to go with status quo.”

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March 2013

ceed our quota. We voted that up unanimously.”

“This was the first time an RA here has held a meeting, of his or her own volition, with sport fishermen The RAP forwarded its recommenin over two decades,” said Gibson. dations to the NMFS Regional Of“That, coupled with the staff work fice in Gloucester, where approval is done by NMFS for our RAP meeting pending. “The options came from and the resulting cod and haddock NMFS staffers, so we’re pretty confimeasures, give us a lot of hope that our sector will finally get the recognition it deserves. It’s a significant departure from the way we’ve been treated, so we’re very optimistic.” Regional Administrator Bullard appears committed. “We need to learn as much as we can about the recreational sector,” he told RFA’s Gibson in mid-March. “This is a very important fishery, as it creates a lot of jobs and has a tremendous economic impact on our coastal communities. We (NMFS) need a turnaround from where we may have been in the past in New England, a new mind-set, and better communication with sport fishermen. I’m going to work to make that happen.”

RFA member Capt. Waldrip, who depends Cod and haddock are critical to the survival of the party primarily on groundfish and chartboat fleet in New England and a favorite of reccharters, was relieved Unfortunately, the Gulf of reational fishermen. when he learned of the Maine haddock picture isn’t proposed cod and haddock regulaquite as rosy. This stock, too, is dent that they’ll be approved,” said tions for the coming season. “I have much smaller than was expected, Paquette. to give a lot of credit to the RFA leaving the recreational sector with It appears that the recreational sec- guys, Barry and Patrick, for leading just 74 metric tons for 2013. “We tor is being taken more and more the charge. They were at every reviewed the options and discovseriously by NMFS and the Council meeting, always spoke in support of ered that if we stayed with the curin New England. The new Northreasonable recreational access to rent 19” minimum size we’d be east Regional Administrator, John groundfish, and always insisted that looking at perhaps a two-fish bag Bullard, even convened a day-long sport fishing regulations be based limit,” explained Paquette. “But if we meeting with recreational repreon good science and good data. bumped the size up to 21” we sentatives from New Jersey through They really went to bat for us, and it could retain the no-bag limit with a Maine to listen to concerns. looks like it’s going to pay off.” 63 percent certainty we won’t ex-


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THE ABSURDITY OF FISHERIES MANAGEMENT Parts One through Seven Editor’s note: This seven-part series was developed by Jim Hutchinson, RFA’s managing director with the aid of the entire RFA staff to highlight some of the most irrational, illogical, egregious and frequently ludicrous decisions and directions taken in the name of marine fisheries management under the direction of the NOAA Fisheries. Some would be laughable if the consequences were not so dire. As all saltwater fishermen are aware, President Bush signed the MagnusonStevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act of 2006 on January 12, 2007. In the six years since this law governing management of our coastal fishing industry- recreational and commercial alike - was reenacted, the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) has pointed out the complete absurdity of fisheries management stemming from both the rigid and inflexible requirements spelled out in this law, as well as the gross neglect by our federal government to meet Congress’s deadlines and requirements. From January 31 through March 7, 2013, RFA published a weekly series of bulletins which has focused on several key ‘absurdities’ stemming from this broken federal law, putting a spotlight on our government failures to properly protect and serve America’s coastal fishing communities in the way that Warren Magnuson and Ted Stevens had originally intended when our federal fisheries law was first adopted to aid in the development of the domestic commercial and recreational fishing industry while phasing out foreign fishing in 1976. Yes, RFA has long been a critic of any

efforts and initiatives which run counter to the sportsmen’s conservation ethic while restricting angler access. While there are those who would prefer that the RFA keep quiet with our criticism so that they could continue to provide cover for our overworked bureaucrats and everconscientious members of Congress, while forgetting all about the high praise that some national trade and manufacturing groups bestowed upon the Magnuson-Stevens Act when it was reauthorized (which now has brought many recreational fisheries to their knees.)

Sullivan, a Cornell University professor, referred to the recreational data collection methodology as “fatally flawed.”

But in the words of the late John F. Kennedy, Jr., “Without debate, with-

As a result, Congress incorporated section 109-479 under the Magnuson -Stevens Act reauthorization in 2006 specifically to implement a few of the NRC recommendations for data collection. Among the items included in the final law signed by President Bush was the use of surveys that target anglers registered or licensed at the State or Federal level to collect participation and effort data, incorporating an adequate number of dockside intercepts to accurately estimate recreational catch and effort; collection and analysis of vessel trip report data from charter fishing vessels (also known as VTR), and even development of a weather corrective factor that can be

out criticism, no administration and no country can succeed -- and no republic can survive."

PART 1 - FAILURE TO LAUNCH During the 2005 and 2006 debate over Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization language, the National Academy of Sciences’ National Research Council (NRC) was conducting a comprehensive review of the recreational data collection program used by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). The NRC’s final report was issued in 2006, upon which time NRC committee chairman at the time Pat

According to the 2006 NRC report, a panel of experts found specifically that the Marine Recreational Fishing Statistical Survey (MRFSS) which had been used by NMFS since the early 1980’s to generate catch statistics from the recreational sector has “serious flaws in design or implemen-

tation and use inadequate analysis methods that need to be addressed immediately.”


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March 2013

applied to recreational catch and effort estimates. As per this federal fisheries law, the President’s signature required that the Secretary of Commerce to “complete the program under this

paragraph and implement the improved Marine Recreational Fishery Statistics Survey not later than January 1, 2009.” So how has the Department of Commerce met this challenge? In a recent meeting in Gloucester, MA, several recreational stakeholders from New Jersey to Maine learned first-hand how VTR data from the charter and party boat industry was still not being used as a source of data, and that angler registry data compiled by states as required by MagnusonStevens was not being used. Instead of contacting registered anglers, NMFS informed stakeholders that they were still compiling recreational data collection using the original MRFSS methodology of calling phone numbers at random from coastal phone books. One week following yet another public revelation by NMFS that they had failed to meet their federal requirements, a handful of recreational anglers in New York received an email announcing that “NMFS has begun a pilot study of a mail-based effort survey in New York and a few other states. They are continuing the Coastal Household Telephone Survey (for now) and wanted to build awareness of the project in case we get any questions while this is going on.” At this time, the Department of Commerce, NOAA Fisheries and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is asking for help in improving outreach and communications in terms of their ongoing pilot studies to improve data collection in the recreational fishing community. Rather than implementing the NRC recommendations from 2006 or adhering to the federal requirements laid out by Congress to meet the 2009 implementation deadline, the government instead would like you to know that nothing has

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changed, MRFSS is still being used to gather recreational harvest data, the angler registry databases are not being used, and neither are the vessel trip reporting logs collected on federally permitted charter and head boats. RFA is more than willing to help our Department of Commerce in any way possible, and we offer this notice as a public service to our recreational fishing communities nationwide; please take note that NMFS just wants you to know that they are using “fatally flawed” data collection and incorporating “inadequate analysis methods” that should’ve been “addressed immediately” in 2006 in order to meet a 2009 congressional deadline.

common sense. Their meaning is not to be sought for in metaphysical subtleties which may make anything mean everything or nothing at pleasure.” But make no mistake, when Congress reauthorized MSRA in 2006, they were told explicitly what would happen when they phrased their language as they did. Signed into law by President Bush on January 12, 2007, MSRA also changed the requirements to monitoring and adjusting seasonal fishing quotas by requiring any fishery management plan prepared by Council or the Secretary of Commerce to “establish a mechanism for specifying

Hey, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Although it’s true, it only took six days for it to burn to the ground!

annual catch limits in the plan (including a multiyear plan), implementing regulations, or annual specifications, at a level such that overfishing does not occur in the fishery, including measures to ensure accountability.” The deadline for implementing

PART 2 – WHEN DOES NOAA BECOME ACCOUNTABLE?

these new annual catch limits (ACL) was 2010, the year after MRIP was supposed to replace MRFSS.

Regrettably, NMFS successfully argued before a U.S. District Court judge in 2011 that Congress didn’t actually intend for them to really fix the recreational data collection program by time-certain deadline of 2009. In the words of the Honorable James S. Moody, Jr. who found in favor of the defendant (NMFS), “Nowhere in the MSRA (Magnuson

Stevens Reauthorization Act) or its legislative history does Congress indicate its intent, as the Plaintiff argues, for the improved MRFSS to be completely finalized with all phases of the MRIP (Marine Recreational Information Program) fully implemented by January 1, 2009.” Actually, Judge Moody agreed with NMFS that meeting the 2009 deadline for the implementation of recreational data collection improvements would be “unrealistic and impossible,” further elaborating that Congress never gave an express meaning of the word “implement.” Thomas Jefferson said, “Laws are

made for men of ordinary understanding and should, therefore, be construed by the ordinary rules of

According to NOAA, an ACL is “the

level of annual catch of a fish stock or stock complex that serves as the basis for invoking accountability measures,” whereas accountability measures (AM) are the management controls that prevent annual catch limits from being exceeded, which includes future mitigation. In other words, an ACL is not just a quota, it’s a rigid numerical limit based on pounds of fish; if the ACL is exceeded or projected to be exceeded in any way, shape or form by the recreational sector, an AM is the punishment that gets meted out. “Basically this means that if the recreational data collection shows anglers overharvested more of the seasonal quota than we were originally allowed, we’ll have to pay that overage back in future quota, a penalty before a new season can even start,” said Jim Donofrio, executive director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA). “Our argument in 2006 in opposition to these ACL’s and payback measures is the same today, that fisheries managers cannot meet exact weights and


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measures required under this scheme by simply using old random survey data.” While commercial fishermen in theory have nearly exact accounting of every pound of fish that’s brought back to dock and sold, recreational anglers are monitored using random phone calls and a dockside sampling efforts. Established in the 1970’s as a tool to monitor angler trends, MRFSS is still being used today to gather ‘effort and participation’ data by calling phone listings in coastal phone books coupled with ‘catch per angler’ statistics gathered at a handful of dockside locations. “Most of our fishermen have never been called at home nor have they been surveyed at the dock, yet MRFSS is still in place as the tool by which NOAA meets the rigid ACL and AM definitions,” Donofrio said. “Of greater concern, as more information comes to light in way of US Fish and Wildlife Service data and state license/

Making Waves |

registry programs, there is undeniable evidence that MRFSS habitually and significantly overestimates the number anglers,” Donofrio continued. “The Biggest Mistake We Can Make!” As RFA warned from the beginning, the rush to meet time-certain deadlines as required by federal law was ripe with obstacles. Where the U.S. court system has agreed that the deadlines for NMFS to improve the science and data in coastal fisheries was “unrealistic and impossible,” the Department of Commerce along with stakeholders at the regional council level have been given no such flexibility to manage around rigid, hard and fast ACL requirements. RFA met recently with NMFS staffers at a meeting in Gloucester, MA. When asked directly why the fisheries agency has not been able to integrate the angler registry database into the new recreational data collection efforts as required by law, one highlevel NOAA Fisheries policy advisor

March 2013

said “the biggest mistake we can

make is moving ahead too quickly.” Back in 2006 when the National Academy of Sciences found the recreational data collection methodologies used by NMFS to be worthless in terms of real-time monitoring, it was determined that the random nature of the survey had “serious flaws in

design or implementation and use inadequate analysis methods that need to be addressed immediately.”

Obviously, the word ‘immediately’ holds a different sense of urgency for those who work around the Beltway. “It will never be perfect,” said the NOAA official recently of the random survey methodologies, an argument apparently held by our U.S. court system. Though random angler surveys will never meet the rigid requirements of ACLs and AMs, saltwater anglers can sit back and enjoy the “”metaphysical subtleties” of life which our founding fathers warned can mean everything or nothing at all,


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March 2013

“So if 10 years is an arbitrary figure anyway, why not let us promote the conservation of fish populations and fishing communities at the same time as we’ve seen with summer flounder, and allow these stocks some additional time to reach the rebuilding target while anglers continue to fish,” Donofrio said. Realistically, isn’t that better than blowing through crosswalks, traffic lights and intersections, forcing all other drivers off the road and putting everyone else at risk, just to shave an extra couple of minutes from the length of the ride? Given that fact that NOAA Fisheries is already FIVE full years late on their own deadline for recreational data collection, who’s really in the driver seat here anyway?

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PART 4 – FEDERAL CLAUSE TO CUT COASTAL COMMERCE The Commerce Clause describes an enumerated power listed in the U.S. Constitution (Article I, Section 8, Clause 3) that grants Congress with the power to “regulate Commerce

with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes." Ongoing disputes as to the range of powers granted to Congress under the Commerce Clause have been waged throughout our nation’s history, with several different arguments making their way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In one particular case of interest to saltwater anglers, in Hughes Vs. Oklahoma from 1979, the Supreme Court invalidated an Oklahoma law prohibiting the interstate transportation of minnows taken from Oklahoma waters, rejecting Oklahoma's contention that they owned the state’s wildlife and therefore wildlife is not "an article of commerce."

While some preservationist organizations and a handful of rapid environmentalists like to argue that wildlife is not an article of commerce, saltwater anglers understand that the sport of fishing is big business in the United States, and our ability to get out on the water fishing heavily supports our individual state and federal economies from coast to coast. For party and charter boat operators, tackle shops and manufacturers, marinas and boat builders, the more opportunities a saltwater angler gets to fish, the more that commerce is able to occur. Even our forefathers, the men who helped frame our nation’s Constitution, recognized that infringement on commerce could lead to tearing away at the national fabric. James Madison, the father of our nation’s Commerce Clause, once noted “there are more

instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in pow-

AVAILABLE AT WEST MARINE AND OTHER RETAILERS


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Making Waves |

depending on your perspective.

soon want for bread.”

Because of the complete absurdity of fisheries management and hopeless inadequacy of our federal government, essentially we’ve learned is that you will get nothing and you’ll like it. But hey, at least we are not rushing into anything!

When the Magnuson Stevens Act was reauthorized by Congress in 2006, key lawmakers from New Jersey and New York successfully fought to include a provision for extension of the arbitrary rebuilding timeframe for summer flounder by 3 more years. By order of a strict and inflexible 10-year deadline for rebuilding, the Atlantic coastal summer flounder stock was originally given a target to be met by 2010; the additional 36 months becoming a Godsend to Northeast and MidAtlantic anglers.

PART 3 – RIDING SHOTGUN OFF A ‘FISHERIES CLIFF’ One of the most popular trips for most any U.S. angler is probably the drive itself from Miami International Airport down U.S. 1 to Islamorada in the Florida Keys. No matter where you come from in terms of flights – or your options afterwards - the 74-1/2-mile drive from Miami to the ‘sportfishing capital of the world’ is 1 hour, 30 minutes of excited anticipation which has been made by literally millions of anglers over the past century. So here’s a question; if a cab driver outside Miami airport told you he could make that drive down U.S. 1 to Islamorada in just 30 minutes, would you feel comfortable hopping in the back seat? Think that would be a safe, responsible decision? If the ultimate goal is the destination itself, what’s the difference if takes an hour and a half or even 2-1/2 hours? Perhaps one of the biggest absurdities in fisheries management over the past decade is the incorporation of mandatory, time-certain deadlines for rebuilding schedules. If a stock of fish is actively rebounding with the population growing by a positive rate every year, why would the need to reach a government-ordered, absolute statistical figure within a time-certain deadline trump the more important prospective of actually reaching the goal itself? It begs the question – why does the federal government give fixed, arbitrary deadlines for the natural world to follow anyway, given that nature has no such reactive timeframes? Best put by Thomas Jefferson, “If we were

directed from Washington when to sow and when to reap, we would

By act of Congress, key language within the newly authorized federal fisheries law allowed the U.S. Secretary of Commerce to extend the end of the time period for reaching final biomass target until 2013, allowing anglers to continue fishing for this iconic Mid Atlantic species while the stock continued to grow. “Instead of letting our summer flounder fishery collapse and have coastal fishermen suffer through a moratorium on fluke fishing, several key legislators in the Northeast were able keep our rebuilding periods going for a few years,” said RFA executive director Jim Donofrio in August of 2010, adding “without this deadline extension, we would’ve had no fishery whatsoever at this point in the process, I’m sure of that.” Environmentalist Agree: Flexibility Works By incorporating that flexibility to keep anglers angling while the stock continued to rebuild, Donofrio said that statutory definitions of overfishing and overfished stocks were still met, while businesses did not have to close their doors to the angling community in order to achieve the goal. Regrettably, this was not an option for regional council members to decide, nor was it a possibility for NOAA Fisheries to decide on their own. Essentially, only by congressional mandate was this balance of commerce and conservation allowed to continue in a more flexible fashion. In a bulletin issued at the time, RFA criticized the environmental organiza-

March 2013

tions including Pew Environment Group who have fervently fought efforts to incorporate limited management flexibility in other coastal fisheries in order to allow anglers the opportunity to fish for certain species while stocks were positively rebounding. “The lobbyists at Pew, Environmental Defense Fund and the Marine Fish Conservation Network were quick to credit strengthened rebuilding plans for summer flounder success, yet this fishery was fully restored to the healthiest of levels while fishermen kept on fishing and only thanks to congressional flexibility,” said Donofrio. “Given what’s happening now with other coastal fisheries, that’s about as absurd as it gets.” Today, strict rebuilding deadlines for fisheries like Gulf of Maine cod (10 years), red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico (32 years), South Atlantic snowy grouper (34 years) and Pacific Coast yelloweye rockfish (71 years) are key factors in the setting of annual catch limits for individual anglers, with periodic stock assessments ultimately determining whether these deadlines will be met or not. “All it takes is a couple of bad trawl surveys or a weird anomaly in the fatally flawed recreational harvest information, and suddenly that bar graph isn’t going up as sharply as you’re supposed to in the time allowed and the next thing you know your season is closed,” Donofrio added. “With timeconstraints ranging from 1 year to over 80 years, it’s hard to believe some folks really continue to support these fixed, non-scientific deadlines without debate.” At a Massachusetts field hearing in 2011, outgoing NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco testified how the 10-year rebuilding figure had never been based on science or scientific formula, a fact later substantiated t a House Natural Resources Committee Hearing when one of the legislators responsible for incorporating the 3year rebuilding extension in the summer flounder fishery noted that it was actually members of Congress who came up the ‘10’ figure.


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er than by violent and sudden usurpations.”

A Move to Divide the Community When charter and party boat captains purchase a federal permit from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in order to take customers out fishing in federal waters, these boats are bound by federal fisheries regulations. Private anglers of course, nonbusiness folks who own their own walk-arounds, center consoles or offshore express boats are also bound by federal regulations when fishing in this area. However, when states decide to open their own local waters to angling under separate season, size or bag limits which differ from the federal regulation, the private angler may take advantage of this fishery whereas federally permitted vessel owners are still bound by the federal regulation. In other words, a federally permitted vessel owner may not fish in his own state waters if the state regulations differ from those beyond the federal line. The private angler may, but by requirements set for by the Department of Commerce, the professional captain may not. “What we’re seeing now in response is that for-hire captains who have been required to get a federal fishing permit to fish in federal waters are now seeing red because they’re not allowed to fish inside the federal line, and that’s causing a major rift in our recreational fishing community,” said Jim Donofrio, executive director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA). “Suddenly we have party and charter boat operators who see no recourse but to push for sector separation plans, to divide our recreational sector into private and commercial subsectors, which will only make us weaker as a coalition.” RFA believes that the federal permitting program under NMFS is just another layer of needless bureaucracy that has done nothing but add confusion to the fisheries management process. Case in point – the Louisiana Department of Fish and Wildlife (LDWF) is one of many coastal state agencies

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throughout the United States now feeling the dire negative effects of a broken federal fisheries law. In a recent bulletin to local anglers, LDWF attempted to whip up support for states to turn away from federal fisheries management policies which they say are not working. “There’s no confidence in the federal regulations, so it’s time to draw a line in the sand,” said LDWF Assistant Secretary Randy Pausina who wants red snapper to be managed on state-by-state or regional basis. “We hope our fellow Gulf Coast states will join us in rejecting the federal red snapper dates and limits and move forward with our own interpretation of regional management,” Pausina said. RFA points out that if Gulf States do choose to go non-compliant with the federal regulations, those for-hire captains will have to surrender their federal fishing permits. “We’ve heard that Louisiana and Mississippi have already indicated that they would issue state charter boat permits to anyone who gives up their federal permit, but now our charter and party boats will need to constrain their red snapper fishing to inshore state waters,” Donofrio said. “This is clearly a case of the federal government making a mockery of the commerce clause while punishing legal business owners.” Donofrio said that much of the original purpose with issuing federal permits was an effort by NMFS to limit the number of for-hire vessels in the recreational fishing community, a ‘limitedentry’ mechanism to keep a reign on the overall number of fishermen. Federal regulators then began requiring these federal vessels to keep comprehensive vessel trip reports, also known as VTR logs, in order to compile better recreational data collection. Today, NMFS readily acknowledges that the VTR data is not being used for data collection and has not been rolled into the . Essentially, federal permits simply add more bureaucratic red tape that’s big on promise but small on actual delivery when it comes to managing a coastal resource. That’s petty disturbing when you consider that NMFS fits

under the Department of Commerce umbrella, a cabinet branch which still has no appointed Secretary more than 7 months since the resignation of John Bryson. Madison would’ve looked at this clearly as an abridgement of freedom by gradual and silent encroachment of a bureaucracy gone astray; for recreational fishermen, it’s just another day at the office.

PART 5 - CONVERSION, DIVERSION AND PERVERSION On the the final day of February, 2013, the woman in charge of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrator (NOAA) officially stepped away from her appointed post. Based on promise and performance, that can’t be bad news for any coastal fishermen in America today. At a meeting with the New York fishing industry just 2-1/2 years ago, Dr. Jane Lubchenco heard first-hand about ongoing problems experienced by coastal fishermen - the ‘regulated community’ as NOAA calls us. Brokered by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), the personal sit-down was meant to provide a forum for members of the both the recreational and commercial fishing community whom together shares allocation of important food fish species like black sea bass, porgy and summer flounder. Regrettably, the take-home tasks and follow-up items promised by Dr. Lubchenco following the meeting never materialized. Whether or not a new NOAA Administrator - expected to be appointed by President Obama any day now – will address these concerns remains unknown. What is known and has been openly expressed by RFA years prior to that 2010 meeting is that recreational fishermen cannot be managed by the same rigid methodology as the commercial sector. “The way our recreational fishery is managed is wrong in terms of pounds of fish,” RFA managing director Jim Hutchinson told Dr. Lubchenco at the open forum, pointing out one of the most critical items for the NOAA ad-


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ministration to address in terms of the methodologies used for representing recreational harvest. “It’s unfair to manage recreational fishermen the same way as commercial,” Hutchinson added. This criticism by RFA of the federal fisheries service on behalf of its mission as a political action organization has often been misconstrued and vilified by preservationists as nothing but a call for less government restriction and more allowable harvest by anglers. In truth, RFA has long contended that this particular absurdity of fisheries management has not only led to more restrictive access against anglers, it is also counter-intuitive to the overall health of the resource. The elite preservationists can criticize the messenger all they want, but it was Samuel Adams who said “For true patriots to be silent is dangerous.” “A System Designed to Fail!” For more than a decade, the recreational industry has asked for fishery management plans to be changed to recognize the number of fish caught by anglers as opposed to just pounds of fish, which RFA says leads to an inflated quota based on statistical modeling. “Every time we increase the size limit to curb overall harvest when setting a fishing season, we are actually increasing the size of the harvested fish and the release mortality, and in turn the weight of the fish caught in pounds,” Hutchinson said at the 2010 meeting, explaining “it’s the quintessential Catch 22 and it’s destroying the recreational fishing community’s ability to properly manage fisheries.” As RFA has frequently pointed out, commercial landings of fish in pounds is pretty straight-forward; when commercial boats return to port to sell their catch, every pound of fish offloaded and sold is accounted for by way of paper trail for both harvest and tax purposes. When state and federal records show an annual catch limit (ACL) has officially been met dockside, that commercial fishery is officially closed to avoid overage. Because every fish harvested is bought and sold, in-season accountability

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measures (closures) make perfect sense for the commercial industry. In the recreational sector on the other hand, pounds of fish can never be 100% accountable - when you consider that anglers fish from docks, bridges, beaches, private marinas or even upon boats kept in their own backyards, compiling a pound-for-pound accounting of recreational harvest is an impossibility. To monitor ACL’s in the recreational sector, the initial poundage of harvest is converted to numbers of fish, which allows state fisheries managers to devise a season, size and bag limit which places a limit on the amount of fish caught during a year. The numbers of fish harvested, in turn, is measured by random sampling through a series of (A) phone calls to coastal households, coupled with (B) random dockside intercepts at certain public locations where anglers might be found. To keep this theoretical limit on angler quotas, NOAA Fisheries converts ‘pounds’ of fish to ‘numbers’ of fish, and then uses an average weight of each fish to estimate the numbers of pounds harvested within the recreational community. To provide maximum opportunity for anglers to fish during a given season, the sliding scale of season, size and bag is adjusted accordingly. To provide more days on the water, statistics require the size of a legal fish to increase in order to reduce the overall numbers of fish harvested; conversely, to lower the size limit of a given fish to provide anglers with better opportunity to ‘bag’ a keeper, the number of available days must be reduced and the seasons shortened. “To meet the rigid ACL’s with this random recreational data collection and provide more days on the water, we’re forcing anglers to harvest bigger fish which in turns hits the quota even faster than the statisticians could’ve comprehended,” said RFA executive director Jim Donofrio. “We may catch fewer numbers of fish, but the actual poundage of fish caught coupled with increased discard mortality by anglers throwing back undersized fish is contributing to this com-

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plete absurdity.” Donofrio noted that the recreational data collection methodology applies a mortality figure to released fish, which also adds up in total poundage. “For Mid-Atlantic summer flounder for example, there’s a 10% mortality rate for throwbacks, meaning that every time you raise the size limit by an inch or two, you’re focusing harvest on bigger breeders and statistically forcing anglers to kill one more fish for every 10 they throwback,” he added. “If you were to raise the allowable size limit on fluke to something crazy like 24 inches, theoretically, you would register more harvest through discard mortality than anglers would ever be able to put in the box.” Florida Anglers Seeing Red! In the Gulf of Mexico, ongoing efforts to rebuild the red snapper population has resulted in bigger fish at the offshore rigs, reefs and rockpiles, which in turn has led to anglers reaching their annual limit of fish even faster. “Two big fish in the box, a bunch of undersized discards, next thing you know we’re looking at a shorter season next year as the stock becomes more robust,” Donofrio added. “It’s not that NOAA hasn’t heard of this issue before, it’s just that the administration refuses to work with our community on finding answers to address the problem.” In relation to the ACL requirements contained in Magnuson-Stevens Reauthorization Act (MSRA) of 2007, none of this should come as a surprise to anyone involved in fisheries management. In an April 17, 2007 letter to NOAA regarding annual catch limits, Donofrio said “consistent with our

position in the final discussion of MSRA, we believe these management tools, though easily applied to commercial fisheries, are inappropriate for the recreational sector,” while referring to the error value in pounds to numbers to pounds conversion “a system destined to fail.” “The ‘catch and release’ principle embraced by some conservationists is quite noble, but it’s literally killing many of our most important food fish


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and leading to fewer available days on the water for recreational anglers,” Donofrio added. “RFA’s ongoing criticism of this reckless conversion is not just about our right to fish, it’s also about the responsible management of fish as a sustainable resource.” Or as Adams himself noted, “The peo-

ple alone have an incontestable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to institute government and to reform, alter, or totally change the same when their protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness require it.” RFA members aren’t happy. Are you?

PART 6 – SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY No matter where you may stand on the gun control debate, the one fact on which both sides can agree is that the National Rifle Association (NRA) has established itself as the single most powerful lobbying organization in America today. While they’re often attacked for staunchly defending individual members and the gun industry itself, the fact is that NRA is a political force second to none in Congress. Regrettably for saltwater anglers, there is no constitutional amendment protecting the anglers’ right to fish, no state or federal Freedom to Fish law on the books by which to stand firm on the belief that Americans do have an inalienable right to fish. Even more disheartening is that unlike those who cater to the sporting consumer under protection of the Second Amendment, the recreational fishing industry has actually allowed the anglers’ right to open access to sustainable public resource to be treated more like a privilege instead of a right. Legal U.S. gun owners have grown accustomed to the ‘guilt treatment’ while criminals steal the headlines. More recently, recreational anglers have been subjected to the same treatment, with our ‘right to fish’ argument ridiculed by groups like Pew Environment Group, National Resources Defense Council, Marine Fish Conservation Network and others who rail against the RFA for being nothing

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more than a “marine equipment industry lobby/trade association,” and a “fringe” group unwilling to concede on important access issues. Sadly, if the recreational boating and tackle industry were as steadfast in their defense of saltwater anglers as NRA was with their members, our recreational fishing industry probably would not be forced into giving up so much, so fast, as we have since special interests helped pass the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act in 2006. When you consider our own national fishing and boating trade associations helped broker the restrictive federal policies in the federal law in the first place, the best analogy would be if the national gun manufacturers closed down operations and turned their product over to the government before ever giving their customers a voice in the debate. In essence, by continually providing cover for an inefficient federal bureaucracy while lobbying against critical legislative reform of our federal fisheries law, the recreational fishing industry is doing just that. Who’s Standing Up for the Consumers Rights? So, you’ve just read through a whole series of fisheries management absurdities including time-certain deadlines, in-season recreational measures based on flawed harvest data, rigid annual catch limits and punitive accountability measures, not to mention a federal bureaucracy which seems to focus more attention on ‘effort reduction’ as opposed to promotion of angling opportunities. Since 2006, RFA has contended that the MagnusonStevens Act was a broken law, warning since the very beginning of the impending train wreck which would ultimately result on both rebuilding and rebuilt fish stocks. While RFA has spent the past 7 years arguing for congressional intervention in addressing these absurdities, even helping spearhead a 5,000-strong rally in DC to embolden the call for Magnuson reform back starting in the winter of 2010, the recreational fishing industry itself has stayed mostly out of

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the center ring, even while their own Beltway advocates have been partnering with our legislative enemies while exchanging financial support of a broken federal bureaucracy. Perhaps unbeknownst to most boating and tackle CEO’s, they’ve actually become directly involved in the fight by providing cover and support for those who support these fisheries management absurdities. Take for instance the Center for Coastal Conservation (CCC), a lobbying organization created in 2008 by members of the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) with financial help from the recreational boating and tackle industry. With a board primarily consisting of CCA members, the CCC mission supports “ending overfishing by a time certain,” and “rebuilding

plans for fisheries with time constraints,” both of which are unscientifically based absurdities which RFA often criticized.

“Imagine if the entire recreational fishing industry understood just how badly angler access has eroded due to time-certain deadlines and constraints, I don’t see how they’d ever spend another dollar on lobbying against their customers’ best interests,” said RFA executive director Jim Donofrio. “Yet every time we walk into a Member of Congress’ office, RFA has to once again unscrew this problem created by the industry’s support for inflexible fisheries management through artificial deadlines.” Another recreational boating and fishing industry side project creating confusion in Washington is the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP). Described by non-profit reporting group GuideStar USA as an organization funded by Pew Charitable Trusts ($484,000), William & Flora Hewlett Foundation ($370,000) and the Turner Foundation ($305,700), TRCP has recently made clear their intent to support a “strong and effective Magnuson-Stevens Act” as part of their federal conservation policy agenda for 2013. Included among TRCP action items this year is support for helping fishery managements get with the “the tools and opportunity to


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make in-season adjustments necessary mote catch and release sportfishing, deadlines, in-season recreational to help recreational anglers stay within but when fish like red snapper or black measures based on flawed data, rigid their annual catch limits.” sea bass are closed down for the seaannual catch limits and punitive ac“What the TRCP board of directors is saying to Congress is that they support real-time, in-season closures so that saltwater anglers won’t go over rigidly assigned annual catch limits, even though the recreational data collection is based on random surveys,” Donofrio said. “Again, if the recreational boating and fishing industry really understood what their involvement on the TRCP board of directors was really doing to influence members of Congress, they’d probably be shocked to learn that they are actually the ones supporting fewer and fewer angler days on the water for their own customers.”

son, anglers are not allowed to target many of these fisheries, even under catch and release,” Donofrio said. “It’s neither reasonable nor legal for anglers to target certain groundfish out of season, so RFA sees these workshops as holding the very real possibility of providing our opponents logical justification to simply shut down numerous areas of the ocean to avoid possible interaction with other fisheries which may be closed.”

RFA as an organization is always willing to help support the management system through improved science and data collection. However, much like NRA stubbornly refuses to budge on Even Catch & Release Requires Access behalf of its members and their indusA new project recently supported by try, RFA refuses to concede open acthe recreational fishing industry is cess through compromise to those called the “FishSmart” program which who would promote angler intoleris being conducted through funding ance through guilt. from NOAA Fisheries in conjunction with Andrew Loftus Consulting. In a Or as Benjamin Franklin once pointed series of national workshops designed out, “They that can give up essential to improve the survival of released fish liberty to obtain a little temporary safein the recreational sector, the ty, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” FishSmart workshop agenda offers various breakout sessions to “provide As many RFA members and email alert guidance to management bodies to subscribers have asked during the past reduce the interaction and lethality of month, “what’s the answer to this absuch interactions with these species by surdity?” Well, one possible solution anglers through the consideration of which RFA contends is the best possimanagement actions such as ble solution is through reform of the time/area closures, gear modifications, federal fisheries law, the Magnusonrestrictions/usage and size restrictions Stevens Fisheries Conservation and and account for and incorporate reManagement Act. On March 14th, lease mortality/survivability into the 2013, RFA’s 7th and final installment of regulatory process.” this particular series will focus on the 113th Congress and efforts to protect Donofrio and the RFA believe it’s imthese essential liberties in the recreaportant for members of the recreation- tional fishing community. al fishing community to read between the lines when reviewing these types If you believe in your right to fish, sign of workshop agendas. “Just look at up for the RFA email bulletins at the phrases they’re using, like reduced www.joinrfa.org! interaction, time and area closures, regulatory accounting for mortality from released fish, the industry could PART 7 – AN ACT OF CONvery well be walking right into an acGRESS ENDS THE MADNESS countability trap with more punitive During the past six weeks, the Recrearecreational paybacks and closures in tional Fishing Alliance (RFA) has dethe future.” tailed a series of fisheries management “There are a lot of ways we can pro-

absurdities which includes time-certain

countability measures, not to mention a federal bureaucracy more focused on ‘effort reduction’ and ‘catch & release’ than with promoting angler opportunity or preserving fishermen’s rights to responsibly harvest marine species. For the past 7 years, RFA has contended that the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act, reauthorized by unanimous consent in the U.S. Senate in late 2006, is a broken law in desperate need of reform. To make matters worse, NOAA has been selectively enforcing provisions of this law by picking and choosing which sections it wants to follow and those it wants to disregard, resulting in deliberate and excessive negative impacts to the recreational community. Regrettably, as you read in last week’s edition, dissension even amongst the ranks of recreational fishermen (for whatever the reasons) has only led to problems in Congress with getting sensible reform legislation to the table. Following a series of discussions and debates before the House Natural Resources Committee going back to 2007, committee members Jon Runyan (R-NJ) and Steve Southerland (R-NJ) shepherded a committee-backed bill in the House of Representatives in August of 2012, pulling together various components of other fisheries legislation supported by fellow committee members including Frank Pallone (DNJ) and Rob Wittman (R-VA), in hopes of addressing the various problems with Magnuson. Known as the Transparent and Science

-Based Fishery Management Act of 2012, this ‘committee bill’ has been

thoroughly reviewed by House Natural Resource Committee members and staff, and according to the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA), should be reintroduced in the 113th Congress for a chance to pass out of committee and be voted on by fellow House members. “There were many different representa-


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tives from a host of organizations hoping to see their own individual piece of legislation adopted by the committee, but it’s time for all individual organizations to band together behind one comprehensive bill to see if we can salvage what’s left of our beleaguered industry,” said RFA executive director Jim Donofrio. “If the Transparent and Science-Based Fishery Management Act is the vehicle supported by committee members and staff, then let’s all get in the driver’s seat and get to where we’re going.” THE SUM OF ALL PARTS The bill to amend the MagnusonStevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act would provide increased flexibility for fishery managers, additional transparency for fishermen, a referendum for catch shares, and added sources of funding for fishery survey mechanisms in support of coastal fishermen from both the recreational and commercial fishing communities. It would amend Magnuson to provide that any regional fishery management council is not required to develop an annual catch limit (ACL) for a fishery or stock for which a survey and stock assessment has not been performed within the preceding 5 years; it also permits the Secretary to suspend ACL’s if the scientific advice is based on a level of uncertainty that insufficiently meets national standards. To help improve science and statistical standards, the legislation also mandates that portions of fisheries enforcement penalties be used for data collection purposes. The Transparent and Science-Based Fishery Management Act would require that each ACL take into account key management measures under international agreements and informal transboundary agreements under which management activities outside the exclusive economic zone by another country may hinder conservation efforts by U.S. fishermen. It would also prohibit the New England, MidAtlantic, South Atlantic, and Gulf of Mexico Councils (except Gulf of Mexico commercial red snapper) from submitting a fishery management plan or amendment that creates a catch share

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program for a fishery unless the final program has been approved in a referendum by a majority of specified permit holders eligible to participate in the fishery. In addressing rebuilding timelines for rebuilding fisheries, the legislation would allow the Secretary of Commerce to extend the rebuilding period under specified provisions, provided that the maximum rebuilding time not exceed clearly defined criteria based on the biological attributes and lifehistory characteristics of the stock. The legislation also directs the Secretary to review and report to Congress on each fishery closure that was not a normal and expected occurrence under the fishery management plan and was considered disruptive to sport, charter, or commercial fishing operations, and that was in effect for more than 120 days within the 5-year period preceding the enactment of this Act. “I remember JFK once saying that victory has a thousand fathers, and this legislation is a great bipartisan example of that expression,” Donofrio said. “There has been a lot of head-butting to get to this point, but if all the representative organizations would agree to support comprehensive legislation which helps keep our fishermen fishing and includes everyone’s individual concerns, the Transparent and ScienceBased Fishery Management Act could help eliminate a few of these fisheries management absurdities now keeping anglers off the water.” RFA said efforts to completely reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Act are already underway with expected debate to begin soon in both the House and the Senate. According to Donofrio, the first official hearing on reauthorizing the federal fisheries law will occur this Wednesday at 10 a.m., and again in the House Natural Resources Committee. RFA said while proceedings to reauthorize the law are underway, many members of Congress have already made personal, public pledges during the past 3 years to fix the current law in order provide some much-needed coastal relief, promises Donofrio is hoping will be kept.

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“The last time the reauthorization proceedings began, it took more than two years to see something come out of Congress,” Donofrio said. “Our fishermen and coastal fishing businesses don’t have another 2 years to battle anti-industry environmentalists about what language should or shouldn’t be included in a final draft, we need to pick up where the House Natural Resources Committee left off in 2012 and fix this law.” Donofrio and RFA staff will be in Washington DC all day on Wednesday, checking in on the hearing and visiting members of Congress in support of federal fisheries reform. As a followup, members of the RFA board of directors will be asking RFA members and non-members alike to band together nationwide in support of sensible Magnuson reform in 2013 which can responsibly balance commerce and conservation. The discussion and debate has carried on too long, and it’s time for all recreational anglers, businesses and organizations to put their collective efforts together in helping dismantle the ongoing absurdities in fisheries management.

Victory has a thousand fathers, defeat is an orphan.” (A Thousand Days," by Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. Comment made by JFK in the aftermath of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion,


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Jersey Shore Beach n Boat Fishing Tournament A Fun Fishing Tournament For the Whole Family Kick-off April 1 Ends November 30, 2013 If you live or travel to New Jersey you have to check out the Jersey Shore Beach N Boat Fishing Tournament. It’s a brand new season-long, multi-species saltwater fishing contest with dozens of cash prizes that’s open to anglers of all ages and skill levels. Best of all, it only costs $20 to enter and be qualified to win in all categories—inexpensive enough to enter the whole family even if you’re just going to the shore for vacation. You can fish from the beach, a kayak, canoe, private boat, party or charter boat in all bay and ocean waters surrounding the Jersey Shore. Eligible species in-

clude striped bass, fluke (summer flounder), bluefish, weakfish, black sea bass, blackfish (tautog), black drum and surf kingfish. Dozens of easily accessible shore area tackle shops have already signed on as official weigh stations and more are on the way. If you’re an RFA member or supporter there’s another reason you want to enter and get your friends to enter too. The Jersey Shore Beach N Boat Fishing Tournament will donate a portion of the proceeds to the RFA’s Fisheries Conservation Trust (“FCT”), a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization created to help identify and explore issues of concern to the conservation, development and wise utilization of coastal fisheries resources. Jim Donofrio, Executive Director for the Recreational Fishing Alliance states, “We are delighted that the Jersey Shore Beach N Boat recognizes the need and is donating proceeds to this important cause and we will dedicate those funds to work specifically beneficial to New Jersey anglers.” The man behind the Jersey Shore Beach N Boat Fishing Tournament is Captain Mike Young. He is a successful entrepreneur and avid inshore and offshore fisherman. His business, Activit!es, Event Specialists, is a leader in the design, management and production of special events for a wide range of business, entertainment, sports and government functions. Mike’s pleasure is fishing, a sport he enjoys year round from the sandy shores of New Jersey to the blue waters off Costa Rica and Guatemala. He served as Tournament Director for Beach Haven Marlin & Tuna Club’s White Marlin Invitational where his team’s efforts resulted in


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a 30% increase in participation and a 200% increase in net profit. Young’s passion for fishing, combined with his lust for life and history in the hospitality and marketing businesses, uniquely positions him as the perfect Director to navigate the Jersey Shore Beach N Boat Fishing Tournament to a successful destination for all involved.

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Young, Tournament Director. "One of the best things about it is somebody can lay down 20 bucks and have a chance at winning some money and recognition for doing what they are doing anyway, fishing!" Young went on to say, "being partnered with the RFA and donating proceeds to the Fisheries Conservation Trust has helped give further meaning to the entire tournament. It makes you feel good." The Tournament’s interactive website will be updated daily and includes an easy-to-use registration page, a leaderboard showing the names of anglers, the species and size of the fish caught, a photo gallery, tide charts, official weigh stations, marine traffic and an Estore. To learn more, enter, follow the box scores and check for weight station locations go to: www.beachnboat.com.

“The mission of the Jersey Shore Beach N Boat is to see who catches the largest fish in New Jersey, wheth- The Jersey Shore Beach N Boat Fishing Tournament is er it be the seasoned professional or the little girl or supported in part by a grant from the New Jersey Deboy who just happens to be vacationing and throws a partment of State, Division of Travel and Tourism. line on the beach or in the bay,” says Captain Michael


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When he isn’t busy taking care of RFA business he can sometimes be found catching dinner.,


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FOR INSTANT GRATIFICATION CLICK HERE TO JOIN OR MAKE A DONATION

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RFA CHAPTER NEWS Reports & Updates from RFA State Chapters and Regional Directors

RFA-California Update Jim Martin RFA West Coast Regional Director flatland@mcn.org RFA West Coast Regional Director, Jim Martin sent the following comments to Maria Brown, Sanctuary Superintendent, Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary concerning a proposed rule change that would impact recreational fishing. This is just another effort in a long list of efforts to right the wrongs to recreational fishermen under the Draconian Marine Life Protection Act. Dear Ms. Brown, The Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) is a national 501(c)(4) non-profit grassroots political action organization whose mission is to safeguard the rights of salt water anglers, protect marine, boat, and tackle industry jobs, and insure the long-term sustainability of our nation’s marine fisheries. Thanks for the opportunity to comment on the proposed expansion of the Cordell Bank and Gulf of Farallones National Marine Sanctuaries. Our members throughout the state of California regularly visit Sanctuary waters to fish, pick abalone, spearfish and visit with family and friends. Fishermen are the main user group within Sanctuary boundaries in California. We are writing to oppose the proposed expansion of the Sanctuaries as described in the federal rule. Beginning with the rationale and legal justification of the expansion, we find no legal authority for more than doubling the size of the Sanctuaries. The proposed rule cites

section 304e of the National Marine Sanctuary Act, which requires a periodic review of the management plans. We find no such review. The proposed rule further cites "upwelling" as a feature that will be protected by Sanctuary expansion, without explaining how this expansion will affect or protect upwelling in any way. In their public presentation at the public hearing in Point Arena on February 12, 2013, Sanctuary staff showed an animation that depicted the general southerly movement of the California Current, not "upwelling." Upwelling is a process by which northerly winds drag deep water to the surface in an east and west direction. Sanctuary staff also asserted that the proposed expansion would not affect fishing regulations in any way. When we downloaded the maps describing the proposed Sanctuary Boundaries in December 2012, we were alarmed to find all of the marine protected areas established recently under California's Marine Life Protection Act. We submitted a public comment asking why these fishing regulations were included, and what these regulations have to do with protecting the coast from oil drilling, Sanctuary staff changed the maps within 24 hours, with no notice or explanation why. At the public hearing in Point Arena, staff opened their presentation by referring to these changes to the map, asserting that there was "confusion" about how the proposed rule might affect fishing access and regulations. The RFA would like to assure staff that we are not confused about the potential impact to fishing as a consequence of this expansion. As stakeholders in the open public process under the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and regular participants in the meetings of the Pacific Fishery Management Council, we have wit-


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nessed Sanctuary staff proposing all sorts of fishing regulations. Here are just a few examples: 1. Ban on krill harvest when no such fishery existed. Most recreational and commercial fishermen supported the krillharvest ban because of the importance of this forage species. Even so, the National Marine Sanctuaries imposed an unnecessary series of meetings on the PFMC to close a fishery that did not exist. 2. Expansion of sanctuary to include Davidson Seamount, with prohibitions on fishing at certain depths. Again, no fishing occurred at those depths in the first place. 3. No bottom-contact gear on the Cordell Banks. This provision was already under consideration as a part of MSA's Essential Fish Habitat provisions. 4. Direct involvement of Sanctuary staff in proposing large marine reserves in central California within the Marine Life Protection Act process. Channel Islands marine reserves in federal waters. This could have easily been accomplished, using the best available science, under the Magnuson-Stevens Act, without changing the designation document of the CINMS. Based on our direct knowledge and what we heard at the public hearing on the proposed federal rule, we believe the Sanctuary staff and proponents of the rule are deliberately misleading the public of the potential impacts of this rule not only to fishing access but other types of motorized vessel traffic as well. We request that the comment period for this proposed rule be extended, to give more time to affected parties to understand Sanctuary regulations, how they might affect fishing and other kinds of public access, and educate the public about the actual management plan documents that are ostensibly under review here. In reference to the Gulf of the Farallones management plan, section IV is of great concern to fishermen, because it outlines various actions to be taken within the next five years that would greatly impact fishing activities. These actions include gear restrictions, "ecosystem protection" (which has become a code-word for marine reserves and other no-fishing zones), "establishing area based fishing restrictions" (page 111), and then a timeline and action plan for developing marine reserves in Sanctuary waters (page 116). Needless to say, the local fishing communities are not aware of these plans, were never involved in the development of the current GFNMS management plan because their fishing grounds are not currently enclosed in the Sanctuary. Unlike the Regional Fishery Management Councils the Sanctuaries do not have standing advisory committees of fishermen, tribes and stakeholders from various fishing sectors, regional ports and local communities. The Sanctuaries operate with a single advisory committee, involving staff-selected individuals rather than stakeholder representatives who are known and respected in their communities.

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At minimum, the public comment period needs to be extended in order to give the local fishing communities time to digest the implications of this management plan, and reopen the plan review process for comment on the plan itself, as it may impact the fishing grounds in the expanded boundaries. Given that the Sanctuaries have publicly stated that they are "open to" expanding the boundaries even further north than Alder Creek, we ask that more public meetings be held in Fort Bragg, Eureka and Crescent City so that these local communities can comment. In addition, the Sanctuaries need to initiate consultations with the north coast's tribes and tribal communities that have federally-protected rights within the proposed boundaries of the Sanctuaries. We would like to have more time to study the budget for the proposed "ecosystem action plan" and to provide comment on whether spending $2 million over the next five years to further restrict our local fisheries is an appropriate use of federal funds. We would like to see the rationale for the proposed boundaries themselves. Was any consideration given to the question of whether the boundaries are too large, and that the Sanctuaries should actually get smaller, not larger? Is there a oceanographic or biological basis for the boundary being placed as it is in the proposal? The expansion is being sold to the public as a way to prevent oil drilling on the north coast. Do we have any idea of what energy resources are out there? In a recent article in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat (02/12/13), a representative of the oil industry states there are no plans to develop oil on the north coast:

Tupper Hull, spokesman for the Western States Petroleum Association, said his group's members have expressed no interest in tapping North Coast oil deposits. "I don't think there is much oil there," he said. At minimum, the public ought to know what we are being "protected" from if indeed there are no plans for oil resource development on the north coast. Sincerely,

Jim Martin West Coast Regional Director The Recreational Fishing Alliance EDITOR’S NOTE:

In our favorite position letter possibly of all time Martin sent the following to Jim Kellog, president of the California Fish & Game Commission in response to a


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proposal to list Great White Sharks as an endangered species. The Great White population off the West Coast have been exploding along with the population of sea lions, their favorite prey species. This letter has to be seen to be appreciated.

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RFA-Forgotten Coast, FL Chapter Update Capt. Tom Adams captadam@karenannii.com In a recent letter to SavingSeafood.com, RFA’s Forgotten Coast chairman and Mexico Beach charter captain Tom Adams responds to an ‘anti-recreational’ attack piece by catch share mouthpiece John Sackton. In his follow-up response, Capt. Adams notes that the current Gulf red snapper allocation battle is not necessarily one between recreational and commercial interests. The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and their EDF Action Fund are the ones responsible for this new all-out allocation war in Florida, and once again their grassroots activists are working to divide and conquer our fishing community in the name of preservation and privatization.

If you don’t know who that is in the picture it is the much beloved former West Coast Regional Director of the RFA, Randy Frey. He was killed by a Great White shark while diving for abalone with friends in an area of Northern California 200 miles north of the previously northernmost location of a Great White attack. RIP Randy, and to hell with tree and shark huggers who don’t know their ass from a hole in the water!

New England Update Capt. Barry Gibson RFA New England Regional Director barrygibson6@aol.com

In lieu of a report by Capt. Gibson, please see “RFA Preserves Recreational Cod and Haddock Fishery” elsewhere in this issue.

Mr. Sackton’s recent analysis of the red snapper allocation fight that appeared in the recent Seafood.com News and SavingSeaFood.com website is woefully inaccurate. First and foremost, Mr. Sackton pits two specifically named organizations – the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) and Gulf of Mexico Reef Shareholders Alliance – as being at opposite ends of the allocation battle for Gulf of Mexico red snapper. Now, they may very well be the combatants in this ongoing battle to take over full control of red snapper ownership in the Gulf, but to paint this as a divided fight between recreational and commercial interests is more of environment non-government organization (ENGO) divide and conquer rhetoric. Fishermen in New England are aware of Mr. Sackton’s longtime advocact of catch shares, “working in step with — and briefly under a research contract with — the Environmental Defense Fund, which always advocated that system. As a full-time charter captain on the Gulf of Mexico, I can tell you a little something you probably don’t know – Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and their EDF Action Fund are the ones responsible for this new all-out allocation war in Florida, and once again their grassroots activists are working to divide and conquer our fishing community in the name of preservation and privatization. In the past 3 years alone EDF has invested more than $750,000 in establishing their own fishing organizations, including the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders Alliance, Gulf Fishermen’s Association and South Atlantic Fishermen’s Association. Mr. Sackton erroneously claimed that “the commercial harvesters are represented by the Gulf of


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Mexico Reef Shareholders Alliance.” In actuality, these shell groups have only been an effort to fool the public (and those who serve the public) into thinking that their way of managing fisheries is in the public interests. The Gulf of Mexico Shareholders alliance (EDF Sponsored) - According to IRS tax records, spent $48,000 in the 2011 to help create a group called the Charter Fishermen’s Association. It is sad that the EDF would fund a group based on ownership of commercial fish shares, which in turn would create its own recreational fishing organization; this has sent up red flags throughout the state of Florida with commercial fishermen, recreational anglers and legislators alike taking notice. It should be noted that an overwhelming majority of the commercial IFQ holders backed a plan for inter-sector trading, also known as leasing red snapper quota to charter boats for recreational fishing. The obvious question of course, if the commercial sector needs so much more red snapper quota “just to provide enough for our local restaurants,” as Mr. Sackton mentions in his article, why on earth would they be interested in leasing out shares of fish? The commercial sector surely would not be interested in leasing quota to the for-hire fishermen in the Gulf if that red snapper was in higher, pricier demand on the open market! Mr. Sackton says the deck is stacked on the Gulf Council; he’s right, but not in the way he says. In actuality, the entire process from NOAA Fisheries down through the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council and all the associated panels and committees is stacked with EDF and Pew Environment Group plants and appointees, folks who would rather see the recreational and commercial sector fighting than uniting. You’ll often see the same person sitting on several panels and committees, yet the truly independent fishermen are continually denied access to the appointment process. Mismanagement of our Gulf of Mexico fisheries is a disgrace, as our regional administrator and his group continue to claim that our red snapper fishery is just 25% rebuilt, a far cry from the “NOAA success story” which he claims in his editorial. In the winter of 2010 and 2012, a core group of recreational and commercial fishing organizations held public rallies in Washington DC in a call to Congress for open access, sustainable fisheries for both sectors. A badly worded federal fisheries law (Magnuson-Stevens Act) coupled with antiquated data and an often hostile federal bureaucracy has led to serious resource issues in our coastal fisheries, particularly with open access – it has empowered much of the fishing community in Congress where members of the

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House of Representatives and U.S. Senate are finding a common message from an uncommon ally. Rally organizers united under the Keep Fishermen Fishing banner joined together from both the commercial and recreational sector and included RFA, the Southeastern Fisheries Association, National Association of Charterboat Operators, Morro Bay Commercial Fishermen’s Association, Garden State Seafood Association, United Boatmen, Long Island Commercial Fishing Association, Panama City Boatmen, Viking Village Dock, Fishermen’s Dock, Hull’s Seafood Markets, Lund's Fisheries, Westport Charterboat Association, Southern Off Shore Fishing Association, Garibaldi Charters, Florida Keys Commercial Fishermen's Association, New York Fishing Tackle Trades Association, Save the Summer Flounder Fishery Fund, New York Sportfishing Federation, Monkfish Defense Fund, Atlantic Capes Seafood, Raffields Fisheries, Southern Kingfish Association, Big Game Fishing Journal, North Carolina Watermen United, and Viking Yachts. Notice you didn’t see EDF, CCA or Mr. Sackton on this list? As a professional charter boat captain, I would tell Mr. Sackton that there are very few charter boat captains who are members of the CCA, especially those who target red snapper. That organization certainly doesn’t represent our interests. As chairman of the RFA’s Forgotten Coast Chapter here along the Florida Panhandle, I would also recommend to Mr. Sackton that he keep his fishing articles focused on the Northeast where he lives, and where he may have a stronger possibility of knowing and sticking with the facts.

RFA-NY NYSFF Update Jim Hutchinson jhutchinson@joinrfa.org GOVERNOR CUOMO UNVEILS "NY OPEN FOR FISHING & HUNTING" Memorializes Free Saltwater Angler Registry Beyond 2013 New York saltwater anglers can continue to fish for free in 2013, and beyond! On February 20th, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced NY Open for Fishing and Hunting, a plan to streamline hunting and fishing licenses and reduce license fees to support tourism opportunities and benefit sportsmen and sportswomen throughout the state. The proposal is part of the 30-day amendments to the 2013-14 Executive Budget and would reduce fees paid by hundreds of thousands of hunters, anglers and trappers while maintaining support for the state’s fish and wildlife programs.


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In addition to simplifying the current license structure to foster recruitment and retention of resident and nonresident hunters and anglers while reducing the number of licenses offered and lowering many the associated fees, the Governor’s proposal will also make permanent a free marine fishing registration, which was scheduled to expire at the end of 2013. “I know the recreational and economic value hunting and fishing bring to New York State,” Governor Cuomo said. “The sporting community bolsters tourism across the state. According to a national survey, more than $8.1 billion of economic activity is created as a result of sporting activity in New York. Under my proposal, it will be easier for more New Yorkers and visitors from across the country to take advantage of New York’s rich sporting tradition.”

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While more than a handful of Long Island sportsmen supported the saltwater fishing fee, the majority of anglers cried foul, pushing the debate all the way to the office of U.S. Senator Charles Schumer who pledged his support to help rescind the fee (within a month of the license implementation, the Senator told me personally that he’d heard from New York constituents more on two very specific issues than any other– the healthcare plan and the saltwater license. Sen. Schumer was quick to react as the silent majority had spoken – without equivocation, he agreed that the folks back at home wanted the license gone!)

New York Sportfishing Federation never supported the saltwater fishing license, and neither did the national RFA. When legislators began seeking our advice with regard to this onerous new tax, we were more than willing to provide all the backing Members of New information about York Sportfishing the fee, how it was Federation, as well incorporated, and as the Recreational why the federal Fishing Alliance government be(RFA), are especially gan asking for indigrateful for the Govvidual angler regisernor’s efforts to try information. eliminate the saltOn both sides of water fishing tax in the aisle, from AlNew York, and his bany all the way to announcement that Capitol Hill, the the marine fishing majority of legislaregistration will be tors representing permanently free is the majority of great news. As we constituents in had noted frequentNew York wanted ly in the SASI newsthe fee gone, and letter and in public we obliged with as debate, what was much help as From left to right: Chris Squeri, (NYMTA), Jim Hutchinson (RFA-NYSFF), passed by Governor could be provided! Paterson back in Oc- Governor Andrew Cuomo and John Mantione (NYFTTA) tober of 2009 as Not long after Sen. New York’s first-ever saltwater fishing license forced all resi- Schumer’s involvement, the New York Senate responded in dents who fish the tidal and coastal waters to pay a $10 a nearly unanimous 60-1 vote on Senate Bill 6250 which fee, or opt for a one-time $150 lifetime right to fish. would’ve repealed New York’s broken saltwater license program and replaced it with a free, federally compliant angler The promise when this new tax was levied was that our registration system. An Assembly version (A09234) never community would get a whole new suite of services. Howmade it out of the Environmental Conservation Committee. ever, once instituted, the Governor immediately offloaded Making matters more confusing was a 2010 decision by the salaries of dozens of Department of Environmental State Supreme Court Justice Patrick A. Sweeney when he Conservation (DEC) employees from the general fund to upheld a lawsuit filed by seven Long Island towns against the marine fund, immediately putting the account into a $2 the state Department of Conservation (DEC) which premillion deficit. Meanwhile, monies collected through the vented the agency from requiring that recreational anglers lifetime saltwater licenses were then reallocated away from obtain a saltwater fishing license to fish town waters. The the marine fund towards paying down debt within the official decision stated "Concerning the issuance of a saltgeneral conservation fund. water fishing license, the statute as applied to the respecAdding insult to injury, the National Marine Fisheries Ser- tive plaintiffs is in violation of the rights of the people of the vice abruptly closed the recreational sea bass fishery for respective Towns and may not be enforced upon those 180 days, piling a fisheries moratorium on top of the most who seek to fish in the waters regulated by the respective towns." restrictive fluke regulations of all of Atlantic coastal states.


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The towns of East Hampton, Southampton, Shelter Island, Brookhaven, Southold, Huntington and Oyster Bay had legally opposed the law arguing it encroached on their pre-existing authority to regulate town waters - patent rights the towns have enjoyed since the colonial era. The decision by said those rights give the seven towns full control over their fisheries. "This was a tax, nothing more than a tax," said Joseph Lombardo, assistant town attorney for Southampton at the time. "We allow people to go shellfishing for free. We don't charge you if you're a resident. We've never made people get a fishing license to go saltwater fishing. These are rights that we have to protect." In early 2011, efforts to fully repeal the saltwater fishing fee were ramped up again in Albany when incoming Sen. Lee Zeldin, a Long Island saltwater angler, introduced legislation in the New York Senate (S3638) which would amend the environmental conservation law in relation to establishing a registration system for saltwater recreational fishing, essentially repealing that part which mandates that a fee to fish be levied on saltwater anglers. While anglers were ready to once again away with baited breath as to what the Assembly would do this time around, something truly remarkable took place. On March 15, 2011, a Senate Budget Resolution calling for the repeal of the MTA Payroll Tax for public and private schools, as well as full repeal of the saltwater fishing fee was passed in the New York Senate. In ongoing budget negotiations related to the Senate Budget Resolution, New York lawmakers and the Cuomo administration eventually reached an agreement to end the state's $10 annual saltwater fishing license and replace it with a free registry for the state's coastal waters to cover a 2-year timeframe. “I made clear from the beginning of the Budget process that I would not support any new taxes or fees,” Sen. Zeldin said at the time explained how the New York license law would be transformed into a registration requirement to meet federal law regarding national angler registration, and noted that the agreement with the governor would provides that the registration would be guaranteed free through 2013. “This action will send a message that the State recognizes that the right to fish should be free and that recreational fishing is a critical part of the Long Island economy,” Thiele said. Five months later on August 5, 2011, Governor Andrew Cuomo officially announced that anglers and boat captains who plunked down money for a saltwater fishing license in 2011 prior to the fee repeal

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would be refunded in full. At a morning press conference at the Freeport Boatmen’s Association in Freeport on Long Island, Governor Cuomo said “there are still some things in life that are free” while announcing that he has as directed the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to issue refunds to recreational fishermen and charter boat operators who purchased a recreational marine fishing license in addition to refunding license fees to New Yorkers who purchased lifetime licenses. "We fought for provisions in the state budget to restore free fishing in New York's saltwater areas so it's only fair the New Yorkers who had to pay for licenses receive a refund," Governor Cuomo said. "The federal government required that we help manage a wide variety of species in coastal waters, but it was unfair to ask New Yorkers to pay for it. Fair is fair – if you bought a license or paid a charter boat fee for this year before our new free registry was in place, you will get your money back." U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer added, "Fishing in the ocean, Sound and Great South Bay was never meant to be like driving through the Midtown Tunnel, with a fee-to-enter. That's why we fought so hard and this is such a huge win for Long Island families and small fishing businesses who will now not have to pay these unprecedented and unfair license fees. By creating a free license registry, Governor Cuomo and the New York State legislature have done the right thing for Long Island anglers already struggling in these tough economic times." Referring to the fee to fish in saltwater as nothing more than a tax, the Governor pledged personally that day that there would be no saltwater fishing fee in New York for as long as he was governor. On February 20th of this year, he fulfilled that pledge and then some. The free angler registry which replaced a fee-based saltwater license in 2011 was set to sunset on December 31, 2013, but with Governor Cuomo’s announcement, it’s free fishing in New York marine waters permanently! While providing relief to sportsmen and sportswomen, the governor’s proposal will also ensure that the Conservation Fund remains solvent through the financial plan (State Fiscal Year 2018-19). New York will continue to provide services, programs and projects to boost hunting and fishing opportunities. In other words, Governor Cuomo and the legislature have said they fully plan on balancing the state budget and protecting the New York Conservation Fund without taxing the saltwater anglers; so if anyone who favors a license asks “where is the money going to come


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from,” your best response is “perhaps you should go ask the Governor himself!”

here http://www.scstatehouse.gov/sess120_20132014/bills/3735.htm

“As Governor Cuomo said at a Freeport press event in August of 2011, some things in life should be free and saltwater fishing is one of them,” Sen. Zeldin said, adding “I commend the Governor for his leadership on this issue and for including an elimination of the fee in this year's state budget. This is a very positive action on behalf of Long Island fishermen."

In 2009, South Carolina held a voter referendum that amended the state constitution to say that hunting and fishing in the state was a constitutional right for its people, and the right to hunt and fish within the state and to harvest wildlife should only be subject to the laws of the state legislature, which were to promote sound wildlife conservation and management. Rep. Goldfinch's legislation pivots off this, and it should send a clear message to South Carolina fishermen and the federal government about where the state stands on managing its resources properly.

Capt. Tony DiLernia of Rocket Charters and member of the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council added "In announcing the proposal to make the free marine fishing registration permanent, Governor Cuomo is following through on his commitment that some things in life should be free, including fishing in the ocean. This is an example of government providing a service to New Yorkers without taxing for it." Saltwater anglers in New York are reminded that while it’s free to register, new federal requirements for data collection in the recreational sector require that you do register before wetting a line in saltwater. You can find the link to the state registration page by visiting the New York Sportfishing Federation homepage at www.nysf.org.

In 2012, South Atlantic states saw their recreational black sea bass season closed after only 90 days. The traditionally offshore species is now being caught in inshore waters, and its overpopulation is threatening popular nearshore and inshore species like sheepshead, spotted sea trout and red drum. "Black sea bass have been rebuilt in every sense of the word for quite some time now," said RFA-SC member Wes Coving-

RFA-SC Update Jim Hutchinson jhutchinson@joinrfa.org South Carolina Representative Stephen Goldfinch Champions RFA Mission by introducing legislation to take black sea bass back from feds. RFA-SC members have been working with freshman Republican state Representative Stephen Goldfinch to do whatever is possible to help ensure access for recreational anglers to fish stocks that have been closed more and more alarmingly by draconian federal management measures. Representative Goldfinch, of Murrells Inlet, immediately took advantage of his position on the SC House Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee to address some of the critical issues faced by South Carolina and other South Atlantic states. Rep. Goldfinch's legislation, co-authored by Reps. Hardwick, H.A. Crawford, Huggins, Hardee, Clemmons, Vick, Finlay, Chumley, Hamilton, Herbkersman, Hiott, Hixon, V.S. Moss, Owens, Pitts, Sottile, Wells and Wood, makes black sea bass stay open in state waters (out to 3 miles offshore) during federal closures. The bill is H. 3735, and can be viewed

Representative Goldfinch is an sportsman in his own right, an accomplished angler and diver who understands the plight his fellow fishermen are dealing with under an out of control Fed-


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ton. "We started seeing black sea bass become more and more prevalent about ten years ago due to the catch limits put into place in the 1990's, and now it seems we're being punished for those limits not working fast enough. The science clearly has not caught up to what we're seeing on the water, and the SAFMC is telling us they don't have the flexibility to do anything other than administratively close the fishery earlier and earlier every year," Covington said. Capts. Keith Logan and Mark Brown have both been working as hard as possible to obtain more funding for for improved black sea bass data, but it has become apparent that NMFS and NOAA are only interested in more money for their catch shares campaign. Black sea bass is the most clear example of the federal government's mismanagement of a fishery off the South Carolina coast. "Now that the issue with these fisheries, black sea bass in particular, has become so well-known, and the season is rumored to be even shorter this year, I am very hopeful this legislation will be signed by Governor Haley in time for this summer. We need to get people fishing again. Fishing is a huge part of our coastal economy," said Rep. Goldfinch. This will not be the only help that RFA-SC sees from Rep. Goldfinch. More discussions for more help-

March 2013

ful legislation are underway, and RFA-SC's membership will remain instrumental in supporting the elected officials like Rep. Goldfinch who champion the RFA's mission.

Watch these pages for more State Chapter updates in future

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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 threatens the sport we enjoy so much – fishing!” After more than a dozen years working inside the Beltway and within state capitols along the coast, RFA has become known as one of the nation’s most respected lobbying organizations, and our members have a lot to celebrate.

The Recreational Fishing Alliance Headquarters Mailing Address P.O. Box 3080 New Gretna, New Jersey 08224 Phone: 1-888-564-6732 toll free Fax: (609) 294-3812 Jim Donofrio Executive Director

Kim Forgach Administrative Assistant

Jim Martin West Coast Regional Director

Jim Hutchinson Jr Managing Director

Gary Caputi Corporate Relations Director

Patrick Paquette National Shore Access Representative

John DePersenaire Policy & Science Researcher

Capt. Barry Gibson New England Regional Director

Cover Background Design: Mustard Seed Graphics

Making Waves Spring 2013  

The official E-News Magazine of the Recreational Fishing Alliance. Summer 2013 Volume 2, Issue 1