Making Waves Summer Edition 2022

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THE OFFICAL MAGAZINE OF THE RECREATIONAL FISHING ALLIANCE

MAKING WAVES SUMMER EDITION 2022

HOOK ON! INSIGHT NORTHEAST STRIPED BASS STUDY SAVING THE RECREATIONAL BLUEFIN TUNA FISHERY ASMFC APPROVES ATLANTIC STRIPED BASS AMENDMENT 7



MAKING WAVES SUMMER EDITION 2022

INSIDE THIS ISSUE

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RFA NEW EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

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REBUILDING PLAN FOR ATLANTIC MACKEREL

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NORTHEAST STRIPED BASS STUDY

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SAVING THE RECREATIONAL BLUEFIN TUNA FISHERY

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CLIMATE CHANGE IS SHIFTING TIGER SHARK POPULATIONS NORTHWARD

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SPECIES PROFILE: RED DRUM

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A MASSIVE SALMON FARM IN MAINE STALLED

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RFA NEWS BRIEFS

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ASMFC APPROVES ATLANTIC STRIPED BASS AMENDMENT 7

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NJ ADOPTS “SLOT” LIMIT ON FLUKE & SETS SEA BASS & PORGY REGS

Publisher: Gary Caputi Editor in Chief: Barry Gibson Editor: Carolinn Pocher Woody Art Director: Maxwell Moran

FROM THE PUBLISHER’S DESK

BY GARY CAPUTI

We’re back with another exciting and interesting issue of Making Waves. From the management of Atlantic mackerel to tracking the travels satellite tagged stripers, to understanding more about the international management of bluefin tuna, it is jam packed with informative reading and you’ll get to meet RFA’s new Executive Director! In the article titled Saving the Recreational Bluefin Tuna Fishery we take a rare look at the exhausting work the U.S. recreational commissioners and advisors to ICCAT do on our behalf. Work that they get little recognition or credit for and that in this instance literally saved the bluefin tuna fishery for anglers by the use of badly conceived scientific data gathered by NOAA. You’ll get to meet Capt. Ray Bogan, an attorney who comes from a partyboat family with roots dating back almost a hundred years and who has worked tirelessly on domestic and international fisheries issues on your behalf. He has also been the legal council to the RFA for over two decades. He works closely with charter captain and engineer Mike Pierdinock from Rhode Island and Rick Weber, owner of South Jersey Marina and South Jersey Tournaments who are ICCAT recreational advisors. It’s quite a story and you can read it starting on page 13. Anglers up and down the Atlantic seaboard are on the edge of their seats awaiting more information about the striped bass satellite tagging program that is a collaborative effort between Gray FishTag Research and The Fisherman magazines with donations from individuals and companies from our industry. In this issue you will learn about two tagged stripers, one named Uncle Fred after noted outdoor writer Fred Golofaro, and the other named RFA for obvious reasons. Oh, the stories these two fish can and will tell. RFA New England Regional Director Capt. Barry Gibson delves into the ongoing controversy surrounding the management of Atlantic mackerel and its importance to recreational fishing. There are regulatory updates from NOAA and several states and fascinating species profiles, too. So, grab your iPhone or laptop, find someplace comfortable and spend some time hanging out with the RFA and Making Waves. And don’t forget to click on our sponsor’s ads to learn more about the products and services they provide while supporting your RFA.


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RFA’S NEW EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR! The Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) is thrilled to announce that we’ve found our new Executive Director. He’ll lead us forward in the fight for your freedom to fish and take us into our next 25 years. After an exhaustive nationwide talent search for a new Executive Director, vetting over 60 qualified candidates, one name rose to the top—Robert A. Nixon. Rob has made a name for himself as one of one of New Jersey’s leading legislative lobbyists and strategists. He’s the founder and President of State House Strategies, a government affairs consulting firm. He also serves as Director of Government Affairs for the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association, New Jersey’s largest law enforcement officer union. “I am excited to help lead the RFA into the future, both as an avid saltwater fisherman and as a public policy professional,” Rob says. “I think we can accomplish great things, and I can’t wait to see where we can go.” Rob began his career in New Jersey government in 1993 as a political consultant and legislative aide to a number of elected officials and candidates, including former State Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Bill Gormley. Prior to and since becoming a lobbyist he has managed or advised on a variety of municipal, State Senate, General Assembly and Congressional races in New Jersey. No stranger to fighting for the rights of recreational fisherman and boaters, Rob has previously represented the RFA as a lobbyist in Trenton and was responsible for the enactment of the law prohibiting the commercial fishing of menhaden in state waters and numerous other pro-fishing bills. Since 2002 he has been the lobbyist for the Marine Trades Association of New Jersey and has led the charge for pro-boating laws like the sales tax cut, the protection of marinas under “Public Access” rules, the elimination of regulations on boat manufacturing and other critical issues. A passionate saltwater fisherman, Nixon enjoys backcountry fishing in the Florida Keys and surf fishing here at home. Rob is currently serving on the Board of Directors of the New Jersey Schools Development Authority which oversees the State’s multi-billion-dollar school construction program. He was named Chairman of the Board of Directors by Governor Murphy in December of 2018 and he also serves as the Chairman of the Audit Committee of the Authority. He was also recently appointed by the Governor as one of the seven members of the New Jersey Personalized Handgun Authorization Commission. He received his undergraduate degree in Politics from Saint Joseph’s University and a Master’s Degree in Governmental Administration from the University of Pennsylvania where he currently serves as an instructor teaching a course on Government Relations and as a Capstone Advisor at Penn’s Fels Institute of Government. Rob was honored with the Faculty of the Year award at the Institute’s commencement in 2013 and 2016.

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PROPOSED REBUILDING PLAN FOR ATLANTIC MACKEREL DRAWS QUESTIONS AND CONCERNS FROM THE RECREATIONAL SECTOR Capt. Barry Gibson, RFA New England Regional Director

A new amendment on tap to rebuild Atlantic mackerel stocks has raised serious questions about survey methods and areas, stock shifts due to the effects of warming Gulf of Maine waters, and how the proposed measures will affect recreational fishermen.

plenty of mackerel right along the coast but explained that in offshore areas the survey ships did not encounter very many mackerel where they had found them during previous surveys, nor did they find the amount of eggs and larvae they had in the past.

In the Winter 2022 edition of Making Waves I explained to readers that in June of 2021, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) released what they call a “Management Track Survey” of Atlantic mackerel along the East Coast of the U.S. The survey was designed to create a snapshot of the size and health of the current mackerel stock.

That triggered a lot of speculation that perhaps the offshore mackerel stock may have moved north or east due to the warming of Gulf of Maine waters over the past few years, as has happened with other fish species. Some fishermen questioned the timing of the survey samplings, saying that if they had been performed during other months the results may have been different.

Unfortunately, according to the survey, the news is not good. The stock has apparently been overfished for the past eight years. Although the mackerel stock tripled between 2014 and 2019, it is said to be only 24% of the target biomass of some 180,000 metric tons. So now, the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC), the board that develops management plans in federal waters off New York down through Virginia and which is responsible for Atlantic mackerel management, is tasked with creating a rebuilding plan, which is called the “Atlantic Mackerel Rebuilding 2.0 Amendment.” According to the MAFMC, a 70% reduction in commercial landings and a 50% reduction in recreational landings will likely be needed in order to rebuild the mackerel stock within 10 years. Needless to say, fishermen from Massachusetts through Maine were blindsided by the news. There were plenty of mackerel along the New England coast in 2021, and there have been for the past few years, so everyone was mystified as to how the survey could indicate there was a serious problem. The MAFMC staffer who conducted the webinar agreed that there were

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Since the first article on the subject appeared in Making Waves, and after a number of public hearings in April, MAFMC has proposed that commercial mackerel cutbacks include a 3” minimum net size for trawl vessels, and a reduced overall annual quota. Recreational measures would consist of a 10- or 15-fish bag limit per person per day (including mackerel used as bait and/or chum) which is expected to reduce the recreational catch by 10% to 30%. The management plan and the above catch reduction proposals triggered a torrent of response from recreational anglers and for-hire operators. The Stellwagen Bank Charter Boat Association, based in Plymouth, MA, drew up some representative comments and recommendations (listed below) and submitted them to MAFMC on April 30th. • The observations of the recreational and commercial fisherman in state and federal waters from Maine to south of Massachusetts is that there has been no lack of mackerel, from small to large, in these waters in the past several years. • No doubt, due to increased water temperatures, the stock has shifted farther north and/or east. Fewer mackerel landings in the continued on page 6


continued from page 5 Mid-Atlantic region may well be due to stock relocation to cooler waters rather than poor stock status. Northerly shifting stock would be consistent with the movement of multiple other saltwater species. • As a result of a lack of mackerel in Mid-Atlantic waters, a separate bag limit is recommended at the approximate 41 degrees latitude line. A liberal bag limit north of latitude 41 degrees would be reflective of the significant biomass and shifting stock and the use of mackerel by the recreational, for-hire and commercial fleet. • In general, most anglers support a 15-fish per person bag limit for use of mackerel as bait to target striped bass and bluefin tuna. This, however, does not accommodate for-hire operators who catch and keep live bait in a bait pen at the dock to use for upcoming trips. As a result, a separate for-hire or possession bag limit is recommended for the for-hire fleet. We also question the 100% mortality assumption that, based on our observations, is actually significantly less and more in the range of 15%. • The present bag limit does not reflect the use of mackerel as chum. There is an accommodation suggested that if one has a payment receipt for a “flat” of mackerel on the boat, the flat could exceed the 15-fish bag limit if used as chum. However, this does not reflect the fact that many anglers catch and use mackerel as bait on a particular trip and/or freeze them for use on a later trip. As a result, there needs to be an accommodation for use of such by anglers and for-hire operators. • We recommend that NMFS, as well as each affected state, educate the public about state and/or federal permitting and reporting requirements when recreational, for-hire, or commercial fishing. • Since the commercial herring quota has been significantly reduced, fewer mackerel are being caught as bycatch. This has contributed to a significant reduction in commercial mackerel landings. This is likely the main source of the 184% increase in the stock biomass since 2014.

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of both surveys to assess the status of the stock. There is a lack of egg larvae surveys in state waters, so there is no data on the stock size to support our observations of the tremendous biomass of mackerel in state waters. The survey limitations and ongoing fall and spring survey locations in combination with a shifting stock and changes in the location and timing of where the mackerel are currently found negatively impacts the results and does not capture the actual biomass in US and Canadian waters. • As a result, we recommend that the for-hire fleet that presently is required to record landings, releases, and details of each trip via eVTRs, be part of the process. We encourage NMFS to identify the details needed to assist in the stock assessments via eVTRs concerning the timing, location, and any interaction with egg-bearing mackerel observed during each trip. We have observed the change in timing, spatial distribution and extent of mackerel in our waters over many years now (especially in state waters) that is not reflected in the stock assessment. • Unquestionably, there is no lack of mackerel in state and federal waters from Maine to Massachusetts. Implementing measures that would impact New England fishermen without consideration of their input will most certainly create a loss of support and confidence in fisheries management. • Future stock assessments should consider alternatives that are less reliant on MRIP data such as the use of the Harvest Control Rule or Management Strategy Evaluation to assess stock status. • Future recreational measures, if any, need to reflect the historically low recreational catch in relation to the commercial catch. RFA hopes that MAFMC will take these comments, concerns and suggestions into serious consideration when crafting the management plan. MAFMC will take final action at their June 2022, meeting, with plan implementation scheduled for January of 2023. The public comment period closed on May 9th, but RFA members can follow the process by visiting MAFMC’s web site at www.mafmc.org.

• Continued flawed Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) results regarding recreational landings distorts MRIP recreational data. The National Academy of Science’s recent MRIP review would suggest that this MRIP data needs to be reassessed and revised for it to be at all reflective of the New England fishermen’s experience. • As set forth above, the recreational and commercial sectors rely on mackerel for live or fresh bait to catch striped bass, bluefin tuna, and other species. Many anglers also rely on mackerel for a day of fishing, especially with kids, where they can catch mackerel when few other species are available. • There are also those, particularly from economically challenged communities, who catch mackerel in order to feed their families and who will no longer book trips on for-hire vessels with a 15 fish bag limit in place. We know that recreational landings are a fraction of the total commercial landings. However, with current flawed MRIP landing data, even this reality may not appear evident. • The current means and methods associated with the spring and fall trawl surveys to effectively land mackerel are questionable, and as a result, NMFS also relies on egg larvae surveys, using the combination

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NORTHEAST STRIPED BASS STUDY LATE ‘21 TALLY & EARLY ‘22 RETURNS Jim Hutchinson, Jr. From May 24 through December 13 of 2021, our team of dedicated Northeast Striped Bass Study taggers through the Gray FishTag Research partnership with The Fisherman Magazine deployed a total of seven MiniPAT pop-up archival transmitting tags (PAT tag, also known as a PSAT) in jumbo striped bass along the Atlantic Coast, ranging in size from 42 to 48 inches in length. According to Wildlife Computers which produces the device, PAT tags are designed to track the large-scale movements and behavior of fish and other animals which do not spend enough time at the surface to allow the use of real-time Argos satellite tags. Depth, temperature, and light-level data, among others, are collected and summarized for transmission, and archived in onboard memory. Then on a preset date set by the researchers, the tag releases from its host fish, surfaces, and uploads a summary of the archived data to Argos satellites. Throughout the second half of last year at The Fisherman, we detailed the tabulated results of five of those seven striped bass complete with tracking charts taken from data collected inside each MiniPAT device. Once coming undone from the fish via pre-programmed electronic charge – or as we’ve found in several instances in 2021, on its own - the MiniPAT will float to the surface and begin feeding the collected information to an Argos satellite for the duration of battery life which is typically around two weeks. Best case scenario of course is when we’re able to actually find one of these needles in the proverbial haystack, as researchers can download the archive dataset to retrieve all of the valuable data contained inside. In our reporting on tagging data from 2021, there were two final stripers tagged in the late fall that we’ve yet to present to readers, one being Uncle

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Fred that was caught, tagged and released aboard Chuck Many’s Tyman on November 2 off of Sandy Hook, and another fish named RFA that was tagged on December 13 off of Cape Charles, VA. As we prepare for another year of satellite tracking of coastal striped bass this month for the 2022 Northeast Striped Bass Study, I invite you sit back and enjoy the highs and lows of 21st century technological tracking efforts with America’s fish, the Atlantic striped bass. continued on page 10


continued from page 9

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UNCLE FRED On November 2, 2021, my buddy Tom Lynch and I drove to Gateway Marina along Raritan Bay to meet up with fellow Northeast Striped Bass Study sponsor David Glassberg for a trip aboard Many’s Tyman in an effort to deploy our sixth MiniPAT device of the 2021 season. As highlighted in the December, 2021 edition of The Fisherman (“Striper Tag Update: Hail Mary & Uncle Fred”), about a half -hour into our light troll using live eels, Lynch grabbed hold of one of the bent rods and capably managed a 48-inch striped bass to the net. That fish was quickly and safely affixed with MiniPAT device along with a secondary GFR green streamer tag, swimming off healthy and strong. That fish named Uncle Fred in honor of the late Fred Golofaro, longtime senior editor at The Fisherman Magazine, enjoyed a rather remarkable journey over the three months that the MiniPAT device stayed attached. According to the data contained within the MiniPAT (recovered along the shoreline at Tangier Island in the Chesapeake Bay), soon after being released on November 2 that fish spent another week or so in the NY Bight, from Deb’s Inlet on Long Island to the Jersey Shore, before taking a S/SE track in what appears to be the threemile-line highway. Checking The Fisherman’s fishing reports along the Central Jersey coast in mid to late November of 2021, we had a few epic surf blitzes along the Ocean County stretch through Thanksgiving, and by late in the month a fast-moving school of stripers raced down the beaches of Long Beach Island, which somewhat correlates with Uncle Fred’s travels. “I know you’re in Brigantine, Atlantic City, Ventnor, Sea Isle, Wildwood, are these fish on the way to Cape May,” is how I posed it in my weekly video forecast on December 2, 2021, while adding “but if they do get to your town it could be a quick-hitter.” Uncle Fred seems to corroborate that as well. Within a few short days of being off of Atlantic City in November, that MinPAT seems to show this big fish as moving at a pretty solid clip before another cluster of activity shows Uncle Fred offshore beyond the three-mile-line off Delaware. By the end of November, Uncle Fred has already reached the Chesapeake Bay where it spends most of December in and around the Cape Charles, VA area. That’s where and we find Chuck Many’s Tyman again, with yet another MiniPAT device, seemingly intercepting those big bass he’d just left biting off the northern New Jersey Coast.

Photo: Tom Lynch from Angry Fish Gallery in Point Pleasant Beach, NJ with a big striper tagged in November aboard Tyman for the Northeast Striped Bass Study.

Photo: Chuck Many carefully inserts both a MiniPAT device and a green streamer tag for Gray FishTag Research into a 48-inch striped bass named Uncle Fred on November 2, 2021.

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OFFSHORE MIGRATION? In 2021, we began naming some of our sat-tagged stripers after financial supporters, something we will continue in 2022 when the tagging efforts kick off again this month. A couple of notable tagging specimens however boast special names – Uncle Fred being one, and the other a Hail Mary fish on June 17, 2021. From May 24 to June 30 of last year, we tagged three striped bass along the Jersey Shore (Navionics, AFW, Hail Mary) and two more (Seaguar, PENN) off Montauk, NY. You can learn more about the results from these tagging missions online at www.thefisherman.com/category/stripedbass-study. Some of the rather shocking data contained inside these high-tech MiniPAT devices may best be described by the information collected from Hail Mary which was caught, tagged and released at Romer Shoal on the Raritan Bay. Nearly 100 days after tag deployment, the MiniPAT popped free from that 44-inch striper and was found at Westhampton Beach on Long Island.

Maps: The striper named Uncle Fred travels south on her fall migration, sticking primarily along the three-mile highway while periodically meandering back and forth across line, before finally settling into the Chesapeake Bay region during the first quarter of 2022. Ideally, that big old fat fecund female fish ended up dropping a load of eggs somewhere in the Chesapeake complex sometime during the month of April.

Researchers from Wildlife Computers in Redmond, WA alongside of the Gray FishTag Research team in Pompano Beach, FL analyzed the information inside that device, and determined that Hail Mary tracked E/SE in parallel to the Hudson Canyon to Ambrose Channel Traffic Lane not long after the deployment, and showed a noted cluster of tracks in what appears to be the vicinity of the Bacardi and Texas Tower. She appears to have run parallel to Long Island’s south shore well outside of the three-mile-line before setting up for July and August from Nantucket Shoals to an area just inside Georges Bank off of Cape Cod, MA. One of the region’s top jumbo striper fishermen, Chuck Many has fished a variety of lures and baits over the years, but his “trophy” tactic for catch and release giants is deploying live eels on circle hooks beneath planer boards allowing him to set out up to 12 outfits on a slow troll, half that on the drift. Each high-vis planer might have a different depth of deployment for the eel (four or five pulls from the spool versus eight or nine). For years Many kept his trophy fishing method a pretty well-guarded secret, primarily to protect the spawning class stripers known to fall for this technique. Once the slot fish requirement was implemented requiring all “oversized” fish to be released, he’s felt a little more comfortable sharing his tactics publicly. But even more so he’s been quite public in his ongoing support for the Northeast Striped Bass Study. “People always ask me, why do you do all this tagging of striped bass? My response, ‘because we don’t know much about them and what they really do’,” Many told me. Case in point; according to Chuck, what we often hear from anglers is what we’ve always been told:

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• That 80% of the stock come from the Chesapeake with the rest coming from the Pamlico Sound stock, Hudson & Delaware Rivers. • How the schoolies live in estuaries near where they were born and don’t migrate until they are larger • And migrating striped bass are an inshore species that travel along the east coast and summer in New England , wintering off Virginia and North Carolina. continued on page 12


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“Sure, those may have been assumed facts in the past, but my personal experiences fishing for striped bass for close to 50 years don’t support them,” Many said. “In the 90s, I used to bass fish every winter out of Wanchese along the Outer Banks of North Carolina, catch those fish all winter. Each year however that migration moved north, to the point that I moved the Tyman up to Rudee Inlet in Virginia, and then ultimately to Cape Charles, VA where I’ve been winter striper fishing for the past several years,” he added.

Deployed on December 14, 2021 near Cape Charles, VA, the MiniPAT device from 47-inch jumbo striper named RFA shows the fish actively in the Chesapeake Bay but also leaving and returning before its tag is released prematurely after 25 days.

RFA IN VA Many said it’s pretty rare to encounter striped bass wintering off Virginia anymore, as most fish would seem stay north, possibly staying off Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey. “And when it comes to the spawning stock, I have seen the number of spawning fish to the south in the Chesapeake dwindle, while the number of fish spawning to the north has seemingly exploded,” he said, adding “Why is that? Are they spawning in more northern rivers besides the Hudson?” In an effort to learn more and perhaps seek a few of those answers, we brought back a MiniPAT device from a Gray FishTag Advisory meeting in Florida in December; just two days later on December 14 it was deployed on our first Chesapeake Bay striper for the Northeast Striped Bass Study, a 47-incher named RFA. While we had hoped that tag would stay attached until the spring spawn, it prematurely released on January 6, 2022 after just 25 days. The tracking map however still reveals some interesting data, as it shows the fish actively in the Chesapeake Bay but also leaving and returning for short periods of time. It’s really impossible to ascertain where RFA was before she was tagged aboard the Tyman off Cape Charles, VA in late December, but when you look at the timing and locations of Uncle Fred’s route down the coast and into the Chesapeake, one can make reasonable assumptions, albeit worth debating.

“Why when we tag small striped bass that historical data tells us are supposed to stay near their spawning river, do they get recaptured hundreds of miles away,” Many asks, followed by “Why do we put a MiniPAT device in a striped bass, and rather than behaving like the ‘inshore’ fish we’ve always understood them to be, why do we find that a handful of these big stripers have traveled so far offshore?” After 40 years of dedicated striper fishing from New England to the Outer Banks, Chuck Many’s takeaway is rather simple and direct. “The one thing that I do know is that we don’t know! And that is why I tag so many striped bass.” “My goal working with Gray Fishtag Research and the Northeast Striped Bass Study is to help convince people that we don’t know what we think we know, and that maybe it’s time that we open our minds to let more data bring us more knowledge,” said Many, adding “Perhaps then we can better protect this awesome sportfish for the future.” I’m no scientist; but if we as anglers are willing to help provide more data, doesn’t that help lead to better science?

STRIPER STUDY SPONSORS The ongoing Northeast Striped Bass Study research in 2021 and 2022 has been generously supported by Navionics, AFW/HI Seas, the Many and Glassberg families, Recreational Fishing Alliance through its Fisheries Conservation Trust, Berkeley Striper Club, Hudson River Fishermen’s Association, the Long Beach Island Surf Fishing Classic, Seaguar, PENN, Van Staal, Fin-Nor, Simrad, Caterpillar Marine and The Fisherman Magazine. To learn more about Gray FishTag Research and how you can make a charitable donation the project go to grayfishtagresearch.org.

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SAVING THE RECREATIONAL BLUEFIN TUNA FISHERY Gary Caputi, publisher Making Waves

Snatching Victory from the Jaws of Defeat

Atlantic with their commercial fleets. ICCAT oversees the management of pelagic species including the BAYS tunas (bigeye, albacore, yellowfin and skipjack), bluefin tuna, swordfish, billfish and certain pelagic sharks.

The press release reads: NOAA Fisheries is adjusting Atlantic bluefin tuna daily retention limits for recreational fishermen. The adjusted limits go into effect on May 6, 2022, and extend through December 31, 2022, unless modified by later action.

The NOAA-HMS assessment indicated that there was a marked reduction in school and small medium bluefin tuna in US waters, a drop large enough to trigger reductions in Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for the Western Atlantic region in which the United States is a major player, especially in recreational participation. But wait just a minute. The heroes of this story were quick to realize that the stock of smaller bluefin tuna, the school and medium component that is so important to saltwater recreational fishermen, was not only healthy, but had shown every indication of having increased dramatically in recent years. How did they know this to be true when the brain trust at NOAA-HMS with their Large Pelagic Survey (LPS) and Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) indicated otherwise?

The 2022 recreational specifications are an increase from last year for private vessels, charter boats and headboats but what the press release doesn’t tell you is the rest of the story. The scientists and statisticians at NOAA Fisheries-Highly Migratory Species Division (NOAA-HMS) participated in preparing a Western Atlantic bluefin tuna stock assessment and presented it to the international body that sets quotas for HMS species in the Atlantic. That body is the International Convention for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), which consists of all the major harvesting nations on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean and others, like Japan, Taiwan and China, who fish in the

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Our heroes include Nick Cicero, Mike Pierdinock, Rick Weber and a number of other names you might find familiar if you’re an RFA member, read Making Waves or follow HMS fisheries issues. They are all members of the ICCAT Advisory Committee (IAC). Ray Bogan, the U.S. Recreational continued on page 16


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Commissioner to ICCAT, helped spearhead the effort. Bogan has been the RFA’s legal counsel for many years, has a successful law practice, comes from the renown Bogan partyboat fishing clan with over one hundred years of history taking anglers out on the water, and is one of the leading experts in international HMS fisheries management. Nick Cicero has decades of experience on the water chasing bluefin tuna and has worked in the tackle industry for almost as long, and he is on the Board of Directors of the RFA. Capt. Mike Pierdinock is a Massachusetts charterboat captain, environmental engineer and the chairman of the MASS chapter of the RFA. Rick Weber and Jim Donofrio reached out for the southern folks and jumped in when we were debating behind closed doors. Certain commercial fishermen who are on the water also knew something was amiss and joined in the effort. When the above-mentioned recreational IAC representatives saw the assessment presented to ICCAT, not only did they know the numbers for juvenile bluefin were shockingly low, they knew what their inclusion into the management plan for Western blue tuna would mean for anglers. Those fears were born out when ICCAT declared a significant drop in TAC would be necessary which would severely impact the school fish harvest. They also knew that the assessment could not be correct because of anglers landings and interactions with vast bodies of school and medium size bluefin not just in one area, but throughout their range all at the same time. Recreational fishing for bluefin had been on fire from Maryland through New England for a couple of years from late spring through late fall. Harpooners and General Category fishermen were experiencing a similar spread of fish but in different areas. If the group could document that with log book data supported by actual photos including dates, times and catch records they might, just might be able to convince them to do a revised assessment. Something like that had never been done before, to have a challenged assessment revised in a few short months, but the group was undaunted. Ray reached out for Cicero, Pierdinock and Weber and together they reached out to more and more anglers to begin documenting what they knew was taking place on the water. Photos and catch information started coming in, hundreds of photos and the boys from the RFA requested documentation of dates and locations. Photos with timestamps and locations started to flood in from up and down the coast that clearly showed bluefin being caught throughout what could be described as their summer range with large bodies of fish being encountered.

The work dragged on throughout last season and as the data piled up the scientists and heads of the bluefin tuna working group were approached to fill them in on what was occurring and the error of the assessment they were planning to release to the public and allow to drastically reduce bluefin harvest in U.S. waters. At first, the response was not at all favorable. “How could we possibly conduct a new assessment with such a short amount of time to include the new data?” “Impossible, there are just too many other assessments ahead of it in the queue.” That was the general consensus, but as the data built and the tuna geeks pressed on, those same people from both NOAA-HMS and ICCAT began to realize that to go with obviously flawed data derived from the LPS and MRIP databases would further erode any sense of confidence in the management system. The data errors were simply that glaring. So, a new bluefin assessment was pushed to the front of the line of pending assessment work and the impact of the new data and revision to the small fish data (index) it not only showed there was not a drop in stock, but there was actually a significant and continuing growth in the stock of school and medium bluefin tuna. What was originally going to result in a reduction in TAC, a reduced recreational and commercial bag limit and seasons, turned out to favor an increase in TAC for the coming year. The IAC representatives and the recreational fishermen they reached out to had pulled off the management coup to end all coups. And while it saved the recreational bluefin fishery and will result in a modest increase in recreational quota and landings, more good news follows because part of the quota increase will go to repay Japan for quota transfers they made to the U.S. to help maintain a school fish fishery a few years ago. The Japanese saved our bacon and it is payback time, but we’re still fishing at increased recreational levels while repaying the transfer over the next three years. You should know that Ray Bogan’s position representing U.S. recreational anglers at ICCAT along with committee members Mike Pierdinock, Rick Weber of South Jersey Yacht Sales, Nick Cicero and others were all supported and worked for politically by the Recreational Fishing Alliance. They are the U.S. international fisheries management Dream Team and their work on behalf of recreational fishermen has been nothing short of stellar.

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FINAL RULE: CHANGES TO ATLANTIC BLUEFIN TUNA AND NORTH ATLANTIC ALBACORE QUOTAS Summary NOAA Fisheries announces modifications to the baseline annual U.S. Atlantic bluefin tuna and North Atlantic albacore quotas.

What will it do? THE FINAL RULE:

1. Increases the baseline annual U.S. bluefin tuna quota from 1,247.86 metric tons (mt) to 1,316.14 mt. 2. Adjusts all the bluefin tuna domestic fishing category subquotas per the existing quota distribution formulas. 3. Increases the baseline annual U.S. northern albacore quota from 632.4 mt to 711.5 mt. 4. Further adjusts the bluefin tuna Reserve category and northern albacore quotas based on the underharvest of the 2021 quotas, which result in the following quotas: • Atlantic bluefin tuna Reserve category: 306.69 mt • Northern albacore: 889.4 mt These changes are consistent with the 2021 recommendations of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) and should achieve the domestic management objectives under the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. A full description of the final U.S. bluefin tuna quotas and resulting subquotas and U.S. northern albacore quota can be found in the final rule and supporting Environmental Assessment, both of which are on the NOAA Fisheries website.

Who is affected? This action could affect any U.S. fisherman who targets or incidentally catches Atlantic bluefin tuna and/or northern albacore.

What do fishermen need to do to comply with new requirements? This rule increases the annual U.S. bluefin tuna and northern albacore quotas, and does not change any other regulations or requirements for fishermen who target or incidentally catch these species. To comply with this rule, fishermen must continue to follow the relevant fishery regulations, which can be found in the Atlantic highly migratory species compliance guides. Fishermen may continue to track quota usage via landings updates for bluefin tuna and northern albacore.

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CLIMATE CHANGE IS SHIFTING TIGER SHARK POPULATIONS NORTHWARD A new study has found that tiger sharks’ seasonal distribution has expanded in the northwest Atlantic Ocean over the last several decades. This large-scale northward expansion was driven by climate change, specifically the overall warming of the U.S. Northeast Continental Shelf Large Marine Ecosystem, researchers found. The research was published in the journal Global Change Biology. “Our tagging and tournament sampling data show that tiger sharks have always spent time in northern latitudes at least going back to the 1960s and 1970s,” said Cami McCandless, study co-author and lead for the NOAA Fisheries’ Apex Predators Program. “But now they are not only arriving earlier but spending more time in northern latitudes due to ocean warming.” Tiger sharks are a highly migratory species with a distribution that stretches from Cape Cod, Massachusetts to Florida and the Gulf of Mexico. They prefer warm waters (roughly 72 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer). This paper presents empirical evidence of a climate-driven shift in distribution and migration timing for an apex predator—a species at the top of the marine food web. Tiger sharks are not targeted commercially in U.S. waters, but they can be caught as bycatch. Increasing water temperatures have shifted tiger shark movements beyond management areas that are closed to longline activities, increasing their vulnerability to these fisheries.

• • • •

Satellite telemetry data from the University of Miami Remotely sensed environmental data from NOAA CoastWatch Habitat modeling Capture data (both tagging and recapture events) from the NOAA Fisheries’ Cooperative Shark Tagging Program

The tagging information was based on data from 47 tracked tiger sharks from 2010–2019, which were detected at 5,776 locations throughout the Atlantic. They compared this data to 8,764 tiger shark capture locations from the tagging program spanning nearly 40 years (1980–2018). Rapid Northward Expansion Tiger sharks are arriving in northeast shelf waters earlier and expanding their movements north during these migrations when years and seasons experienced high sea-surface temperature anomalies. Satellite telemetry data suggest that, on average, for every 1 degree increase in sea-surface temperature anomalies, tiger sharks have arrived in northern waters 14 days earlier. They also extended their movements farther north by nearly 4 degrees of latitude. Data from the Cooperative Shark Tagging Program support these findings. They indicate that the northern edge of high-catch density areas shifted north during the warm seasons by more than 400 kilometers since the 1980s. This paralleled a shift in their preferred temperature range (26–28 degrees Celsius, figure below). The capture data also showed progressively earlier tiger shark catches in northern waters across years.

To investigate changes in tiger shark seasonal distribution, the authors used combined analyses of: Other biological, demographic, and environmental factors may also contribute to these habitat use patterns. However, the authors concluded that climate change is a major force. Climate Change Impacts on the Northeast Ecosystem The global ocean has warmed steadily since the 1970s. Some of the highest rates of change are in productive areas such as the U.S. Northeast Continental Shelf Large Marine Ecosystem. Research has documented some climate-driven shifts in distributions for marine species, but these are highly variable among taxonomic groups and ocean regions. Key research priorities are determining the rate and direction of range shifts and understanding the mechanisms driving them. McCandless said, “This research highlights the importance of continuing long-term data collection programs, like our Cooperative Shark Tagging Program, to help monitor species distributions and migrations as their environment continues to change.” Distribution changes affect predator-prey relationships, when and where human-wildlife conflicts occur, and other factors. Research like this, which identifies the effects of climate change on a species, allows resource managers to incorporate distribution changes into management decisions.

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FIGURE 5 Decadal patterns in high catch density areas of tiger sharks and associated decadal averages in seasurface temperatures (SSTs). High catch densities are based on 50% density volume contours from kernel density analysis on 8764 tiger shark captures between 1980 and 2018. SSTs are averaged by decade for both cold seasons (November–April; top row) and warm seasons (May–October; bottom row). Provided for spatial reference, two letter abbreviations for US states are FL = Florida, SC = South Carolina, NC = North Carolina, VA = Virginia, PA = Pennsylvania, NY = New York State. Underlying SSTs are on a gray scale; the vertical arrow in the legend indicates direction of temperature preference from lowest to highest (white to black)


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RFA PRIORITIES: WHAT WE’VE BEEN WORKING ON

Harvest Control Rule:

A framework addendum to the Summer Flounder, Scup, Black Sea Bass and Bluefish fishery management plans was recently passed by the the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC), and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) that would institute a new approach for setting recreational measures in these fisheries. That approach would take into consideration other elements of the fishery including stock size, recruitment, biological references and stock trends as opposed to relying solely on the estimates produced through MRIP and comparing those estimates to the recreational harvest limit. This outdated approach is responsible for the current reductions in black sea bass and scup even when the stocks are far above their rebuilding target. The Harvest Control Rule may have far reaching applications for other federally managed species. Tip of the hat to longtime RFA Member and MAFMC member Captain Adam Nowalsky for his leadership on this issue.

30/30 Initiative: is an initiative developed by the UN the United Nations Convention for Biological Diversity in 2015.

In January 2021, President Biden issued an executive order, seeking to conserve 30% of the nation’s public lands and waters by 2030. RFA contends that the US already has ample protection of its lands and waters and that those areas need to be quantified before proposing any additional areas. We are also making the case that recreational activities, such as fishing must be allowed in those areas. The 30/30 initiative also is sparking interest in pushing for the establishment of new marine sanctuaries and monuments, something RFA is adamantly opposed to. RFA will continue to remain engaged on this issue.

Northeast Groundfish: RFA’s New England Regional Director Capt. Barry Gibson serves as Vice-Chair of the New England Fishery Management

Council’s Recreational Advisory Panel (RAP). The RAP has been dealing with recreational measures for Gulf of Maine cod and haddock and was successful in raising the recreational daily bag limit for haddock from 15 to 20 fish per person for 2022, which was also a major victory for the for-hire fleet as this will help increase business. The RAP also was able to get the fall recreational cod season for private boat anglers extended an additional two weeks, to four weeks total, in September, giving anglers extra opportunities to catch and retain cod.

Atlantic Mackerel: Mackerel have been designated as overfished by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC), and a 50% cutback in recreational catches has been proposed. RFA’s Barry Gibson and RFA Massachusetts Chairman Mike Pierdinock have been working to help mitigate measures and to provide data and angler feedback on mackerel usage as bait by recreational striped bass and tuna fishermen, and to provide information on when and where mackerel spawn. As a result, the MAFMC eliminated consideration of closed recreational seasons and minimum sizes and has approved a bag limit of 20 mackerel per day per person, which is acceptable to most in the recreational sector.

Offshore Wind Farms:

RFA’s Barry Gibson and Mike Pierdinock have been very active in addressing the increasing use of offshore waters for wind turbine farms off the New England Coast. Gibson worked with the State of Maine’s Dept. of Marine Resources to move a potential site for a 12-turbine array away from Plattes Bank, an important recreational and commercial groundfish and tuna fishing ground in the Gulf of Maine, to a site farther east where recreational fishermen would not be impacted. Pierdinock has been very active in the siting of wind farms off Massachusetts that could impact recreational fishing grounds and in collecting data that indicates potential negative impacts on fish and other sea life by underwater electrical transmission cables and their resulting electromagnetic fields.

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SPECIES PROFILE: RED DRUM REDFISH: PAST MANAGEMENT, PRESENT CHALLENGES, AND FUTURE ASSESSMENTS Introduction

Attempts to regulate the Atlantic coast red drum fishery date back to the Commission’s first Annual Meeting in 1942. At the meeting, a Delaware Commissioner urged that red drum be made a sport fish or be protected by adequate size limits and daily catch limits, and that its use as fertilizer be prohibited. By 1990, the stability of the stock was uncertain, with an exploitation level that was jeopardizing future recruitment. Through the implementation of more stringent regulations in the 1990s and 2000s, the stock is no longer subject to overfishing and sufficient numbers of young fish are surviving to become breeding adults, as most recently indicated by the 2017 Red Drum Stock Assessment. Despite this achievement, managers still face challenges with red drum. Due to data deficiencies regarding the adult population, it cannot be determined at this time whether the stock is still overfished or rebuilt. This is because there is limited information on fish older than age 4 as a result of the fish’s life history and regulations that restrict the harvest of fish larger than 27 inches. Due to these unknowns, managers continue to support efforts to provide these missing data for use in future stock assessments. Red drum is scheduled for a benchmark stock assessment in 2024. In order to improve upon past modeling efforts and identify the most appropriate modeling approaches given our current data limitations, a new methodology is being used to evaluate how well several candidate models are able to accurately and precisely assess a simulated red drum population. This simulation assessment will help managers identify which candidate models should be used in the upcoming benchmark assessment.

Life History

The historic distribution of red drum on the Atlantic coast has been from Massachusetts through Florida, though few fish have been reported north of the Chesapeake Bay in recent years. Juveniles are most abundant in estuarine waters and inlets, while fish older than age four inhabit deeper waters. The adult fish migrate seasonally, moving offshore or south in the winter and inshore or north in the spring. Spawning occurs at night in the nearshore waters during the summer and fall. Prolific spawners, large females may produce up to two million eggs in a season. Eggs hatch within 24 to 36 hours of being spawned, and the larvae are carried by wind and tidal action into shallow, low salinity estuarine nursery areas. Juveniles and sub-adults stay in estuarine areas feeding on zooplankton and invertebrates such as small crabs and shrimp. Gradually, red drum expand their diet to include fish and larger invertebrates. Depending on the area, males mature between age one and four (2028 inches in length), while females mature between age three and six (31-36 inches in length). Red drum may reach 60 years of age and 60 inches in length (corresponding to greater than 90 pounds in weight).

Commercial and Recreational Fisheries

Atlantic coast commercial landings of red drum have been reported as early as the 1880s. Since 1960, landings have fluctuated around 240,000 pounds, with a high of 627,800 pounds in 1950 and a low of 55,280 pounds in 2004. Landings in 2021 were 218,592 pounds. No directed commercial fishery currently exists for Atlantic red drum. Fish are landed as bycatch in several states, predominantly North Carolina, where gillnets take the vast majority of the state’s harvest. Landings in North Carolina are restricted by an annual quota and low daily possession limit. Commercial harvest and sale in New Jersey through Virginia is restricted to recreational limits, while Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida prohibit commercial harvest. A harvest moratorium and Presidential Executive Order, enacted in 2007, prevents any harvest or sale of red drum from federal waters (3 - 200 miles from shore).

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RED DRUM

Sciaenops ocellatus Management Unit Maine through Florida Interesting Facts: • The name is derived from their color and the fact that during spawning time males produce a drum-like noise by vibrating a muscle in their swim bladder. • Due to their unusual growth pattern, a 36” red drum may be anywhere from 6 - 50 years old • Red drum have been successfully reared in hatcheries and released into South Carolina, Georgia and Florida estuaries in stock enhancement programs. • Some scientists believe the purpose of the spot(s) near the tail is to mimic an eye. This fools predators into attacking the wrong end of the fish and gives the red drum a chance to escape. • Largest on Record: 94 lbs. and 2 oz., Hatteras Island, North Carolina • Oldest Recorded: 62 years old Age at Maturity: Males – Between the ages of one and four (20-28 inches in length) Females – Between the ages of three and six (31-36 inches in length) Stock Status: Overfishing not occurring

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continued from page 23 The recreational fishery for red drum is a nearshore fishery, targeting small “puppy drum” in shallow estuarine waters and large trophy fish along the Mid- and South Atlantic barrier islands. Harvest is restricted by minimum and maximum size limits and a daily trip limit. Due to strict commercial measures, the establishment of gamefish status in some states, and the great popularity of red drum by anglers, recreational fishing has accounted for over 90% of all Atlantic coast red drum landings (by pounds) since 1982 and over 96% since 2011. Anglers from Florida through Virginia take most, if not all, of the coastwide annual recreational harvests. Annual harvests have historically ranged between 700,000 and 1.3 million fish per year, with the exception of some larger harvests in the mid-1980s. However, from 2011 to 2020, recreational harvests have all exceeded 1.5 million fish, and recreational harvests in five years (2013, 2014, 2016, 2017, and 2018) have exceeded 2 million fish. Meanwhile, recreational catch (harvest and releases) has increased over time, meaning that the percentage of fish that are caught and released has increased from about 6% in 1982 to more than 86% in 2021. Based on studies of mortality rates following release from gears common to the red drum recreational fishery, the most recent assessment assumed that 8% of fish released by the recreational fishery die.

Atlantic Coastal Management

For close to two decades, red drum were jointly managed by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (state waters, 0-3 miles from shore) and the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council; federal waters, 3-200 miles from shore). The first interstate plan was developed in 1984. In 1990, the Council’s plan closed federal waters to red drum harvest, and a 1998 amendment revised definitions for optimum yield and overfishing. Amendments to the interstate plan occurred in 1991 and 2002, partly in response to the Council Plan and Amendment. Following the implementation of Amendment 2 in 2003, the Council recommended transferring the authority for managing red drum in federal waters to the Commission. Two reasons for this decision were that all harvest is taken in state waters and that, due to data deficiencies, a rebuilding schedule for the federal plan could not be set as required by law. The transfer of authority became effective in late 2008. It does not affect the red drum harvest prohibition in federal waters. The primary management goal of Amendment 2 is to achieve and maintain the stock’s spawning potential at a level capable of sustaining the population. To achieve this goal, the plan further restricted the recreational fishery and maintained existing commercial regulations. The management approach is intended to increase the escapement of inshore juvenile fish to the offshore adult population, and protect the adult population from exploitation. Atlantic states from Florida through New Jersey implemented appropriate bag and size limits as required, including a maximum size limit of 27 inches total length. The Amendment also encourages those states outside the management unit (i.e., New York through Maine) to implement supportive measures to protect the red drum resource. In 2013, Addendum I to Amendment 2 described red drum spawning habitats and designated several areas that are important spawning and nursery grounds for red drum as habitats of concern. This Addendum helps states to identify important areas that require monitoring to preserve the red drum stocks. Similarly, a report on Sciaenid Fish Habitat was released in 2017 with information on habitat for several species, including red drum, during all stages of their lives, their associated Essential Fish Habitats and Habitat Areas of Particular Concern, threats and uncertainties to their habitats, and recommendations for habitat management and research. This report is meant to be a resource when amending Fishery Management Plans in

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the future for these species.

Stock Status

The 2017 Red Drum Stock Assessment and Peer Review Report indicated overfishing is not occurring for red drum in either the northern (North Carolina-New Jersey) or southern (South Carolina-Florida) stocks. The assessment was unable to determine an overfished/not overfished status because population abundance could not be reliably estimated due to limited data for the older fish (ages 4+) that are not typically harvested due to the current fishery measures (slot-limits). The assessment estimates annual static spawning potential ratios (sSPR) measured against previously established reference points for red drum. Overfishing is occurring if the three-year average sSPR is less than a threshold of 30%. The stock is managed to a target of 40% sSPR. sSPR is a measure of spawning stock biomass survival rates when fished at the current year’s fishing mortality rate. To limit impacts of extremely productive or unproductive individual years, this assessment used 3-year averages rather than single years relative to the spawning stock biomass survival rates if no fishing mortality was occurring. In 2013 (the last year for which data were available), the three-year (2011-2013) average sSPR was 43.8% for the northern stock and 53.5% for the southern stock, both above the target and threshold values. Age-1 recruitment, or the number of fish spawned the previous fall, has fluctuated around averages of 476,579 and 1.57 million fish in the northern and southern stocks, respectively. In more recent years, the largest recruitment occurred in 2012 for the northern stock and 2010 for the southern stock. Red drum is currently in the process of undergoing a new benchmark stock assessment. In 2020, the Sciaenids Management Board (Board) approved the development of a new methodology to simulate the full red drum population. The simulated population has been used to test a variety of assessment modeling techniques to identify the model(s) best suited for tracking red drum population dynamics and most applicable for the next benchmark stock assessment. Due to the work and modeling expertise needed for the simulation assessment, the benchmark assessment has been postponed until 2024. The Simulation Assessment and Review Report will be considered by the Board in May 2022, and the preferred model(s) will be used in future benchmark assessments to provide advice to the Board on red drum management. For more information, please contact Tracey Bauer, FMP Coordinator, at tbauer@asmfc.org.

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TROUBLED WATERS:

A MASSIVE SALMON FARM OFF THE COAST OF MAINE IS STALLED Caitlin Looby, RFA member • Norwegian-backed American Aquafarms was slated to build the largest salmon farm in North America along the coast of the U.S. state of Maine, using a closed-pen system said to minimize waste. • But opponents say the closed-pen technology is untested at such a large scale, and warn that environmental impacts will devastate the pristine waters. • The proposed salmon farm would have been right at the shorelines of Acadia National Park, threatening the region’s untarnished views and noise pollution. • Currently, the project is indefinitely delayed as state officials terminated the lease application on April 19th. However, with Maine leasing the ocean for only $100 an acre ($250 a hectare) per year, opponents worry that future investors will see the coast as a lucrative target. The summit of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park in the northeastern U.S. state of Maine offers sweeping, unobstructed views of Frenchman Bay. Surrounded by islands and rocky shorelines, the bay is known throughout Maine for recreation and resources. But new projects may lie over the horizon. American Aquafarms, backed by Norwegian investors, planned to build the largest salmon farm in North America here, just on the edge of Acadia National Park. And lobstermen, like Jerry Potter, say they feared that if the project went through, the pristine waters of Frenchman Bay would never be the same. “It’s going to ruin the ecosystem of the bay and ruin all the resources … mussels, shrimp, lobsters, crabs, everything,” said Potter, 76, from the nearby town of Gouldsboro. American Aquafarms first proposed the salmon farm in 2020, in hopes that they would produce 30 million metric tons of salmon each year. The farm would also curb the U.S. reliance on imported seafood, according to Tom Brennan, the director of project management at American Aquafarms. The US currently imports 70-85% of its seafood, about half of which is produced through aquaculture. But the massive project is now indefinitely delayed. On April 19, 2022, state officials terminated American Aquafarm’s application, citing that American Aquafarms failed to provide documentation that the egg source proposed to stock the pens would meet state requirements. In Maine, genetically modified fish cannot be used to stock salmon pens, however American Aquafarms proposed to work with the company that created the first genetically modified Atlantic salmon. Brennan is shocked by the decision, stating that the company also included eggs from the USDA as a backup plan in the proposal. That facility was established to provide eggs to salmon growers in Maine, he adds.

The view of Frenchman Bay and the Porcupine Islands at the summit of Champlain Mountain in Acadia National Park. Image courtesy of Sam Mallon/Friends of Acadia. Opponents, like Matt Dundas, campaign director for Oceana, a non-profit organization focused on ocean conservation, are pleased with the news. “The salmon farm proposal was way too big for the area… the consequences hitting the fisherman, lobsterman and everyone else who lives and visits the area,” he says. “For now, this is a great development for Maine’s coasts.” Opponents claimed that the project would come at a major cost to the coastal environment and the working waterfront. And some warn that Maine’s low costs and lax regulations might open the door for other industrial-scale projects down the line, even if this one doesn’t go through. Because American Aquafarms no longer has any permit applications in review, Frenchman Bay United asked in a statement that the “investors end the project completely.” They also stated that the town of Gouldsboro is planning to enact a set of ordinances that would regulate similar operations in local waters. American Aquafarms can re-apply in the future, but it will likely add two or three years to the permitting process. Although conversations still need to occur with the investors, Brennan hopes to solve the issue. “This is not the end. We’re not going anywhere,” he says. The trails at Acadia National Park, like the Champlain North Ridge Trail, offer

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continued from page 27 views of Frenchman Bay. Image courtesy of Lily LaRegina/Friends of Acadia.

‘They’re targeting where they are’

Historically, salmon farms relied on an open-pen design where waste falls to the ocean floor, damaging both the environment and its resources. The American Aquafarms project, however, proposed a closed-pen design that would collect the solid waste and periodically remove it to land, where a bioreactor would turn it into biofuel or compost, Brennan said. The project would have extended over two 60-acre (24-hectare) areas, each housing one pen and mooring lines. Frenchman Bay once teemed with fish, but “those fisheries are gone,” Brennan said. “What we’re proposing to do is raise fish where they should be.” The Norwegian-backed investor group chose Frenchman Bay for its clean, cold and deep water, which is needed to keep the salmon free from disease and parasites that thrive in shallower, warmer water. Crystal Canney, executive director for Protect Maine’s Fishing Heritage Foundation, said they were taking advantage of low costs and poor oversight. Maine is currently offering up to 20-year leases for $100 an acre, or about $250 a hectare. So the rent for a 120-acre farm only costs the group $12,000 annually. “Maine’s a cheap date,” Canney said. “We are selling our coasts for next to nothing and it’s one of the greatest assets we have.”

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Norway is using the closed-pen design successfully, according to Brennan, albeit many companies opt for a combination of the closed and open designs because of the high cost of the closed-pen design. However, the closed pens in Norway are much smaller than the one proposed for Frenchman Bay, and an operation the size of the American Aquafarms’ project has never been tested, said Dundas. It’s even several times larger than the maximum sized allowed in Norway, he added. To put the size of this operation into perspective, Henry Sharpe, a retired engineer and president of Frenchman Bay United, says that if the stalled operation were to produce its proposed 30 million metric tons of salmon each year that would equal about half of all the farm-raised fish grown annually in Eastern Canada. “They’ve done their homework,” said Potter. “That’s why they’re targeting where they are.”

‘Half-truths,’ footprints and nitrogen

The American Aquafarms project would have posed a threat to water quality and biosecurity, Sharpe said. The two pens alone would have created more than 18 billion liters (4 billion gallons) of wastewater every day, approximately three times the treated wastewater from New York City’s 14 sewage treatment plants. And this is particularly problematic for Frenchman Bay, because it doesn’t flush water out like bays typically do, Sharpe says. The bay is surrounded by a chain of islands that act as a fence on the sea floor, so any pollutants that are generated there likely won’t leave. And although American Aquafarms contended that it would collect all the solid waste, Sharpe says this is a “half-truth.” He says that when the solid waste is removed, they use a sludge dewatering press that acts like a cider press, squeezing the liquid out, diluting it with seawater and then releasing it back into the water. That liquid will be chockfull of nitrogen, a major pollutant, Sharpe says. Nitrogen can create harmful algal blooms that suck the oxygen out of the water, killing marine life and shutting down waters for recreation or work. The main problem is the nitrogen load, according to Sharpe, not the solid waste. “They’re not collecting the thing that’s of concern,” he noted. Sharpe added that he was also concerned about disease, given that large populations of salmon would have been raised in tight quarters. The likelihood of sudden losses is high, he said. But Brennan said the regulations in place would have prevented the environmental toll that worries opposition groups. There are hundreds of cruise ships that go into Frenchman Bay each summer that will leave a bigger footprint than American Aquafarms will, he said. But many locals remained unconvinced.

The American Aquafarms project will produce 30 million metric tons of salmon each year using a closed-pen design. The design collects the solid waste, which will be removed to land periodically, reducing damage to the environment, says Tom Brennan of American Aquafarms. Image courtesy of American Aquafarms.

“Maine is already a leading fishing industry,” Dundas said. “Why risk something that is working with something that isn’t tested?”

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A lobster boat floats near the Porcupine Islands in Frenchman Bay. Image courtesy of Ashley L. Conti/Friends of Acadia.

state, Brennan said. As a part of the project, American Aquafarms planned to rebuild the Stinson Sardine Factory that started processing fish during the Civil War and turn it into a salmon-processing plant and hatchery. Brennan said he believes that if the project doesn’t go through, the factory will be turned into luxury condos. And with much of the coast now taken up by private land, people don’t have access to the coast like they once did, he added.

At the doorstep of Acadia National Park

Brennan said American Aquafarms would be the biggest property taxpayer in the area, bringing in jobs and becoming a big bait supplier, benefiting both fishermen and lobstermen.

In this part of Maine, the economy isn’t only based on natural resources, like fisheries and aquaculture, but also on water recreation and tourism, says Stephanie Clement, conservation director at Friends of Acadia, a nonprofit and philanthropic partner of Acadia National Park. Acadia National Park was the first national park established east of the Mississippi River (designated a national monument in 1916 and a national park three years later) and received around 4 million visitors in 2021. The park is known for its granite mountains, rocky coastlines and carriage roads that weave around the mountains and valleys. “This park is very interconnected with the local communities and the local economy,” Clement says. If the American Aquaculture’s project had gone ahead, it would have turned “a picturesque oasis into an industrial site,” Dundas said. One of the proposed pens would have been 600 meters (2,000 feet) from the shoreline of Long Porcupine Island, which is part of the national park, Clement said. The islands in Frenchman Bay are known for their conservation value: dark night skies, scenic beauty, natural soundscapes, and non-polluted waters, she added. “The American Aquafarms proposal has the chance to really degrade those conservation values,” Clement said, noting that the project would have also caused noise pollution in the park due to

The working waterfront

Dundas and Sharpe said that the environmental impacts may have also threatened to push out the fishermen, lobstermen and small-scale aquaculture farmers. “When you have a project of this scale, the characters and complexion of the working waterfront changes from locally owned or operated to foreigninvestor based,” Sharpe said. “It has a real impact to the social fabric of the community.” But Brennan contended that the working waterfront is already disappearing. Like in many coastal towns, the real-estate market is hot right now. And Maine’s coastal properties often sell sight unseen to people from out of

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American Aquafarms also plans to build a processing facility, hatchery and dock, which will bring jobs to the area, says company representative Tom Brennan. Image courtesy of American Aquafarms.

‘A situation of winners and losers’

Even with the American Aquafarms project on the ropes, Clement says she’s concerned that other similar proposals will keep coming. That’s why Friends of Acadia is working toward either long-term regulations or new legislation that can stop this from happening again, she says. And although there’s a lot of local opposition, this really is a statewide issue, Sharpe says. He adds that if this project goes through, investors will be “flocking to Maine” because the opportunity is so financially rewarding. “I don’t think it’s resonated with the rest of Maine yet,” Sharpe said. “This thing matters to all of Maine, not just the Frenchman Bay area.” Canney also say the project would have been contrary to the state’s climate change goals, given it would bring more large diesel-powered ships into these waters. However, Brennan believes the project is in line with the state’s economic goals laid out by the governor. Dundas still feels “watchful” over the next steps American Aquafarms might take. Had the application been rejected based on pollution, it would have been much harder for them to come back, he says. “There’s still work to be done to protect Maine’s coasts.”



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RFA NEWS BRIEFS 2022 RECREATIONAL COD, HADDOCK REGS DELAYED …AGAIN. For the fourth year in a row, the National Marine Fisheries Service is delaying the annual implementation of regulations for recreational and for-hire Gulf of Maine cod and haddock. The 2022 regs were supposed to go into effect on May 1st. In a press release dated April 29th, NMFS stated that the 2021 measures will go into effect at the start of the fishing season, and that the new regulations “may be implemented later in the 2022 fishing year.” The expected new regulations, recommended by the New England Fishery Management Council back in February, would extend the open season for cod for all modes (private boat, party and charter) from Sept. 1st through October 7th, yet the minimum size would be increased from 21” to 22”. The bag limit would remain at one fish per person per day. The haddock season would remain the same (year-round except for March), but the daily bag limit would be increased from 15 to 20 fish. Minimum size would remain at 17”. This delay particularly hurts the for-hire sector, as the expected 20-fish bag limit would do a lot to increase business for party and charter boats, and is something these operators have lobbied hard for May is a strong month for groundfish trips, so the for-hire sector will miss out on the extra revenue. There is no telling when the regulations will be implemented, but in the past several years it has not happened until mid-summer. These delays, especially when regulations are to be relaxed somewhat, appear to be emblematic of NMFS’ continued indifference to the recreational and forhire sectors. NMFS gives no explanation for the delay, but one thing is for certain – the agency would never treat the commercial sector this way.

NEW DOLPHINFISH RECREATIONAL REGULATIONS START MAY 1 IN ATLANTIC STATE WATERS Starting May 1, the following regulations will go into effect for recreational harvest of dolphinfish in Atlantic state waters: • Five fish per person daily recreational bag limit. • 30 fish per vessel private recreational daily vessel limit. These new regulations are a proactive conservation measure intended to help address stakeholder concerns regarding declines in the dolphinfish fishery, which are supported by FWC recreational landings analyses in southeast Florida and the Florida Keys. FWC continues to work with the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council to revisit recreational dolphinfish limits in Atlantic federal waters. For current recreational dolphinfish regulations, visit MyFWC.com/ Marine and click on “Recreational Regulations” and “Dolphinfish.”

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FWC MODIFIES 2022 BLUELINE TILEFISH RECREATIONAL SEASON FOR ATLANTIC STATE WATERS At its May meeting, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved a temporary modification to the 2022 recreational blueline tilefish season in Atlantic state waters. The 2022 recreational season for blueline tilefish will be open May 1 - July 25 in state waters, closing July 26. Typically, the blueline tilefish season is open May 1 - Aug. 31 in Atlantic state and federal waters. However, NOAA Fisheries projects that the recreational catch limit will be met by July 26 and is closing the fishery to prevent overfishing from occurring. Modifications to the recreational season in state waters is consistent with the recent changes in federal waters. For more information, including the May 2022 Commission meeting presentation, visit MyFWC.com/Commission and click on “Commission Meetings.” For current recreational blueline tilefish regulations, visit MyFWC.com/ Marine and click on “Recreational Regulations” and “Blueline tilefish.” This page will be updated with the new regulations when they take effect.

FWC APPROVES COBIA RULE CHANGES FOR STATE WATERS At its May meeting, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved regulation changes for cobia in state waters. Changes effective July 1, 2022, include: • Increasing the minimum size limit from 33 inches to 36 inches fork length for all state waters. • Reducing the commercial bag limit from two to one fish per harvester per day for Atlantic state waters. • Reducing the recreational and commercial vessel limit from six to two fish per vessel per day for Atlantic state waters. These changes are consistent with pending regulations in Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic federal waters. A recent stock assessment determined the cobia stock is undergoing overfishing, and as a result, reductions in current harvest are needed. These changes for commercial and recreational harvesters in state and federal waters are necessary to end overfishing, improve stock abundance and ensure future cobia fishing opportunities. For more information, including the May 2022 Commission meeting presentation, visit MyFWC.com/Commission and click on “Commission Meetings.” For current recreational cobia regulations, visit MyFWC.com/Marine and click on “Recreational Regulations” and “Cobia.” This page will be updated with the new regulations when they take effect.



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ASMFC APPROVES ATLANTIC STRIPED BASS AMENDMENT 7 May 9, 2022 Arlington, VA – The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission approved Amendment 7 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for Atlantic Striped Bass. The Amendment establishes new requirements for the following components of the FMP: management triggers, conservation equivalency, measures to address recreational release mortality, and the stock rebuilding plan. The last striped bass stock assessment found the stock was overfished and that overfishing was occurring. This finding required the Board to end overfishing within one year and rebuild the stock by 2029. Amendment 7 strengthens the Commission’s ability to reach the rebuilding goal by implementing a more conservative recruitment trigger, providing more formal guidance around uncertainty in the management process, and implementing measures designed to reduce recreational release mortality. This Amendment builds upon the Addendum VI action to address overfishing and initiate rebuilding in response to the assessment findings. “On behalf of the Board, I would like to thank everyone who contributed to this amendment process over the past few years to address these critically important management issues. This includes ASMFC staff, and the state and federal partners who served on all the various committees involved in the development of Amendment 7, as well as the Advisory Panel. I would especially like to acknowledge former Board Chair David Borden of Rhode Island for his leadership throughout much of the process,” stated Board Chair Marty Gary with the Potomac River Fisheries Commission. “Stakeholders clearly voiced their dedication and commitment to the conservation of this species through the thousands of comments we received. The Board is grateful for this tremendous public participation and believe that the actions we took through Amendment 7 are reflective of the majority of stakeholders’ priorities. The Board remains focused on rebuilding this iconic species.” Amendment 7 establishes an updated recruitment management trigger, which determines when the Board is required to make management adjustments based on striped bass young-of-the-year data. The updated recruitment trigger is more sensitive to low recruitment than the previous trigger, and it requires a specific management response to low year class strength. The response requires reevaluation of the fishing mortality management triggers to account for low recruitment. If one of those triggers trips after reevaluation, the Board is required to take action to reduce fishing mortality. Amendment 7 also updates the spawning stock biomass triggers by establishing a deadline for implementing a rebuilding plan. The Board must implement a rebuilding plan within two years of when a spawning stock biomass trigger is tripped. For conservation equivalency (CE), which provides states the flexibility to tailor management measures, Amendment 7 does not allow CE to be used for most recreational striped bass fisheries when the stock is overfished. Amendment 7 also provides constraints around the use of Marine

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Recreational Information Program data for CE proposals and defines the overall percent reduction/liberalization a proposal must achieve, including required uncertainty buffers. These restrictions are intended to minimize the risks due to uncertainty when CE is used for non-quota managed striped bass fisheries. Since recreational release mortality is a large component of annual fishing mortality, Amendment 7 establishes a new gear restriction which prohibits gaffing striped bass when fishing recreationally. This new restriction, along with the existing circle hook requirement when fishing recreationally with bait, are intended to increase the chance of survival after a striped bass is released alive. Additionally, Amendment 7 requires striped bass caught on any unapproved method of take (e.g., caught on a J-hook with bait) must be returned to the water immediately without unnecessary injury. This provision, which is related to incidental catch, was previously a recommendation in Addendum VI to Amendment 6. For stock rebuilding, Amendment 7 addresses the upcoming 2022 stock assessment and how it will inform efforts to meet the 2029 stock rebuilding deadline. Given concerns about recent low recruitment and the possibility of continued low recruitment, Amendment 7 requires the 2022 stock assessment’s rebuilding projections to use a low recruitment assumption to conservatively account for that future possibility. Amendment 7 also establishes a mechanism for the Board to respond more quickly to the 2022 assessment results if action is needed to achieve stock rebuilding by 2029. All provisions of Amendment 7 are effective immediately except for gear restrictions. States must implement gear restrictions by January 1, 2023. Amendment 7 will be available on the Commission’s website, http://www. asmfc.org/species/atlantic-striped-bass, by the end of May. For more information, please contact Emilie Franke, Fishery Management Plan Coordinator, at efranke@asmfc.org or 703.842.0740.



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NJ ADOPTS “SLOT” LIMIT ON FLUKE & SETS SEA BASS & PORGY REGS April 8, 2022 | Jim Hutchinson, Jr. At an April 7th virtual hearing of the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council (Council), the 2022 summer flounder, black sea bass and porgy regulations were finally set. On the fluke front, out of four potential options approved by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) and moved forward by the Council’s advisory committee which met during the final week of March, the Council voted to make New Jersey the first state along the Atlantic Coast to ever have a “slot” option on fluke. After a series of procedural votes – and continuing technological glitches – the council voted to implement a May 2 to September 27 fluke season with a two-fish slot possession limit from 17 to 17.99 inches, with one fish at 18 inches or greater. The so-called “Option 2” was not the preferred option of the Council’s advisors (three fluke at 17-1/2 inches with a May 21 to September 23 season), but during the public comment portion the unique slot option was favored by members of the public by a nearly 2-1 ratio. The final approval of the slot option came by way of a 6-2 vote by the Council. There was plenty of discussion amongst members of the public in support of a slot fish; option two in particular would allow pressure to be taken off larger, breeding-sized fluke while also extending the season. “Biologically speaking, it’s a good concept,” said Peter Clarke with the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife (Division) of the slot option for fluke. “By focusing on a smaller fish the discards would be diminished and discard mortality would be converted to harvest,” Clarke said, noting that the slot would also direct harvest towards a smaller size class that was more plentiful. In addition to allowing for two smaller keepers measuring from 17 to 17.99 inches, the slot option also curried favor due to the longer length of season, with the 149 days of open season representing a 28-day increase over 2021. As for the two special fluke management zones in New Jersey – two fluke at 16 inches at Island Beach State Park, and three summer flounder at 17 inches west of the COLREGS on Delaware Bay – the Council voted to leave those limits stand for 2022. In terms of black sea bass, to meet the federally required 20% reduction

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in coastwide black sea bass harvest, the Council unanimously approved a recreational 13-inch size limit on black sea bass sacross the board with an open season from May 17 through June 19 and a 10-fish bag limit; July 1 through August 31 with a two-fish bag; October 7 through October 26 with a 10-fish bag; and November 1 through December 31 with a 15-fish possession limit. Most members of the public who voiced opinions during the black sea bass portion of the meeting voted in favor of this particular option due the total length of season (177 days), though one concern brought up on this option had to do with the increase in size limit over 2021 and the potential for increasing overall harvest through higher mortality rates on released short fish. While the meeting was scheduled to begin at 5 p.m., Council and Division staffers spent the first several minutes performing technological testing and communications debugging; that hearing was actually kicked off by Chairman Dick Herb at 5:07 p.m. Continued issues with the GoToWebinar “virtual” hearing however restricted some members of the public from commenting during the four-hour session, and Chairman Herb himself was dropped from the meeting several times before other Council members and Division staffers had to take up the “virtual” gavel. The Council also approved a 1-inch size limit increase on porgies which was required by NOAA Fisheries throughout the Atlantic Coast. In New Jersey, that means a 10-inch size limit on porgies will go into effect for 2022, with a 50 fish bag limit and no closed season. Approximately 150 members of the fishing public had signed in go GoToWebinar by the time the fluke discussion began at roughly 5:15 p.m., though there were about 190 attendees at one point during that discussion. By the time the black sea bass vote commenced at 8:28 p.m. 126 attendees were still tuned in for the online presentation. While the Council’s approval of the 2022 options will effectively represent the final regulations for the 2022 season, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Division ultimately have to make it all official through statute.




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SUSTAINING PARTNERSHIPS Sustaining Partners are the backbone of the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) and provide us with a steady source of revenue so we can do our job and protect our community’s right to fish. As a Sustaining Partner, your recurring contribution not only puts your organization in front of a national audience, but it’s your badge of honor, demonstrating your support for the RFA’s goals and objectives. We need your help to keep moving our shared agenda forward on both a state and national level, working to protect your rights as saltwater anglers. Most importantly, Sustaining Partners have the satisfaction of knowing they are always actively doing their part to keep RFA thriving. Saltwater fishing is one of the most popular outdoor recreational activities in the United States. In 2021, more than 14.5 million Americans flocked to the nation’s waterways to engage in saltwater fishing activities, marking the highest fishing participation rate in over a decade. Saltwater fishing participation continued its upward trend, growing nearly 3% per year for the each of the last three years. (takemefising.org) At RFA, we are launching a freemium membership providing Sustaining Partners reach to potentially 14.5 million saltwater anglers in the United States through RFA’s communications, social media, website, fishing tournaments, boat shows and other opportunities. The recreational saltwater fishing sector in the United States was valued at $72 billion with another $41 billion in value-added (noaa. gov 2018) illustrating fishing enthusiasts’ strong economic impact in their communities and the need for the RFA to continue to battle the policies that will impact the industry.

RFA Fast Facts • • • • • •

According to our recent survey, 73% of RFA Supporters fish 25 to 50 days per year vs the 13.1 days per year national average 34% fish 50 or more days per year 66% earn more than $50K, 31% earn more than $100K 71% of RFA Supporters own a boat 70% fish the Mid-Atlantic Region (NY-NC) Saltwater anglers are 69% Male & 31% Female

Please join as a Sustaining Partner by contacting Lorna O’Hara at LOhara@joinrfa.org or by calling 609.209.9959.


RFA BOARD OF DIRECTORS

CHAIRMAN ROBERT T. HEALEY JR.

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BOARD MEMBERS ANDREW SEMPREVIVO

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ANDY DORMOIS

AmeraTrail Trailers

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Hi-Liner/Diamond Fishing Products

BOB SHOMO JR.

Johnson and Towers Inc

JIM MOTSKO

Ocean City White Marlin Open

JOHN DEPERSENAIRE

Viking Yacht Company

MARTIN PETERS

Yamaha Marine Group

MIKE LEECH

World Cup Blue Marlin Tournament

NICK CICERO

Folsom Corporation

PAT HEALEY

Viking Yacht Company

ROBERT SHERRIFF

Viking Group

TONY NOVELLI

Contender Boats


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MAKING WAVES SUMMER EDITION 2022

OUR MISSION Anti-fishing groups and radical environmental interests are pushing an agenda on marine fisheries issues affecting America’s saltwater anglers. At the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA), we’re pushing back to protect your right to fish! Incorporated in 1996 as a 501(c)(4) national, grassroots political action organization, RFA is in the trenches, lobbying, educating decision makers and ensuring that the interests of America’s coastal anglers are being heard loud and clear. Click here to learn more about what we’re up against, and why joining the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) is so important when it comes to protecting your right to fish. As your watchdog, RFA understands what recreational fishing is worth to you – we were founded specifically to represent 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 for the overall RFA 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 fisheries.”

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