Making Waves - Winter 2015

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MakingWaves Waves Winter Winter2015 2015 Making

The Official Publication of the Recreational Fishing Alliance


Someone will Start the New Year in a New Contender ! Will it be YOU? Bluefin Tuna—Everyman’s Big Game How Old is that Fish? Flexibility—It’s Not a Dirty Word Winter 2015


Making Waves Winter 2015



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FROM THE PUBLISHER’S DESK By Gary Caputi A Time for Reflection—A Time for Looking Ahead


erry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Seasons Greeting from your friends at the Recreational Fishing Alliance. Whatever your religion, ethnicity or heritage we wish you peace and glad tidings with family and friends and hope your New Year will be blessed with good health and prosperity. Year end is a time for reflection, looking back at accomplishments and what could have beens. The RFA and it’s members have a lot to be thankful for as 2015 saw the formation of a coalition of recreational fishing organizations of all stripe with members of the fishing tackle and marine industry to finally get on the same page and press for meaningful reform of the Magnuson Stevens Fisheries Conservation Act. Not surprisingly, most of the positions adopted by the group were the positions the RFA has been advocating for since the last reauthorization of the MSA way back in 2007. We say to one and all, welcome aboard, let’s get the job done! Also during 2015 support from a growing number of companies and corporations in the industry has expanded. Certainly not widely enough yet, but when the National Marine Manufacturers Association, the trade organization for the recreational marine industry, comes on board there’s a lot to be proud of. Another notable supporter is Yamaha Marine USA whose executive staff have seen the value in a strong RFA to the sport, the resource and the sport. There are others too numerous to mention including all the companies you see advertising in Making Waves. Looking ahead, 2016 promise to be a difficult year with presidential politics front and center, but it is the exact time we have to be out front with Congress positioning the MSA reform bill that already passed the House for passage in the Senate and, hopefully, a signing by the new administration. We need your help more than ever so in the spirit of the season don’t forget to maintain your membership and donate generously to the cause!

INSIDE THIS ISSUE From the Publisher’s Desk


Executive Director’s Report: Flexibility: Why It’s Needed


Still Time To Win a New Yamahapowered Contender


Breaking Legislative News: RFA-Viking Yachts Host Sen. Cory Booker


The Players: Are They With Us or Against Us


Bluefin Tuna— Everyman’s Big Game


Breaking Conservation 22 News: Good News for Striped Bass How Old is that Fish?


Chapter Updates: and News


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Executive Director’s Report By Jim Donofrio



ish live in a dynamic environment that is vast, unseen, and even today a good portion of it remains only partially explored and modestly understood. Fishery managers use various methods to try and gain knowledge of fish stocks, and in the process they toss around terms like VPA (virtual population analysis), their attempt to use statistical models to count fish in the ocean and coastal waters. Unfortunately, VPA and other stock assessment methodologies are anything but reliable because they frequently incorporate inaccurate harvest data in the mix. By law, much of what makes up these methodologies is based on the “best available science,” a Washington, D.C. weasel-term for any science that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) decides it’s going to use for management purposes, although it might be, as the National Research Council described facets of it a while back, “fatally flawed.” Fishermen, on the other hand,

measure availability by what is observed through traditional harvesting practices, and what they see out on the water. Much of the time this head-on contradicts what managers observe in their computer models. Weather, wind, ocean currents, and boat movements all play a critical role in fisheries and fisheries science, and can contribute to information that may well be far removed from being the “best” science. This is where flexibility needs to be applied when determining quotas, seasons, and bag and size limits. Fishermen are further burdened by another D.C-created weasel-term “the precautionary approach,” often used in management. The precautionary approach is a one-way street with no cushion, used by managers to justify restrictions on fishermen that may not otherwise be scientifically warranted. Traditional data collection in the recreational sector was called MRFFS, now called MRIIP, but either way the process punishes sport fishermen

as stocks grow larger and more robust by giving our sector less quota and less access to healthy populations of fish. None of this makes sense to industry members from the boatbuilding, tackle, and forhire trades who depend upon recreational access to fish to keep their businesses viable. RFA supports HR 1335, which the House passed, a bill that would give us the flexibility we need to obtain better access to healthy and growing fish stocks while still ensuring that our stock rebuilding and conservation goals are not compromised. Please contact your U.S. Senators and have them look at the language contained in HR 1335. This bill needs bipartisan support in the Senate and then needs to be enacted. The future of recreational fishing and the health of the recreational fishing industry will depend upon it.

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Making Waves Winter 2015


Official Drawing Feb. 20, 2016


he drawing for the most awesome raffle prize in RFA history is scheduled for February 20, 2016 on the floor of the Atlantic City Boat Show. There is no more fitting place for some lucky person to win a great new fishing boat to start off the New Year! And winning comes with no strings attached meaning you will not be responsible for paying any sales tax on the value of this amazing boat. Just pick it up, sign the transfer papers and it’s your! Interested? Do you want to take a chance or maybe purchase some more chances to win. The odds are fantastic, the prize, well just read on.

a total package value of over $85,000! The prize boat, Contender’s brand new 22’ Sport center console, has a classy ice-blue hull and a custom embroidered cushion package featuring the RFA logo, a deluxe T-top with rod holders, a leaning post and that famous Contender ride. It’s powered by a Yamaha F300 four-stroke outboard, Yamaha’s top-of-the-line big-block V6. The combination of hull and engine is blazing fast and the ideal package to provide a quick, comfortable, safe ride to the fishing grounds.

The winner will be towing his boat in style on the best trailer in the industry, a custom AmeraTrail Time is winding down for your chance to win the dual-axle aluminum drive on trailer with mag this amazing fundraising raffle that gives you the wheels. All AmeraTrail aluminum boat trailers feaopportunity to support the RFA and possibly win ture heavy aluminum I-beam construction, alumia Contender 22 Sport center console fishing boat num cross braces, aluminum bunk brackets, galpowered by a Yamaha F300 outboard and an vanized torsion axles and hubs with super-lube AmeraTrail custom aluminum trailer valued with

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removable spindles. You can buy tickets NOW through a special page on the RFA website ( win-a-22-contender. Single tickets cost $25 or you can increase your chances to win and your donation to the RFA by purchasing tickets in blocks of five for $100. The site accepts credit cards and PayPal payments. Ticket stubs will be mailed when you purchase online.

You could be heading to the fishing grounds in a new Contender 22 Sport If you would like to for a modest donation to the Recreational Fishing Alliance. obtain bulk tickets for club meetings or events please contact the RFA office at 888-JOIN you can distribute to members who wish to enter. RFA for details. We will send you a package that They simply tear off the stub and send the remaining portion of the ticket to the RFA, P.O. Box 3080, New Gretna, NJ 08824 along with a check for the tickets. Remember, the RFA is a political action organization with a 19 year track record of working to protect your right to fish. Its mission is 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. Now more than ever the RFA needs the support of a growing grassroots army of anglers and this raffle is a fun way to make a donation and take a chance at winning an amazing prize! All proceeds from the raffle benefit the Recreational Fishing Alliance (Registration Identification: 22-5-39533 RL# 39572015). The drawing will be held on February 20, 2016 at the New Jersey Boat Expo in Edison, NJ. You must be 21 years of age to win and all applicable taxes are the responsibility of the winner. If gambling is a problem for you or someone in your family dial 1-800-GAMBLER.

To learn more about the RFA and to join go to

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BREAKING LEGISLATIVE NEWS RFA and Viking Yachts Host U.S. Senator Cory Booker Visit illuminates impacts of recreational fishing on southern New Jersey and need for amendment of federal fisheries law


ew Gretna, NJ - U.S. Senator Cory Booker (DN.J.) visited the Viking Yachts facility last week to observe firsthand the impact that recreational fishing and the marine industry have on south Jersey and to discuss fishery issues.

significant investment made by Viking and other fishing businesses in terms of manufacturing infrastructure and employees confirms that no one in the recreational sector has an interest in compromising conservation or catching the last fish. Jeff Gabriel, Legislative In touring the facility, Sen. Book- Counsel for the National Marine er spoke with laminators, electri- Manufactures and Martin Peters, cians, plumbers, carpenters and Government Relations Manager, many of the other 1,300 crafts- Yamaha Motor Group, who men involved the production of were also in attendance corroborated how important fisheries Viking's line of fishing boats. Hosted by Viking Yachts issues are to their members and President Pat Healey and Recre- businesses. ational Fishing Alliance (RFA) Viking specializes in boats used Executive Director Jim Donofrio, to target offshore species, howthe purpose of the visit was to ever, Senate Booker, ranking illustrate how intertwined fishmember on the Senate Oceans, ing and the jobs associated with Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast fishing are with southern Jersey Guard Subcommittee, acknowlcommunities. In addition, how edged the connection that all federal fisheries laws need to be fishermen share and the signifiamended to strike a balance be- cant economic impact generattween the long term sustainabil- ed across all recreational fisherity of our nation's marine reies. source and the needs of the rec- Discussions ensued about the reational fishing community. pending reductions for the sumPat Healey pointed out that the mer flounder fishery in 2016

which is New Jersey's largest recreational fishery. The RFA has gone on the record that NOAA has the legal discretion to set the 2016 quota above the recommendation put forward by the Mid Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC). The summer flounder fishery spans all income levels, ages, and experience levels which is why it inseparably linked to Jersey's multi-billion dollar tourism industry. (Click here to read Senator Booker’s Letter) "It is encouraging to have Senator Booker taking an interest and getting engaged in these issues," stated Healey. "Magnuson reauthorization and summer flounder are the most pressing issues for fishermen in New Jersey. Summer flounder is the most important in-shore fishing we have for our anglers and our marine trades." The RFA continues to work with a coalition of industry leaders that includes the American Sportfishing Association, the Center for Coastal Conservation,

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the Coastal Conservation Associ- water. I'm confident that Sena- lative that benefits anglers, boatation, the NMMA, Yamaha Motor Booker is capable of provid- ers, and ultimately, the country." tor Group and others to advance ing that leadership and that he The Senate Commerce, Science common sense amendments to understands the importance of and Transportation Committee the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery the recreational boating and held a markup hearing on June Conservation and Management fishing industry not only to the 25, 2015. Among the bills disAct (MSA) which is currently un- nation's GDP, but to the benefit cussed was S1403, The Florida dergoing a reauthorization. The of all Americans." Fisheries Improvement Act introcoalition duced by made excelSen. Marco lent proRubio (Rgress in the FL). Though House culsomewhat minating narrow in its with a bill scope, the that was bill included supported some posiby the rective provireational sions, in parfishing inticular, to dustry beprovide reing passed building flexearlier this From left to right: Jim Donofrio, Patrick Healey, Senator Cory Booker and ibility and year. The allow for alcoalition is Robert Healey, Jr. have a frank discussion about the need for reform of U.S. federal fishery law to better account for the economic impact of ma- ternative now lookmanagerine and tackle industry jobs in the board room at Viking Yacht Company. ment in the ing to the Senate for a recreational comparable bill. "We were extremely pleased that fisheries. However, at the hear"Saltwater angling is the greatest growth segment within the marine recreation industry," said Gabriel who sits on the RFA Board of Directors. "Tens of thousands of jobs depend on access to healthy, sustainable fish stocks. Personally, I'm optimistic that the future of recreational fishing and boating is bright, but we absolutely need strong leadership in Congress, particularly in the Senate, to provide the proper changes to federal fisheries laws that will allow Americans of all stripes to enjoy time on the

Sen. Booker was able to see the impact of recreational fishing on the labor force firsthand," said Peters. "And we were even more gratified for his commitment to work with the recreational fishing coalition on MSA reauthorization, which is vital to ensure that the economic impacts he observed today are accurately represented. The RFA and the entire recreational fishing coalition looks forward to working closely with Senator Booker and his staff over the coming months as we seek legis-

ing, an amendment offered by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) was accepted and stripped much of the positive aspects of the bill. Senator Booker voted against the bill as did several other senators from states with big fishing interests, notably, Senators Cantwell, (D-WA) and Sullivan (R-AK).

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WITH US OR AGAINST US? By John DePersenaire A lot of folks, especially anglers, are searching for viable, common-sense strategies to rebuild and sustain our fish stocks, yet surprisingly, there is an entire industry that’s working hard to try and prevent that from happening.


hese days, it seems as if eve- groups mentioned above, NOAA Sciences in 1863 to "investigate, ryone is searching for the included by way of policies carried examine, experiment, and report answer to our fishery mandown from the White House upon any subject of science." As agement problems. NOAA spends through the Department of Comscience began to play an evera lot of time writing “white papers” merce to NOAA, have some sort of increasing role in national priorities and conducting summits and con- self-serving agenda and thus and public life, the National Acadeferences in an effort to try and fig- should be dismissed. This is likely my of Sciences eventually expandure out how to improve the manpart of the reason that our federal ed to include the National Research agement of recreational fisheries. fisheries law, the Magnuson SteCouncil (NRC) in 1916. With the The results of those efforts, howev- vens Fishery Conservation and NRC, the Ocean Studies Board was er, are generally established to explore the scimixed. Congress holds hearing The NRC concluded that rig- ence, policies, and infrastructure upon hearing to identify the needed to understand, manage, id rebuilding timelines and problems and gather potential and conserve coastal and masolutions from witnesses. The rine environments and rethe extreme desire to end environmental industry funds sources. The Ocean Studies expensive research projects, overfishing results in missed Board undertakes studies at the and even entire departments at request of federal agencies, social and economic beneuniversities to produce docuCongress, or other sponsors, or ments that dovetail with their upon its own initiative. Within fits while not producing any the Ocean Studies Board, a Fishagendas in relating to fisheries management. Fishermen and eries Subcommittee was creatnet conservation benefits the fishing industry always have ed. Participation in the subcoman opinion one way or the oth- over the long term. mittee is open to any member of er, which they voice at Regional the Ocean Studies Board, as Fishery Management Council hear- Management Act (MSA), has not well as agency scientists, fisheries ings, and from time to time glossy been amended substantively since managers, and local fishery experts. “action plans,” such as the one cre- 2006. If only there existed a panel Periodically, the Ocean Studies ated by the Morris Deal Commisof non-biased experts who could Board, in concert with the Fisheries sion, are produced. In short, lots of weigh in on the more contentious Subcommittee, is charged by NOpotential answers have been put points of the debate. Enter the Na- AA or Congress with investigating on the table and on the street. tional Academy of Sciences. a specific issue or problem and to report on their findings. Of course, there are many probTo meet the government's urgent lems in fisheries management and, need for an independent adviser In 2013, the Ocean Studies Board likewise, there are many potential on scientific matters, President Lin- release a report titled Evaluating solutions to each of those probcoln signed a congressional charter the Effectiveness of Fish Stock Relems. It can be argued that all the forming the National Academy of building Plans in the United

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To enter the RFA Trip of a Lifetime Sweepstakes for your chance to win a trip to Wild Strawberry Lodge Click Here and follow the instructions. Credit cards are accepted.

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States. The exhaustive report

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agement Council, Rick Robbins, The lengthy report discussed looked at use of static maxiwent on record in support of this issue in great detail and mum sustainable yield (MSY) the use of targeted flexibility found that the application of values and sampling and statis- with regards to rebuilding. rigid rebuilding timelines tical methods used to set tarserved no purpose in achieving gets, climate and environmenThe environmental industry, on the overall goal of effective, tal impacts on rebuilding rates, the other hand, identifies flexi- productive fisheries managerebuilding requirements under bility as the root of all fisheries ment which seeks a balance the MSA, and current manage- management evil. These orbetween conservation and sociment techniques to meet reganizations described an apoc- oeconomic benefits. The NRC building goals. In its findings, alyptic scenario playing out if concluded that rigid rebuilding the Ocean Studies Board found flexibility is applied to rebuildtimelines and the extreme dethat rebuilding plans focus on ing time frames. In the middle sire to end overfishing results achieving rebuilding targets is the legislator, typically not a in missed social and economic within set timeframes that rely fisherman and who has limited benefits while not producing heavily on forecasts and estiunderstanding or experience any net conservation benefits mates of MSY-based reference with the federal fisheries man- over the long term. The report points, which often carry a further stated that enforcing high level of uncertainty. rigid timeframes causes anIn short, the NRC finds that the Moreover, the report found problems and negalack of flexibility forces managers cillary that efforts solely directed tive impacts. The report toward ending overfishing to use scientific information that states, " However, the focus and meeting fixed rebuildon achieving a rebuilding may be very uncertain. In addiing plans have caused sigtarget by a given time places tion, the constant desire but of- unrealistic demands on the nificant negative socioeconomic impacts that are not and forces reliance ten less-than-fruitful effort to im- science offset by conservation beneon forecasts and estimates plement recreational data collec- of biomass-based reference fits. In short, the report found that there was little which may be very tion programs due to the nature points, scientific support or measuruncertain." In short, the of the recreational fisheries or able conservation benefits NRC finds that the lack of resulting from fixed, rigid flexibility forces managers to the lack of resources, primarily rebuilding timeframes as use scientific information money, becomes less important that may be very uncertain. contained in the MSA. with the application of flexibility. In addition, the constant deGoing back to the problem sire but often less-thanat hand and the lack of consen- agement process. The result, fruitful effort to implement recsus to address the flaws in MSA, generally, is a lack of any acreational data collection proone sticking point has been the tion, which benefits the envigrams due to the nature of the issue of flexibility. Fishermen ronmental industry by allowing recreational fisheries or the believe flexibility is a common- them to extend their camlack of resources, primarily sense approach to dealing with paigns, and which has no immoney, becomes less important rebuilding. The Regional Fishpact on the legislator. Bearing with the application of flexibilery Councils even support flexi- the real brunt of this inaction ity. bility, arguing that the applica- are the fishermen who despertion of flexibility would be ben- ately need and want the MSA It seems that a reasonable aneficial and result in better man- to be improved. swer has been put on the table agement for their constituents. in regards to the issue of flexiIn a July 23, 2013 Senate hear- Luckily, the Ocean Studies bility. Unlike the studies funding, chairmen of both the New Board released the aboveed by the environmental indusEngland Fishery Management mentioned report, which try which received massive meCouncil, Rip Cunningham, and should guide the way for com- dia coverage, this report was the Mid Atlantic Fishery Manmon sense reforms to the MSA. almost entirely ignored by the

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big environmental organizations that lobby legislators on fisheries issues in D.C. Further to that point, the environmental organizations have not updated their arguments against flexibility to reflect the findings of this report. One would have to assume that since the findings of the NRC are basically in line with what most fishermen and the recreational fishing industry have believed all along, the environmental industry, which drives membership and corporate donations to itself on a campaign of fighting fishermen, cannot even acknowledge this report because it concludes that their "the sky will fall if flexibility is used" argument is baseless. If

Making Waves Winter 2015

only legislators had taken notice back in 2010 when the summer flounder stock reached historic levels of abundance while under the application of flexibility in its rebuilding target despite the absolute dire warnings by the environmental lobbyists. Both real-life experience and the NRC report conclude that the efforts by fishermen seeking limited flexibility were appropriate. Flexibility with regards to rebuilding would reduce the burden on assessment committees to produce biological reference points and rebuilding milestones on incomplete or inaccurate data. Flexibility would reduce un-

certainty by nullifying the need to have hyper-accurate data collection programs in recreational fisheries. Finally, flexibility would generate more socioeconomic benefits without corrupting longterm conservation objectives. The question no longer exists if flexibility is an appropriate management tool -- the real question now is, why does the environmental industry continue to deny the facts? It all boils down to the simple fact that crisis is a great fundraiser, and the environmental industry is not quite ready to give up that cash cow!

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Making Waves Winter 2015

Everyman’s Big Game Fish

By Gary Caputi In spite of international and domestic mismanagement over the years and draconian regulations, this is a sport fishery with strong socioeconomic benefits.


he Atlantic bluefin tuna is a marvel of evolution, an open-ocean predator whose travels encompass the entire North Atlantic, Mediterranean and the Gulf of Mexico. Along with blue and black marlin, the great white and mako sharks, bluefins hold a place among the apex predator fish in the world’s oceans, and easily reach sizes in excess of 1,000 pounds. Atlantic bluefin are closely related to the southern bluefin, which inhabits the south Atlantic and the Pacific bluefin, but it’s the largest of the clan. Bluefins can live for upwards of 30 years and continue to grow and spawn throughout their entire life. It is estimated that a mature female

can produce 3 million eggs per spawning cycle, yet even with such fecundity the stocks have been at low levels of abundance for many years, the result of commercial overfishing on a grand scale throughout their range.

Japan. All of the year classes were decimated at once over a period of 20 years. From 1970 to 1990 the price of sushigrade bluefin tuna rose by 10,000 percent, and prices for these coveted fish have remained high since the late 1990s with blips up and down The stocks were driven into dein response to the Japanese cline in the 1970s when purse economy and a growing taste seine vessels began targeting for sushi-grade toro (bluefin) the small fish as a low-value here in the U.S. With that high catch that was processed for a bounty on their heads, is it products such as cat food. The any wonder the big fish were large fish were not targeted hunted relentlessly throughout heavily until the sushi market their range, and it would bestarted paying higher and highcome so difficult to get the gover prices for them, which resulternments of those nations prosed in the practice of longlining ecuting the fishery to admit the mature spawning fish in the hard reality that if the slaughGulf of Mexico, with heavy ter was not reined in, the fishpressure from longliners from

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ery would cease to exist. Since bluefin are high-seas wanderers, their management falls under the purview of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, better known as ICCAT. Many fishermen and conservationists believe the an acronym should stand for the International Commission to Catch All the Tunas, a response to the miserable job it has done over the years in denying the problems with commercial overfishing and delaying meaningful reforms to rebuild the stocks. The current stock is still at low levels of abundance, but it has been showing signs of improvement in recent years due to the pressure put on the management system by the United States delegation. The good news is that that fish in the Western Atlantic, in U.S. waters, are no longer being overfished and chances are it will be out of the “overfished” category in a few short years. Overfishing in the Eastern Atlantic has been slower to get under control, but there are glimmers of hope. Keep in mind that overfishing in the East can, and does, impact stocks oceanwide because many bluefin caught along the U.S. eastern seaboard were spawned in the Mediterranean and many return there to spawn each year. Anglers in the United States are still forced to fish within highly restrictive seasons and bag limits based on the latest quotas, with the typical quota for private recreational vessels at one fish per boat per day when the season is open. What is interesting is that even with such draconian regulations, the interest in fishing for bluefin tuna among anglers remains very

The opportunity to catch a really big tuna from small boats close to shore is what keeps the highly restrictive bluefin fishery high on the popularity scale of anglers.

high. “Bluefin tuna are the working man’s pelagic fishery,” says Ray Bogan, RFA’s chief counsel and the current Commissioner for Recreational Fishing from the United States to ICCAT. Bogan is a maritime attorney with 28 years of experience practicing law, and during 20 of those

years he has been active in fisheries. His fishery management and conservation experience includes service on the U.S. ICCAT Advisory Committee, which is ongoing, and he has served on many U.S. delegations to ICCAT, thus making him very familiar with the ICCAT processes, the issues and the historical dynamics of other

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When bluefin migrations bring them within easy range, small light tackle charter vessels like the Andrea’s Toy (above) book up fast with charters even though the daily bag limit might be one or two fish for the boat! Note the mate on the bow has a tailer in his hand so he can subdue the fish, remove the hook and release it without harm. nations’ delegations to specific issues. His knowledge and expertise of bluefin tuna and other tuna issues important to the U.S. and other nations is expansive. At the same time, he has remained current on ICCAT and domestic issues relating to billfish and sharks. Bogan has also served on the National Marine Fisheries Service’s (NMFS) Highly Migratory Species Advisory Committee which advises the regulatory agency on implementing U.S.-agreed-upon ICCAT measures.

“The reason bluefin fishing has maintained that distinction is simple, they tend to spend a good deal of their time closer to shore in the Mid-Atlantic and New England regions than other tuna species that prefer the deep-water environs of the offshore canyons and the waters of the Gulf Stream,” he says. “That makes them a more affordable alternative for anglers who want to enjoy the thrill of fighting large pelagic fish. Because they are more accessible, you can chase them in smaller boats. It also makes

them accessible for many in the charter boat fleet that are running boats that might not be canyon capable. With everything going against it, the recreational bluefin tuna fishery remains not only viable, but an important economic driver for coastal communities as a surprisingly large number of anglers purse them when they are available in local waters, regardless of the bag limit.” The social benefits are obvious -- bluefins present the opportunity to catch bigger, harder-

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fighting game fish than are generally available to most anglers, and that’s the draw. For most it’s not giant bluefin, but school and medium-size fish that are the targets. The economic benefits are significant and widespread, and include tackle sales, bait, boats, fuel,

in a variety of ways including trolling, chunking/chumming with bait, and in recent years, jigging using small reels with super-strong braided lines. If you’ve never stood up against a charging bluefin you are missing a thrill that you are sure to remember for many years to come.

more involved and, as mentioned, currently holds the position of Commissioner for Recreational Fishing from the United States. The ICCAT management process includes all Atlantic tuna species, swordfish and billfish, thus the RFA will continue to participate at every turn in representing the interests of

Even school bluefin are great fun to catch, especially on light tackle. Jigging and even fly tackle are used to chase them . and a trailer or a slip at a marina. Some anglers travel great distances to try and catch a bluefin either with their own boat or by chartering one. Some even follow the bluefin’s seasonal migrations up and down the coast from North Carolina to New England waters and back again.

The RFA has been involved with tuna management at the federal and international level for over 15 years. Executive director Jim Donofrio has been a recreational advisor and a member of the US delegation to ICCAT conventions on numerous occasions. New England Director Barry Gibson has been a recreational advisor to ICBluefin are caught recreationally CAT as well, and Ray Bogan is even

anglers. These magnificent pelagic species are the cornerstone of offshore fishing all along the East and Gulf coasts, and we therefore need to manage them carefully and wisely.

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BREAKING CONSERVATION NEWS Good News for Striped Bass Stocks 2015 YOY One of Highest in Years


he Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MD-DNR) announced in midOctober that the 2015 striped bass young of-the-year (YOY) survey the state conducted is the eighth highest on record. The survey, a measure of striper spawning success

in Maryland’s waters, produced an average of 24.2 juvenile fish per sample, approximately double the long-term average of 11.9.

MD-DNR collected more than 70,000 fish of 50 different species, including 3,194 young-of-year (less than one year of age) striped bass in 132 sweeps of a 100-foot beach seine at 22 sites. The department has monitored the reproductive success of striped bass in Maryland’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay every year since 1954. The survey covers sites in the four major spawning systems—the Choptank, Potomac and Nanticoke rivers, and the Striped bass are one of the most popular gamefish along the Mid-Atlantic and Upper Bay. Biologists visit each New England coasts. A strong YOY is good news for the future of the fishery.

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site monthly from July through September to collect samples. “This year’s survey demonstrates that striped bass are a very resilient species when given favorable environmental conditions for reproduction and survival,” MD-DNR Secretary Mark Belton said. “The robust reproduction should give anglers hope for a successful striped bass season in a few years’ time.”

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age in terms of the abundance of newlyhatched stripers ranging from 1.5” to 4” long, recruitment has been average or above-average in 12 of the past 13 years, indicating that production has been relatively consistent in Virginia’s nursery areas.

If a healthy percentage of these young bass can avoid ending up in illegal gill nets or as bycatch in the commercial trawl fisheries, being caught by rod and reel fishermen, mortality due to pollution or othVirginia Survey “Average” er water quality issues, and the jaws of The Virginia Institute of Marine Scipredators (as best they can!) for about six ence (VIMS) also conducted that state’s YOY years, they’ll grow to 28 inches, the legal survey this past summer on the shores of minimum size in most East Coast states. the James, York, and Rappahannock rivers. Bottom line is that good year classes VIMS averaged 12 fish per seine haul-back, in Chesapeake Bay bode well for anglers. somewhat better but statistically equivalent to Virginia’s long-term average of nine fish Sure, it takes a couple years before these fish are even of catchable size, but it gives per haul. The 2015 survey marks the third consecutive year of average annual recruit- all of us a ray of hope for even better striper fishing in the not-too-distant future. –Capt. ment in Virginia waters of Chesapeake Bay. Although this year’s survey was aver-

Barry Gibson, New England Director

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Making Waves Winter 2015

HOW OLD IS THAT FISH? By Captain Barry Gibson


ay, Cap, how old is that fish I just caught?” tend to live the longest. A 400-pound Atlantic As a charter skipper, that’s a question I’m halibut living in the cold, deep water off Maine is asked quite often. Many of us, it seems, are probably close to 50 years old, while a threeounce flying fish off Key West may mature and very interested in the ages go belly-up in less than a of people and things. We year. want to know the ages of TV stars, what year that old house was built, and we scan the obituaries section of the local paper to see how old folks were when they shuffled off. So, it’s natural that a lot of anglers are curious about the ages of the fish we catch. Fish species, just like mammals such as dogs, cats, rats, and humans, tend to reach maturity and die at widely varying rates. Generally speaking, three factors affect the aging of fish: water temperature, amount of activity, and size.

Tuna, Macks & Blues One of the most askedabout species, especially when folks see one hanging by the tail at the dock, is the bluefin tuna. Although they only grow to about ten pounds in their first year of life, a 650pound bluefin is about 14 years old, and an 800pounder close to 20 years. Atlantic mackerel grow very quickly – usually to about 14 inches in their first three years – and then the growth rate tapers off. They are known to live at least eight years if they can avoid the jaws of the above -mentioned tuna, and kids with spinning rods.

Fast-moving pelagic or “open ocean” fish such as RFA member Capt. Brian Rice of Jersey Devil Bluefish, too, grow fastest herring normally don’t live Charters with his son Jack and one of his during their early years, as long as more sedentary first striped bass. and then growth slows species such as flounder down. A half-pound “snapper blue” is a year old, and cusk, and southern varieties such as mahimahi (dolphinfish) and sailfish which prefer warm but it’ll quadruple in weight by the end of the water don’t tend to live as long as cold-water fish second year. By the time the fish is eight it’ll weigh around 12.5 pounds, and an 18-pound such as cod. “slammer” will be about 14 years old. And finally, as a rule, the largest-growing fish

MakingWaves Waves Winter Winter2015 2015 Making

Stripers, Haddock Are Long-Lived The striped bass is another relatively long-lived fish, and research has shown that a 50-pounder is most likely between 18 and 25 years old. The smaller bass in the three- to six-pound range, are most likely three to five years old. Male stripers reach sexual maturity in their second year at about 13 inches, but females must normally be about four years old and 18 inches long. Naturally, minimum length regulations are designed so that stripers may spawn a certain number of times before they’re filleted and grilled.

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have been about a nine-pound fish, yet specimens well over 30 pounds have been recorded in the past. So, by best guesstimate, a haddock might be able to live 40 years or more. How Age Is Determined There are a number of methods scientists use to determine the ages of various fish. One way is to count the “rings” in the scales, much the same way the age of a tree is determined by the rings in a cross-section of the trunk. Another method is to count the same type of rings in the otoliths or “ear bones” of some species.

What do fish ages and longevity mean to us as sportsmen? The most important How long will a thing to realize is striper live? It’s that slowhard to say, but growing, longone kept in an lived species need aquarium in to be conserved New York reso that these fish portedly lived can continue to there for 23 Nice bluefin tuna, but still a baby when you consider they can propagate. It takes years. a relatively long Cool-water bot- grow to 1,500 lbs. and live to be 30 years old. time for a cod or tom dwellers haddock, for example, to reach sexual maturity, such as haddock generally live a long time, even so we need to release undersized fish in order to if they don’t grow particularly large. A 28.25-inch let them grow and be able to spawn. It’s as simhaddock taken off Nova Scotia some years back ple as that. was determined to be 14 years old. That would

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RFA CHAPTER NEWS Reports & Updates from RFA Chapters and Regional Directors New England Update Capt. Barry Gibson, NE Regional Director Capt. Mike Pierdinock, RFA-MA Chapter

New Cod, Haddock Regulations are Coming Our Way Back in early December, the New England Fishery Management Council, on the advice of its Recreational Advisory Panel (RAP), voted to recommend to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) that the daily recreational bag limit for cod be increased from zero (in 2015) to one fish per person per day, 24-inch minimum, in 2016. A recent stock assessment of Gulf of Maine cod indicated that the biomass was somewhat larger than previously thought, although not enough to warrant more than one fish.

in northern areas such as Maine. Either way, however, there is a good chance that anglers will be able to retain at least one cod per outing during the open season. Haddock proved to be a happier story. The recent haddock stock assessment indicated that the biomass had grown some four times greater that it was several years back, so the Council recommended an increase from three haddock per person per day (in 2015) up to 15 haddock per day, again at the 17-inch minimum size, for the coming season. This will be good news for New England recreational bottom fishermen if these measures are indeed implemented. No word from NMFS as to a decision as of this writing, but we’ll report the outcome in “Makin’ Waves” as soon as the new regulations are on the street.

The big problem with recreational groundfish manageThe cod season, however, ment in New England, howwill have to be a short one -ever, remains – data collecjust two months. The RAP tion processes are still very recommended July and August, but the Council modipoor, and data continues to fied it to August and Sepbe inaccurate unreliable. tember, based on testimony NMFS has been made from some NH party/charter aware of these deficiencies fishermen. The problem with by the RAP as well as individual anglers and forsetting a two-month season in New England is that those in the southern regions want a differ- hire operators, but it appears that any meaningful ent timeframe than anglers and for-hire operators improvements may be several years away.

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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 nearly 20 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 P.O. Box 3080 New Gretna, New Jersey 08224 Phone: 1-888-564-6732 toll free Fax: (609) 294-3812

Jim Donofrio Executive Director

Capt. Barry Gibson Jim Martin New England Regional Director West Coast Regional Director

John DePersenaire Managing Director

Gary Caputi Corporate Relations Director

Cover & Background Designs by Mustard Seed Graphics

T. J. Cheek Southeast Regional Director