I attended the April 7, monthly business meeting of the MA Marine Fisheries Commission at 10:30 AM at the Plymouth Public Library. I was curious to see what discussion or “action” would be taken on the striped bass regulations, after the public comment period. After the start of the meeting, DMF director Paul Diodati passed around copies of his memorandum on “Recommendations on March 21, 22 and 29 Public Hearings”. As his recommendations relate to the striper fishery:
Written in his paper, which he explained to the commission and audience, Mr. Diodati recommends that the commission amend BOTH the bag limit down to 25 fish and no fishing days from Th, Fr, Sat. to Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat. It appears, in my opinion, that by this recommendation, the Director seeks to continue to restrict the experienced fishermen more than the recreational part time fishers. He added, “Unfortunately, little will be accomplished by simple modification of daily bag limits given the vastness in this fishery’s participation level and restricted quota.”
After this read, several hands shot up in the audience and there was much discussion. Mr. Weissman asked if there were statistics for the amount of fish caught by party boats and part timers. Mr. Diodati’s reply was that there was no way to tell that the 10% of fish caught by charter boats was from trips with charters or trips that were solely for commercial. He also said that there are some 4500 permits out there and because most do not sell bass, many permit holders catch an insignificant amount of fish. This is true but quite misleading. To get a true measure of the impact of part time fishers on the overall quota, you must compare the landings by weight increments of those that sell fish. For instance, how many annual landings by permit holders of less than 50 or 100 pounds are there ? What percentage of the quota does this segment of landings catch ? In research that I have done into landings data for 1997 and by that of Dick Abele for 2002, there is clear evidence that the landings are quite high for the group landing less than 250 pounds a year. In fact the data from DMF statistics for 2002, shows that 52.8 % of permit holders landed less than 100 lbs ! Another 41.8 % landed from 100 and 500 pounds! Looking at it another way, 76.24 % of all landings landed less than 8 fish per day ! It is time that the Commission has these landings numbers in front of them so that they can make their decisions.
Eventually, it was moved by Mr. Cunningham that the Commission vote to accept a 3-day week of T, W, and Th with a 25 fish bag limit, opening on July 12. But there was no second and the motion failed. Then Mr. Calomo moved to amend the regs for a 4-day fishery of Su, T, W, Th with a 10 fish bag limit for Sun and a 25 fish bag for the rest of the week, starting 7-12. Mr. Weissman seconded. The discussion started with Mr. Pappalardo, stating that it was tempting for him to go with Mr. Cunningham’s proposal, then asking if Mr.Colomo’s motion could be amended by changing the T, W, Th bag limit back to 30.
Meanwhile, my hand and others was still in the air, hoping that the chairman, Mr. Amorello, or another commissioner would recognize me, which is not the norm, especially in a meeting constrained by time. Mr. Dick Abele was recognized and he reminded the director that his recommendation was clearly not what the vast majority of attendees at the public comment meeting had voiced. I was then recognized and asked that a compromise in Mr. Colomo’s motion be made, due to the fact that full timers had already made a 25% cut in their landings with amended regulations last year and the part timers had made none, and that it was not equitable to restrict only one segment of the user groups. I suggested that because the average landing was 8 fish, the proposed Sunday 10 fish bag limit would have no effect on restricting landings, and should therefore be reduced to 5 fish and leave the weekday bag limit at 30. (This proposal was exactly the same one as I, and many others had submitted to the Commission, last year) This compromise still allows the part-time Sunday “commercial fishermen” to participate, yet also allows the full time traditional guy to continue to participate without unfair restriction. The meeting then broke for lunch and the commission members got the chance to take a break.
Upon return from lunch, it was moved and seconded to go with a 4-day week of Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, with bag limits of 5 on Sunday, and 30 for the weekdays, and the season starting on July 12. The motion passed with a vote of 5 to 1 with 1 abstention. The director can still override this vote, as the commission is an “advisory” body only. We will have to see just how political this fishery and the director, Mr. Diodati can be.
From here on, I believe the only way to go with this fishery is a limited entry fishery. Short of that, there needs to be a 2 permit system, with a limited amount of quota set aside for full timers and another amount set aside for the part timers. I find it unrealistic for the director of Massachusetts Marine Fisheries to allow unlimited participant entry into a limited amount of resource quota, with the argument that it is an “entry level” fishery. There are NO fisheries left, state or federal, that are successful, to get into, unless you buy a boat and permit from someone.
Why do I rant on this ? I am a 16 th generation Cape Codder. I feel that politics and money have screwed up every fishery there is. I feel there should be a weighted approach to fishery management that takes into account traditional participation and history before economics or political benefit.
Thanks for listening,
Bruce & Miss Jillian