Hi Folks, There isn’t much fishing news to report, unless you are an ice fisherman, and it sure seems that there is plenty of that around ! I stopped freshwater fishing when I caught my first fish out of the salt water. It seems once I bitten by the thrill of a big salty fish, it somewhat killed the enjoyment of the sweet water fishing. I did write a little story about that awhile back, its on my webpage here; http://www.sportfishingcapecod.com/reports/default.cfm?ReportID=152, if you were so inclined to read it.
I did go to the MA Division of Marine Fisheries meeting last night, to comment on their proposed commercial striped bass regulations for 2014. They sought public comments on proposed regulations for the future. There wasn’t anything on the recreational side, but I think there may be a bag limit reduction for 2015 in the works. A few general facts about this commercial fishery: There are roughly 4000 active permits in this fishery, of which, about 1000 of them do sell at least one fish. Of that 1000 or so, roughly 75% sell less than 400 pounds (or less) for the entire season. The annual MA commercial quota is about 1 million pounds. If they go over in any year, the overage is subtracted from the next years allotment. These are very rough numbers, but given that, it means a huge amount of permit holders are each catching very small amounts of striped bass annually. These many “less than full time” fishers added together, significantly take quota away from a more dedicated fisher that would like to depend upon a more secure length of fishing season and price.
Proposed for commercial bass fishers, was a tagging system for 2014 and on, required by federal guidelines via ASMFC. The MA DMF asked should the tags be applied at the boat, or at the fish buyers plant? I believe the harvester should tag the fish as they are caught, as it will cut down on high grading or culling, and make it easy for enforcement of legal fish on board. The con is that it is more expensive for DMF to get tags to individual harvesters and how would they ensure a fisher is left with enough tags for the duration of the season ?
A number of other proposals were aired by DMF and commented on, and put simply, they were tweaks to the current regulations to “improve market conditions, fish availability, regulatory compliance, and fishing safety”. Before I get into the actual proposals, I would like to point out that there was NO proposal offered by DMF to limit new entry into this fishery, something that I feel is the direct cause of ALL the problems the MA commercial striped bass fishery now faces. An unlimited amount of harvesters of a limited allotment of quota creates too short of a window of supply, creates a low price, and essentially devalues the fish and the livelihoods of the harvesters. The MA commercial striper fishery is “open access” to anyone, regardless of where they live. My comment to the Commission, was to ask why this was so, and to ask for a moratorium on any new permits before asking the current participants to make sacrifices in their own participation. Many long term fishers at the meeting questioned how it is that an out of state resident could be allowed to buy a MA permit and crowd out or constrain a guy that is a resident taxpayer ? Adding insult, is the fact that many of these permit holder’s states don’t even allow a commercial fishery for stripers in their home state, and yet they can still come here to catch a portion of a Massachusetts resource.
The MA DMF proposals are:
2a, Reduce the number of fishing days to as few as 2 per week 2b, Reduce the current bag limit from 30 fish to as little as 10 fish for commercial boat permit holders and as few as 2 per day for individual rod and reel permit holders. 2c, Open the fishery earlier than July 12 2d, Prohibit for hire permit holders from commercial fishing when clients are aboard 2e, Prohibit dealers from buying more than one trip limit from a single fisherman, regardless of how many boat or individual and rod and reel permits in possession. 2f, Establish a control date to limit entry “in the future”. Options offered were 3/6/2008 or 9/8/2013 2g, Beginning in 2015, a cut off date for renewal of permits.
It is my opinion that NONE of these options are needed as long as the open access issue is dealt with responsibly. I did accuse the MA DMF of mismanaging this fishery. I did not mean any disrespect, but without limited entry each applicant is assured of a dwindling access to harvest and participate in the fishery and a devaluation to the fish itself. I think its wrong to manage for most applicants instead of highest value and respect to the fish. I now am of the position that if they refuse to limit entry I would be willing to move towards full gamefish status, a selfish position that would benefit me in my charter business, but deny access to the public of this wonderful fish.
My comments on the proposals were as follows.
2a, I feel it is wrong to limit access to users as long as new entrants are getting into fishery. Reducing days limits a harvester’s potential to provide for his family 2b, Again, this reduces harvester’s potential and provides and advantage to only less efficient fishers, effectively “dumbing down” the fishery 2c, If limited entry was enacted, the season would be longer and there would be no need to adjust open dates. 2d, Why should any MA resident not be allowed to sell bass as long as non residents and others are allowed new entry ? 2e, Dealers should only have to deal with ONE permit. If DMF gets rid of “boat, rod and reel, individual permits” etc it would simplify and fix this problem 2f, We have already had control dates, (2004) yet have not used them! The control date used should be the furthest back as possible, to reduce the maximum number of latent and ineffective permits 2g. Again, unneeded, with a controlled amount of permits.
There is a counter argument that there needs to be a provision that allows a young person the ability to enter into this fishery. I do agree, only somewhat though, because there is always the option of buying a boat and permit as in MOST other fisheries. So I offer this as a compromise to totally limited entry. A two permit system, with divided quota would accomplish that. Permit “A” would be for historical participants and have the majority of quota percentages assigned to them. Permit “B” would be for new entrants according to history and verified participation as a crew man (similar to lobster permits) and be assigned a smaller and limited portion of the annual quota and have the possibility of upgrading to a class A permit as the older class A permits are retired.
OK ! OMG ! That was too much for one report, but there it is. I’m open to criticism or comments at email@example.com. One can always call to ask about trips, tides and reservations as well. Stay warm.
Thanks very much,
Bruce & Marilyn S