View Full Version : Ammendment to build Flexability into Magnuson LAw

02-06-2008, 11:40 AM
Asbury Park Press
January 22, 2008

Bill Brings Flexibility to Fisheries Management


Rep. Frank Pallone Jr.'s, D-NJ, bill to add flexibility to the Magnuson-Stevens Act and save the summer flounder fishery should receive strong support in Congress.

The measure is designed to correct a fisheries management problem that should never have arisen in the first place: a rigid schedule for an element of nature.

The attempt typifies a growing hubris in the environmental community. Protectionists are unwilling to admit that statistics, models and beliefs have no effect on the recruitment of summer flounder this year or any year.

Management officials, backed by law enforcement, could close the summer flounder fishery in 2009, but they cannot by will or fiat put 100 million juvenile fluke in the ocean at the same time.

This is where Pallone's bill comes in. Fisheries management officials must have flexibility - the ability - to adapt to the vagaries of nature.

The Save the Summer Flounder Fishery Fund's rally in Manasquan on Monday night was designed to get additional public support for this effort.

Money is being sought from fishermen to scientifically prove what is really going on in the marine environment where fluke are concerned, and persuade Congress to pass legislation to enable management officials to adapt to change without threatening the food supply, livelihoods and recreation of those who depend on the fishery.

Pallone persuaded the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Oceans to hold an oversight hearing Dec. 5 on rebuilding overfished fisheries, particularly summer flounder.

The congressman said the fishermen who testified at the hearing convinced him that current rebuilding targets set by the National Marine Fisheries Service and mandated by Congress are unattainable in the time frame.

In other words, reaching a total biomass of 214 million pounds and a spawning stock biomass of 197 million pounds at the end of 2012 is impossible.

The estimated spawning stock biomass at present is somewhere around 93 million pounds and the total biomass around 104 million pounds.

James A. Donofrio, executive director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance, made some hard-hitting comments when he was in Washington for the subcommittee hearing.

"Fishing mortality has decreased over 80 percent, and the total stock biomass and spawning stock biomass have increased 251 percent and 280 percent, respectively," he said. "No one, not even the environmental community, can deny that this represents good progress.

"To put the summer flounder's recovery in context, let's compare it to striped bass," he continued. "During the same period from 1988 to 2004, the striped bass biomass increased 202 percent.

"As we all know, the rebuilding that occurred in the striped bass fishery has been described by NMFS, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, and many others as a rebuilding success," he added.

Despite the building of the biomass to record levels, some environmental groups claim the stocks are unhealthy and must be increased.

"Some in the environmental community are calling for a shutdown of the summer flounder fishery," Donofrio said. "In fact, one group recently called for a 10-year moratorium on all summer flounder fishing."

Greg Hueth, one of the co-founders of Save the Summer Flounder Fishery Fund, said a paramount aim of the organization is to hire fisheries biologists who will address basic problems in the summer flounder research.

These include outdated tuning indices, inadequate sampling techniques, unrepresentative data collection and unfounded modeling assumptions.

Tony Bogan, another of the founders, stressed that pressure on Congress is vital in giving management officials flexibility, and that effort will be pushed by SSFFF with as much vigor as the scientific approach.

Dave Arbeitman, also a founder of SSFFF, said contributions are pouring in to fund SSFFF's initiatives.

"We get checks in the mail every day, and more and more people are stepping up to offer their support," he said. "This is what is needed, if we are going to solve the problems in this fishery."

The weather has been the problem in current fisheries, but the fish are there.

02-06-2008, 11:42 AM
By Gary Caputi
Current wording in this critical federal legislation will needlessly bring an end to recreational
fishing in many important rebuilding fisheries.
On December 5, 2007, Jim Donofrio, Executive Director of the Recreational Fishing
Alliance (RFA), testified before the U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Natural
Resources on rebuilding fisheries under the current language contained in the Magnuson-Stevens
Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA). The Committee invited the RFA to share its
views on the challenges in meeting the newly enacted requirements of the MSA, which included
arbitrary deadlines that are having serious unintended negative consequences for recreational
fishermen and the industry specifically when dealing with rebuilding fisheries.
Donofrio started by sighting the current situation with summer flounder, a vitally
important recreational fishery on the East Coast, but by no means the only species that will be
impacted. RFA testified that the current law has needlessly tied the hands of fishery managers at
a time when flexibility is most needed. The summer flounder stock has been rebuilt to a size not
seen in 25 years, fishing mortality has decreased over 80%, total harvest has decreased over
96%, and both total stock biomass and spawning stock biomass have increased 251% and 280%,
respectively. That’s quite an accomplishment and should be great news to environmentalists and
fishermen alike. However, despite what can only be considered remarkable progress, recreational
fishermen are facing the most restrictive quotas in the history of the rebuilding process and a
possible shut down of the fishery over the next three years!
While summer flounder might not be of concern to Florida anglers, it is only the first of a
number of rebuilding fishery facing this scenario. RFA noted that the red snapper fishery will be
similarly impacted along with other southeastern and Gulf stocks as they run up against an
unnecessary brick wall in the near future if MSA is not revisited and fixed. That is why the RFA
is working diligently to build consensus among fishermen, the industry and members of
Congress to correct the obvious problems quickly.
Many fisheries under federal management are of great social and economic importance to
the recreational fishing community. That is why recreational fishing groups have pushed so hard
for stringent conservation measures when stocks proved to be seriously overfished. The pressure
we exerted drove management to begin the process of rebuilding and the result has been a
growing number of success stories in recent years. Yet, recreational fishermen have experienced
an unprecedented loss of access to some rebuilding stocks despite high levels of abundance. The
reason for such overly restrictive measures is wording contained in the 2006 reauthorization of
the MSA that was successfully championed by the environmental lobby, specifically provisions
that impose arbitrary deadlines to meet rebuilding targets. In some cases, the looming deadlines
are exacerbated by unrealistic targets that have little or no basis in science or reality, and that is
what is happening with summer flounder. Even though all the data clearly indicates stocks have
been rebuilt to historic levels and have possibly reached the carrying capacity of the ecosystem
in its current state, the rebuilding target is still well out of reach. When questioned, fishery
scientists are hard pressed to support the target they chose. As we move nearer the arbitrary
deadline the total allowable landings have continued to be reduced until they are approaching
levels that can no longer support a recreational season. Even if a total harvest moratorium was
imposed with the socio economic disruptions that would occur as a result, a suggestion made by
one environmental group spokesman, there is no guarantee that the target will ever be reached!
Similar scenarios are on the horizon for other species unless MSA is changed to permit a degree
of flexibility that should be included in any management plan, especially when you consider the
uncertainty associated with the management process.
One can understand the rational for reducing the flexibility managers had to set quotas in
fisheries that are in serious trouble, but the problems are becoming most evident with fisheries
that are responding well to management measures and increasing at a substantial rate. This was
something never envisioned by Congress and it must be addressed now before it is allowed to do
even greater economic harm. The current situation was never the intention of the MSA, nor the
diverse groups who worked so hard to rebuild damaged fisheries.
“Without flexibility in the statute, fishermen will continue to be held to unrealistic and
unachievable standards,” said Donofrio, “and recreational fishermen and the industry will be
regulated out of one fishery after another as they get close to achieving the positive outcomes the
FMP’s were designed to deliver. It just doesn’t make any sense to shut down well-regulated
fisheries that are growing at a rapid pace, but that is what the language in the MSA is forcing
managers to do because they have no flexibility to weigh the socio economic benefits of a
reasonably controlled fishery against a few extra years of rebuilding time or rebuilding targets
that are proving unattainable.”
“Fishermen know that it is patently unfair to place unrealistic objectives on them,
especially with so many uncertainties,” Donofrio stressed. “Scientists, managers, fishermen, and
members of the environmental community know full well the limitations of fisheries science and
the uncertainties in the marine environment. Fishing mortality it not the only thing impacting
rebuilding and there is a larger case to be made for the failure to protect and rebuild forage
species, which are so necessary to sustain the high level of biomass of predatory species we are
trying to achieve. It is my hope that interested parties can agree that the statutory regime cannot
dictate biologically impractical results and that common sense revisions need to be made soon,
before the full brunt of these missteps in Magnuson are felt.”
Fishermen and industry need to pull together to protect the sport while we continue to
work toward rebuilding fisheries using a balanced, common sense approach. To learn more about
this critical situation and other issues RFA is involved with go to If you are
not a member, join today. Through unity there is strength.

02-06-2008, 07:01 PM
Never going to happen. Pols don't understand it

Mr. Sandman
03-12-2008, 01:27 PM
They need to do something. I also feel if they stopped ALL fishing (comm and rec) that they would not meet their goal. Everything is pointing to a complete or near shutdown after this year. That said, they aways seem to doge the bullet in the last second somehow, someway. Let's hope they do something.

Talk of NY having a 30 day 20.5" fluke season with a 2 fish limit...this year. Lets see I am going to spend 500+ bucks to take my kids fishing for the day so maybe we can take two flatfish home to eat...what does that work out per #? OH yeah, they will all need a license too . :conf:

Where are my golf clubs?

03-13-2008, 05:28 PM
I don't know what the RI or MASS regs will end up being. Last years 8 week MASS season sucked.
Where are my golf clubs?

03-21-2008, 10:17 PM
I don't know what the RI or MASS regs will end up being. Last years 8 week MASS season sucked.
Where are my golf clubs?


Due to MA's proactive approach, we did not exceed our Fluke quota in 2007. We were one of only 2 states not to go over. So the regs are the same for this year for Fluke.

On the other hand, NJ went about 40% over their quota last year (yes, while we are still rebuilding Fluke). So they had cut backs this year to help get more in line with their quota.

NMFS isn't fooling around anymore. And if it looks like states will exceed their quota, they will put an abrupt end to the season.

03-21-2008, 10:37 PM

I realize that you are the National Shore Access rep for the RFA, but there is another side to the whole Fluke debacle that, for some reason, has been ignored by much of the popular fish-press.

And frankly, the RFA and many other fishing orgs headquartered in or near New Jersey have really dropped the ball on this one. The long story short is that if you like what the commercial fishermen have done with rebuilding cod in New England (delay, delay, delay...), then you will like what the RFA is trying to do with MSA.

On the other hand, CCA has been doing a really good job at helping the recreational community make sense of all the nonsense. Kudos to them!! (no, I'm not a member)

Anyway, some food for thought...

New Bedford Standard Times

Fishery rebuilding goals should be revised, not endlessly delayed

Mr. Flaherty, a recreational fisherman, lives in Wareham.
January 01, 2008

In the Dec. 1 issue of The Standard-Times, Congressman Barney Frank explained his position on why he is co-sponsoring the "Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act" (HR 4087), which was introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressman Walter Jones, R-N.C.

Congressman Frank defended the fact that the Jones bill would add yet another four more exceptions to current law in order to extend the timetables needed to rebuild weakened fish stocks. On the other hand, he insisted that he is not in favor of "open-ended" time frames for fishery rebuilding plans.

With all due respect to Congressman Frank, the wording of HR 4087 is so ambiguous that it would be nearly impossible to implement finite time frames for any fishery rebuilding schedule if it passed.

Consider the example of Georges Bank Cod. Due to the biology of that stock, under current law the rebuilding plan was legally allowed to be extended twice beyond the standard 10-year limit to 20 years. Clearly, this demonstrates that the exceptions currently written into the law already allow a great deal of flexibility when the science, not politics, indicates it is needed.

Under the Jones bill, however, care to guess what would be the new maximum time legally allowed for cod to rebuild? It is a good question. Unfortunately, nobody is able to answer it, including Congressman Frank's own office when I asked them.

Surprisingly, Congressman Frank isn't the only proponent of the Jones bill who hasn't done the math. I also asked the Garden State Seafood Association. They are a major supporter of the Jones bill, but they too could not answer this fundamentally important question.

Finally, I checked with the National Marine Fisheries Service. NMFS is the federal agency ultimately tasked with implementing fishery management plans. They took a look at the bill and concluded that they, too, could not estimate what the Jones bill would do to rebuilding schedules because it is, in their words, "rather broad."

Congressman Frank also pondered, "If the same rebuilding targets can be met in, say, 13 years instead of 10, without compromising the ultimate rebuilding goal, who is hurt?" Interestingly, this is precisely what was done with summer flounder with a special exception written into the law for that species last year. Only one year later and all but two states have overfished their quota for summer flounder yet again. Predictably, industry groups are now complaining that the special extension still did not provide enough time. Now they are demanding for the passage of the Jones bill to allow the rebuilding period to be extended further still, with literally no end in sight.

Many fishermen have called the rebuilding target itself for summer flounder "unrealistic." The Recreational Fishing Alliance, another major organization lobbying for the passage of the Jones bill, has gone so far as to claim that the target for summer flounder is actually "unattainable." Think about that for a moment. If the RFA is right, then how on Earth can the bill that they and Congressman Frank are supporting not lead to "open-ended" rebuilding schedules if the rebuilding goal can never be achieved anyway?

Like many issues where politics interferes with science, it makes no sense.

Honestly, the rebuilding target for summer flounder may indeed be unrealistic. That claim does have some merit, which is why I, as a recreational fisherman, cannot support HR 4087. The bill simply does not address that potential flaw in the system at all.

If folks are truly concerned that the rebuilding targets are somehow outdated, obsolete, and impossible to achieve, then a much more responsible and prudent position would be to insist on having fishery managers actually revisit the science originally used to determine the rebuilding targets themselves. In other words, due to impacts from modern society on our marine resources, it may indeed be the case that summer flounder, and other rebuilding species, are already rebuilt to new, lower baselines than were previously acceptable. Accordingly, the targets could be revised to reflect these contemporary realities, presuming that is the case. Naturally, though, fishing capacity would also need to be reduced appropriately to accommodate the lower baselines.

If, however, the current rebuilding targets are validated by a review using the best available science, then fishery managers must finally address the same problems that they have been putting off for years. For example, the dead discard rate of summer flounder in other non-directed commercial fisheries still remains a tremendous waste. In addition, the commercial size limit for summer flounder is a puny 14 inches, at least in Massachusetts. That is barely a fish that is mature enough to spawn once. Managers should consider increasing the minimum size to be more in line with the recreational standard, which is a much more conservative 17.5 inches coupled with a reasonably limited season. This has proven effective in keeping Massachusetts anglers from going over our quota.

During the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act last year, many loopholes were removed that were often used by industry groups to delay the steps necessary to rebuild overfished stocks. I urge Congressman Frank and the industry supporters of HR 4087 to reconsider introducing a whole slew of new ones.


08-21-2008, 11:20 PM
New Data Change Summer Flounder Outlook

By Charles A. Witek

Vice Chairman, CCA National Government Relations Committee

A long time ago, someone down in Washington, D.C. said, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The recent summer flounder stock assessment, released in late July, demonstrates that such advice clearly applies to the fisheries management system.

Over the past few years, anglers have certainly heard enough complaining that the fisheries management process is, in fact, broken. Summer flounder have been the species most often used to illustrate the system’s problems, and CCA has come in for its share of criticism for supporting the management process and the conclusions of fisheries managers.

Now, with the release of the 2008 summer flounder stock assessment, we find our faith in the system vindicated.

Some might be taken a little aback by that statement. Didn’t CCA support the 197 million pound spawning stock biomass rebuilding target? And didn’t the newest assessment find that a spawning stock biomass of 132 million pounds would produce maximum sustainable yield?

The answer would be “yes” to both, but that doesn’t matter, for what CCA has always supported wasn’t the FIGURE of 197 million pounds, but the PROCESS by which such figure was determined to represent the best available science. And that process was just as valid in 2005, when the 197 million pound figure was developed, as it was in 2008, when the 132 million pound figure was devised.

That process represents good science, and science is a living thing that evolves and changes as new information becomes available and more data is added to existing population models.

Today, we’re seeing some environmental groups that fought very hard to defend the 197 million pound biomass target expressing outrage that the target has been lowered. We’re also seeing fishing industry groups who were relentless in their attacks on the former biomass target crowing about their “success” in getting the target reduced to 132 million pounds. All of them are missing the point. Both assessments represented the best available science at the time the assessments were made. Both were put together by the Southern Demersal Working Group, and both were peer reviewed by a panel of international experts. To adopt one as “good science” and the other as “bad science” is to do nothing more than to cherry-pick the version that happens to best support your argument. However, to call the 2005 assessment “old science” and the 2008 “new science” would be right on the mark.

Let’s take a look at what really happened.

The 2005 assessment’s 197 million pound spawning stock biomass target was based on data observations made through December, 2004. It used observed data regarding a fluke’s size at various ages, historic (since 1992) data on spawning success and estimates of a summer flounder’s average lifespan to calculate the size of the spawning stock biomass that would produce maximum sustainable yield. It also estimated natural mortality at M=0.20, which means that about 18% of the fluke population dies each year from non-fishing-related causes.

However, the population model that was used in the assessment also revealed a “retrospective increase” in summer flounder mortality. That is, it indicated that fewer summer flounder survived each year than predicted by the model, when commercial harvest, recreational harvest and natural mortality were taken into account. Biologists could not identify the cause of such “additional” mortality, but guessed that it probably was related in some way to fishing effort, whether in the form of unreported commercial landings, greater-than-expected discard mortality in commercial and/or recreational fisheries and the harvest of illegal fish by commercial and/or recreational fishers. Such unidentified mortality, and the failure of fisheries managers to allow for such mortality when setting annual harvest limits, played a large role in the ever-decreasing landings quotas that we were forced to endure in recent years.

This year, the scientists assessing the summer flounder population had three additional years of data, allowing them to use information compiled through December, 2007. Such additional information proved critical.

Perhaps the most important bit of information related to the maximum age of summer flounder. When the current management program began in 1992, harvest levels were so high that very, very few summer flounder were able to live for more than two years. However, as managers began to impose meaningful restrictions on the fishery, the size of the population began to expand, and the number of age classes represented in the fishery increased. There is now sufficient data to suggest that male fluke only live for 12 years, while females live to be 14 years old. That is information that just wasn’t available in time for the 2005 stock assessment (as fish more than two years old were very scarce in 1992, it wasn’t until 2004 that a significant number of 14-year-old summer flounder could be represented in the population, and it took a few more years to demonstrate that fluke normally didn’t survive to even greater ages.) Once it was available, it allowed fisheries managers to take a fresh look at natural mortality, and determine that a higher rate, M=0.25, probably was a better reflection of reality. That determination was supported by the known life histories of other flatfish populations, which experience a similar rate of natural mortality.

The higher natural mortality rate, when combined with updated weight-at-age data applied to the population model, suggests that the spawning stock biomass which would produce maximum sustainable yield is lower than previously thought, in the range of 132 million pounds, which is about 35% of the size that the population could attain with no fishing at all. Biologists have suggested that managers use a higher spawning stock biomass target, of about 151 million pounds, about 40% of the stock size if no fishing took place. That is significantly lower than the former spawning stock biomass target, so the commercial and recreational fishing industry members who attacked the old target as “unattainable” are declaring a great victory.

But what, exactly, did anyone win?

By lowering the spawning stock biomass target, biologists were, in effect, declaring that the summer flounder population is less productive than once thought. Thus, we will never see the 47 million pound harvests, and 19 million pound recreational share, that would have flowed from a spawning stock biomass of 197 million pounds. Instead, the smaller spawning stock suggested by the last stock assessment will yield just 28 or 29 million pounds, and recreational fishers will never be able to take more than 11.5 million pounds of that, putting us in about the same position that we were in during the 2004 season.

Thus, while the new stock assessment almost certainly means that anglers will fish under slightly relaxed regulations in the short term, and that they might take home a few more fish during the rebuilding period than they would have if the spawning stock biomass had remained at 197 million pounds, the tradeoff is that, once the stock is fully recovered, harvests will still have to be closely regulated, as 132—or even 151—million pounds doesn’t provide enough fish to satisfy the demands of both the recreational fishery and commercial markets. Still, although the new assessment ultimately means reduced harvest and reduced opportunity for anglers, CCA cannot contest the outcome. CCA is committed to science-based fisheries management, and the integrity of the stock assessment peer review process. The new assessment is the fruit of such a process, and thus demands our support, even if it means that, in the long term, recreational harvest will never be as large as we, and we suspect many anglers, would have liked to have seen.

In fact, the new assessment has not only vindicated our faith in the process, but also in the law. For the last few years, we have seen some fishing industry spokesmen calling for what they call “flexibility” in the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act, the law that governs all fisheries management in federal waters. The law, they claim, must be changed to address the biological uncertainty inherent in the management process. The law, they say, forces fishers to live under impossibly strict management measures, engendered by unrealistically high rebuilding targets.

The 2008 summer flounder stock assessment, though, has demonstrated how “flexible” the Magnuson Act really is. When presented with new scientific data, the biologists analyzed it, and incorporated the results into the new assessment.

When calculations, and not mere conjecture, brought the rebuilding target into question, that target was reduced to accord with newly developed information. While the management process doesn’t respond well to politically motivated arguments, and isn’t designed to let a handful of people profit at the expense of a public resource, when confronted with good data and verifiable scientific evidence, the process proved flexible indeed.


08-22-2008, 06:50 AM
We will have a summer flounder fishery season next year.
It is because of this group...There are huge cost's..
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