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Mark your Calendars - OC Reef Foundation Dinner States Schedule Public Hearings on Atlantic Croaker and Spot Draft Addenda Capt. Monty Hawkins Column - 11/02/19 States Schedule Public Hearings on Atlantic Croaker and Spot Draft Addenda States Schedule Public Hearings on Atlantic Croaker and Spot Draft Addenda NOAA Fisheries Approves Framework Adjustment 14 to the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Fishery Management Plan Delaware’s Advisory Council on Tidal Finfisheries will meet at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 20 in the DNREC Auditorium, 89 Kings Highway, Dover, DE 19901. Capt. Monty Hawkins Report Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council Meeting in Annapolis, MD: December 9-12, 2019 The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council will hold its next meeting December 9-12, 2019 at the Westin Annapolis (100 Westgate Circle, Annapolis, MD Delaware’s Advisory Council on Tidal Finfisheries will meet at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 20 in the DNREC Auditorium, 89 Kings Highway, Dover, DE 19901.
Capt. Monty Hawkins Report
Monday, November 18, 2019

Fish Report 11/17/19
Catching Sea Bass!
Grand Theft Fisheries (With An Amazing Surprise Flip Coming..)

If You Know Anyone Who Fishes For A Living --Whether Commercial or Recreational, or if You Enjoy Fishing Yourself-- We're ALL Going To Need Help. Won't take a lot of time. Couple stamps, a printer...
Not easy to explain. Offering an "Executive Summary" and a much more in depth narrative below. After literally decades of complaining, NOAA's recreational catch estimates are about to upend all of fisheries restoration & regulation in the Mid/North Atlantic to date - Guaranteed ..unless a LOT of people write.

Sunday Special Sea Bass Trips: Nov 24 & Dec 1st - 6AM to 5 PM - $140.00 - Limit 20 Anglers (eliminating 5 spots - 3,7,13,17, & 23 for even more room..)
Day Before Thanksgiving - Nov 27 - 6:30 to 3:30 - $125.00 - Limit 20 Anglers as Above..

Reservations Now Open Through December 1st. No Fishing Thanksgiving Day.
Lots & Lots of weather cancellations lately. Right pain in the neck! Have a reservation? Keep your phone on & Check Messages!
When we CAN get out, however, sea bass fishing's been kind. We're still allowed 15 cbass at 12.5 inches along DelMarVa. Catching Lots of Limits....

Going Everyday Possible!

Sailing Daily For Sea Bass Weather Permitting (Sakes!)
Sailing Saturday's 6:30 to 3:30 - $125.00 –Otherwise 7 to 3 at $110.00.. Also Offering Longer Trips By Announcement Only.
Fishing's mostly been a matter of some clients catching limits of cbass while others aren't too far behind. Have had numerous boat limits also where we could not legally take another sea bass.

Reservations Required at 410 520 2076 - LEAVE YOUR BEST POSSIBLE CONTACT NUMBER - Weather Cancellations Are Common - I Make Every Attempt To Let Clients Sleep In If The Weather's Not Going Our Way..

Be a half hour early! We always leave early!
..except when someone shows up right on time.
Clients arriving late will see the west end of an east bound boat. With a limited number of reserved spots, I do not refund because you over-slept or had a flat..

It’s boots season! Fishing the back half of the boat? Waterproof boots highly advised unless flat calm..

Bonine Is Cheap Insurance! "Natural Dramamine" Does NOT Work!
It's Simple To Prevent Motion Sickness, Difficult To Cure. If You Suffer Mal-de-Mer In A Car You Should Experiment On Shorter Half-Day Trips First..

Bring A Cooler With Ice For Your Fish – A 48 Quart Is Fine For 2 People.
No Galley! BYO Sandwiches & Soft Drinks. A few beers in cans is fine. (bottles break at bad times)

If You Won't Measure & Count Your Fish The State Will Provide A Man With A Gun To Do It For You. We Measure & Count — ALWAYS — No Exceptions!

http://www.ocreefs.org
We're Nowhere Near Reef Building's True Potential.

If you have a few blocks in the backyard taking up space; just making snake reef or a poison ivy sanctuary, bring em. We'll toss em overboard with the rest.

27,956 Reef Blocks + 23 Reef Units (180lb Pyramids & Reef Balls) have been deployed at numerous sites as of 11/17/19..
Here are sites currently being targeted: Capt. Jack Kaeufer’s Reef 1,031 (+11 Reef Units) - Doug Ake's Reef 3,882 (+4 Reef Units) - St. Ann's 2,335 (+3 Reef Balls) - Sue's Block Drop 1,148 (+3 Reef Units) - TwoTanks Reef 959 (+ 3 Reef Units) - Capt. Bob's Inshore Block Drop 900 - Benelli Reef 1,037 - Rudy's Reef 209 - Capt. Bob's Bass Grounds Reef 2,151 (+10 reef units) - Wolf & Daughters Reef 713 - 373 at Al Berger’s Reef (+1 Reef Unit) - 432 Great Eastern Block Drop (+ 2 Reef Units)..

Below:
Recreational fishers are due a 31% cut in summer flounder/fluke quota in 2020.
In the coming year it’s expected commercial black sea bass quota will be increased upwards of 70% while recreational quota takes a 29% hit.
I might have to offer my clients 5 sea bass at 15 inches in 2020. I strongly suspect my business model, despite 40 years on the water, would swiftly collapse given such a restriction. This while NOAA proudly tells Congress they’ve “rebuilt sea bass in the Mid-Atlantic 300%”..
Recreational scup quota will be cut 59% while Commercially allowed landings rise sharply.
On & on...
I've been trying to warn management for years - decades actually.
What a mess.

Greetings All,
Sea bass fishing has been finest kind for the most part. Lots of boat limits. Even when fishing's a bit tougher we usually have some clients limited. If you see some pretty weather coming - jump on!
Are we tog fishing? No. (Start January 1st - more on that soon.)
Are we catching lots of triggers? No. (just a few lost souls..)
Flounder? Heck No!
Bluefish? Eh, catch a couple-few some days. Most years we'd see more by now.
Sea Bassing's Great!

******
In Summary..
NOAA's new recreational catch estimates under their MRIP program have become so untrue -- so incredibly too high -- that they've caused fishery scientists to inflate marine fish populations to where managers must increase commercial quotas by huge proportion.
Despite new population heights & vastly larger commercial quotas, recreational anglers may shortly witness their most restrictive regulations ever -- regulations which may very well close many fishing and fishing associated businesses.
That's all in the immediate future. When NOAA's new catch estimates, (MRIP's 'recalibrated' estimates,) have been factored into long-standing commercial/recreational quota allocation splits, (in roughly 2 years' time,) it will be commercial fishers who suddenly find themselves suffering economically tragic quota cuts.
We must either find the truth of recreational catch via "Percentage of the Catch" Bayesian statistical stops, or use other ways to manage our marine fisheries -- especially the very simple reinstatement of NOAA's old catch estimating program, MRFSS.
Please write your DC Reps and Fed/State Fisheries personnel (addresses far below) and ask that they reinstate MRFSS (NOAA's old recreational catch estimating program) before MRIP disrupts ALL Marine Fisheries &, perhaps quite soon, causes fish stocks to crash up and down the Mid & North Atlantic.
********

And now the meat..
In case you’ve not been following along, the Marine Recreational Fishing Statistics Survey (MRFSS - we said MuRFSS, they said MuRFiSS) was NOAA’s original method of calculating recreational catch - or “catch estimates” beginning in 1981. Owing very much to prodding by Representative Wayne Gilchrest (R MD) in the early 2000s, NOAA made corrections to MRFSS’ Party/Charter estimates. And why not? We Party/Charter operators tell NOAA what we catch every day - report our catch in a VTR (Fishing Vessel Trip Report.) Our estimates SHOULD be accurate. Recreational For-Hire estimates ought to be dern near as accurate as commercially weighed catch. In those early days MRFSS was often off by millions of fish in For-Hire recreational fisheries - almost always too high. I'm a partyboat owner in Ocean City, MD - in the business 40 years now.. Gilchrest was my Congressman. It was our estimates, Party/Charter, that often lead to NOAA's accusations of "overfishing" before the 2003 repair to MRFSS. When 'overfishing' lead to increased regulation back then, it primarily owed to For-Hire landings.
Since 2004, however, Private Boat & sometimes Shore recreational catch estimates have risen steadily - until MRIP. Then those estimates rose astronomically while Party/Charter remained as repaired in 2003.

Not only are recreational fishers dialed-in to the regulatory process deeply concerned with coming battles at Fishery Council/Commission meetings, there’s consternation in the fisheries science/management world these days as well. It’s going to be a long hard fight for fairness in regulation this winter. Needs to be a LOT of attention paid by recreational fishers to what's going on.
Promise.. Unless we can change NOAA's current path, I absolutely guarantee new restrictions —tighter than ever before recreational regulations on every marine species in the Mid/North Atlantic— will have grave consequences on all aspects of recreational fishing’s economics: Manufacturing, Retail Tackle Sales, Marinas, Boating Supplies & For-Hire Rec Fishing Businesses - all will be negatively affected & perhaps, as in my case, often bankrupted. (Sea bass regs being spoken of now for 2010 will cause partyboat sales to crash.)
However, in 18 to 24 months the affects of NOAA's new recreational catch estimates, MRIP’s recalibrations, will then turn against the commercial community in a huge & devastating way. You see, MRIP's astonishing increase in recreational catch now goes back to 1981. Long standing divisions of Recreational/Commercial quota (allocations) will have to be recalculated. As these "reallocations" are factored in, based on all new recreational catch data, the same data now giving huge jumps in Commercial quotas while cutting Recreational access will then crush Commercial access. Any fishery with a rec/com split will favor Recreational by wide margins after reallocations are made.

Sadly, For-Hire's catch data is still not as perfect as we might hope, but Party/Charter estimates are a dern sight better than before the 2003 correction to NOAA/MRFSS’ methodology.
Later in the mid-2000s, owing our continuing complaints about MRFSS Private Boat estimates being far too high, there was a mandate in the 2007 re-write of the Magnuson-Stevens Act which referred to MRFSS’ review by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) as “fatally flawed.” In 2007 Congress required MRFSS’ repair/replacement by 2009.
Well Sakes.. NOAA’s 2012 ‘repair’ was the Marine Recreational Information Program or MRIP - and it's not, so I’ve been told repeatedly, "MRFSS Rest In Peace"..
MRIP? Not so good. A catastrophe actually.

Here's a couple quick examples of MRIP's statistical finery: In May/June 2019 the Average striped bass caught from Maine's Shore was 39 lbs and 46 inches - Rhode Island's stripers averaged 28.5 lbs & 38 inches - NJ's Shore-caught stripers were comparitively puny at 19.4 lbs & 35 inches - Average. (Poor NJ.. Must have been some bigger ones too though, no?)
In Delaware this past summer Shore-caught sea bass were that state's largest at 1.5 lbs apiece average. In 2019 Massachusetts' Shore-caught sea bass averaged 2.9 lbs. In 2010 NY's average Shore-caught sea bass was 2 lbs.
In 2013 there were 2.4X more summer flounder caught from shore than by all Party/Charter. Shore 'only' caught 2.1X more Scup than All Party/Charter that year.
Shoot.. Odd that we'd ever carry a client. Shore is obviously where folks ought to fish!
According to MRIP's recreational catch estimates at least. . .

The very day of MRIP’s 2012 release, the first estimate I checked was New Jersey Shore (Shore Only) Tautog from March/April 2010. I’d been making a fuss about the ridiculousness of MRFSS’ previous 74,000 tautog estimate--this catch made in a time when NJ Shore anglers are not catching tog at all.
When MRIP first came out it claimed: 'Oh No! It wasn’t 74,000 - it was 173,000 tog!' (NJ's jetty tautog begin to bite at the very end of April.)
Yeah. Umm, okay NOAA. A hundred thousand more absolutely impossible tog..
Some repair.
So, as soon as MRIP came out I knew we'd been taken for a ride.

MRIP has been ‘recalibrated’ twice since 2012. Both times our recreational estimates rose incredulously.
That NJ shore tog estimate? Not a soul believed the 74K under MRFSS - which shot to 173K at MRIP's release - to now a mind-blowing 341K today after MRIP's 'recalibrations'.. That's 341,440 Shore-Caught Tautog From NJ when they're NOT biting.
New Jersey Shore Only
Status   Year   Wave   Name   Total Harvest    PSE   Total Weight (lb)   PSE   
FINAL   2010   MARCH/APRIL    TAUTOG   341,440   85.6   807,512   85.6   
Allow me to stick with this NJ Shore MRIP estimate a bit more. It really doesn't tell the average person much until there's something to compare it to.
Here's ALL Commercial Landings, All Year, from Maine to Virginia - Not just NJ Commercial - All Trap, Trawl, Handline - All Commercial catch in the species full range..
286,047 lbs All 2010 Commercial All Year vs 807,512 lbs of NJ Shore-caught during the last few weeks of April 2010.
Commercial landings are always in pounds. In 'Fish' the number is much lower - 286,047 becomes about 73,345 tog when divided by 3.9lbs--the avg weight of Party/Charter tog in 2010.

Now Here's All Party/Charter - All Year - for Tautog in 2010
For-Hire Only - North & Mid Atlantic
Status   Year   Name   Total Harvest   PSE    Total Weight (lb)   PSE   
FINAL   2010   TAUTOG   85,441   15.8   341,488   13.9   

So: All For-Hire catches 85,441 tautog All Year - And All Commercial catches 73,345 tautog All Year. That's 158,786 tautog for All professional effort in All of 2010.
MRIP's (not so brilliant) assertion is that NJ Shore, in just March & April, landed & kept 182,653 more Tautog than All professional boat fishermen - when NJ's Shore anglers were JUST starting to catch them in the very end of the period. Experts in the fishery doubt the real number would even reach a couple hundred tog.
But Fisheries Management & Science work with pounds - MRIP has those NJ Shore anglers at 807,512 lbs in just a few weeks. That's 180,000 more pounds of tog/blackfish than All Party/Charter/Trap/Trawl landed All Year.

NOAA has told me (and some of you!) repeatedly: "You Don't Understand Capt. Hawkins, These Estimates Just Blend In To Give A Firm Estimate Coastwide."
How in Billy Blue Blazes can you possibly average the impossible to create reality?

It gets so much worse....

Today, after MRIP's miraculous ever-upward "recalibrations," it is not at all uncommon to see Shore fishers from one state outfishing all Party/Charter from Virginia to Maine. In fact, after the case of NJ 2010, we see Massachusetts 2017 where MA Shore fishers, in just a few weeks, outfished All Party/Charter AND Commercial Trap/Trawl’s ANNUAL Catch throughout tautog's entire range by 409,513 lbs.
At least that's what MRIP tells us..

Massachusetts
Status   Year   Wave   Name   Fishing
Mode   Total   PSE   Weight (lb)   PSE   
FINAL   2017   MAY/JUNE    TAUTOG   SHORE   243,199   88.9   861,595   89.8   
FINAL   2017   MAY/JUNE    TAUTOG   PARTY BOAT   259   103.9   1,326   103.9   
FINAL   2017   MAY/JUNE    TAUTOG   PRIVATE BOAT   15,051   42.8   48,161   42.8   

Total 2017 Commercial Tautog Catch 335,385 lbs - (divided by 3.7 = roughly 90,644 tog) (&, sorry, I cannot figure out how to cut and paste the commercial catch tables..)

All North/Mid Atlantic Party/Charter All 2017..
Status   Year    Name   #Fish    PSE    Weight (lb)   PSE   
FINAL   2017   TAUTOG   30,946   12.4   116,697   12.8   
NOAA claims Massachusetts' Shore landed 400K more pounds than All Com/Rec Professional effort..

So much worse than Shore estimates, in today's rec catch data we see Private Boats, often from just one State in just a few weeks, are more capable in marine fisheries than All Party/Charter — and sometimes All Commercial fishing effort too — Combined!
NY Private Boat Only
Status   Year    Name    Weight (lb)   PSE   
FINAL   2017   SEA BASS   5,352,375   39.9   

All Party/Charter North of N.Carolina
Status   Year   Name   Weight (lb)   PSE   
FINAL   2017    SEABASS   901,810   8.3   

All Commercial Landings above N.Carolina 3,499,802 lbs sea bass
That makes NY Private Boat's MRIP 2017 annual estimate 950,763 lbs more than All Trap/Trawl/Party/Charter in All the North & Mid-Atlantic. (and it just 'averages in' they say..)

Here's a really small MRIP error from a fishery I'm deeply familiar with.
Maryland (No Chesapeake catch)
Status   Year   Wave    Name    Mode   Total (lb)   PSE                     
Avg (lb)   PSE   
FINAL   2016   SEPTEMBER
/OCTOBER   BLACK SEA BASS   SHORE   178,082   89.9   


1.4   126.3   
FINAL   2016   SEPTEMBER
/OCTOBER   BLACK SEA BASS   PARTY
BOAT   4,837   62.2   

1.2   85.6   
FINAL   2016   SEPTEMBER
/OCTOBER   BLACK SEA BASS   CHARTER
BOAT   161   132.7   


1.1   187.7   
FINAL   2016   SEPTEMBER
/OCTOBER   BLACK SEA BASS   PRIVATE
BOAT   6,686   102.7   


1.4   145.3   
It's pretty rare for Party/Charter operators to see more than one or two Private Boats a week, All Week, while out reef fishing daily for sea bass in Sept/Oct. Yet we carry pretty good - have a fair number of clients then. MRIP's Private Boat assertion should never exceed 25% of Party/Charter's estimate--even in summer. In this data set that would be about 1,000 lbs of Private Boat landings - Not 7K.
The 178K lbs MD Shore estimate is 100% horsefeathers. We've found one angler who claims to have caught a keeper sea bass (1) from MD's Shore in 2016.. Most years it's none. (it just 'averages in'..)
In the current 'wave' - Nov/Dec or 'wave 6' - MRIP often has Private Boats outfishing Party/Charter by wide margins. I've just examined back to 2011 - there was one instance where a state's Party/Charter outfished their Private Boats for sea bass in Nov/Dec. Strange: Fishing every possible day with my Partyboat this November, I've seen 1 Private Boat out sea bass fishing. For MRIP to be correct, we'd have to have big trouble even finding a spot to fish for all the Private Boats anchoring over the reefs..

MRIP's now been 'recalibrated' twice. No one involved with fisheries management or science has faith in MRIP's estimates anymore. Their trust is gone. MRIP's estimates make no sense even to someone wholly unfamiliar with recreational catch.
But regulators still follow the letter of the law. Because MRIP is NOAA's only current source of recreational catch estimates, it’s used to calculate recreational catch/extraction against Recreational Harvest Limits (RHL,) .. or more simply: MRIP calls the ball on whether we have remained at or below our recreational quotas.
We ALWAYS go over.
Way Over.
We're ALWAYS accused of going far over quota.
Not Party/Charter, who are factually doing most of the extraction most of the year, but Private Boats because, MRIP staff have told me, "There are so many more."
That's some wrong thinking there -- There are infinitely more people who like fishing but do not own an ocean/estuary capable boat. Personally, I admire anyone who can afford a day off and even buy a partyboat ticket, let alone that very small percentage of anglers who can go fishing on their own boat any time they want. While Private Boats do allow access to marine fisheries, boat ownership often necessitates less time off from work: Boat Payments.

And, promise, I've been fishing DelMarVa since the late 1970s -- what we do today is NOT overfishing. So help me, my clients have kept more sea bass in a single day many times than we usually keep in all of June/July nowadays.
Seriously.
Regulation's effect shows up in the catch data for Party/Charter. When regulations tighten, our catch declines. For Private Boat? They always catch more..

Given the regulatory battles every year for recreational sizes/bags/seasons it’s no surprise that MRIP’s astoundingly too-high estimates have been a major pain since inception.
I doubt if anyone complained more about the old MRFSS catch estimating program more than I did. Can we have MRFSS back NOAA? Please?
What the National Academy of Sciences called "Fatally Flawed" in the mid-2000s -- What we complained of so loudly that Congress took action: MRFSS was incredibly better than today's MRIP rubbish.

And the worst part?
What’s inconceivably foul about MRIP data’s use in fisheries today is how fish stock/population analysis have been recently skewed upward.
As shown above, for instance, MRIP has NY Private Boat catching more sea bass in 2016 (and '17 actually) than All Commercial Trawl, Trap, & All Party/Charter.
So what’s a scientist to do? Has to be an awful lot of fish available to these Private Boats in order to have such phenomenal catches. Gosh. Any fishery scientist in front of a screen with such data would have to conclude: “There MUST be a lot more fish in the sea than I previously thought.”
All MRIP's catch estimates are insanely too high.
Except Party/Charter. They've not changed.
In order to match recreational catch, now our fish population estimates are too high also.

They know it’s wrong.
Management/fisheries science know this is a perfect example of ‘GIGO’ - Garbage In, Garbage Out.
Yet still they follow the rules. Have to. NOAA says use MRIP data - they use the data. It's a paycheck/no paycheck sort of situation for the people actually doing the calculations.

Recreational catch data shows we’re catching WAY too many fish. Far more than we’re allowed. We must ‘pay it back’ in reduced recreational quotas which translates to far tighter regulation. However, because scientists see "there are so many fish available to catch that rec fishers blow away all old numbers," that means Commercial quotas must be given substantial increases.
And they are.
MRIP creates the illusion of huge recreational landings. Scientists are made to fabricate MRIP's landings into new & far higher fish populations. Recreational anglers suffer tighter regulation because "we're already catching more than our share" ..while Commercial fish are gifted much higher quotas.
There will be nothing illusionary about commercial landings.
What could go wrong?

Recreational fishers are due a 31% cut in summer flounder/fluke quota in 2020. There’s talk of a one fish limit coastwide with a May 15 to Sept 15 season. That’s the starting point. Want more fish? You'll have a much shorter season..
We just took another cut last year in fluke while commercial fishers received a whopping 49% increase..

In the coming year it’s expected commercial black sea bass quota will be increased upwards of 70% while recreational quota takes a 29% hit.
I might have to offer my clients 5 sea bass at 15 inches in 2020. I strongly suspect my business model, despite 40 years on the water, would swiftly collapse given such a restriction. This while NOAA proudly tells Congress they’ve “rebuilt sea bass in the Mid-Atlantic 300%” or, elsewhere, that sea bass are of 2.4X greater population than they'd thought 'successful.'
What a mess.

Now, most everyone thinks MRIP's catch estimates cannot be repaired.
I believe they can.
Quite quickly too.
Have I just shown readers how ludicrous some MRIP estimates are by comparison to known catch values? Then the very same technique can be applied large scale. With any species that's targeted by Party/Charter & Private Boats (better still if Artisanal Commercial is included as well, say pinhookers & nearshore trappers) NOAA could have the States collect info from highliners in these fisheries - from those who go fishing the most - and develop "Percentage of the Fishery tables" from these meetings.
It's inexcusable for NY Nov/Dec sea bass landings, for instance, to have about 3 million pounds of catch while the guys actually out there (primarily Partyboats) don't even have 50K lbs.
NY Recreational Catch Only..
Status   Year   Wave   Name   Fishing Mode   #Fish   PSE   Weight (lb)   PSE   
FINAL   2016   NOV/DEC   SEA BASS   PARTY BOAT   12,535   32.5   25,129   32.6   
FINAL   2016   NOV/DEC    SEA BASS   CHARTER BOAT   6,365   26.1   17,914   29.1   
FINAL   2016   NOV/DEC   SEA BASS   PRIVATE BOAT   1,136,275   41   2,841,881   42   
FINAL   2017   NOV/DEC   SEA BASS   PARTY BOAT   10,143   4.7   23,044   4.9   
FINAL   2017   NOV/DEC   SEA BASS   CHARTER BOAT   1,035   74.7   2,363   82.5   
FINAL   2017   NOV/DEC   SEA BASS   PRIVATE BOAT   1,257,948   67.1   3,053,370   67.2   
NY Party/Charter guys tell me even 10% Private Boat landings in Nov/Dec would be a lot. That means NY Private Boat caught close to 2,540 lbs in Nov/Dec 2017-- not over 3 million!

I've written extensively about it. Went to every pre-MRIP meeting I could to push the idea of "Percentage of the Catch" to NOAA staff.
It would certainly appear they took no advice from fishers at all. There are no "Bayesian Stops" in MRIP's statistics. Any estimate might have a species of fish piled to the moon with not an eyebrow raised anywhere in system.
With "Percentage of the Catch" tables in front of them, estimators would have to justify their many statistical outliers when an estimate shoots past some expected norm. We could do these tables for Maryland's coast in a couple days.
More simply? Run the numbers through the old MRFSS program..

If no corrective action is taken recreational fishers are toast.
MRIP shows our catches far-far above allowable levels. We now have to endure the 'pay back' provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Recreational regulations may tighten to such extremes that many businesses will fold.
Commercial fishers, at the moment, benefit most handsomely. Already are in the case of summer flounder, & soon sea bass. This is because stock estimates (population estimates) of fish have risen sharply now that MRIP's recalibrated estimates are included in population assessment science.

Recreational scup/porgy fishers might see a cut in 2020 from as much as 50 fish per-person to just 3.. How's that going to play in the big NE Partyboats? They didn't blow through the "Recreational Harvest Limit" - Private Boats did. According to MRIP's estimates Party/Charter landed just 14.4% of scup in 2016 || 13.9% in '17 || and 19.2% in 2018.. Fishers I know in the Partyboat trade who target scup strongly disagree with MRIP's asserted percentages..
In 2004, under the old MRFSS estimating program, Party/Charter had 52.9% of the recreational scup catch. When MRIP was first released that 2004 percentage dropped to 27.5%. Now, after two 'recalibrations,' MRIP shows the 2004 recreational boat percentage split for scup at just 12% for Party/Charter & a whopping 78% Private Boat.
Uh Hu..

In 2004 MRFSS had the recreational boat sea bass fishery split 49.7% Party/Charter & 51.3% Private Boat - at MRIP's introduction in 2012 that 2004 split dropped a bit to 42.2% - Today, after MRIP's recalibrations, it's 26.2% For-Hire & 73.8% Private Boat.

In 2004 MRFSS had the summer flounder recreational boat split at 22.9% with Party/Charter on the low side - at MRIP's intro 22.5% - Today's 2004 estimate shows Party/Charter landing only 11.7% and Private Boat at 88.3% of recreational flounder/fluke boat catch...

Those are 2004 numbers. The Party/Charter percentage of recreational boat catch keeps falling: In 2016 it was 4.1% of summer flounder || 7.7% of sea bass || & 14.4% of scup.
For tautog in 2016 Party/Charter landed only 1.6% of recreational boat catch.
Remember, Party/Charter numbers haven't changed. Only Private Boat & Shore numbers have shot up.

Fisheries Councils & Commissions were using MRFSS data back when the original Commercial/Recreational splits (allocations) were made.
For sea bass it's Recreational 51% - Commercial 49%.
Summer flounder Rec 40% - Com 60%.
Scup 22% vs 78% Commercial.
If MRIP is to be used, then we must correct those now grossly unfair splits.
Here's how it works out. I've averaged 2016 & 2017's recreational MRIP data against Commercial landings.
Using MRIP the Recreational sector would 'own' 69.5% of the total summer flounder quota instead of just 40%.
With sea bass it would be Rec 80.2% vs Com 19.8% instead of 50/50.
For scup it would be Rec 41.5% vs 58.5% Com instead of 22/78.
For tautog Rec would now have 96.2% of the total quota..

This would be called "Reallocation."
Management's going to reallocate all species with a recreational component if MRIP remains in play. They'll have to.
If the original allocation splits were made in the 1990s based on false data, they'll have to be repaired.
As much as I'd hate to see such rubbish as MRIP remain in our fisheries science/management calculations, it's going to be GREAT for Recreational fishers ..and really bad for Commercial fishers soon.
All's well that ends well?
Commercial advocates have certainly been adamant we recreational fishers repay our quota overages. They certainly haven't refused their sudden new quota increases either.

Doesn't make it right.

MRIP's got to go.
Management & fisheries scientists have no idea what's really happening at sea. MRIP's that bad. MRFSS was already too high - already taking quota from recreational & giving it to commercial for as long as management's been in existence.
Now MRIP has inflated recreational catch to such great heights, often (always?) millions of pounds too high; it's entirely possible that simply today's commercial quotas alone, based as they are on stock/population estimates which include MRIP as a primary data source -- Today's commercial quotas, fish legally removed, could create factual overfishing even if recreational fishing were entirely shut.
If we recs are unable to bring a stop to MRIP's use in 2020 regulation making, we will be just about closed for many species anyway. That experiment will play out.

Once quotas are reallocated things are going to get mighty tight on the commercial side and loosen magnificently for recreational fishers.

For Fishery Restorations sake it would be better to know the truth of it. Science cannot work with bad inputs, nor can Management be fair.

NOAA must learn the truth of recreational catch or much closer the truth of it at least.
This is very easily done with the "Percentage of the Catch" idea I've put forth. As an instant repair, simply reinstating MRFSS would calm the waters until MRIP can be made to actually produce usable data.
Until this constant, annual conflict over recreational regulation is halted we'll never discover Fisheries Restorations' most effective tools.
Catch restriction can only rebuild a particular species to its present day "habitat holding capacity." If that habitat is shared by several species, as in the case of striped bass, weakfish, & bluefish, then overweighting one species over others is a problem.
As I have long held about our natural hardbottom reefs in the Mid-Atlantic, if a great deal of habitat has been lost, then restoring historic fish populations becomes impossible. Where our reef fish are concerned - Reef Restoration Makes Fisheries Restorations Simple.
Discovery of means to accelerate spawning production, both biologically and via habitat improvement/creation, aren't even a consideration anywhere in any species management plan that I've seen. This work should be front and center.
Instead, wacky MRFSS/MRIP estimates have always created such a diversion that important scientific work has no chance of consideration.

We have an ocean to work with yet squander decades embracing recreational catch data that no one now believes.

If you fish or know someone who makes a living fishing, YOU can make a difference.
You'll need to put some stamps on envelopes..
Below from "Fish Report 4/22/19 DC Continued"..

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This is a simple letter I thought might be useful to fishers who want to sound off about MRIP's recreational catch estimates - Personalize it a bit, perhaps adding an example of bad data you find most egregious - print & sign - send..

Dear Fishery Manager/DC Congressperson/Secretary of Commerce etc,
Recreational fishers have always had serious trouble with NOAA’s recreational catch estimating programs, now called MRIP. This program threatens to nearly shut All Marine Recreational Angling from North Carolina to Maine.
Already a failure at it’s 2012 release; since MRIP’s recent “recalibrations” our situation has become untenable.
Along the Gulf of Mexico all States have given MRIP the boot. They are doing their own catch estimates.
Indeed, it seems there is no remaining support for MRIP’s estimates in the fisheries science & management communities at the State/Council/Commission levels. Yet today MRIP's data has been fully enfolded into stock assessments -- has inflated population estimates far beyond their true values. Because of these new population assessments Commercial fishers are getting huge boosts in quota while recreational fishers receive massive regulatory tightening.
NOAA needs a te


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