Guest Writer Column

Northeast Fisheries Science Center cannot ignore other fishery data


On the morning of June 5th, the Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) hosted a Pre-TRAC meeting at the New Bedford Public Library. The TRAC is an international agreement between the United States and Canada under which yearly catch limits for George’s Bank yellowtail, cod, and haddock are determined and allocated appropriately to each Nation.

Attendees at the Pre-TRAC meeting included representatives from industry, non-profit organizations, educational institutions, and state governmental organizations.  Unfortunately, there were few fishermen present; however, considering that the meeting was held during working hours it was not surprising that members of a financially struggling industry could not take time off from work to attend.  Industry members present and other attendees did voice many concerns of those that were out fishing. The intent of the meeting was to discuss “updated commercial and research survey data” and the findings from the new “empirical approach” meeting that would be applied to the TRAC benchmark assessments meeting to be held on June 23-27 in Woods Hole.

Prior to the June meeting, NEFSC hosted an “empirical approach” TRAC Yellowtail Benchmark meeting in April to “evaluate all relevant data sources with respect to their support for alternative hypotheses on stock status and . . . their directional impact on catch advice.”  With NEFSC pledging that the “empirical approach” meeting would be new, innovative, inclusive, and transparent, there was much hype leading up to the April “Empirical Approach” meeting.  NEFSC has been criticized in the past for a lack of transparency, collaboration, and using limited and stale data sources because it utilized only two government owned and operated Bigelow trawl surveys and one Canadian trawl survey to assess George’s Bank yellowtail stock when in fact there are several more studies and assessments completed throughout the year by educational institutions and cooperative research.  It is an understatement to say that the fishing industry and stakeholders were excited and supportive of NEFSC’s “empirical approach.”  They saw it as an important step forward in increasing collaboration, transparency, and cooperation between researchers to improve upon science and ensure that all data is considered.

So, what is the result of the new “empirical approach?”  At the close of the April meeting, several studies presented revealed that the yellowtail biomass was in the range of 4,000 to 11,000mt.  This data and applying the most conservative regulatory standards, suggests that the yellowtail catch advice should be 1,000mt.  However, on June 5th NEFSC presented 553mt as its likely yellowtail catch advice to be presented at the TRAC meeting.

The catch advice is based on three surveys: NOAA’s spring and fall Bigelow surveys and Canada’s one winter survey.  Other scientific studies, such as cooperative research and the UMass Dartmouth SMAST’s video trawl survey, have not been factored into the catch advice.  When pressed to answer questions about why other sources of data were not factored in, or if the agency had tried other methods to analyze the data, the standard answer given was that NEFSC has not had a chance to incorporate the other empirical data. NEFSC’s explanation of “not having the time” has been found to be insufficient justification for not reviewing such data and its effect on catch advice (See Guindon v. Pritzker).

The TRAC agreement does admittedly state that catch advice will be based on the three government surveys; however, the agreement is amendable.  It is highly unlikely that NEFSC’s Canadian counterparts would be opposed to improving upon the science and issuing more appropriate and accurate catch advice.  By not incorporating and ignoring the contrary data from the “empirical approach” meeting, the 553mt yellowtail catch advice will raise questions about whether this advice is in fact based on the “best scientific information available” not following NEFSC on-going bureaucratic agenda.

NEFSC further attempted to justify its catch advice by reasoning that because only 35.6% of the George’s Bank yellowtail quota was landed in 2013, it must necessarily follow that the yellowtail stock biomass is low.  Audience members offered several reasons for this low landed yellowtail quota. First, that several fishermen held onto their quota until haddock season so that they could harvest haddock while not worrying about avoiding yellowtail, but weather was not favorable for fishing during the overlapping seasons.  The second reason offered was that many fishermen are avoiding yellowtail hotspots because they fear running into large amounts of yellowtail and exceeding their quota.  These reasons were generally brushed aside by NEFSC with an answer that these reasons are economic and are not studied by the presenters.

Ironically, an exemplification of why NEFSC’s reasoning that if landings are down, then the stock biomass must be low, is flawed was apparent in its haddock presentation.  Both cod and haddock stock biomasses were also discussed at the Pre-TRAC meeting.  Similar to yellowtail, the concluding remarks about cod were that only 463mt were landed in 2013 and therefore, cod stocks must be overfished.  However, when it came to haddock, despite only 15.2% of the quota having been landed in 2013, the same reasoning was not applied.  NEFSC attributed the low landings to flawed management measures because NEFSC stock assessments show haddock biomass is healthy.

In sum, on the one hand and despite contrary data regarding yellowtail stock biomass, NEFSC reasons that when cod and yellowtail landings are down, it must mean that biomass is low.  On the other hand, NEFSC maintains that because its science shows healthy haddock stocks, when haddock landings are down it is not due to low stock biomass and must mean that management measures have failed.  NEFSC’s hypocritical and flawed reasoning exemplifies why it must incorporate contrary, and potentially superior, data from the “empirical approach” meeting in its catch advice for George’s Bank yellowtail.

The International TRAC meeting is coming up on June 23rd.   NEFSC still has an opportunity to make a fundamental change and utilize the contrary data presented at the “empirical approach” meeting in devising its yellowtail catch advice.  If the NEFSC is attempting to be transparent and to build public trust, then its TRAC team should present both the results of the three governmental surveys and the contrary and probably superior biomass data from the “empirical approach” meeting.  Presenting all data and catch advice options will lead to the final decision makers being fully informed to determine the “best scientific information available” and establish better, more reliable total catch advice for both Nations.

Scott W. Lang

Scott W. Lang is an attorney and former Mayor of New Bedford.

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I am Professor Bill Allen PhD.

I do scientific research on the Worlds Oceans studying the mating habits and reproduction of various sea creatures and their life cycles.

I have managed to fund my studies by various methods of capture of marketable, edible species of sea life, in which I sell as food for the American public and to other Countries.

I have gained a wealth of knowledge in my years of participating in this endeavor , and at some point will write about it as to share with the scientific community my lifes work findings in conducting the research and defending my dissertation. I am proud to say I have managed to pursue my quest at no cost to the tax payers.

Currently I and other fellows like minded, are studying the demise of the North Carolina Blue crab as a former significant food source, and the economic impact it has created on local producers, businesses, and tax revenues into public coiffures.

Our initial findings from a recent 5 year study suggest the cause of the demise of the crabs are directly related to the strong documented increase of the loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) populations. It is an oceanic turtle distributed throughout the world, a marine reptile, belonging to the family Cheloniidae.

The Loggerhead sea turtle is omnivorous, feeding mainly on bottom dwelling invertebrates and crustations including the blue crab, shrimp, and lobster. It’s large and powerful jaws serve as an effective tool for crushing and dismantling its prey.

So it is the recommendation of myself and my fellow scientists who have studied this delima, that we remove the sea turtle from the Endangered Species list with an up grade to Protected Species. This will allow the controlled re-commercialization of the species in order to keep it’s populations to more suitable numbers of their Bio-Mass in relation to food sources shared by humans, thus creating healthier natural wild populations of the species as well.

But there is another problem yet to be addressed over this situation.

It is the human resource side of the issue that needs to be resolved, to cover the losses they have accrued due to the lack of oversight by the people who were paid out of the public coiffures, and supposed to be diligently monitoring the turtle recovery programs.

It is suggested to pay each operator of a blue crab, or lobster business a restitution amount of $250,000.00 to cover the losses they have accrued due to this lack of oversight by the Professional people hired, not elected, in these positions.

We also propose that there be issued to each operator of a blue crab or lobster business, a license to harvest turtles, not to exceed 1000 per operator per season in further restitution. These numbers are minimum amounts and each operator is encouraged to show actual losses, if they exist, which may exceed the $250,000.00 minimum, shall be encouraged to do so.

Next we will be discussing the total loss of revenues accrued by the commercial shrimper due to the loss of shrimp revenue, related effort, and bodily harm to the crew members resulting thru the use of these Turtle Excluder Devices, (TED’s) as the increase of the turtle populations are evident from Texas to the Carolinas.

I expect this amount could be on the low end as much as $750,000.00 per vessel.

Our lawyers will be contacting NOAA and various state fishery managements, along with turtle groups, like CCA and Oceana in the very near future.

Best regards,

Professor Bill Allen PhD….(Piled Higher, and Deeper)

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Today’s Marine Conservationists Are Climate Deniers



There was a time when marine conservation was a grassroots movement funded by scientists and activists alarmed by the enormous cost to the marine eco-system due to the industrial revolution, modern society, and our way of life. Industrial pollution choked the rivers, smoke filled the skies, and acid rain flowed into the ocean through the dirty sewers of every city and town near the ocean. Coastal areas rapidly became densely populated as humanity gathered by the sea to enjoy cleaner air, negative ions, and the prosperity global trade brought on giant ships filled with shiny new goods. When sludge and dead fish started washing up on the beaches and life by the sea began to look less attractive than it once did, it was easy to see that the natural world wouldn’t be able to absorb all of the pollution humanity was pouring into it. These activists fought industry and big business and eventually found the political will to clean up the beaches, air, and water, ensuring a better quality of life for all of us.



There was no political will to make any kind of reduction to pollution that was more difficult to see, like the carbon molecules that passed through the filters mandated by clean air regulations, or the chemical pollutants that can’t be removed from wastewater pouring into the sea. The beaches were made cleaner for bathers by a system of secondary sewage re-processing utilizing large amounts of chlorine creating rivers of (Anti-bacterial and pharmaceutical infused) grey water incapable of supporting life and effectively scouring the beaches of most of the natural life they once supported. Global temperatures began rising with the carbon levels in the atmosphere and the plankton that once would have absorbed any amount of carbon from the atmosphere began to decline rapidly. Both of these factors distressed the marine eco-system and the fish populations that counted on both plankton and the natural life in near coastal areas for food. The rise in ocean temperature and the shift in food sources caused many fish to change their migration patterns following the food and water temperatures they need to stay healthy, reproduce, and get the nourishment they need to survive.



Modern marine conservation has adapted and evolved over the years and with those changes in organization and funding the description of events affecting the natural world and scientific evidence they accept as valid has changed dramatically. Since they are funded by the industry and big business they once fought against, blame for any changes in the marine eco-system has been shifted from pollution and industrialization to regional fishing activity by fishermen whose numbers have been diminished by increasingly restrictive regulation designed to rebuild the reduced fish stocks to levels that the ocean food chain may no longer be able to support. Over-fishing has become the battle cry of a marine conservation industry so closely tied to the petro-dollars that fund them they are unable to take on polluters or take a meaningful stance against expansion of oil drilling and other energy projects that damage the marine environment.



Today’s marine conservation activity is largely about drawing lines on the ocean, planning and zoning it like a big piece of watery real estate. Checkerboard lines proliferate denoting areas protected from fishing activity but open to any amount of drilling, fracking, or strip mining that the market and our growing need for raw materials can justify. The fact that they are turning the ocean into a giant industrial park while pushing the few remaining fishing vessels into areas reserved for fishing which due to migration may no longer contain the fish they hope to catch is no problem for the slick media types that have replaced grassroots activists and scientists. The premise that the lines drawn on the ocean for the protection of marine life aren’t working due to temperature induced migration of food sources doesn’t work for the planners and zoners of the last remaining wilderness area on our planet.



So why should anyone worry about the fate of a few fishermen being pushed onto watery fishery reservations that are doomed to fail in order to support the industrialization of the ocean for energy production and resource extraction? Perhaps the fact that every breath you take gets 50 percent of the oxygen in it from ocean plankton that are being killed by the very measures we used to clean up the environment. Consider the effect of industrializing the near coastal areas of the ocean which support all of our planet’s plankton production and over 90 percent of ocean life. A billion people are fed each year from the ocean’s natural food chain, a source that is perpetually renewable if we take proper care of it and don’t poison it with chemicals and industrial pollutants. Does our need for more energy and materials trump the need to draw breath and have food to eat? The fact that the so-called marine conservation organizations have nothing to say on these matters and will in fact deny climate changes impact on the ocean and the life it contains (Especially when it concerns zoning activity) should concern us all because if the self-appointed saviors of the ocean won’t do anything to save it, who will?


Jay Andersson

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The Reasons For The New England Groundfish Collapse Are An Inconvenient Truth For Regulators
As federal disaster funds roll into New England and hopeful recipients line up to fight for what amounts to pennies on the dollar for the investments and livelihoods lost, the regulatory blunders that caused this crisis are being swept under the rug. The sad premise that individual ownership of the fish in the sea is a cure-all for fishery managment issues has been exposed for the lie that it always was, yet the issues caused by introducing this new system of effort controls for New England groundfishing remain unaddressed by bumbling regulators who seem to be unwilling to admit that sector allocations have been a dismal failure and cause more problems than they solve.
The quota system’s  back up plan for vessels and men dis-enfranchised by it was participation in a growing small mesh bottom trawl fishery for the abundant herring resource left unfished by the absence of mid-water vessels which were the target of an inshore fishery closure enacted in 2007 that left much of the near coastal herring resource up for grabs. The result of these actions just prior to the collapse of the groundfish stock will not be mitigated by a paltry few tax dollars of relief money that will likely be siphoned off by the organizations that crafted the plan.
New England groundfish was rebuilt on the strength of strict effort controls involving a system of permit limitations, Days-At-Sea (for each permit year), and mesh size restrictions that allowed juvenile fish to escape from the bottom trawls and gillnets utilized. It was also rebuilt with the blood, sweat, and tears of the men and women that gave their lives and life’s work to create the many small businesses and small fishing boats that eventually failed due to the limitations of harvesting a rebuilding stock with a draconian time-line. Even though these measures made life hard for the participants the system was fair and rewarded hard work and determination with the hope for a bright future and growing fish stocks.Sadly before so many that sarificed everything to make ends meet during the difficult times brought on by stock rebuilding could realize any benefit from their efforts, the new system of sector allocations and individual fishing quotas that was supposed to be voluntary when it was proposed, virtually eliminated all who did not “volunteer” by taking away most of the (open pool) quota they were awarded.
Many found their personal efforts of groundfish conservation (By fishing for other species) rewarded by tiny quota allocations that effectively removed them from the fishery. Fishing under the new system had more than a few flaws. Localized depletion of areas where fish spawn, targeting of easy to catch fish, high-grading, (The discarding of small cheaper fish in order to retain the most marketable large ones to maximize value of quota used), discarding of “Choke species” (Fish for which there was only a small amount of quota available that would inhibit landing a vessels other quota). The At-Sea-Monitors that were supposed to prevent all of these activities from occuring were easily gamed by vessels hoping to make unobserved trips by cancellation of any trip a monitor was actually available to go.
The new system offered an unprecedented opportunity to fish for the abundant herring resource with small mesh bottom trawls by vessels freed up by individual fishing quotas. Thousands of permits were made available and participation was encouraged as a way to mitigate the damage caused by losses due to groundfish restricitions. Unfortunately large numbers of vessels towing gear with small mesh is a disaster for the juvenile groundfish that so many in New England have pinned their hopes and dreams of a better future on. Original catches of these fish were full of juvenile haddock, cod fish, river herring, and tiny flat fish all of which were protected in every other fishery. When fishermen learned that this was going to be a problem they merely picked out the juvenile groundfish and in southern New England even the river herring that are a major issue there. Since the fishery is for the most part unobserved and many landings occur at sea (and aren’t even reported) there is no way for inept regulators to obtain even a clue about the decimation of protected groundfish occuring in this fishery. With so many vessels and crew made desperate by failing fishery revenue it is not hard to see how all of this came about.
It would be easy to blame the unfortunate vicitims of this failed fishery policy made desperate by the complete failure of incompetent regulators, and  policy pushed by greedy organizations hoping to use the new system to take control of the fishing industry through the use of permit banks, charitable corporate donations, and political favors. Fishermen like anyone else are going to do what is necessary to survive. A well planned sytem of effort controls that takes this fact into account and incorporates fairness and reward for dedication and hard work is what is needed. Unfortunately for the people of New England the disasterous policy described here is still in place and no amount of disaster money will help with that.Jay AnderssonBio…
Jay is a retired fisherman who worked in the Alaskan and New England Fishing Industries for 40 years.



“Hey Cap! I’ve got you man. He’ll be here within the hour.”
By Joe Daughty

Well, I can’t believe I’m gonna tell this story, because it was kinda a rotten thing to do. But it was insanely funny at the time.I had been running a swordfish longline boat named the “Kelly Ann” out of Ft Pierce Fl. for quite a while. I got myself into a situation where I’d fired an under achieving crewman and couldn’t find a replacement. Decent crew were hard to find these days and I had began to… worry that I might miss the rest of the moon. You see, for the most part, sword fishermen live on what we call “Swordfish time”. In a nutshell, if there is any moon in the sky at night, we would be offshore with gear in the water. Swordfish raise up in the water column at night and use the moon light to catch their prey.

Well, it came to the point where I really needed to get offshore, so I put the word out that I was looking for a body to go fishing. experienced or not I’d take what I could get. Farther along in this story you’ll see what a mistake this decision was. There are only two crewman on the deck of a small Sword boat, so you can understand how important it is to have decent help.

I got to the fish house early the next morning to pump the boat out and see what was going on. As I walked into the fishouse, the dockmaster and head fish house flunkies as we used to call them, Troy, said, ” I got you man coming. He’ll be here within the hour”. I thanked him and went about the business of getting ready for a trip.By midday, my regular crewman and I had the boat nearly loaded and ready to go, but still no new guy.

At Three PM, Troy walks over to my boat with an older guy with long straggly hair and says “here is your guy”. I took one look at him and all I could think was WOW! He looked to be in his late forties,but good Gawd he was dirty. He had sores on his arms that looked like spider bites. I could smell him for ten feet away like he hadn’t bathed in months. In the back of my mind, I knew it was a mistake to hire him, but I needed to go fishing, so I gave him the nod to come aboard. Well he got on the boat with an old dingy seabag and a sleeping bag that looked as if it had never been washed. He told me his name, (lets call him Ken, because I long ago forgot his name), and asked me what he needed to do. I told him two things. Go down below and stow your gear, and then get in that shower and take a bath. I’ve always believed in keeping clean on a boat, and he was gonna learn that. I turned my attention to other duties and went to work. After a few minutes I looked forward and noticed that the front Ice hold hatch was open. I walked up there to shut it and realised that Ken was down there. I asked him what he was doing and he said he was stowing his gear. I kinda laughed and showed him the way to the forward focsle.

24 hours later, after a trouble-free and calm ride out to the fishing grounds, I first began to realize that bringing old Ken was probably a mistake. He had spent a restless night in his bunk and was screaming and hollering at someone all night long. My crewman Greg was on edge and I reassured him that it would be Okay and that we really needed a catch. About that time we could hear him screaming at someone down there again. Problem was, he was the only one down there. Funny, but not really funny. This boat was only 45 feet long and there was no room on there for a crazy man.

Two days later, he was still in his rack. He got up every now and then to take a leak and walk the deck, but we had come to the realization that ole Ken there was in full-blown Delirium Tremens. The guy was a stone cold alcoholic and was in withdrawal. He couldn’t work, so Greg and I did it all. It wasn’t easy but we did it anyways. This guy was nuts though. He was convinced there was someone underneath the cabin floor making noise and he was giving his imaginary guy some serious tongue lashing.

By the fourth day of the trip, I was getting worried about him. He still hadn’t eaten and he was looking weak. I called my Boat owner, Newell, on the single side band, and told him what was going on and that I didn’t know what to do. He said the first thing to do was get him up on the deck and shake his bunk down. Look for knives and such because a former Capt of his had been stabbed by a guy in a similar situation. He also said If I couldn’t get him fed within 24 hours to bring him home. So I immediately made him get on deck and had Greg watch him while I inspected his bunk. Sure enough, under his pillow I found a brand new Tiger knife. That scared me. I went on deck and in a fit of rage told him that if he didn’t eat right now I would throw him overboard right then and there. He ate two Ham sandwiches.

Now I have to tell you, Ken wasn’t really a bad sort. He just had an alcohol abuse problem. As the trip got longer, he got just a little better. He still couldn’t work, but he seemed to calm down a little bit. He still talked to people who weren’t there, but he got a tad steadier where I didn’t have to worry about him dying. He even tried to help where he could, like attempting to wash the dishes ‘n clean the cabin. He even sat out on deck one night while we set gear and kept telling us that the Miami vice had been on the boat earlier. He really did want to please me, but he just couldn’t.

There was another company boat close by, and its skipper was a friend of mine. Ray- Ray was the Capt of the ” Nicole” and had heard me talk about this guy just about every day in the radio. Well with his help, we decided one morning to plot my revenge on old Ken. We decided to meet up boat to boat early in the morning and pull off a stunt known as a radar check. We planned it out well in advance, and we had it down pat. I had let Greg in on the joke and told him he had to keep a straight face. As we got within earshot of the Joshua, I turned the VHF really loud so it could be heard. Then I yelled down into the cabin and woke Ken up. I told him that I really needed his help. He said okay. He was trying to please me and got right up and came out on deck. I asked Ray-Ray if he need that radar check now and he replied “Yes I need it bad.” So I told old Ken that we had to fix that other Boat’s Radar and would he help. He was eager to help and asked what to do. I told him to get up on the bow. It was slick calm so I wasn’t worried about him. He got up there and looked back at me and I handed two sauce pots out the window to him. I told him to get up to the point of the bow and hold those pots out at arm’s length on each side of him. He did so. than I d tell him to hold them at 12 o clock, then three o clock. After a minute of this Ray-Ray came on the radio and said, “Not good enough, I can’t get the signal.” So I hollered at Ken and told him we need more of a target out there. I handed him a large soup pot along with the two pots he already had. He said he couldn’t hold them al and I said well…..Just do this and I put it over his head. He walked back out to the end of the bow and dropped that soup pot all the way over his head and started waving the little pot around.

It was almost too funny to keep a straight face at this point as I was taking pictures of him. About that time Ray-Ray came on the radio which was turned up loud, and said, “Damn, get him off the bow. Hurry! Hurry, Man.” I cant believe I did that.” Hehe, Well I waved him off the bow as he handed me the pots thru the window and told him to come to the wheel house asap. As Ken came into the wheelhouse, I asked Ray-Ray on the radio, “How much Microwave poisoning did he get?’ Ray-Ray replied,” It had to be about 7 or 8 seconds worth! Man I’m sorry! I pushed the wrong button and it happened sure as shit!”. Well I turned to Ken and said, “we haven’t much time”. I handed him my tube of tooth paste and told him to go out on deck and rub the toothpaste all over himself. Well, he did, and when he was done with that, I had him wrap himself in aluminum foil. I made him stay like that all day saying that it would save his life.

After he went to bed that night, I told the story to the whole fleet via side band radio. They were in stitches telling me how cruel i was. The next morning I asked ole Ken how he felt and he said he could feel a little bit of the poisoning in him, but he thought we might have got most of it. He also said that if he ever had children he would know that they were his if they came out with a green glow.

When we got back to the Dock, I pur fifty bucks in Ole Ken’s pocket and sent him on his way. I never had the heart to tell him about the joke. I sure he thought to this day that he really helped us at risk to his life.

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This is in response to John Bullard in the Myopic View Column in the GDT

I don’t know where to start. This is one of those instances where “to  keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool is better than opening it up  and removing all doubt”, something you should’ve considered before you  submitted this deceptive drool.

 Your self serving revisionist history  would be right up there with “intelligent design” if not for the fact  that there is nothing intelligent designed into “Your View”.

 First off,  it was a collaboration between SMAST and fishermen that blew NOAA’s  scallop assessment right out of the water. Yet you’re still trying to  take credit for it. The only thing that NOAA policy has contributed to  the scallop fishery is the consolidation of the resource into the hands  of the few stake holders who now control both the stock and the market.  This can be proven at the fish market. If there are now so many scallops being landed, why is the price so high that most people just can’t  afford to eat them?

 And exactly the same thing is happening in the  groundfishery. That’s your “best example” of successful management? It  certainly explains alot!

And where are all these waterfront jobs and  thriving fishing communities to which you so proudly refer? Is this  monumental achievement the reason why we are now importing over 90% of  the seafood we, as a nation, consume?

Even as I write this NOAA’s  yellowtail assessment is being debunked by yet another SMAST collaboration with real fishermen. I especially like the part about profitable fisheries and developing markets. I have only one word to  say about that – Dogfish! Busted!

As far as “a shift in focus for  some”?, that comment is in a class of it’s own, I would recommend you  visit the eye doctor, and a shrink while you’re at it, after all we’re  paying for your health insurance so what the hell! Apparently there  isn’t enough left in the NOAA budget to hire a fact checker otherwise  your view would have been a whole lot shorter.

But I always like to end  on a positive note, your secretary did a good job on spelling and grammar.

Carrumba, Paul Cohan, Captain, F/V Sasquatch, Gloucester, Ma.

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The Massachusetts commercial striped bass fishery. Poster child for an abused resource – John Rice, Director, CIIFA

The Massachusetts commercial striped bass fishery. This fishery is the poster child for an abused resource. The MA DMF policies and regulations for the striper fishery are directly responsible for 2013 being the shortest season ever recorded since the fishery  re-opened.  An unwillingness on the  part of director Diodati to address the issue of too many permits in the fishery has led to so many participants participating in the fishery coupled with a significant aggregation a commercial size stripers of Chatham for the last several years, which has resulted and smaller and smaller seasons each year for the last several and record low prices for the last 20 years.  The fishery off of Chatham is a disgrace.  Some days there are as many as 400 boats and they 1 by 3 mile area.  So many people were coming to Chatham to go striper fishing the town of Chatham had to close all of its boat ramps and institute a parking permit system for Ryders Cove.  Every Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday they descend upon Chatham like a swarm of locusts, folks in brand new trucks with brand new boats brand new motors, people who aren’t citizens of the United States, some people from Brazil some people from Asia, this summer we even saw boat from Canada, are all there in Chatham trying to cash in on the quote on quote Chatham gold rush. Out there you will see boats from Rhode Island New York Connecticut New Hampshire Vermont New Jersey Virginia Maryland Colorado Kansas California Florida all here to catch and sell striped bass.  Almost none of these people live here or participate in any other fisheries here they just come here for two(or three) weeks of the summer to catch striped bass, many of them are merely subsidizing a very expensive vacation, others are making money and taking that money home, others purchase a permit strictly as a recreational pursuit with a chance to subsidize their expenses.  There are also a handful of charter boats thrown into the mix.  By and large the majority of the people out there participating in the fishery are not independent fisherman, 95 percent of them have full-time other jobs that they will go and work at after striped bass is over.

Continuing on about the fishery in Chatham.  There is a tremendous amount of what I will call cheating occurring there.  Many of the boats fishing there are making several trips a day,

in other words they are landing a limit in the morning and then going back out and catching another limit and landing that limit somewhere else or in another name. This is rampant.  I could name names many names I know most of them, but I don’t want to go there.  When you see a boat from Connecticut that has 5 people on it every day it’s out there, every day from sunrise until sunset and you are catching a limit all by yourself in half that time, you have to know that those people aren’t catching just 30 fish.  The DMF will say this is an enforcement issue. The environmental police will tell you we can’t be everywhere at once.  so, the only solution are regulations that make it nearly impossible for this form of activity to occur.

Since the fishery has been reopened many different individuals have attempted to work with the DMF to bring some sort of common sense to this, however, all these tabs have fall upon deaf ears. census fishery has reopened the DMF as maintain a policy of keeping this fishery an open-access fishery.  When questioned about this they reply that by maintaining this is  as an open-access fishery, it is a gateway fishery, enabling some participants to become full time fisherman.  The truth of the matter is, that most of our other states water fisheries are already limited in the entry or have been reduced in their significance to the point where they’re no longer viable.  Therefore, claiming that someone would be able to enter other fisheries as result of having been able to participate in the striped bass fish re is a little disingenuous.  Most of the participants have no intentions of going to beyond the striped bass fishery, they are really enjoying a free for all with some of their friends for a few weeks each summer coming out and pretending to be a fisherman but using the money to either pay for their vacations or to buy things (boats…) they couldn’t afford from their regular jobs.  This policy is a tremendous disservice to the full time working for Sherman of Massachusetts.  I say this is a disservice because with so many of the other fisheries being diminished in their capacities, many fishermen looking to supplement lost incomes from other fisheries need to participate in the striped bass fishery here to help make ends meet.  These fishermen are tremendous loss from things like a 10 day season.  I have questioned director of the DMF as to why he won’t do something to legitimize the striped bass fishery, His response? “I simply don’t want to deal with all the negative publicity.”  To this I would say, well if you can’t take the heat get out of the kitchen.

The fact that things have gone on this far this way, proves, the director of the division Marine Fisheries has no intention of doing anything that will help make this fishery less contentious.  There are anti striped bass commercial fishing groups who are trying to get the Massachusetts commercial fishery closed.  The most vocal of these groups is a group from Maine called stripers forever. This group, SF, has perrenially assailed the commercial fishery through legislation intended at getting the commercial fishery closed. They enlist the help of left leaning senators and congressmen, most of whom do not hold office is shore side districts.  The fishery as it has become off of Chatham, is certainly not helping the commercial fishermen in this argument.  The DMF has had so many opportunities to correct this, but they just don’t do it. Why?  By maintaining their open access policy, they created an out of control monster, period.  Their unwillingness to address this situation is deplorable.  This fishery should be no different than any other fishery that is “commercial”, it should be for the fishermen.

Someone needs to approach this situation at a level higher than the DMF in the Massachusetts state government obviously, the DMF has no intentions of doing anything anytime soon.

10 days?

John Rice – Director – ><> CIIFA <><

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