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Capt. Monty Hawkins Report
Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Fish Report 5/12/15
Cbass Open Soon
Reef Dinner!
MRIP’s Blueline Execution: Can It Be Stayed?

I’ve had enough of bad management stemming from bad data.
I hope you have too. See below..

Reef Dinner, May 17th, Ocean City Marlin Club, 4:30 to 7.. Live Auction at 6..
Just $20.00 at the door (Tickets at the door only). Lots & Lots & Lots of GREAT Auction items.
Benelli USA donated a pair of Silverboy lever action .22s .. We’ve got St. Croix Rods & many others. Dave Sikorski’s making the very first EVER hand-carved Oyster Wrasse (er.. it was Native Americans who called them tautog.)
I’m putting a cork black duck gunning decoy I made in 1989 up for auction.
Several Artists are offering work, George Kalwa among them.
World Famous World Record Tautog Skipper, Capt. Kane Bounds, is donating a charter trip to auction. He made me promise not to tell anyone he also knows where 29.9 lives!
. . Be a few Morning Star tickets too.
Lots & LOTS more - crazy way more.
Bring MONEY & come HUNGRY. The Marlin Club specializes in delicious!

Sea bass open May 15th. Have been taking reservations for months so the opener is booked. Do have spots open come Monday & other weekdays; Saturdays later..

After May 15th, 2015 & Until Flounder Show: Sailing Daily For Sea Bass. Saturday's 6:30 to 3:30 - $125.00 – Otherwise 7 to 3 at $110.00.. (the first few trips are ALL long trips..)
Reservations Required at 410 520 2076 - LEAVE YOUR BEST POSSIBLE CONTACT NUMBER - Weather Cancelations 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..

Dramamine Is Cheap Insurance! Crystalized Ginger Works Great Too. 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! (Wockenfuss Candies sells crystalized ginger locally - Better is Nuts.Com.. Chewable Meclizine is a good pharmaceutical with Scopolamine Patches the gold standard.)

Bring A Cooler With Ice For Your Fish – A 48 Quart Is Fine For A Few People.

Small-scale reef building that adds up over time; on my last fishing trip we dropped reef-block number 11,080 over the stern rail. Now 2,170 at Doug Ake's – 1,218 at Saint Ann's - 360 at Al Giles’ Barge, & 10 at an as-yet unnamed reef group on Sue Foster’s Isle of Wight reef.. (We sealed the deal at Lindsey Powers’ & Brian Sauerzopf’s Reefs with Iron Lady deployments. With tons & tons of new pre-cast concrete, it would take an incredible volume of block to make a noticeable difference at those reefs now.)

Please Sponsor Reef Building At ocreefs.org - Thanks!


Greetings All,
Carried the local middle school’s fishing club one afternoon. Three years running they’ve caught good numbers, but this year’s bite blew all other trips away.
Then I carried Salisbury University’s marine biology section as a favor for an old friend. What a blast! Professor Ann Barse, who in my youth was renowned for her ability to kick a tuna’s butt at the transom while working charters in summer, has been teaching marine biology courses at SSU for decades. I’m trying to nudge the University towards seafloor studies in our region and may have made progress..
My youthful crew of young men allowed we should take the SSU biology class every week. Certainly generous, but I think their noble idea had more to do with anatomy than marine biology.

Finished up our tiny spring toggin season with OK fishing over the weekend. Lot of shorts. Some clients did far better than others. Wasn’t always skill; sometimes luck drove the bus.
One client, I’ll call him “George,” had 30+ tog overall on Saturday’s long trip. Another client, & here code-named “Henry,” did not.
At all.
I have witnessed the precise reverse; where ‘Henry’ cleaned ‘George’s’ clock.
Twenty Pound Bob, obviously powerless without his cape, only managed 11 keepers Saturday. We tagged a few of them. Another I found quite delicious. Was glad to accept the gift because I spent all day watching two radars in heavy fog.
Looked like everyone had fun - caught dinner too I hope.

Had 5 tag returns over the weekend. Some from the fleet, a few from my deck. Haven’t looked at them or called them in yet. (Yes Jeff, my tags are almost ready to send in!) Jeff runs the ALS tagging program, now 50 years old. They’d be glad to get you started tagging too. While somewhat tolerant of my tardy mailings, he’s not at all tolerant of errors..

Five tautog tag returns.. With far-more populous cbass just off the coast, every boat was toggin.
It’s because of bad MRIP/MRFSS catch estimates that no one was cbassing; because of ‘overfishing’ seen ONLY on a computer screen — sea bass are CLOSED.
Because of estimates even the staunchest NOAA/NMFS “best available data” purist would find indefensible, except Witek, sea bass are closed
We’re tearing up thousand dollar bills because of data no one believes.
We’re ignoring species responses that lead to all-time high populations because management MUST respond to the best available data As-Is: even if they have serious doubts about it’s accuracy.

Sad though it may be, please believe our sea bass situation along DelMarVa is the best on the entire east coast - by far.
Only the efforts of a few in management, and especially Maryland’s Mike Luisi, have kept oxygen flowing to our sea bass fishery.
MRIP’s lurking - trying to get a heel on that O2 line. The data's going to get us yet, going to close our sea bass too ..we just don’t know when.

Biology & ecology were long since ordered to leave the room in favor of catch-estimate driven management. Simple triggers we’ve seen drive fish populations upward, straight up, are ignored.
Has NOAA recognized our reef ecologies? No.
Is NOAA actively trying to reconstruct yesteryear’s reef ecology? No.
Is NOAA pondering the meteoric rise of sea bass populations in early management? No.
Is NOAA enforcing the use of bad data by regulatory & scientific communities as though God-given & perfectly divine? Yes.

IF recreational catch estimates had actually been improved as the last re-write of the Magnuson-Stevens Act intended; and IF management could fathom the importance of habitat fidelity & habitat production for the purpose of reef-fish management; and IF stock assessments done by trawl truly reflected reef-fish populations living on reef habitat where trawls cannot go: Then today’s style of management would be fine.

It’s my opinion that the single most damning fire-hardened spear thrust into this cyclops’ eye, what most blinds this monster we call NOAA or NMFS, is the abject absence of veracity in recreational catch estimates.

“Overfishing Alert!! Man the regulatory keyboards! Jetty fishers in NJ caught more tautog in a few weeks than ALL U.S. Commercial Trawl & Trap Fishing ALL YEAR. They MUST BE STOPPED!!”

“Sound The Klaxon!! Massachusetts Private Boats Caught More Sea Bass Than ALL U.S. Party/Charter Effort - more than the ENTIRE US FLEET! Arrest Them ALL!! Even The Sailboats Must Be Catching!! Stop This Evil Overfishing!!”

“Emergency! Emergency! Private Boats Have MASSACRED the ENTIRE Gulf of Maine Cod Population In JUST A FEW WEEKS!! STOP THEM!! HEAVEN FORBID! THEY HAVE CANOES, AND KAYAKS!!”
{MRIP’s estimate for GOM cod by Private Boats was 778,000 pounds in March/April 2010. A period of transition to new catch estimates, NOAA & NEFMC may well have used the old MRFSS estimate of 1.5 million.. Yet Men Who Actually FISH that time of year think Private Boats could not possibly account even 5% of For-Hire late-winter/early-spring cod catch. At a full 5%, Private Boats would actually have taken 2,600 pounds - not nearly a million!!!)

Red grouper, haddock, red snapper, cod, black sea bass, & tautog; the combination of ancient trawl sampling technologies used to develop a stock assessment, along with catch estimates unfit to line a bird cage, have placed many popular fisheries in regulatory purgatory.
(Stock assessments are how management answers their question, "How many of these fish are in the ocean?” Stock assessment is how they calculate safe levels of fishing extraction. I generally hold stock assemsments in much higher regard than recreational catch estimates. It’s when MRIP is used to determine how many we actually took - therein lies the trouble!)

The creation of millions of fish through advanced management techniques & the earning of multi-millions of dollars from among our coastal ports is being squandered as management kowtows to NOAA’s demand that MRIP recreational catch estimates be treated as though perfectly true for regulatory purposes.
There is No obvious goal of creating vast populations of reef fish in NOAA’s regulatory actions; No insatiable desire to understand our reef-fish species's hardbottom ecology; there’s No search for methods of driving reef fish production upward - not even a hint of it. NOAA’s just bludgeoning fisheries into oblivion with MRIP data too putrid for use in any other endeavor.

NOAA’s insistence upon using MRIP catch estimates as ‘perfect & infallible’ is gumming-up this entire restoration effort so badly that, for many, it has become economically infeasible to remain a recreational for-hire fisherman. This line is crossed more and more often as businesses, sometimes multigenerational, fall to bad data’s use as “best available science” - because it’s the ‘only available’ data . . . - - - . . .

The blueline tile fishery, a fishery I dearly love if seldom get to enjoy, is being marched up the gallows steps as I write - as you read.
MRIP, by a handful of spikes in recent Private Boat estimates below Hatteras & older Charter spikes also from below Hatteras, is the hangman.
Hooded & silent, MRIP’s patience is remarkable.
Well-greased, this trap-door’s been used before. Been used down in the Gulf with red snapper; been used up north just this year for cod & sea bass; been used here for sea bass; for years in NY with fluke..

My business’s only life-line: sea bass in the Mid-Atlantic are just one bad MRIP estimate away from treading the same gallows path & lowering of the same noose as blueline fishers face today.
If MRIP claims canoes & kayaks filled themselves to the gunnels & caught more than an entire decade of professional effort in just a few weeks, NOAA will only ask if shore-fishers too were as wicked in their overfishing.
Data assumed perfect, the trap-door will swing. With fishing seasons gone, I and others will have wasted our working careers so that NOAA could worship their catch data.

I’ve had enough of bad management stemming from bad data.
I hope you have too.
The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council recently took swift & decisive action to close a loophole in commercial regulations on blueline tile. At the same time, recreational regulations previously adopted by Virginia & Maryland were made coastwide.
That’s good management.

Knee-jerk reactionaries who couldn’t manage a long-time & well established fishery from out of wet paper bag, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council allowed this very-same loophole to be fully exploited until too late - apparently much to the detriment of their region's blueline fishery.
Not satisfied with completely screwing up their own; Now SAFMC wants regulatory authority of all blueline tile reef production from each reef above Cape Hatteras as well.

MRIP, always willing to viciously attack a fishery when it’s down, is here seen being beaten savagely by its own handlers.
From SEDAR 32 (SouthEast Data Assessment & Review) - this is fishery scientists writing.. "The unreliability of MRIP estimates is particularly concerning during the recent expansion of the fishery north of Cape Hatteras from 2006 to 2008, including some elevated discard data from 2007.”

At Issue: Flexing their muscle, SAFMC wants to lay claim to all reef production of bluelines NORTH of Cape Hatteras - Fish that, so far as we know, never-ever leave their home reef.. They’ve already CLOSED blueline tile down to ONE FISH PER BOAT PER DAY in their region.
(My question, here phrased far more politely than if posed in my wheelhouse: “Gosh & Gee Wilikers, SAFMC, where the Golly-Day were you when it was a fishery & not an EMERGENCY?”)

Now they want to manage ours: it’s an “EMERGENCY.”

Here’s their Emergency as shown by ALL recreational catch data since 1981.
This is the entire data run from each & every two-month ‘wave’ from 1981 to 2014 broken down by sector (e.g. Party Boat, Charter Boat, or Private Boat.)
In almost any species that we actually catch in any number, a table with this much info would run for pages & pages - yet for blueline tile there’s only five entries..

Query:   MRIP CATCH TIME SERIES
Year:   1981 - 2015
Wave:   BY WAVE
Species:   BLUELINE TILEFISH
Geographic Area:   MID-ATLANTIC
Fishing Mode:   ALL MODES BY MODE
Fishing Area:   ALL AREAS COMBINED
Type of Catch:   HARVEST (TYPE A + B1)
Information:   NUMBERS OF FISH

**Review the glossary   for a description of how the for-hire survey methods have changed over time.

Return to Query Page

Estimate Status   Year   Wave   Common Name   Fishing Mode   Total Harvest (A+B1)   PSE
FINAL   2007   SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER   BLUELINE TILEFISH   CHARTER BOAT   119   63.7
FINAL   2007   NOVEMBER/DECEMBER   BLUELINE TILEFISH   CHARTER BOAT   226   104.4
FINAL   2008   NOVEMBER/DECEMBER   BLUELINE TILEFISH   PARTY BOAT   89   91.2
FINAL   2009   MARCH/APRIL   BLUELINE TILEFISH   PARTY BOAT   256   93.7
FINAL   2009   SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER   BLUELINE TILEFISH   CHARTER BOAT   18   87.3

I tell you, there truly is an emergency.
But it’s not about fish.
NOAA’s destruction of the for-hire party/charter fisheries is an emergency.

This single bit of regulation, if given to SAFMC, stands to DESTROY several more party boat businesses.

Sad beyond belief: I’m beginning to think federal regulators’ task, NOAA’s task, is actually a conquest — a regulatory seizure of our fisheries.
They’re getting very good at it.

Were NOAA & NMFS truly engaged in a battle to repopulate fish, they’d want very much to master the nuances of ecology & biology. Having finally begun, they would soon find these areas of fisheries science among their most powerful assets.

Instead, the only management I see in our marine reef fisheries is a single-minded numbers-crunching of catch data no one has faith in. Neither fishers, nor managers, nor even scientists who MUST have data to think - no one likes MRIP - no one BELIEVES.
Yet still management’s forced to respond to MRIP’s accusations as though real & verified.

A mighty regulatory machine, into which which NOAA cheerfully spoon feeds any MRIP catch-estimate no matter how illogical, is number crunching something alright: For-Hire fisher's economic bone-breaking is audible & painful beyond words. Livelihoods in recreational fishing are being destroyed by bad data from Texas to Maine.

NOAA, expressing the glee of conquistadors divvying-up tons of Mayan gold, will not back down, will not be troubled with humanity or any search for truth.
Cortez, in the largest armed robbery in history, knew he was doing god’s work.
NOAA, in the greatest seizure of fish by regulation ever, knows their obeying Congress’s command.

Although true paths of repair are made plain in the response of fishes; despair rejoices when the strong act in ignorance.

Write or Email - DO IT RIGHT NOW.
EMAIL OR CALL Your Congressman & Senators - Tell Them You’ve Had Enough!
Tell your DC Reps to let the MID-ATLANTIC COUNCIL manage our reefs' blueline populations - NOT the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council.

Tell your Senators & Congressman this too: Stop Forcing Fishery Managers To Use Bad Data - Especially MRIP Data.

Tell them; whether Sea Bass, Tautog, Cod, Red Snapper, Red Grouper or Blueline Tile - Each Reef Has A Production Value - There’s NO WAY sea bass on a reef in Massachusetts or bluelines below Hatteras will ever be affected by what’s caught here. Ask them WHY NOAA has never studied our Essential Fish Habitat Corals just off our shores.

NOAA has no recognition whatever of habitat production in our reef fish. In federal management, habitat has no influence on any reef fish - none of them.
So far as NOAA’s concerned, reef-fish fall from the sky.

Really, tell your representatives in Washington that while the SEFMC touts how splendid their regulations are, theirs is a perfectly awful record of preserving the human side of fisheries. Here in the Mid-Atlantic we'd just as soon they kept their style of management below Hatteras.

MRIP is an awful excuse for a “repair” of our catch estimates that was due by 2009.
Incredible as it may seem, and owing in part to this regulatory period; MRIP has already been much worse than MRFSS.

Tell Congress we need a MODERN method of calculating Recreational Catch - not a return of the Pony Express.
Seriously, MRIP is threatening a 10-fold increase in recreational catch estimate values because they have to ‘update' their phone-book based recreational catch survey. They decided to go with a “mail-in” survey. Perhaps this occurred after EVERY SINGLE GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEE had consulted their smartphone - their ‘work phone’ - the one we pay for..

Real Time Apps Already Exist - Rhode Island Has One That Works Fine. I may be the last guy to buy a smartphone; my flip-phone & desk-top do what I need. If it would finally shed truth in a very dark place, I’d buy & learn how to use a flat-phone..

I am 100% positive: We can take reef-fish populations to higher populations than have ever existed. Regulating extraction is but one step in that process.
In a sea of can't, we MUST turn the ocean blue again.
Where Reef Restoration Makes Fisheries Restoration Simple: subjugation to bad data & ensuing regulatory death of our fisheries takes us no closer to these goals.

Tell your DC Senators ( http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm ) and DC Representative ( http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/ ) Tell them NOAA has made a mockery of the last Magnuson-Stevens re-authorization. Tell your Reps we need their help; both right now with bluelines & with the new MSA reauthorization.

(Cut & pasters can easily modify this section below.)

Congress needs to STOP -right now- the SAFMC’s seizure of our Mid-Atlantic blueline fishery.
MRIP has created catastrophic regufailure in fisheries that survived even the era of true industrial overfishing just fine.
Repair of MRIP’s terrible recreational catch estimates will NOT be found in a mail-box, but on a smartphone.
Reef fish live on reefs; NOAA hasn’t caught wind of that simple bit of ecology just yet.
Cod, Red Snapper, Haddock, Blueline Tile, Black Sea Bass, Red Grouper & Others: It is NOAA’s use of MRIP as though ’science’ that amounts to economic abuse. Using MRIP catch estimates as a sole witness in NOAA’s overfishing witch trials is killing off recreational fisheries one by one..

Tell Your Congressman & Senators too that NOAA should be relieved of duty where recreational catch estimates are concerned. Ask them to give catch estimation responsibility to the US Fish & Wildlife Service - they’ll do a better job.

Tell Your Representatives in DC that there is a real emergency along our coasts: Our fishing businesses, tackle shops, marinas—the very heart of our fisheries: our way of life along the waterfront is being sacrificed over untrue data.

Tell Congress we need their help.
Soon.

We have only pens & keyboards.
NOAA has closures.
Do not remain silent.

Regards,
Monty


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