Rec groundfish, RAP meeting notes and commentary (party/charter/private boats)

Discussion in 'Striper, Blues, Cod, Haddock, Hake, Sharks' started by leaky, Jan 29, 2018.

  1. leaky

    leaky Captain

    Sep 9, 2014
    Likes Received:
    I’m going to post a bunch of info here, all pertaining to the recreational (party/charter/private boat) fishery.

    #1 meeting notes from the last couple meetings in Nov & January, also available with other pertinent docs at View Document - Library - NEFMC

    #2 some commentary breaking down the basics of what’s going on

    #3 my own not-so humble opinion on some things which are boiling my blood but are not necessarily the thoughts of the RAP or it’s members – particularly in regard to this limited access party/charter issue which has been gaining momentum.

    If you have questions, think I’ve got something technically inaccurate here, or you think I’m just wrong please share your thoughts, the purpose of posting this is both to let people know what’s going on and also for interested parties to discuss. There are topics here which certainly not all agree on.


    Recreational Advisory Panel

    South Portland, Maine

    November 14, 2017

    Motions and Consensus Statements

    Framework Adjustment 57

    Motion 1: Sterrit/Gibson

    The Recreational Advisory Panel recommends to the Groundfish Committee that in the

    Recreational Management Measures section of Framework Adjustment 57 that “No Action” be

    taken (no changes to the accountability measures).

    Motion 1 carried. (8/0/1)

    Consensus Statement # 1

    The Recreational Advisory Panel recommends to the Groundfish Committee that in the Atlantic

    halibut accountability measures section of Framework Adjustment 57 that if the

    Committee/Council recommends applying the reactive accountability measures to all federal

    permit holders that recreational party/charter and other recreational permits (e.g., Highly

    Migratory Species) be exempt. Atlantic halibut are a trophy fish which has no recreational

    allocation. The Recreational Advisory Panel suggests to the Groundfish Committee that these

    fish not be taken away from the recreational fishery.

    Motion 2: Tower/Plaia

    The Recreational Advisory Panel recommends to the Groundfish Committee that in the Annual

    Catch Limits section of Framework Adjustment 57 to select Option 2: Revised Annual Catch

    Limits for Gulf of Maine cod and Gulf of Maine haddock.

    Motion 2 carried. (8/0/0)

    Motion 3: Plaia/Tower

    The Recreational Advisory Panel recommends to the Groundfish Committee that for Georges

    Bank cod to use the five-year recent average (138.4 mt) as a catch target for FY2018 - FY2020.

    Motion 3 carried. (7/0/2)

    Motion 4: Twombly/Gibson

    The Recreational Advisory Panel recommends to the Groundfish Committee that for Georges

    Bank cod that the accountability measures first consider adjustments to seasons, then increases in

    the minimum fish size, followed by changes to bag limits. The Recreational Advisory Panel

    recommends exploring options for a boat limit as well.

    Motion 4 failed. (2/3/4)

    Consensus Statement #2:

    The Recreational Advisory Panel does not feel the Georges Bank cod recreational catches in

    fishing year 2016 warrant an emergency action or the establishment of a sub-annual catch limit

    in Framework Adjustment 57.

    Council Priorities for 2018

    Consensus Statement #3:

    The Recreational Advisory Panel recommends to the Groundfish Committee that for 2018

    Council priorities for groundfish that the Gulf of Maine cod and Gulf of Maine haddock

    recreational allocation proportions be reviewed consistent with provisions in Amendment 16

    using the most recent five-years of data (see Amendment 16 Section 4.2.5 Allocation of

    Groundfish to the Commercial and Recreational Groundfish Fisheries) and that the review

    consider the results of the MRIP calibrations.

    Motion 5: Depersia/Twomby

    The Recreational Advisory Panel recommends to the Groundfish Committee that for 2018

    Council priorities for groundfish the development a limited access program for the party/charter


    Motion 5 carried. (5/4/1)

    (Note: The chair broke the tie and voted in favor of the motion.)

    Consensus Statement #4:

    The Recreational Advisory Panel recommends to the Groundfish Committee that for 2018

    Council priorities for groundfish include getting input on different ways to manage recreational

    fishery given highly variable catch estimates.



    New England Fishery Management Council

    Recreational Advisory Panel

    Danvers, Massachusetts

    January 24, 2018

    Meeting Motions

    Recreational Management Measures for Fishing Year 2018

    Motion 1: Sterrit/Gibson

    The Recreational Advisory Panel recommends to the Groundfish Committee that an additional

    run be provided for consideration with a lower length limit (i.e., 15 in or 16 in) on Gulf of Maine

    haddock to help achieve the recreational quota.

    Motion 1 carried. 6/0/3

    Motion 2: Pierdinock/Gibson

    The Recreational Advisory Panel recommends to the Groundfish Committee that for whichever

    option is selected for fishing year 2018 that recreational fishing opportunity be maximized to

    achieve the Gulf of Maine haddock quota while not exceeding the Gulf of Maine cod quota.

    Motion 2 failed. 2/4/3

    Motion 3: Sterrit/Tower

    The Recreational Advisory Panel recommends to the Groundfish Committee that the Council

    recommends to the State of Massachusetts to drop the bag limit to zero fish for Gulf of Maine

    cod (“Option 1”) because the alternative would be closed for the month of May to Gulf of Maine

    haddock fishing (“Option 2”) and that would be far worse for the recreational fishery.

    Motion 3 failed. 4/4/1

    Motion 4: Tower/DePersia

    The Recreational Advisory Panel recommends to the Groundfish Committee Status Quo

    (“Option 0”) management measures for Gulf of Maine cod and Gulf of Maine haddock for

    fishing year 2018.

    Motion 4 carried. 6/3/0

    Motion 5: Sterrit/DePersia

    The Recreational Advisory Panel recommends to the Groundfish Committee that the Council

    asks NMFS to verify the private boat effort and catch data for Gulf of Maine cod and Gulf of

    Maine haddock with some other data source (e.g., aerial surveys, salt-water registry, and last five

    years comparison of MRIP to VTRs for party/charter).

    Motion 5 carried. 8/0/1

    Control Date

    Motion 6: Plaia/Tower

    To recommend a revised control date for the charter/party groundfish fishery of May 1, 2018.

    Motion 6 carried. 7/2/0
  2. leaky

    leaky Captain

    Sep 9, 2014
    Likes Received:
    In short what the RAP is for those not familiar, is a panel of about 12 advisors who make recommendations pertaining to party/charter/private boat recreational groundfish regulations, which are fed up to the New England Fishery Management Council. More or less our recommendations are followed when it comes to making changes to these fishery regulations, however it’s bound by the science of what they think is out there for fish and what the science/models state will happen when we make changes to regulations. We are given options, we discuss and sometimes argue, we vote.


    I’m not sure on the current status but the state of Maine has basically been doing things to undermine the federal management of this species, ie handing out commercial permits and allowing catch out of sync w/ the federal body that manages them. The result is that the federal body is forced to take actions and make cuts because they are bound by the need for a sustainable fishery. The RAP is recommending recreational fisheries are not impacted by any knee jerk changes – again I’m not intimately familiar with halibut but basically the issue has been the state of Maine failing to get on board and we are trying to declare our small fishery exempt (from what may happen with federally managed commercial halibut fisheries if they are shut down as a result of Maine’s failure to comply).

    Another way to put what is going on with halibut is we do not want to get barred from retaining them like we have with wolf fish, which was not related to any state but a similar situation with a very small recreational catch and federal mandate to maintain stocks.

    Georges Bank Cod:

    This is a relatively small and directed fishery (ie little bycatch, little throwback, small quota) where the RAP does not have a very strong opinion, however we keep being asked for input. I think that’s because most of who represent the RAP and who the RAP represents fish North of the line which designates the GB stock from the GOM stock (ie a few members understand it, most do not). If you fish on this stock please note the motions.

    Limited Access in Party/Charter:

    I’ll add my .02 (or more like my $100 :) ) on this later but note that in November the RAP voted 4/4 to making this a council priority and the tie was then broken by the chair. We have been talking in circles on this issue for years. This has been highly controversial every time it’s brought up. It was then brought up again at the meeting in January (likely because it was voted as a priority in Nov) and the RAP voted 7/2 to recommend a control date of 2018. What will happen next is unclear; I anticipate the council is going to start working on whether this date is agreeable to the public, what limited access means (if anything today, or what in the future). There will be public hearings on this particular subject prior to anything being done, but it’s an important one to make comments about (to the NEFMC) if you have an opinion.

    Cod & Haddock stocks:

    We have more haddock available to us than we can shake a stick at. Literally if they had no regulations on haddock the models used predict recreational fishing would not go over quota – and those populations are on the rise.

    Cod on the other hand, we have a small quota of ~200 tons (which isn’t much but is 1/3 of the fishery) which we are using as bycatch in the haddock fishery. In other words, those cod you catch when you are haddock fishing, some of which die, is what fills our cod quota. The RAP has been sticking with recommendations to keep the haddock bag limits as high as we can, while keeping basically no cod. Based on the models if we even allow a single cod, a targeted cod fishery results, and the cod becomes even a lower choke point. For instance, to get 1 cod we might have to only have a bag limit of a couple haddock versus 12 haddock and no cod. For such reasons the RAP recommended in this January’s meeting that the models are re-run using 15 or 16 inch haddock (versus 17 inches) as that helps recreational boats limit out and stop impacting cod during trips, and also because there is no risk of overfishing haddock under any length limit.

    Cod stocks are on the rise, but more slowly than haddock rebounded. I’m not speaking what is happening one way or the other it’s just what the science shows. The next assessment to my knowledge comes this fall.

    The state of MA similarly to the state of Maine, has been throwing a wrench into the works by allowing 1 cod per day if caught in state waters. As ridiculous as it might sound, the models, which is what we are bound by as it’s the science, tell us that single cod in MA state waters (which results in some cod taken from fed waters landed as “state waters” too) makes the difference between potentially shutting down an entire month of haddock fishing during the summer, and having it be open. For such reasons the state of MA is getting pressure to fall in line with federal regulations and set its daily limit for cod to 0.

    Private Boat Trips Seem Very High; Private Boats Are Most Of The Fishery

    Private boats account for about 75% the catch of groundfish in the GOM, based on survey data. What they do is they figure out the percentage of private anglers who fish for groundfish then extrapolate what they catch per trip, which is then multiplied by how many trips surveys show an angler takes per year, etc.. etc.. and they come up with some number of fish caught/killed. If you took 5 months of season and 4 people on a boat per trip the data shows 166 boats in the GOM every day on average. When we look at these numbers (on the RAP) it seems like a high number; we believe there is error, accounting for more fishing pressure than really exists, possibly skewing all the numbers. Party/Charter statistics come from actual required catch reports and appear more accurate, however all numbers are on the decline looking at 2016 to 2017 – less people are fishing to some extent.

    Because of the above the RAP has asked the council to look at doing some other sampling of fishing pressure in the GOM, to correlate or refute the high number of private boat trips. On an aside my personal belief is we need to do something better in the private boat fishery to gain better information on how many fisherman and boats are really going fishing, ie mandatory reporting and/or add an additional optional groundfish designation to salt water permits (ie make it $10 so people not fishing for them will not buy the designation), something to better quantify how many private boat fisherman really target groundfish and/or to identify who they are and/or to get better data.
  3. leaky

    leaky Captain

    Sep 9, 2014
    Likes Received:
    My commentary..

    Party/Charter Limited Access

    The background on Limited Access for Party/Charter is back in the 2000’s they set a control date, stating anyone in the fishery starting after 2006 might face additional restrictions – no such restrictions ever came to light. Business peaked in around 2010 and has been declining since. At the time when they set the 2006 date, my understanding is many commercial fisheries were failing or being subject to Limited Access, pushing commercial boats into the (lucrative at the time) party/charter fishery. Some in the party/charter fishery felt too many people were getting into it and hurting their business so fought for Limited Access, citing what was done in other fisheries. It was highly controversial and never amounted to any change.

    In the last 5 years or so, as the party/charter groundfishery has been having a hard time, a handful of charter boat captains have unsuccessfully been pushing for some action to be taken using the control date, all the while the number of active party/charter boats has been decreasing (which I’d add is contradictory logic and proof that the free market solves these problems, albeit hard for someone in a business while things are in a decline I get it). There has been very little support, especially with so many people in the fishery on the wrong side of the control date. Even on the RAP, made of up mostly very well-established party/charter captains who would not be impacted by any such date, it’s been about a 50/50 split on support and not, with some who vote for it stating they do not necessarily support any action they just want it looked at by the council since we keep arguing over it. In November the motion to make it a priority almost failed again for support by the RAP, however the chairman broke the tie, stating he wanted to see it through, although he is not sure if he supports it.

    When it came to the RAP January 24th the council more specifically asked us to specify a control date – 2018 was chosen and passed fairly easily on the premise that nobody in the fishery today would be impacted. I still did not vote for or agree with it, namely because the date of 2006 had become “stale” – very difficult to use for any future restriction, in effect if we did not support a later date Limited Access would be fading away, which is what I think is the right thing to do with this. That’s about the history to date as I know it, those heavily involved in regulations at the time would have more details.

    The first thing to point out is the party/charter industry (which is basically open access) and something like the lobster industry (which is limited access) are completely different – which is why we have limited access for one and not the other. The lobster industry, if it was given an unlimited amount of boats & gear with no restrictions it would potentially flood our harbors and inshore waters with gear – with each boats goal of catching as many lobster as it can muster, an unlimited amount of boats and gear could simply fill the quota too quickly – it would be impossible to manage sustainably and wouldn’t work well for the boats in the business either as you simply have to catch a certain amount of lobster to be in business, it’s all about selling lobsters… It makes sense to have limited access for commercial lobster fisheries.

    On the other hand, the party/charter industry needs no limit in practical terms of how many boats can go fishing, there’s no such “real estate” issue since they are not setting gear and there’s never going to be so many of them that they flood our oceans. There are no limits placed on how many recreational fisherman can go fishing and how often – that has always been up to the whims of the fisherman. We have seasons, length, and bag limits, the same across all recreational fisherman no matter who’s boat they are on. The only thing that limits interest/activity is how we set the regulations (favorable or not), the economy, some social considerations, and availability of the fish. You could have 5000 or 5 party/charter boats in the fishery, the regulations stay the same the way we do it today unless the actual recreational fisherman change their activity - at which point we adjust regulations for party/charter/private boats at the same time, either to help us reach our quota, or to keep the fishery sustainable, depending what is needed.

    What there is limiting party/charter boats is the free market of supply and demand – right now the demand is far less than the supply, so some are hurting and are looking to the government to do something to cut the supply. I feel their pain but this certainly is not the American Way or the right way..

    I’ve heard arguments such as “well today there is no problem but if things get good we don’t want a bunch of new guys jumping in on our business”. Sure OK I get it, nobody wants competition in business :), but aside from the simple American Way argument – if you have an established business and some new guy can jump in and undercut you profitably you are obviously doing something wrong. If the "new guy" cannot do so profitably then their dent in your business will be short lived, that’s the whole free market thing in action, which it’s been in action today, which is why there are already so many less boats involved - it's working.

    I’ve also heard statements like “well even with Limited Access I can pass my permit down to my son” – again, American way – my dad was a nuclear engineer, that certainly doesn’t buy me any more right to that career than someone else, and a charter captains son should have no more access to such a permit than anyone else either.

    If Limited Access to Party/Charter was to go through, those in the business who choose to take a year off due to business situations, health, etc.. also could find themselves on the wrong side of such control dates and history, as is how many of these things work. I know at least one permit I have costs me $300 every year and I have to fish, whether I want to and it makes sense or not, just to make sure I can maintain it. So even for those well established it can be bad. And for those who come in the future, although today they might be present to voice their concerns, in the future it certainly will not seem fair if we head down this path.

    To conclude I’ll add the last thing we want is more Limited Access in fisheries. If someone wants to get into the tourism business they should be allowed to, whether they made their living on the water some other way and want a change or to expand, or whether they are a math teacher who is looking for something interesting to do over the summer. The sole purpose of this push for limited access is the unjust and corrupt idea of limiting competition in business, not for any environmental purpose.

    If you agree I strongly suggest writing NEFMC with comments against Party/Charter Limited access, because this is gaining momentum.
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2018
    Beamie and Ms.Aimee like this.
  4. Cdux

    Cdux Senior Member

    Mar 20, 2014
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    So. Me
    Thanks for the update & input, a lot to keep an eye on.
  5. cb34

    cb34 Captain

    Oct 31, 2011
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    For us rec guys, bottom line is no cod this year. Last year that is all you could catch........
    leaky likes this.
  6. leaky

    leaky Captain

    Sep 9, 2014
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    That is true with a couple exceptions, it's a different set of regs south of cape cod because that is considered a different stock (which is kinda questionable, some science behind it but I think it ought to be re-investigated with the science of today).. Bottom line you can keep cod there.

    And it's important to note, with cod the recreational quota is 1/3 of the total, in other words if recreational boats get 200 mt, commercial boats get 400 mt; the commercial boats are experiencing the same choke point w/ cod bycatch when trying to target other groundfish, so it's got them all screwed up too when otherwise they could probably be doing pretty well on haddock and other species.


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