Advocacy Update – October 2018

Advocacy Update – October 2018

Government Relations Committeeinfo@cca.ms or govtrel@cca.ms

COMMISSION ON MARINE RESOURCES MEETING OCTOBER 16, 2018, Administrative Penalties: Seven Spotted Seatrout late or no reporting violations [Failure to Report Spotted Seatrout Landings] were adjudicated before the Commission on Marine Resources at the October meeting held in Pascagoula. Each of the seven commercial fishermen/women were assessed fines of varying sums, with the highest the limit of $10,000. The proceedings were difficult to follow due to changes during the meeting and left some questions since the original fines stated were lowered and initially showed as “forgiven” in the staff presentation. The Spotted Seatrout sold, totaling 24,277 pounds (22,791 late reported), were to Alabama distributors/processors and resulted in $21,791 in fines. Five of the seven commercial fishermen/women had reported NO (-0-) catch as of May 15, 2018. CCA Members will recall that the commercial Spotted Seatrout first-half season closed on April 27, 2018, when DMR estimated that the 25,000 pound quota for the first half of 2018 would be reached and then announced that the 2018 season would not reopen on June 1, 2018, as scheduled, since the 50,000 pound total Spotted Seatrout quota had been exceeded. Readers of ADVOCACY UPDATE will recall that of the 52,760 pounds of Spotted Seatrout landed prior to the close for the 2018 season, 38,615 pounds (73.2%) showed on Trip Tickets as caught by “haul seine”.

CCA Mississippi places the term “haul seine” in quotes for a reason. There are no definitions for gill net or haul seine in CMR ordinance (or state law) that would differentiate between the two gear types. Our contention is that these nets are clearly entanglement (gill) nets and should be regulated in accordance with existing regulation of gill nets that has been on record for over a decade. 

The proceedings (PDF file) of the MCMR meeting on October 16, 2018 including the actions adjudicating these late reports are available at: http://dmr.ms.gov/images/cmr/presentations/101618-CMR-Presentations-ALL-rev.pdf  The minutes, a verbatim rendering of the proceedings, will not appear until after approved at the next CMDR meeting, Tuesday, November 27, 2018, 9:00 AM at the Bolton Building in Biloxi.

ENVIRONMENTAL COMMISSIONER: Natalie Guess has been appointed by Governor Phil Bryant as the Environmental Commissioner and was sworn in at the CMR meeting. Ms. Guess is from Diamondhead and has a varied background. The DMR announcement follows: http://dmr.ms.gov/index.php/news-a-events/recent-news/1282-18-62-cws  CCA Mississippi welcomes Ms. Guess and looks forward to working with her as her tenure progresses. 

RECREATIONAL SPOTTED SEATROUT LANDINGS PROGRAM: At the request of Commissioners Richard Gollott and Steve Bosarge, Matt Hill, Finfish Bureau Director, Division of Fisheries, presented “Recommendations for a Recreational Spotted Seatrout Landings Program”. The success of Tails ‘n Scales in documenting recreational Red Snapper landings was proposed as a model but the presentation clearly pointed out the difficulties. Tails n’ Scales is applied to a universe of 2,500 anglers (with trips authorized for a boat) and this model applied to Spotted Seatrout projects a massive and unwarranted effort to adapt to a universe of 80,000 individual anglers fishing every conceivable platform including boats, public and private piers, and wading, to name just a few. CCA Mississippi will follow this but already has major reservations about any effort to apply a “counting fish” procedure to documenting recreational catch. Fishery plans managed by the states have a history of doing so by catch and stock trends with federal catch data reported appearing to inflate estimates on which basis the recreational sector is often criticized. The minimum Spotted Seatrout size (15 inches) now in effect resulted from a peer-reviewed stock assessment and projection for restoration of the resource. DMR Fisheries Staff have been committed to present annual updates, the latest of which is scheduled for presentation at the November 27th (please note change in date from the regularly scheduled third Tuesday) meeting at the Bolton Building. 

GULF COUNCIL OCTOBER MEETING IN MOBILE: Initial report from the Gulf Council includes a recommendation to the Secretary of Commerce that the minimum size for Cobia increase to 36 inches fork length. The release noted that a number of participants at public hearings had noted the decrease in stock and this change is projected to lower the annual catch by 10.3 percent commercial and 26.1 percent recreational.  We are awaiting the response from CCA staff attending the meeting on outcomes for other actions before the Gulf Council.

READ ON IF YOU WANT TO DIVE INTO THE GULF MENHADEN ISSUE:

GULF MENHADEN: A stock assessment of Gulf Menhaden is in its final stages with a Review Workshop scheduled in New Orleans, November 6-7, 2018. This stock assessment points to a conclusion that the “…stock status of the base run is not overfished and overfishing is not occurring. ……..The assessment panel recommends that managers work to define the goals and objectives for the fishery.” CCA members need to recognize that a SEDAR stock assessment is focused on just that and that decisions about management are left to the managers, in our case, the Mississippi Commission on Marine Resources (MCMR). To comment on the current SEDAR, go to: http://sedarweb.org/sedar-63

With the management of the menhaden fishery under the individual states, the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission (GSMFC), an interstate agency that does not exercise management, provides a regional management plan, the latest being the 2015 edition  http://sedarweb.org/docs/wsupp/S63_RD12_VanderKooy%26Smith2015.pdf ] This document is a lengthy report with a small section on PREDATOR/PREY RELATIONS that includes the following statement:

Considerations: An emphasis on quantifying the trophic role of menhaden in the Gulf of Mexico is an important step in the shift towards ecosystem-based management.

Recommendations: Establish methods to determine the trophic role of Gulf menhaden in the Gulf of Mexico.

There is evidence of a substantial interaction between predators and menhaden based on numerous stomach-content studies. This leads to concern with bycatch, with any data totally absent other than what has been reported in research. Of particular concern are reddrum that observation reports as possibly related to menhaden purse seine fishing activity. The following statement is derived from a SEDAR document that addresses the problem in assessing bycatch of reddrum.

At present, it is difficult to assess the potential impact of bycatch in the menhaden fishery for red drum given the limited data presented herein. Red drum are likely removed from menhaden landings and released, as discussed in Condrey (1994), de Silva and Condrey (1998), and Pulver and Scott-Denton (2012). Each study classified the majority of red drum released as either dead or disoriented, as a result of hitting the deck after being deflected. Unfortunately, a federal observer program is currently lacking for the commercial fleet (Pulver and Scott-Denton 2012), potentially due to confidentiality issues as the

fleet consists of 2 companies: Omega Protein and Daybrook Fisheries Inc. As a result, there is very little information available concerning the composition and potential volume of bycatch. Understandably, many previous studies acknowledged a shift from proposed sampling (i.e., at sea) versus realized sampling (e.g., at processing plant) and the lack of freedom in sampling the fishery because of the disruption of fishing operations (Dunham 1972). http://sedarweb.org/docs/wpapers/S49_DW_04_Red%20drum%20bycatch_final.pdf    

A number of CCA members and others have expressed concern with the impact of the commercial menhaden purse seine fishery with particular reference to operations in the Mississippi Sound. These concerns have been put before the MCMR in the past but without action. This is a complex issue with a history of a rejected attempt to allow bycatch of reddrum defeated in the Mississippi Legislature and a rejected request from the Jackson County Board of Supervisors by MCMR to set a one-mile limit from the shoreline of that county (Harrison and Hancock have this limit now). Such issues skirt the concern of many CCA Mississippi members that bycatch impacts predator species that feed on menhaden.

The Atlantic menhaden fishery is managed on a different model, under the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, that is attempting to address bycatch and catch allowances based on this species being a component of the ecosystem. The increase in menhaden fisheries operations in the Gulf may be a response by Cooke Aquaculture/Omega Protein to management in the Atlantic area. The problem CCA Mississippi faces in addressing menhaden concerns in our waters is that the stock is assessed on a Gulf-wide basis but this does not preclude actions by MCMR or the Legislature that would, many believe, enhance the presence of predator stocks that would add to making Mississippi a fishing tourism destination (per Florida that banned nets by constitutional amendment years ago).    

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