■ 08 March 2011 |
During the Senate subcomittee hearing on reauthorization of implementation of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation Management Act, one thing became terribly clear.
Fishermen - both commercial and recreational - don't trust data that is used to determine quotas or annual catch limits.
William Bird, a Florida lawyer and lifelong recreational angler, used three species common to his waters that also are common to those of the mid-Atlantic - cobia, wahoo and dolphin, as an example.
He questioned why the National Marine Fisheries Serivce would argue for catch limits when none of the three species have ever been the subject of a stock assessment, or have never been labeled as overfished. Most recreational anglers already use self-imposed limits for many species.
Locally the biggest example for confusion comes from closures to the black sea bass fishery. Like cobia, wahoo and dolphin, the sea bass is a species that NMFS says is fully recovered and not overfished. Closures like the current one financially hurt commercial fishermen and charter captains who depend on it.
Bird added that the only way for fishermen to ever trust managers would be for the people on the water to see that the numbers provided by managers match what they see every day on the water.
Stephanie Madsen, executive director for a northwestern coast organization called At Sea Processors Association, followed by stating that the only way for fisheries managers to gain ground with fishermen is for there to be good science that is trusted.
Dr. Bill Hogarth, a former director for the National Marine Fisheries Serivce, agreed. He added that the Act works, but needs to be tweaked somewhat in these regards. He offered that fishermen see what's going on every day, and their knowledge from being on the water every day needs to be incorporated into data that managers have. This is the only way, he said, that fisheries managers and their data ever will be trusted.
The hearing is over.
You can bet that the Magnuson-Stevens Act will be reauthorized. It needs to be to protect our fisheries.
But you can also bet that if fishermen - both commercial and recreational - aren't more included in the process, there will be a call for change at the National Marine Fisheries Service top. Because those are the people that fishermen have the most problem with.