By: Nils Stolpe, FishNet USA
I just spent a fun couple of hours (actually 4 1/2 hours- at least for me the Florida state fish data isn't very easy to work with) digesting all of the comments submitted on Amendment 153 to the Reef Fish Fishery FMP..
There were 178 written comments in total. Eighteen (10%) were for amending the allocation, reducing the commercial allocation. One hundred and forty-seven (82%) were for not reducing the commercial allocation. Fourteen (8%) didn't take any position on the amendment. Most of the "no position" comments seemed to be from the commercial sector and would have probably been with the majority, but unless they wrote either they were against the amendment or that was obvious from the rest of their comments I decided not to count them as being against the amendment.
There were some pretty impressive organizations that were against the amendment. These included the National Restaurant Association, the National Fisheries Institute, the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, The (National) Food Industry Association, Seafood Harvesters of America, Southeastern Fisheries Association, Southern Offshore Fishing Association, Gulf Coast Seafood Alliance, National Association of Charter boat Operators, Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders' Alliance, Fish for America USA, Southern Offshore Fishing Association, and the National Association of Charter boat Operators. The commercial industry and the many businesses it supports that had a hand in bringing in these "outside" groups owes a huge thanks to the people who were responsible for bringing them aboard. And we all are indebted to those consumers who went to the trouble of commenting.
There were a dozen or so "anonymous" comments. If there was no doubt about whether they either supported the amendment I counted them. If not they were counted as having "no position."
There were a whole bunch of really good comments. These included those that went deeply into the Council's data and analyses, into the legal/administrative shortcomings of the proposed amendment, the the personal/business impacts of the proposed amendment, etc.
For me the highlight was J. Tim Hobbs' (representing the A.P. Bell Fish Company, the Southern Offshore Fishing Association, and the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance) 27 pages of comments, starting out with "Amendment 53 is unlawful and irrational." From there he covered just about all that was worth covering in tearing down this travesty of a fishery management plan amendment.
Over the next couple of days I'll be putting together what struck me as particularly trenchant quotes from all of the comments made. I should have them by the middle of the week. I think that we could all learn from them.
I would be amazed if the Council and/or NOAA/NMFS went ahead with this ill-conceived excuse for modifying a fishery management plan, but I think that I can safely write that we've all seen them do that before..
Which fisheries are next? It started with the mid-Atlantic Council/ASMFC with scup, black sea bass and fluke, then the Gulf Council with red grouper (not approved yet). And now it's save the Southern flounder and the shrimp (I don't know whether they're to be saved for recreational shrimp fishermen or to be food for gamefish).
The ability to have reallocations on not much more than a bureaucratic whim is now federal law (and don't forget that Wallop-Breaux dollars will be there in greater amounts as recreational fishing expenditures increase 'cause they got more fish. And don't forget that the most powerful block in both the Coastal Commissions and the regional Councils are the state fish heads). This is like the organized recs idea of a perfect world. If a state gets an increased quota state director gets increased Wallop-Breaux $s, gets a bigger budget, bigger bureaucracy, more cars, more boats, more whatever. If the industry can't get its act together on this issue and discover and develop some unified political clout, it's gonna be like Casey strikes out again and again and again. And I'm not writing about Mudville, I'm writing about every coastal state.
It's way past the point when we should have been working on a national strategy.
Tighten your seat belts,
Protestors gather outside Division of Marine Fisheries headquarters Monday to oppose new flounder, shrimp rules
MIKE SHUTAK Mar 7, 2022 https://www.carolinacoastonline.com/news_times/article_05766928-9e52-11ec-91cf-1baafec212eb.html MOREHEAD CITY —A group of more than 30 protestors Monday morning gathered outside the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries in Morehead City to voice their disapproval of recent southern flounder and shrimp management activity. The Coastal Conservation Association’s North Carolina chapter organized the protest Monday. About 33 participants stood out front of the division building on Arendell Street, holding up signs with messages expressing their displeasure with recent actions the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission took in regards to the management of the southern flounder and shrimp fisheries. Some passing motorists honked their horns in response to the protest. The association is a recreational fishing nonprofit dedicated to coastal environment conservation. CCA-NC Carteret County chapter president Van Parrish was leading the protest Monday. Mr. Parrish said he was protesting for “my grandkids and future generations,” and that he and the other protestors sought to get the attention of Gov. Roy Cooper and the DMF so recreational fishermen “will be treated fairly.” “The DMF and MFC are simply not being fair to the recreational fishermen,” Mr. Parrish said. “The (fisheries) management decisions are almost always skewed towards the commercial fishing industry. Specifically, the gill nets and shrimp trawling are devastating our inland waters where baby fish grow up.” For-hire and commercial fisherman Allen Jernigan of Holly Ridge was among the protestors Monday. He said he came out because he thinks state fishery managers are ignoring the economic effects of recreational fishing. “They’re using Band-Aid management and enabling the destructive over-harvest,” Mr. Jernigan said. Recreational fisherman and former president of the Got Em On live bait club of Carolina Beach Chris Davis was also among the protestors. He said gill nets “kill everything that swims into it.” Recreational fisherman Susan Beck of Morehead City and Lexington was also at Monday’s protest. “Recreational fishing brings a lot of revenue to Carteret County,” she said. “I’d rather keep the status quo we had last year (with flounder management).” The division didn’t oppose Monday’s protest. DMF public information officer Patricia Smith said the division thinks that public input is important to good governance.
“The Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Act, passed by the federal legislature in 1950, provides funding to state fish and wildlife agencies to support recreational fishing…. In 1984, the Wallop-Breaux amendment modified the act to also capture motorboat fuel excise taxes, which go toward boating access improvements.”
Folks - I've been yammering on and on about the Wallop-Breaux program, an excise tax on boating and fishing gear and non-commercial marine use fuel sales. At the same time I've been focusing on a potential conflict of interest because 1/3 of the votes on the eight regional fishery management councils and 1/3 of the total votes on the three marine fisheries commissions (Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Pacific) are cast by each of the states' senior marine fisheries administrator.
Why a potential conflict? Because, as the attached table* demonstrates, the various state fisheries programs receive a major part of their funding each year from Wallop-Breaux. The amount of funding each state receives each year is based on the excise taxes on specific expenditures of saltwater recreational fishermen in those states.
It doesn't require a rigorous statistical analysis to show that the more fish that recreational fishermen are allowed to catch, the more those fishermen are going to be willing to spend on equipment and boats and fuel to catch them. And that more recreational fishermen will be trying to catch them.
And it doesn't require a profound understanding of how bureaucracies work to know that a large part of determining what a bureaucrat's job is worth is determined by his' or hers' responsibilities, and that those responsibilities are in large part determined by the available funds.
In other words, that $399,661,336 of Wallop-Breaux funding to the states is going to make a lot of bureaucrats happy, and amongst those happy state bureaucrats will be those folks who have the largest say in deciding which user group gets how much of a share of those fisheries that are shared by user groups.
Conflict of interest? You decide.
There is also some confusion (maybe purposeful?) about the Saltonstall-Kennedy program, which is supposed to help the commercial fisheries and is funded by a tax on some seafood imports, sometimes considered a balance on the commercial fishing side to the Wallop-Breaux largess directed to recreational fishing. Saltonstall-Kennedy dollars coming to the commercial fisheries averages about $10 million a year. That's about two and a half percent of the annual Wallop-Breaux transfer. And while it seems as if the states have a large say in determining what their Wallop-Breaux bucks are to be spent on, It's up to NOAA/NMFS to decide what the commercial industry is going to get out of the Saltonstall-Kennedy pittance. Good idea or great idea, so what? If the folks at NOAA/NMFS aren't interested, don't bother!
I had a fairly short career as a bureaucrat, somewhat less than ten years. In that time I increased the funding of the program I was responsible for by a factor of ten or so. My program staff increased from one to five or six. My salary increased as well. That's the way it worked in the 1970s and I'm pretty sure that's the way it works today. Bigger budget, more responsibility, more perks (boats, vehicles, electronics, travel, etc.), more pay.
So we have a bunch of people who are paid to decide who gets to catch which fish. They-or the bureaucracies they work for-will reap significant financial benefits if one of the groups gets more fish (recreational) and will reap negligible benefits if the other group (commercial) gets those fish.
* For a state by state breakdown go to https://www.doi.gov/pressreleases/sportsmen-and-sportswomen-generate-nearly-1-billion-conservation-funding