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12.20.2013 Toggin for Science, Recent letters

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Fish Report 12/20/13 <o:p></o:p>

Try Sea Bass Saturday <o:p></o:p>

Toggin For Science<o:p></o:p>

Recent Letters <o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

Only One Trip To Offer At The Moment.. <o:p></o:p>

Sailing for Sea Bass Saturday, December 21st — Last Of The 20 Fish Limit I Fear — Depart 5:30 Return 4:30 — $150.00 — 18 Anglers Sells Out — Expect A Long Ride.. <o:p></o:p>

Reservations For Sea Bass Trips at 410 - 520 - 2076. <o:p></o:p>

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.. <o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

Bring A (not terribly big) Fish Cooler With ICE For Your Party.. A 48 or 54 QT Cooler Is Good For 2 Guys. Even Now You Should ICE Fresh Fish.. If You're Keeping Bluefish – Bigger & More Ice.<o:p></o:p>

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Be A Half Hour Early - We Like To Leave Early.<o:p></o:p>

Clients Arriving Late Will See The West End Of An East Bound Boat.. <o:p></o:p>

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If You Won't Measure & Count Your Fish The State Will Provide A Man With A Gun To Do It For You. We Measure & Count — ALWAYS — No Exceptions!<o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

Will Open More December Sea Bass Trips By Email-Only Pending Weather Forecasts. <o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

8,100 "Oyster Castle" reef blocks by the rail – 2,414 at Jimmy's Reef – 1,468 at Ake's – 288 at Lindsey Power's Isle of Wight Reef.. <o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

Need a new batch of blocks. See ocreefs.org if you'd care to help fund this truckload, or snailmail a check – any check! (Thanks John, Paul & Mike – Jimmy Jackson's Print Bid Winners)<o:p></o:p>

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My @mediacombb address will soon be a memory. Please use mhawkins@siteone.net for correspondence.. <o:p></o:p>

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Greetings All, <o:p></o:p>

NOAA forecast has this Saturday's winds downgraded to SW at 10 to 15. Have to try with that forecast. <o:p></o:p>

If you book the trip don't turn your phone off.. <o:p></o:p>

Appears as though Christmas day will be the first true calm. <o:p></o:p>

Went hunting once on Christmas day some-three decades ago. Soon found "Get Out Of The Doghouse" coupons did not apply. Jewelry, Flowers: Nothing Worked. <o:p></o:p>

Lesson learned. Not going fishing Christmas day. <o:p></o:p>

Want to fish. Will be watching the weather. Will try again & again. <o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

Did sneak in our last super-short notice tog trip. These trips during closed season are for age sampling; the fishing done with a federal scientific collection permit. Biologists weigh & measure the tautog, then remove the gill-plate (operculum) & otolith or "ear bone" for comparative aging analysis. Its a big deal for many of the fisheries scientists working behind the scenes. Trading samples between states helps refine their accuracy. <o:p></o:p>

Where on the previous trip we tried hard to catch a good crowd of great anglers even dinner, it was not to be. Didn't even have 20 fish on the boat, and that with no size limit.. <o:p></o:p>

Poor performance recently past and VERY short notice announcing a Friday the 13th trip; I only had one client sign up. <o:p></o:p>

Some of my, ah, 'more experienced' clients will well-remember Dragnet's, Sgt. Joe Friday announce each week: "The story you are about to watch is true. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent" <o:p></o:p>

(if you do remember you'll likely enjoy this Jack Webb/Johnny Carson skit

) <o:p></o:p>

So: Four biologists, mate Mike & I, and one client – I'll call him "Henry" (to protect the innocent) - left the dock at about 6AM with a load of green crabs in the name of science. No size limit, no creel limit — Bad Old Days Revisited. <o:p></o:p>

"Henry" had 30 in his cooler just after lunch and took a nap. <o:p></o:p>

It happened that I had one of the East Coast's most respected stock assessment biologists aboard. At one point he and I were pondering the truth of tautog management deeply & without hooking a fish while "Henry" caught at least 10 fish right next to us. The incident drove home 'skill' as an often-necessary component of tautog extraction. <o:p></o:p>

I was able to touch on habit & habitat fidelity a bit when I explained, "While fish at this spot are just about capped at size limit; if we found another wreck half-a-mile away that had never been fished, it would be loaded with large tog." <o:p></o:p>

That's why we skippers are always looking for new hangs – pieces. You can experience "Fishing Like The Good Old Days" -if only for a short while- when you find a new wreck. <o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

For now we still have no population ecology factored into Mid-Atlantic fisheries restoration. Day may come. Sure won't happen with catch-restriction only based management. The much-touted repair & replacement of MuRFSS's recreational catch estimates with MRIP has failed. Catch estimates used to drive today's regulation are still so full of misrepresentations that a true picture of restoration's need is difficult to discern. <o:p></o:p>

While a terrestrial biologist might well consider trees to restore a population of squirrels; fishery biologists in the Mid-Atlantic have yet to ponder our reef-fishes' habitat needs. <o:p></o:p>

Coming to it I think. <o:p></o:p>

Maybe. <o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

Its become an annual battle: MRIP has party/charter operators & clients fishing very lightly and far, far below historical averages as continuously tightening regulation would factually have. Professionals do, after all, send in daily catch reports - Vessel Trip Reports or VTRs. That's why I think the for–hire recreational catch estimates are on much firmer footing, much more accurate, than private boat estimates - because of VTRs. <o:p></o:p>

According to MRIP catch estimates, it's those wicked savages aboard private boats that can not be reigned in. They PUMMEL sea bass every possible chance—even when for-hire skippers cannot scratch up a catch: The tighter regulations get, THE MORE SEA BASS PRIVATE BOATS CATCH. <o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

Yeah, um, about that.. illusion. <o:p></o:p>

That part's not science. <o:p></o:p>

Its a lie. <o:p></o:p>

It was in 2004 when private boats were first "shown" by catch estimate to broadly out-catch the for-hire fleet when it came to sea bass. Prior to that party/charter were always the wicked over-fishing barbarians — Always. Prior to 2004 the For-Hire fleet ALWAYS had significantly higher sea bass landings in the Mid-Atlantic.<o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

Pretty sure we still do. <o:p></o:p>

Except not in the estimates. <o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

I'm hopeful the letters being sent by readers will pique the curiosity of NOAA's new boss. I don't know Dr. Sullivan personally, but the fighter pilots I've known who would strap a rocket to their backside and ride it weren't tolerant of bad anything. This lady's ridden bigger rockets, a lot bigger. Been in orbit three times. Was the first woman to walk in space. <o:p></o:p>

Hope she sees this data for what it is and calls it like she sees it. <o:p></o:p>

Below I've included the snail mail I sent her & two emails I sent more broadly across the top of Mid-Atlantic fisheries. <o:p></o:p>

I urge all who seek fairness in our fisheries to write as well. <o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

Dr. Kathy Sullivan – CINC NOAA <o:p></o:p>

Room 5128 <o:p></o:p>

1401 Constitution Avenue, NW <o:p></o:p>

Washington, DC 20230<o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

Funny, at the December Council meeting you could feel the tension when they were discussing Wave 1 (January/Feb) sea bass landings. Very nearly a party/charter only fishery, NOAA expressed deep concern about high levels of catch during a time when they have no 'official estimate' - just Vessel Trip Reports, the VTRs we send in for each trip. <o:p></o:p>

While it won't be open this year, members of the MAFMC did vote to open Jan/Feb in 2015. <o:p></o:p>

Seeing fear of the unknown as a real issue, I and several others made a sincere & diligent effort to create an accurate estimate of wave one, 2013, sea bass landings. We completed the effort on March 4th, 2013. Although there were a few private boat trips out of Virginia, virtually all the rest of the Mid's private recreational boats were under tarps for winter. <o:p></o:p>

Calculating every single angler as over-limit, I sincerely believe last January & February for-hire fishers caught less than 133,000 pounds of sea bass. <o:p></o:p>

Our Mid-Atlantic quota is 2,260,000 pounds.. <o:p></o:p>

At that recent December meeting I thanked Council for their concern over winter sea bass but wondered aloud about their lack of incredulity concerning the half-million-plus pounds of summer cbass catch by NY private boats when for-hire was thought to have caught just 25-thousand pounds.. <o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

Time after time these last few years I have asked others in my trade, "What percentages of sea bass are caught in your region by for-hire & private boat." <o:p></o:p>

Up north they seem to think it may run to half – maybe. <o:p></o:p>

Down here, off MD's coast, I doubt private boats have ever caught 10%.. <o:p></o:p>

We're talking about sea bass, not flounder/fluke..<o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

That summer 2013 NY estimate has the private boats catching twenty-one sea bass to every single one by party/charter, has the recreational NY boats catching fully 25% of the Mid-Atlantic's entire recreational quota. <o:p></o:p>

But it was tougher fishing up there this year I'm told.. <o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

One fellow from NY who gives a lot of thought to fisheries restoration & regulation hit it on the head: <o:p></o:p>

"..the tougher sea bass fishing is for the for-hire fleet, the private vessel fleet catch craters to bare bycatch…."<o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

In other words: When sea bass are really abundant, private boat share increases. But when its tough, their catch declines to a minimum. The easy pieces & wrecks already fished down, its easier and more productive to go fluking. <o:p></o:p>

But even when sea bass are abundant for-hire's estimate should represent approximately half of the landings and never-ever just be just one-twentieth.. <o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

I've tried, and will continue to try, to get estimators to look for this comparative analysis based on for-hire reports. As architects they are the truest believers in the data they provide; many at the top of fisheries science think it highly ill-considered to use reports fishermen have submitted as any form of data – Fishers Lie. <o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

But because scientists & statisticians have not troubled themselves with truthing new estimates, our fisheries & businesses die. <o:p></o:p>

More precisely, it's because management has not found a WORKING SOLUTION on how to use the catch estimates' full & correct answer, including PSE or 'margin of error'.. <o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

September & October's catch estimates now in, you can imagine it doesn't bode well for preserving our sea bass season. Probably lose more than the shorter season & smaller bag limit recently voted by Council. <o:p></o:p>

I'll nose around in those estimates soon. <o:p></o:p>

Meanwhile, Ask Dr. Sullivan, CINC NOAA, if she thinks the repair Congress required of our catch estimates back in 2009 has actually occurred. <o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

The new and long-awaited Congressionally ordered repair & replacement of MuRFSS — MRIP's offered plenty of smoke & mirrors in press releases, but no improvement in accuracy. <o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

See recent letters below. <o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

Regards,<o:p></o:p>

Monty <o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

Capt. Monty Hawkins <o:p></o:p>

mhawkins@siteone.net <o:p></o:p>

Partyboat Morning Star<o:p></o:p>

http://morningstarfishing.com <o:p></o:p>

Ocean City, MD<o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

From: Monty Hawkins <mhawkins@siteone.net>

Date: Sunday, December 15, 2013 11:14 PM

To: (lots of management)

Subject: Amazing Estimates<o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

Good Folks, <o:p></o:p>

Your sincere efforts to restore black sea bass in the Mid-Atlantic with the "Best Available Science" are again being waylaid by recreational catch estimates that should not & do not qualify as "science." <o:p></o:p>

We need to be relieved of the economic hardship these capricious, unpredictable estimates create. <o:p></o:p>

We need NOAA to stop taking more & more of our fishery due to estimate's accusations of being over-quota when no such extraction has occurred. <o:p></o:p>

This year's candidate (so far) for worst recreational catch estimate: NY's Wave 4 Private Boat/Rental.. <o:p></o:p>

I have expert testimony from professionals that sea bassing was tough off NY this summer. Yet MRIP has that state's private boats having their best summer ever – by almost double. <o:p></o:p>

It was so good those weekend recreational fishers caught more than the entire east coast's for-hire fleet. <o:p></o:p>

Considering many of the private boats lost to Sandy hadn't even been replaced, that's a spectacular catch. <o:p></o:p>

Funny too that NY's own for-hire landings were nearly at a decade low – catching just 12K pounds to the private boats' 534K.. <o:p></o:p>

We need real science to repair our sea bass fishery. Habitat, Habitat Fidelity & Managing the Stock For Maximum Production found in Population Biology are the sciences we need. Instead, a singular reliance on recreational catch estimates has uncoupled management from fisheries science. <o:p></o:p>

Fluffed-up by absurd recreational catches, the true state of our sea bass population is poorly understood. Kafka wrote: "Paths are made by by walking." Recreational regulation's well-worn & familiar paths of greater & greater catch restriction – always due to using the centerpoint of a recreational catch estimate – is eroding the recreational sea bass fishery more swiftly than ever. <o:p></o:p>

Just in the last few years we've lost MONTHS of season, We've lost almost half of our bag limit, We've suffered EMERGENCY CLOSURES when no emergency existed: Now recreational sea bass effort is at an all-time low <o:p></o:p>

..yet the stock is still more diminished. <o:p></o:p>

You can see in Dr. Shepherd's biomass graph below how the stock rose straight from the depths of darkest overfishing, real overfishing — You can see how the sea bass population climbed incredibly despite increasing recreational & commercial pressure during the early years of management. <o:p></o:p>

Sea bass were so abundant in 2003 that I wrote, "We are now at habitat capacity." <o:p></o:p>

Today, I'm afraid, is NOAA's Pogo Moment – "We Have Met The Enemy.." <o:p></o:p>

I've done a lot of work on 'age at maturity' in sea bass. (be glad to send it to you) Was tossing under 9 inch fish back in strictly enforced boat regulation in 1992, six years before management even began. Was all alone in that along the coast & for one reason: A biologist told me, "All sea bass have spawned by 9 inches, some twice." <o:p></o:p>

That statement was true until 2001. Production has declined incredibly as age at maturity has shifted from age 1 to age 3. <o:p></o:p>

Where in early management many fish escaped fishing pressure and grew to age 8 & more; now we have them pretty well capped off at size limit <o:p></o:p>

..which is also when they start spawning. <o:p></o:p>

And all NOAA seems able to do is cook up a new batch of horse-feathers showing recreational overfishing & some hogwash about sea bass "moving north." <o:p></o:p>

Yes, there is habitat expansion in warming water: However, lacking allopatric speciation, because NOAA is still reporting black sea bass landings along both coasts of Florida, its preposterous to assert the southern MAB's population is 'moving' anywhere. <o:p></o:p>

Management does not use habitat fidelity as a tool, nor age at maturity. Our corals & whips remain unrecognized as EFH.. <o:p></o:p>

It Needs To Get Fixed. <o:p></o:p>

More Bad Estimates & More Catch Restriction Aren't Going To Help Fix Sea Bass. <o:p></o:p>

Uncouple the centerpoint of catch estimates from management and let real science get a toe-hold. <o:p></o:p>

We need our sea bass back.. <o:p></o:p>

Not just the season & bag limit – We need the fish & the clients back too. <o:p></o:p>

My Regards,<o:p></o:p>

Monty <o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

Capt. Monty Hawkins <o:p></o:p>

mhawkins@siteone.net <o:p></o:p>

Partyboat Morning Star<o:p></o:p>

http://morningstarfishing.com <o:p></o:p>

Ocean City, MD<o:p></o:p>

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From: Monty Hawkins <mhawkins@siteone.net>

Date: Tuesday, December 17, 2013 9:46 AM

To: (lots of management)

Subject: Witnesses To The Fishery<o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

Good Folks, <o:p></o:p>

I assert enormous errors exist in the recreational catch estimate centerpoints & that the new and improved estimating system can be neither while managers use only that single centerpoint number. <o:p></o:p>

Because we witness the black sea bass fishery at sea & have contacts everywhere watching fish cleaning stands; Because we see exactly how many boats are fishing our reefs & often know the operators—even on private craft; Because we know what they're fishing for and generally how well they catch: When NOAA asserts NY's private boats caught many, many times what the for-hire fleet caught; When catch estimates confront reality in a wholly unscientific way, When NOAA stands by assertions of "Best Available Science" when the centerpoint of an estimate isn't remotely true: In the eyes of fishing's witnesses NOAA has abandoned honest & sincere science in favor of a regulatory baseball bat. <o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

Its very doubtful NY's private boats caught on par with the for-hire fleet. Its far more likely recreational skippers caught less. Yet the estimate's wave 4 centerpoint has private boats catching 21.4 times more sea bass than NY's for-hire skippers.. <o:p></o:p>

That one centerpoint estimate becomes a hard number for a substantial portion of the Mid-Atlantic's recreational sea bass quota. <o:p></o:p>

It's Wrong. <o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

Wave 5 estimates have now come out. <o:p></o:p>

Because the system will hungrily consume whatever numbers it is fed, Is forever in need of fresh data; We shall now lose even more of our sea bass season <o:p></o:p>

..and be no closer to a true path of fishery management. <o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

You must be persuaded that rational systems of punishment & reward must be founded upon reasonably accurate estimates. <o:p></o:p>

To be punished with further catch restriction when real catch & effort are at incredible all-time lows could only be a result of bad data. <o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

Black sea bass are perhaps the simplest marine fish to manage: Building & protecting habitat (even if by accident as in the late 1990s) while forcing them to spawn young has already proven to create astronomical stock growth. Incorporating a lighter touch of catch restriction while mindful of the species affinity for short winter migration with a return to the exact same spawning reef would allow an even greater population expansion: By regulating the prevention of over-harvest in any one region's stock, management could create a truly resilient fishery. <o:p></o:p>

Instead, owing from management's constant exertion of greater & greater regulatory restriction in response to catch-estimates long parted from science's demand for observable, testable averments; indeed, long parted from Popp's test of falsifiability, we are now at a place where a simple fishery is propped-up only by relentlessly more restrictive regulation. <o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

Where does the buck stop? Who has the ability to put a stop to recreational regulation based primarily from the centerpoint of incredibly broad catch estimates? <o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

Stop the pain. Turn U.S. Fisheries toward science-based restoration & away from misusing estimates.<o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

Regards,<o:p></o:p>

Monty <o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

Capt. Monty Hawkins <o:p></o:p>

mhawkins@siteone.net <o:p></o:p>

Partyboat Morning Star<o:p></o:p>

http://morningstarfishing.com <o:p></o:p>

Ocean City, MD<o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

And Snailmail.. <o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

Dear Dr. Sullivan,<u1:p></u1:p><o:p></o:p>

The recreational black sea bass fishery has been under constant assault from bad catch estimates for the last several years. NOAA & NMFS were supposed to repair recreational catch estimating methods and claims to have done so; yet the estimates grow worse – would be laughable were they not so painful.<u1:p></u1:p><o:p></o:p>

Under the guise of “best available science” these estimates camouflage the true ills of our temperate reef fishery.<u1:p></u1:p><o:p></o:p>

At the problem’s core is using a statistical spread incorrectly. Because the true and correct answer to “How Many Fish Did They Catch” is anywhere in a broad statistical spread, yet managers will use only the centerpoint; compliance with fish quota regulation becomes not a matter of fact, but a wild & random guess.<u1:p></u1:p><o:p></o:p>

Once ‘overfishing’ or ‘overquota’ has been asserted by the estimating system, managers have no choice but to further restrict catch.<u1:p></u1:p><o:p></o:p>

We know our fishery. This specific problem is MRIP’s assertion NY private boats caught 21.6 times what the party/charter skippers landed.<u1:p></u1:p><o:p></o:p>

Yet fishers are more inclined to believe private boats would have landed fewer sea bass..<u1:p></u1:p><o:p></o:p>

Use of bad estimates is destroying the recreational sea bass fishery & doing so with no benefit to the fish.<u1:p></u1:p><o:p></o:p>

This situation is far deeper than a simple letter can detail. It will absolutely require a firm hand from the highest of levels.<u1:p></u1:p><o:p></o:p>

I hope that’s you.<u1:p></u1:p><o:p></o:p>

My Regards,<u1:p></u1:p><o:p></o:p>

<o:p></o:p>

<o:p></o:p>

Monty Hawkins<u1:p></u1:p><o:p></o:p>

mhawkins@siteone.net<o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

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