red snapper

Photo provided

Will Balogh from Wisconsin with a red snapper he caught during open season. The future of recreational fishing in federal waters is up for discussion at a webinar this month.

Here’s a fun idea: Who wants to spend seven hours in front of their computer monitor watching a government meeting? OK, don’t everybody jump up at once. What if I told you the meeting was specifically to talk about how recreational fishing is going to be managed at the federal level? It’s not exactly the Super Bowl, but what will be discussed is going to matter far more than who wins a feetball match.

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Fishery Councils Convene Joint Workgroup Sept. 10

The Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic Fishery Management Councils will convene a joint workgroup to address Section 102: Fishery Management Measures of the Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act of 2018.

This meeting will be held via webinar from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. EDT Sept. 10.

Section 102 expands the range of management mechanisms for the recreational sector and provides additional flexibility for regional fishery management Councils to apply new approaches for recreational management. Any new approaches are still required to comply with the requirements set forth in the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

The workgroup, comprised of Council members from both Gulf and South Atlantic Fishery Management Councils, will begin by hearing a summary of alternative approaches to collecting recreational catch and effort data.

Next, the workgroup will discuss the interim analysis process for intermittently checking the health of a fish stock using an accepted index of abundance.

Finally, the workgroup will consider different management approaches including zone management; annual catch limit carryover and phase-in strategies; and conditional accountability measures.

Public comment will be held over the webinar before the meeting adjourns.

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I know, you’re still bored. But that first item — how to collect effort and catch data — is a great big hairy deal. The feds have been forcing commercial fishermen to provide landings information for a long time now. Really, it’s the only hard data point that regulators have. But one data point is not enough to make informed decisions.

Imagine your job is to determine how many fish can be harvested while ensuring there will be enough for the future. You don’t really know how many fish are out there, or how many more or less there are than last year and the year before. You know how many are taken by (legal) commercial fishing — but then you have recreational fishing, which is a total wild card. You don’t know how many fish are caught, or even who’s out there trying.

So what do you do? From a data standpoint, the best way would be to place the same demands on rec anglers as on commercial boats: Tell us when you’re fishing, where you’re fishing, what you caught, and what you kept. Don’t want to share that info? Fine — you can’t fish legally.

Now, as a recreational angler, does that sound like something you want to do? You might think they wouldn’t dare do such a thing. Ask a federally permitted charter captain about that. For years, the feds said they wanted more data from the for-hire sector, and for years the for-hire fleet shrugged it off as just talk. It’s not talk anymore.

Of course, if you have a better suggestion for how regulators could get usable info without being quite so invasive, this webinar would provide you with a platform. As with most public meetings, this one will provide an opportunity for you to share your ideas and opinions, should you have any.

To see the full agenda for the webinar, go to https://bit.ly/2G7xYBv. To register for the webinar, go to https://bit.ly/2YJ9YLA.

This kind of thing is a drag. No one wants to participate, especially when we could be outside doing — well, almost anything else. But since we’re adults, we know that sometimes we have to eat our vegetables. If you do any fishing at all in federal waters, this might be one of those times.

Contact Capt. Josh Olive at 941-276-9657 or Publisher@WaterLineWeekly.com.

Contact Capt. Josh Olive at 941-276-9657 or Publisher@
WaterLineWeekly.com.

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