Finally! An issue both the CCA and NCFA agree on.
Do you believe in miracles? If not, you should. On May 25, at the meeting of the North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC), David Sneed, Executive Director of the CCA NC, made the following statement during the public comment period.
“On Southern Flounder, the recent recreational overages were the result of derby fishing brought about by insufficient management action from Amendment 2. Harvest and overage estimates that are provided by MRIP were never intended to be used to manage a fishery through a quota. Additional funding should be secured to develop a better method of collecting data in real time before a recreational quota is initiated. I would recommend that the Division go to the legislature, while the coffers are full, and ask for financial assistance in fully developing a state managed recreational data collections system.”
If you’re one of our regular readers it should. In the March 7, NCFA Newsletter, we were the first ones to point out the inequity in implementing a quota and overage paybacks with no data collection system in place to accurately monitor recreational removals, in the following statement.
(NCFA Weekly Newsletter March 7, 2022)
“If the CCA was truly acting in the best interests of the recreational sector they would have opposed accountability measures such as overage paybacks until the Division had a method for accurately monitoring recreational removals in real time. I can tell you with absolute certainty the NCFA would never have stood by and allowed the MFC to require pound for pound paybacks for our members if the state could not monitor harvest in near real time and prevent excessive overages.”
OK, maybe divine intervention is a bit of a stretch on this particular issue. The truth is the CCA’s position is most likely a knee jerk reaction to being called out by the NCFA. Nevertheless, better recreational data is a necessity and the fact that both organizations agree is bordering on miraculous!
While the implementation of a quota in the Southern Flounder fishery, for both the commercial and recreational sectors, has highlighted the need for better recreational data, this issue is much broader than just Southern Flounder. Commercial fishermen, recreational anglers, and even fisheries managers regularly question the accuracy of recreational harvest and discard estimates. As most of you know, this type of consensus on a fisheries issue is rare, to say the least, and highlights the deficiencies of the current Federal recreational data collection process. Accurate data for both sectors is essential to sound stock assessments and stakeholder buy-in of the fisheries management process.
Simply put, when stakeholders question the accuracy of the data, they lose confidence in managers ability to determine stock status and question the necessity for and fairness of the resulting management strategies. The truth is as long as recreational data reporting is voluntary and collected randomly the public will always question its accuracy.
For example, commercial fishermen are required to report all seafood harvested for sale, to the NC trip ticket program, but reporting of seafood harvested for their personal use is voluntary. As a result, the CCA regularly speculates about the number of fish harvested by commercial fishers for personal consumption, questions the accuracy of commercial harvest data, and pushes for mandated reporting of all fish harvested by commercial license holders. In response to the CCA’s concerns the DMF, at the February MFC meeting, expressed their support for legislation requiring commercial fishermen to report all fish harvested for personal consumption.
It’s clear that both the CCA and DMF believe mandatory reporting of harvest provides the most accurate data and the NCFA agrees. The NCFA believes the state has a duty to collect the most accurate fisheries data possible and anything less is a disservice to the citizens of North Carolina.
To this end, we believe the NC General Assembly should, during the 2022 legislative session, require both sectors to report harvest of all commercially and recreationally significant species of coastal finfish with penalties for failing to comply.
Appropriate the necessary funds for DEQ/DMF to implement and maintain a fisheries data collection program, similar to the NC WRC Big Game Harvest Reporting Program, where commercial and recreational fishers can report harvest of fish for personal use.
We can and should do better. The time is now!
LEGISLATIVE UPDATE for 5/30/2022:
The General Assembly has been meeting the last couple of weeks, but gets down to business in earnest this week. There have been several bills introduced but nothing concerning fisheries. I will be in Raleigh Tuesday thru Thursday talking to legislators.