Jake’s Outdoor Adventures – Feb.’18

by Jake Worthington

In December, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources approved H.R. 200, a bill sponsored by Congressman Don Young (R-Alaska) that amends the 1976 Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act to provide flexibility for fishery managers and stability for fishermen. A coalition of organizations representing the saltwater recreational fishing and boating community endorsed H.R. 200 and highlighted the importance of incorporating saltwater recreational fishing management provisions into the nation’s primary law governing federal fisheries management. If this going to be good or bad the jury is still out, but here are some thoughts that may affect us locally especially in the area of Cobia management.

This bill does nothing to reform ASMFC, and now that Cobia management is at least complimentary with ASMFC, the only impact would be that the National Academy of Sciences review would be applied to the zone split and allocation decision (so it could in theory change the 620,000K quota that SAFMC gets to set and ASMFC allocations under the 2018 plan). If SAFMC votes to give ASMFC full management, this legislation does not do anything to change whatever they decide to do in state waters.

For any fisheries under the Gulf or South Atlantic Council, there is an immediate moratorium on using limited access for any fisheries they manage. This is a major point because the SAFMC has been moving towards limited access, which may be a complete violation of the equal protection clause.

Every ACL (Annual Catch Limit) would be reviewed by the National Academy of Sciences within 2 years. Any ACLs that don’t meet the mustard get kicked out. Then every ACL will be reviewed every 3 years afterwards. The councils can also adopt alternative measures for recreational fishermen.

The economic impact must be more heavily weighted and if a species isn’t at the ACL but is showing improvements in mortality and there hasn’t been a stock assessment in 5 years, or if MRIP isn’t deemed adequate for that species, the Councils have the flexibility to drop the ACL.

Long story short, this could bring some ease from other species where SAFMC has caused negative results. However, it doesn’t do anything to impact how ASMFC manages stocks. The most it can do at this point is potentially drive SAFMC to get reviewed for the 620,000K quota and the GA-FL Cobia stock boundary and maybe get the line moved, which could take over 2 years. If SAFMC votes to give ASMFC full management, then this law will not impact the cobia fishery at all.

Also, there is still not any kind of redress mechanism outside of the federal courts to try and challenge MRIPs findings. The councils have the latitude to choose how non-MRIP data gets factored. In my experience, the regional offices of National Marine Fisheries seem to operate by their own set of rules, with very little strict oversight by NOAA or Congress.

Whether the this bill will help our area in the way of Cobia management will be determined over the next six months as the changes are implemented.

Here is to a successful 2018 season!