What We’ve Been Working On: RFA Policy Updates

Harvest Control Rule:   A framework addendum to the Summer Flounder, Scup, Black Sea Bass and Bluefish fishery management plans was recently passed by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC), and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) that would institute a new approach for setting recreational measures in these fisheries.  That approach would take into consideration other elements of the fishery including stock size, recruitment, biological references and stock trends as opposed to relying solely on the estimates produced through MRIP and comparing those estimates to the recreational harvest limit.  This outdated approach is responsible for the current reductions in black sea bass and scup even when the stocks are far above their rebuilding target.  The Harvest Control Rule may have far-reaching applications for other federally managed species.  Tip of the hat to longtime RFA Member and MAFMC member Captain Adam Nowalsky for his leadership on this issue.

30/30 Initiative: is an initiative developed by the UN the United Nations Convention for Biological Diversity in 2015.  In January 2021, President Biden issued an executive order, seeking to conserve 30% of the nation’s public lands and waters by 2030.   RFA contends that the US already has ample protection of its lands and waters and that those areas need to be quantified before proposing any additional areas. We are also making the case that recreational activities, such as fishing must be allowed in those areas. The 30/30 initiative also is sparking interest in pushing for the establishment of new marine sanctuaries and monuments, something RFA is adamantly opposed to. RFA will continue to remain engaged on this issue.

Northeast Groundfish: RFA’s New England Regional Director Capt. Barry Gibson serves as Vice-Chair of the New England Fishery Management Council’s  Recreational Advisory Panel (RAP). The RAP has been dealing with recreational measures for Gulf of Maine cod and haddock and was successful in raising the recreational daily bag limit for haddock from 15 to 20 fish per person for 2022, which was also a major victory for the for-hire fleet as this will help increase business. The RAP also was able to get the fall recreational cod season for private boat anglers extended an additional two weeks, to four weeks total, in September, giving anglers extra opportunities to catch and retain cod.

Atlantic Mackerel: Mackerel have been designated as overfished by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC), and a 50% cutback in recreational catches has been proposed. RFA’s Barry Gibson and RFA Massachusetts Chairman Mike Pierdinock have been working to help mitigate measures and to provide data and angler feedback on mackerel usage as bait by recreational striped bass and tuna fishermen, and to provide information on when and where mackerel spawn. As a result, the MAFMC eliminated consideration of closed recreational seasons and minimum sizes and has approved a bag limit of 20 mackerel per day per person, which is acceptable to most in the recreational sector.

Offshore Wind Farms: RFA’s Barry Gibson and Mike Pierdinock have been very active in addressing the increasing use of offshore waters for wind turbine farms off the New England Coast. Gibson worked with the State of Maine’s Dept. of Marine Resources to move a potential site for a 12-turbine array away from Plattes Bank, an important recreational and commercial groundfish and tuna fishing ground in the Gulf of Maine, to a site farther east where recreational fishermen would not be impacted. Pierdinock has been very active in the siting of wind farms off Massachusetts that could impact recreational fishing grounds and in collecting data that indicates potential negative impacts on fish and other sea life by underwater electrical transmission cables and their resulting electromagnetic fields.