Monday, February 9, 2015

Fishermen schooled on schools

Gary Shepherd, biologist from the Northeast Fisheries Science Center, Woods Hole, MA shows fishermen what scientists look for when dissecting fish during growth and population research.
Fishermen schooled on schools
Last week 25 commercial and for-hire recreational fishermen along with industry participants went to school to learn about fish populations, how they grow, what impacts them and how we aim to keep them at maximum sustainable yield (MSY) levels.  The Marine Resource Education Program (MREP) workshop, held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Warwick, was sponsored by the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, a non-profit research center dedicated to being a catalyst to find solutions to ocean and fisheries challenges. 
“At this workshop, you are going to find out where all the numbers come from.” said John Williamson,  MREP implementation program member.  The “numbers” Williamson was referring to are fishing quotas or allowable catch limits (ACLs) for various fish species. Participants were also schooled on ecological drivers of fish abundance, conservation, sampling survey techniques, stock assessments and the effects of climate change on fish populations along the east coast.
Last week’s MREP session focused on science issues as they relate to fisheries, a second workshop scheduled for March will address management issues. The MREP was founded in 2001 to provide fishermen the tools and information needed to foster conservation while creating an understanding of the science and management tools used to regulate fisheries.  Additionally, it helps policy and science professionals to become more familiar with the workings of the fishing community. Programs are run in several locations throughout the year.
Seven scientists from NOAA labs, university based fisheries programs and from NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center instructed participants on topics such as ecological drivers of fish abundance, conservation, sampling, statistics and fish surveys, stock assessments and the effects of climate change on fish populations along.
Highlights of the session included an explanation of “Maximum Sustainable Yield” and how it aims to take the maximum number of fish out of the water that will allow for continued, good healthy growth of fish species in terms of fish size and numbers of fish.   If too many fish are taken out of the water the biomass could decline to dangerously low levels and have difficulty recruiting new fish to desired levels.  If too few fish are taken a species may experience slow fish growth or not enough population growth due to crowding, less food supply, decease and the species could experience major decline.
Gary Shepherd for the Northeast Fisheries Science Center at Woods Hole, MA led a presentation on fish population biology.  Shepherd demonstrated how to tell a fish’s age by examining lines or growth rings on their scales with a microscope and/or by counting growth rings on their otolith which is a small calcareous concentration at top of a fish’s spine (and/or in the inner ear of vertebrates).  He then dissected several fish including tautog and scup to relate what biologist normally do in the field checking and recording fish ages and stomach content to gain insight on fish population growth. 
Another highlight was Dr. Rob Latour of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, who has accumulated data on the prey of fifty common east coast fish species as well as what they eat. If you are interested in what a fish eats you can register for Dr. Latour’s data base at: .
Dr. Jonathan Hare, director of NOAA’s Narragansett, RI laboratory related the impact of climate change on a variety of fish species commonly caught on the east coast such as yellowtail flounder, summer flounder, black sea bass and a host of others. 
Dr. Hare related since 1920 waters on the east coast continental shelf have increase by 1 to 2 degrees centigrade as the abundance of fish populations such as flounder and black sea bass have shifted north.  Cold water fish like cod have also left near coastal waters as they have warmed.
Fishermen at the workshop testified to seeing a difference in fish abundance in a number of species as well as seeing warmer water species that they do not normally see come into our waters. You can now track 80 northeast species (650 in total) on a new Rutgers University website called OceanAdapt at .
Victor Hartley of the charter fishing vessel Capt. Robbins said, “I have a better understanding of what I need to do as a fisherman to impact fisheries research, policy and regulations.”
The future looks bright too as we explore new and better ways of doing things.  Like eco-system based management models that take into account environmental factors, food supply, climate change, fishing effort/catch and other factors. Programs such as the Marine Resource Education Program provide an important link with education, enhanced communication, and foster a better understand between fishermen, fishing communities, scientist and fish mangers.
Boat Show this weekend
The Providence Boat Show is this Friday, January 23 through Sunday, January 25 at the Rhode Island Convention Center. “This year we put a special emphasis on all the elements boaters need to enjoy their time on the water. Boats and gear are the foundation, but boaters also need exposure to new information to spark their imaginations about all the great things they can do on the water,” said Wendy Mackie, CEO of the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association (RIMTA), which owns and manages the show. “We took every type of boater into consideration to create this year’s event: from seasoned salts to those just getting involved in the sport—whether they want to sail, fish, powerboat, or kayak.”
Besides boats highlights this year include a boating and a fishing seminar tracks.  Boating session will focus on boating safety and equipment of all types.  A full range of fishing seminars organized by Capt. Jack Sprengle of East Coast Charters will feature a variety of local captains and fishing guides speaking on ten topics from how to land trophy bass, spear fishing strategies, how to troll, land large cod, and how to catch swordfish and sharks.
Additional highlights include top chefs from seafood restaurants who will be on hand to demonstrate sea-to-table cuisine. Attendees can also learn about the Volvo Ocean Race and their planned May visit to Newport for the race’s only North American stopover. 
Visit  for show information and details.
Where’s the bite
Cod fishing continues to be good.  Frank Blount of the Frances Fleet said, “Saturday was a solid day of cod fishing with lots of action at the rail from both short fish and keepers.  Top fish on Saturday was ten pounds.  The top fish for the week was 20 pounds.”  Party boats sailing for cod fish at this time include the Seven B’s at, the Frances Fleet at and the Island Current at .
How to shellfish recreationally January 26
Guest panelist Roger Tellier of North Kingstown said, “There’s nothing better than a little neck on a half shell fresh out of the water… Where else can you go and in a few hours harvest quahogs, steamers, mussels, oysters and scallops…”  Join Roger, Barry Fuller, Paul Kennedy and Capt. Dave Monti as they have a panel discussion on shell fishing recreationally in RI.  The RI Saltwater Anglers Association seminar takes place this Monday, January 26, 7:00 p.m. at the West Valley Inn, West Warwick.  Non-members welcome, $10 donation to the RISAA Scholarship Fund, members attend free.  Visit for details.
ASMFC input meeting January 29
A meeting of Rhode Island's commissioners to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) will be held on Thursday, January 29, 6:00 p.m. in the Hazard Room in the Coastal Institute Building at the URI Bay Campus in Narragansett. The purpose of the meeting is to review and discuss the agenda for the upcoming February 3-5 ASMFC meeting in Alexandria, VA which will include important striped bass, summer flounder, black sea bass and other spice management plans Rhode Island will have to follow in 2015. Visit for the meeting agenda.
Striped bass size and quantity down
 “Nearly 90 percent of the anglers who responded to the our striped bass survey said they caught fewer fish in 2014 than in previous years, and 71 percent said the fish they did catch were smaller,” said Brad Burns, president of Stripers Forever, a conservation organization that advocates game fish status for wild striped bass. “The survey response from 830 anglers, most of whom have fished stripers seriously for more than 10 years, has been increasingly negative since 2006.” said Burns.
In a press advisory, Stripers Forever said, “The Stripers Forever survey clearly shows that the organization's members want fishery managers to go much further by banning the harvest of large, prime breeding size stripers until the resource biomass stock is healthier. The survey respondents also favor setting aside a high percentage of the current commercial harvest quota for conservation and they are willing to finance a striped bass conservation stamp to pay for buying out the commercial fishery.”

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