More Menhaden Equals More Bluefin
November 19, 2010 - recent email between NCDNR and Rube McMullan
From: Rube McMullan
To: Nancy Fish
Sent: Thu, November 18, 2010 10:21:14 AM
Subject: November 22 commission meeting
Nancy. I won't be able to attend the Nov 22 Commission meeting, so need to take you up on your offer to pass on my comments to the Commission regarding the menhaden netting subject. Thanks. Rube McMullan
NC Marine Fisheries Commission:
It is my understanding you have placed on your November 22 meeting agenda, a discussion of opening up menhaden purse seine netting from Cape Lookout south to the South Carolina state line. Reading "between the lines", it is likely this action on your part is a result of efforts initiated by me and others to encourage the issuance of a proclamation to delay the opening of commercial menhaden netting north of Cape Lookout until the end of the Giant Bluefin commercial season[approx Jan 31]. The purpose of this action would be to prevent the netting of the food source of Bluefin Tuna as they begin their migration into NC waters this coming month. If the food source of these fish are removed, then localized depletion occurs, and the Giant Bluefin likely leave NC waters in search of a food source to satisfy their large appetites. This is an issue of significant importance to many NC businesses that depend on the commercial fishery for Giant Bluefin Tuna during the winter months. No food source, no Bluefin Tuna.
Apparently 4 members of the Commission[Mann,Daniels,Styron,Smith] decided if the public is going to throw spears at the Commission on this subject, [despite the good job the Commission has done in reaching agreements with Omega Proteins to not net south of Cape Lookout], then perhaps the Commission should give up on trying to make the citizens happy, and should just open up all the waters to Omega. This is a very aggressive action on the part of the Commission, and puts the Commission in the role of serving as a lobbyist for Omega. Certainly it is understood Omega has lobbyist in the State Legislature, but if now members of the Commission are going to take on that role, I fear the public will scream foul, the end result leaving the public with little confidence that the Commission is managing the fishery resource in the best interest of the citizens of NC. This presents the opportunity to open up a large can of worms which I can't see serving any benefit to MFC, the fishery resources, the citizens, and I also expect the Governor[who appointed each of you to your position] would not wish to be distracted by what could become an explosive issue.
So, my request is repeated again, don't open waters north of Cape Lookout to commercial netting until the close of the Bluefin season, and certainly withdraw the agenda item of discussion of opening up the waters south of Cape Lookout.
October 28, 2010-- recent emails between Louis Daniels (NCDNR) and Rube McMullan
From: "Daniel, Louis"
Cc: "Gregory, Randy"
Sent: Thu, October 28, 2010 7:54:29 AM
Subject: Bluefin and Menhaden
Dear Mr. McMullan,
I wanted to thank you for your inquiries and respond in part to your latest e-mail.
North Carolina has no jurisdiction over bluefin tuna. All management decisions on this species come from the National Marine Fisheries Service.
North Carolina does have jurisdiction over Atlantic menhaden within the 3-mile limit and I believe, through the closure south of Cape Lookout to the reduction fleet for menhaden and the restrictive measures in place north of Cape Lookout that we have addressed the problems with this fishery. Omega calls in whenever they move off North Carolina and have been very cooperative since the mishap a few years ago. To be clear, they can still fish outside of 3 miles anytime they want.
Also, prohibiting the fishery off our coast is not in the best interest of our North Carolina inter-jurisdictional fisheries management program with our partners in Virginia and the ASMFC. Further, there are quite a few North Carolinians who work for Omega and at times they do obtain provisions while they are working here - that does provide some benefit to our state.
The most recent stock status of menhaden is that they are not considered to be overfished or being subjected to overfishing. While I will continue to argue for more conservative targets and thresholds for this population, the fact remains that there is no biological evidence that warrants a closure. On the other hand, there is great concern over the status of the bluefin tuna and I would be very surprised if NMFS does not developed more restrictive measures on the harvest of these fish, if not a full blown closure, in the near future.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Atlantic menhaden fall under the North Carolina Inter-jurisdictional Fisheries Management Plan at http://www.ncdmf.net/fmps/downloads/IJAFinalJune2008.pdf. Any change to the current rules for menhaden would have to be endorsed/authorized by the North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission. Please don’t hesitate to give me a call if you would like to discuss this further.
From: Rube McMullan
To: "Daniel, Louis"
Cc: "Gregory, Randy"
Sent: Thu, October 28, 2010 10:19:14 AM
Subject: Re: Bluefin and Menhaden
I thank you very much for your response to my concerns regarding the conflict of Omega's menhaden netting and the winter migration of Giant Bluefin Tuna into NC waters. I guess we get to debate the issue. My response to your comments:
-True, NCMF doesn't have jurisdiction over Bluefin, but NCMF does have jurisdiction over NC waters and thus menhaden. So go the menhaden, so goes the Bluefin, which in fact gives you control over the Bluefin.
-True, there are a few NC workers on the Omega boats, but there are thousands of workers in the hospitality industry, the travel industry, and the many other NC businesses that benefit when fishermen from around the entire world specifically come to NC to participate in this world class fishery. Somehow, NC has been blessed with these incredible fish choosing to winter in our state waters. For the managing authority[you] not to do everything within their extensive power[i.e. proclamation authority], in my view is a travesty.
-True, statistically, menhaden as a total mass are not over-fished, however that conclusion looks at menhaden on a United States coast wise basis, and COMPLETELY overlooks the obvious issue of "localized depletion". The result of taking a massive amount of food source timed to coincide with the Bluefin winter migration into NC is the entire problem. You have the authority to eliminate this problem by proclamation to delay Omegas netting until the end of the Bluefin season[Jan 31].
Dr. Daniel; again, on behalf of the citizens of NC, please use your authority to protect this valuable NC treasure for the benefit of many many fishing folks and NC businesses.
October 26, 2010 -- Recent emails between Rube McMullan and NC Marine Fisheries
From: "Gregory, Randy"
Cc: "Blum, Catherine"
Sent: Fri, October 22, 2010 4:17:20 PM
Subject: Delay Menhaden Harvest
NC DMF received your request to delay the menhaden harvest off the N.C. coast until after the bluefin tuna season closed (January 31st). The NC DMF Director and Fisheries Management Section staff reviewed the Atlantic menhaden and bluefin tuna harvest data for the months where these fisheries overlap in our waters. At this time, we don’t feel the data supports your request to close the Atlantic menhaden fishery in December and January. I have attached a memorandum that outlines some of the issues concerning these fisheries. Should any of the issues with these fisheries change we will be happy to reconsider your request. You are welcome to present your position to the NC Marine Fisheries Commission at one of their business meetings (http://www.ncfisheries.net/mfc/mtgsch.htm). If you would like to talk to the NC DMF Director or Fisheries Management staff in person, we will be glad to meet with you at our Morehead City office.
NC Division of Marine Fisheries
3441 Arendell Street/PO Box 769
Morehead City, NC 28557
From: Rube McMullan
To: "Gregory, Randy"
Cc: "Blum, Catherine"
Sent: Tue, October 26, 2010 12:37:38 PM
Subject: Re: Delay Menhaden Harvest
Randy. I appreciate the work you put forth to compile information regarding my request to delay the start of Omega's menhaden netting until after the end of the Giant Bluefin commercial season[Jan 31, 2011]. I'm not the scientist, so my ability to argue scientific information is limited, however I can argue "boots on the ground" observation and public perception.
Here's what the public believes:
On the scene observations suggest if the Bluefin arrive at Cape Lookout and their food source has been taken by Omega, eating machines as they are, they've got to move on somewhere, thus bypassing NC, and thus eliminating the economic benefit NC receives from the visit of these incredible fish.
The hot spring bite that occurred off Hatteras last March/April is doubtful to be the fish that historically appear at Cape Lookout/Cape Fear late November/early December. If there is another body of fish, that's great, but it has nothing to do with the issue under discussion, which is the decimation of the Giant Bluefin commercial fishery off NC[which closes at end of January].
Marine Fisheries is given the job to manage NC's Bluefin's fishery assets. If the result is damage to our NC economy, for the benefit of a out of state fishery business, then it is important that Marine Fisheries is aware a serious public perception issue is created. I know it is a real balancing act trying to satisfy the fishing folks and Omega, and Dr. Daniel is absolutely to be commended for the excellent work he has done with Omega getting them to agree to stay east of Cape Lookout. That said, his is a tireless job, and this is another issue that he needs to deal with. The key obviously is for MF to control the issue in a manner the public doesn't loose confidence in MF. There is virtually no benefit to NC for the work of Omega, but there are millions of dollars of value to NC for a successful commercial Giant Bluefin season.
Again, my request is to please respect the wishes of the public, and by proclamation, delay the start of Omega's menhaden netting until the end of the Giant Bluefin season.
Ocean Isle Fishing Center[www.OIFC.com]
October 1, 2010 Update on Bluefin Tuna/Pogy project. We need your help.
Please read the August 29, 2010 report[below] on the massacre of the pogy population last Novemeber that led to a collaspe of the Bluefin Tuna fishery last winter. I have been meeting and talking with David Redwine, a candidate for the NC Senate representing Brunswick and Pender Counties. David is a fisherman and understands the pogy issue, and further recognizes the importance of our winter Bluefin Tuna fishery. Following our conversations, he approached Dr. Daniels[Director of NC Marine Fisheries] with a request to delay the start of the pogy commercial netting season until the close of the commercial Bluefin season[approx Jan 31]. David reports Dr. Daniel understands the issue, and is willing to consider the request made by David. What we need to do now is let Dr. Daniels know that we are in full support of David's request to Dr. Daniels to delay the start of Omega's commercial netting operations until after the close of the fishing season[Jan 31]. Dr. Daniels can do this by "Proclamation", a power granted to him as Director. Everyone please help in this effort by emailing and/or calling Dr. Daniels to weigh in on this very important issue. If the pogies are wiped out before the migrating Bluefin Tuna arrive to NC coastal waters, then the Bluefin has no choice but to move on somewhere else to satisfy their enormous appetite. Dr Draniels email[Catherine.Blum@ncdenr.gov] tele # 252-8088013.
Thanks for you help. Rube McMullan OIFC
August 29, 2010
The Giant Bluefin Tuna fishery has become a great winter time fishing and economic engine for coastal North Carolina over the last 10+ years. This fishery initially was in the Outer Banks and progressed south to the Morehead waters. A few years ago, Capt Brant and other fishermen found them here in our local Brunswick County waters, and great success was had by many fishermen catching these world class fish, right here in our home waters.
Fast forward to this past year, and the fishery totally collasped. The fish didn't show in our waters at all, and very few were caught in the Morehead waters. What happened? The answer we believe was seen by Team OIFC as we traveled from Hatteras to Morehead in mid November last year. We came upon the entire Omega Protein menhaden netting fleet. There were 12 100+foot mother ships and the numerous catch boats operating from the mother ships. They were totally wiping out every menhaden from south of Ocracoke to north of Cape Lookout.
In that the Bluefin migration from up north to our waters was about that same time, we believe when the Bluefin arrived, expecting to find their winter food source of menhaden, only to find they were gone, wiped out by Omega, they were forced to pack their bags and head off somewhere else in search of the massive amount of food they need to fill their appetite. The result was the Bluefin season crashed, and virtually no fish were caught. There is an excellent article Jerry Dilsaver wrote on this subject[NC Sportsman Magazine, May 2010 edition].
Following that occurence we observed in mid November 2009, we appealed to Dr. Louis Daniels, Director of NC Marine Fisheries. Our request was for him to issue a proclamation that Omega's pogy netting would not begin until the end of Bluefin season[Jan 31]. By doing so, the food source for the migrating Bluefin would be preserved and thus their normal migration pattern in NC would not be interrupted. Dr. Daniels response was "there is no scientific evidence that menhaden are overfished". This of course is the same standard baloony response we got regarding our Brunswick County waters, that eventually led to our successful effort to eliminate pogy netting in our waters.
So..as a new winter Bluefin season is soon approaching, where do things stand. Hopefully/possibly there is light on the horizon. Enter David Redwine, a candidate for the NC Senate representing southeastern NC. He is a fishermen and understands the pogy issue. More importantly, he served in the NC House for 15+ years, and held very important committe positions while serving. Additionally, he was instrumental in establishing the NC Fisheries management programs. Bottom line is.."it's not what you know, but who you know that knows what". I have been talking to David on the Bluefin/pogy issue, and he has agreed to make every effort to try to get approal of our request to delay Omega's netting until after the close of the Bluefin season.
No guarantees, but for a Senate candidate with a lot of clout, to step forward and help attack this very important issue, speaks well for his committment to the fisheries. Let's see what happens. Standby. Rube McMullan[OIFC]