Sea Bass Issue

May 2, 2013

As we have discussed on OIFC.com, we have been in heavy communication with the marine fisheries folks in NC/SC and Florida regarding the closure of sea bass fishing in our waters. There is unamious agreement, the Fed policy is a mess. Here's where it stands:

Dr. Louis Daniel has told us if SC votes to go "non-compliant" with the Fed rules he will immediatley request the MFC allow him to do the same, thus immediately opening NC waters. The SC legislature[House] voted 100-1 to go non-compliant. The bill now goes to the Senate, and if the Senate votes in favor, which is expected, then the Legislature will have agreed to give the authority to the SCDNR to go non-compliant. Dr. Daniel is watching this closely and as I said, if SC goes non-compliant, then he will do the same in order to protect the rights of NC fishermen to have a shot at the allocation{ACL]. HOWEVER; in the mean time, the Feds authorized the SC DNR to do a new study of the status of the sea bass population. The results of that study are in, and it says sea bass are at a "sustaniable level". On May 13, the Feds will meet, and it is believed they will open the season and extend it so that it will be open from now till the end of the year, with the 5 fish/person limit. It is expected they will close Jan-March as this is identified as the breeding season. SO..whether the SC votes to go non-compliant or not, it appears the Feds are looking for a way to avoid a civil war[as every sourthern state except NC has basically declared war by going non-compliant], thus likely the above senario is what will happen. HOWEVER, if it doesn't, SC will go non-compliant, and then NC will follow.

WHEW...... everyone understand that? Sorta, it appears we will win, as the Feds are backing off their unsupportive position that has been burdening us for too long.

Thanks to Dr. Daniel. Director of NC Marine Fisheries for stepping to the plate and applying his pressure to the Feds; thanks to the SC DNR for their study that confirms to the Feds that there is no problem; thanks to the SC Legislature and thanks to everyone out there for pounding away at everyone that is part of the decision process.


April 15, 2013-

As noted on the OIFC web site, we have been imploring Dr. Louis Daniel, Director of the NC Marine Fisheries to use his proclamation authority and open sea bass fishing in our state waters. Since then, I have had conversations with Dr. Daniel on this subject. Dr. Daniel fully and completely understands the issue of the highly questionable science that the Feds are using as the basis for keeping our waters closed to sea bass fishing. He is puzzled by the rulings that come forward impacting NC fisheries, often different than ruling impacting Florida and the northeast states. I'm not burdened by "political correctness" thus my answer to his puzzlement is NC is being played like a banjoe by political power horses in the northeastern states as well as Florida. Our federal political leaders don't have the "gravitas" or committment that is apparent in these other states and as a result we are getting the very short end of the stick.

Dr. Daniel states he is very concerned with the action being taken by Florida and SC which are basically thumbing their noses at the Feds, and thus opening their waters to sea bass fishing in conflict with the Fed rules. His concern is the result of this action is for these states to use up some of the ACL and thus put NC in jeoprady of seing our allocation used up before we even open.

We discussed the solution of his using his proclamation authority to open our waters and apparently there are some technical legal reasons why that won't work. He did, howver suggest the path to follow will be for him to make a request of the NC Marine Fisheries Commission that they allow him to "suspend the rules" preventing him from using his authority. If they agree then he indicated he would have the authorty to open up our waters and he indicated, as he sees things now with the threat of the action of SC to join Florida in opening, he would step forward to project the interest of NC fishermen to have a shot at the quota.

So; good news. Dr. Daniel has his heart in the right place I believe, and he has laid out a path to hopefully get our waters open. Please understand this is a difficult position for him to take, so everyone needs to show their support of his efforts by contacting him[louis.daniel@ncdenr.gov] and letting him know we appreciate his efforts.

So...standby....this is a "fluid situtation".

Rube McMullan


 
Below is a letter we have sent Dr. Daniel regarding the Sea Bass closure. Michele from MF put on an excellent Q&A at the OIFC Spring Kickoff, and the bottom line seems very clear. Everyone agrees there is no problem with the Sea Bass population. The answer is very simple....Dr. Daniel: use your proclamation authority as the Director of NC Marine Fishieries and open state waters to sea bass fishing. It is likely the Feds are going to change their position at the May meeting therefore there is no reason to continue to hold the fishing folks hostage to the absurb position the Feds have taken by their closure of sea bass fishing. NC needs to take the same independent step taken by Florida and in the works for SC and declare our state waters open. Please contact Dr. Daniel at Louis.Daniel@ncdenr.gov and ask him to exercise his power to declare by proclamation sea bass open to fishing. Thanks. Rube McMullan OIFC

March 16, 2013

 

TO: Dr. Louis Daniels

NC Marine Fisheries, Director

 

FROM: Rube McMullan

Ocean Isle Fishing Center

 

Dr. Daniels;

 

As you certainly are well aware, our North Carolina waters subject to Sea Bass rules set forth by the SAMFC have kept fishermen from south of Cape Hatteras to the state line shut off from being able to fish for Sea Bass. This is based upon science that is generated by the SAMFC which suggest Sea Bass are overfished and thus drastic action is required to improve the population.

 

As you also are well aware, there is much discussion as to the true status of the Sea Bass population in our waters. All accounts indicate not only a healthy population, but in fact an overabundance such that reefs are being subjected to overfeeding by Sea Bass, thus placing stress on other fish feeding in the same waters.

 

The economic impact of this fishery being shut down has been devastating to tourism and recreational fishing. During the winter months, Sea Bass is the only species available for near shore fishing, and with the shut down, has come a complete collapse of fishing, as catch and release Sea Bass fishing has not become a popular alternative.

 

Our neighboring states to the south are experiencing the same hardship as NC, and have begun to take steps to manage their state waters, irrespective of the rules affecting the Federal waters. Florida has kept their season open, stating “Florida is not compliant with the federal season because there is no established closed season for federal waters off our coast, and FWC do not want blanket provisions that shut down state waters wherever federal waters close. FWC prefers to consider season closures on a case by case basis”. In South Carolina, a bill has been introduced to allow SC fishery managers to take the same action as Florida.

 

In North Carolina, you as the Director of Marine Fisheries have the power via proclamation authority to declare open season in NC waters for Sea Bass. Respectfully, we ask that you use your authority.

 

In anticipation of the argument of why not to do this, I respond as follows:

-If state waters are opened, there is concern the ACL will be reached sooner and cause a closure of Federal waters sooner than their schedule dictates.

*Factually, very little of the quota of sea bass is caught within the state’s 3 mile waters, and thus the impact on the Federal ACL is very low. Additionally, an evaluation of the ACL is throughout the entire South Atlantic region, again acknowledging the impact of opening state waters is insignificant.

 

-To be non-compliant with Fed rules may invite retaliatory action from the Feds

*The Feds know their science is flawed and the population is healthy, however they are trapped by their obligation to conform to Magnusson Stevens Act and thus must rely on the bad science until new better science can be created. Thus with the groundswell of independence being shown by other southern states [including the Gulf States as relate to Red Snapper], this fear of retaliatory action is of little concern

 

Dr. Daniels; there is momentum occurring in our adjoining states to recognize how out of touch the Fed rules are, and thus these states are making a decision to protect the rights of their fishermen rather than handcuff their fishery economy. We call on you to take the courageous position and declare by proclamation our state waters open to Sea Bass fishing.

 

Thank you.

Rube McMullan

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