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The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) that regulates many of the species we fish coastwide recreationally had good news and bad news last week when it approved plans for black sea bass, summer flounder and scup.

First the good news. The Summer Flounder, Scup and Black Sea Bass Board approved new minimum sizes for scup in the northern region in which Massachusetts and Rhode Island are classified to a 9-inch fish (last year the minimum size in Rhode Island and Massachusetts was 10 inches). Additionally, in special select shore sites in Rhode Island, the minimum size will be reduced to 8 inches (it was 9 inches last year).

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Summer flounder (fluke) harvest was liberalized to plus-15.8 percent and the board asked that the states finalize their summer flounder management measures, which may mean liberalization in the catch limit in Rhode Island. We should know what final Rhode Island and Massachusetts regulations are by the end of March.

Now for the bad news. Due to climate change and the movement of black sea bass biomass to warming northern region waters, we continue to have lopsided regulations. Northern catch limits are too low, and southern catch limits are too high as the bio mass has shifted to the north and recreational harvest limits (RHL) have not caught up with this movement.

The Board attempted to compensate for this with approval of Addendum XXX, which in part aims to account for these geographic differences in the stock and fishery by using a combination of exploitable biomass informed by the lasted stock assessment as well as historical harvest. However, southern states voted to keep their harvest limits high even though the fish are not there. Capt. Rick Bellavance, president of the Rhode Island Party & Charter Boat Association, said, “The southern states outvoted northern states, so we are going to be left with a drastically reduced season. This was very discouraging.”

We still do not know what the season will be in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, as the Board asked regions to finalize plans by March, so we should know by the end of the month.

Fishermen and fish managers have some tough decisions to make as the reduced day season presents a dilemma. For example, historically in Rhode Island recreational anglers who fish in Narragansett Bay advocate for an early start to the season so they can catch black sea bass when the fish are in the bay and when they catch them when fishing for summer flounder.

However, many charter boats want the black sea bass season to be open in early fall so they can keep them when tautog fishing, or if the tautog seasons gets off to a late start like it did in 2017. Simply put, charter boats want to be able to catch black sea bass in early fall to keep their businesses going. The hope is that compromise will prevail, as both of these fisheries are important in Rhode Island.

Governor, congressional delegation and DEM Director Coit say no

to oil and gas leases

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced last month the next steps for developing the National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2019-2024. The program proposes to make over 90 percent of the total Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) acreage, and more than 98 percent of undiscovered technically recoverable oil and gas resources in federal offshore areas, available to consider for future exploration and development.

By comparison, the current program puts 94 percent of the OCS off-limits. In addition, the program proposes the largest number of lease sales in U.S. history.

The Draft Proposed Program (DPP) has been highly criticized by national conservation groups and here in Rhode Island by Save The Bay, the Audubon Society and the Conservation Law Foundation, to name a few. As recreational fishers, it is important that we make every effort to understand what impact oil and gas leasing could have on our fish and fish habitat.

There is a public meeting of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to be held from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on February 28th at the Providence Marriott, One Orms Street, Providence. The Boston, Massachusetts, meeting will taking place 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Feb. 27 at the Omni Park House, 60 School Street, Boston. Anglers should attend to hear what is planned and express their concerns about the proposed oil and gas leases off our shore.

On Monday at a URI Bay Campus meeting, Governor Raimondo, Senator Whitehouse, Congressmen Langevin and Cicilline, DEM Director Coit, URI oceans and fisheries academics, as well as the fishing community all pledged to take an active stand against the offshore drilling proposal.

Governor Gina Raimondo said, “Look out this window,” as she pointed to the west passage of the bay with Dutch Island and Jamestown in the background. “We’re not going to put this at risk. The bay and the ocean (with commercial fishing, recreational fishing and tourism in Rhode Island) play a big part in our economy. We want to send a message to the administration that we will not allow drilling off our coastline.” said Raimondo.

Comments on the National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program are also being taken online at https://www.boem.gov/National-Program-Comment/.

Feb. 19 public hearing

on fishing regulations

Now is the time to have your voice heard on saltwater fishing regulations by attending Rhode Island DEM’s Division of Marine Fisheries Public Hearing 6 p.m., Monday, February 19th at URI Bay Campus, Corless Auditorium, South Ferry Road, Narragansett.

Proposed regulations on many of the species recreational anglers fish for will be on the agenda, including black sea bass, scup, striped bass, summer flounder, tautog, bluefish as well as a host of commercial regulations. Visit www.dem.ri.gov for a copy of the meeting agenda and details on the regulation options that will be reviewed on Feb. 19.

If you cannot make the public hearing, interested parties are invited to submit written comments concerning the proposed regulations by 4 p.m. on Feb. 26. Comments should be sent to DEM Division of Marine Fisheries, 3 Fort Wetherill Road, Jamestown, RI 02835, ATTN: Peter Duhamel, or you can submit them by email to peter.duhamel@dem.ri.gov.


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Source : http://www.thesunchronicle.com/sports/local_sports/no-fluke-board-approves-plans-for-scup-summer-flounder-black/article_50355a38-533f-5ca8-814b-bf11fa04539e.html

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