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FISHERIES ADVISORY COMMISSION
October 19, 2004
Prepared by Wanda Rhodes
Dr. J im Gilford, Chair
Mr. Bill Carrier
Mr. Ed O'Brien
Mr. Richie Gaines
Mr. Michael Critzer
Mr. Diane Baynard
Mr. David Dansberger
Mr. Bill Windley
Mr. Mark Sampson
Chairman Jim Gilford called the meeting to order at 6:00 p.m. He asked if there was any new business. The Chairman recognized Commissioner Bill Windley who asked Howard King, Director of the Fisheries Service, if he had taken care of the problem that Denny Wolfe had presented at a previous Commission meeting. Mr. King replied that Mr. Wolfe would be added at the end of the agenda under "other business."
Commissioner Ed O'Brien asked if the minutes from the Joint Tidal Fish and Sport Fish Advisory Commissions meeting held on September 23, 2004 would be read. Mr. King said the minutes are being written, but there was a problem with the audio tapes and the recognition of the speakers on the tape. He asked that each person identify himself before he speaks in tonight's meeting to make transcription of the minutes easier.
Bob Lunsford , of the Fisheries Service, gave a handout of the Fall Trout Stocking schedule. On September 9 th and September 29 th , hatchery staff picked up Erwin strain rainbow trout that were donated to MD DNR by the White Sulphur Springs National Fish Hatchery. All the fish were trophy sized, over 3 pounds each. White Sulphur Springs promised that more fish of this size would be available for stocking in February. The number of fish stocked, and the locations were listed on the handout. One pound golden trout from Laurel Hill Farms were mixed in with the regular fall stocking. Staff is waiting for feedback from anglers on these new additions. Chairman Gilford commented that people in his part of the state are well pleased with the trophy trout they have caught.
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission's (ASMFC) Menhaden Workshop met October 12 th - 14 th , 2004. Phil Jones , of the Fisheries Service, gave a summary of this meeting. The objective was to observe the status of menhaden in the Chesapeake Bay, which was done in four sections. 1.) Status of ecological role - they are important for forage and for the filtration of nutrients. There is evidence that menhaden are taken from the population by Striped Bass before they are large enough to be harvested. Menhaden are an important component of the striped bass diet. But the fraction of menhaden in the diet is down considerably from what it was historically. Microbacteriosis has increased in prevalence in the Chesapeake Bay.
2.) Implications of reference points in menhaden; current stock status and reference points. Overfishing is not occurring; the abundance of the native stock is above the threshold set by the ASMFC
3) Localized depletion needs to be defined by either data, or a political process. They had no specific recommendations for this.
4). Recommendations for revising fishery management. The criteria for managing Atlantic menhaden as set by the ASMFC is currently being met. There's no basis for any additional management action.
There is some indication that when the Striped bass population goes up, the menhaden population goes down.
A discussion about the workshop followed: Howard King felt that it may not have met everyone's expectations, Commissioner Windley expressed disappointment that no management decisions were made, Commisioner Diane Baynard thought that Jack Travistad ran a good meeting and that the interaction between the scientists was quite interesting and Sherman Baynard observed that the process revolved around the scientific participants, others weren't part of the final process.
Commissioner O'Brien asked for a summary of the report stating that menhaden are not being overfished. He wondered why they were very healthy along the coast of Virginia, but not in the Maryland portion of the Chesapeake Bay. Commissioner Windley said that in the first workshop, the technical committee outlined a series of research needs. They will attempt to quantify the number of menhaden in the Bay several times a year. They will use a method called "Ladar". He feels that funding from the Federal government is forthcoming. He said he believes the lasar radar will scan the Bay according to regions and should be a ten year program.
Commissioner O'Brien stated that the Charter boat business is way down this year. Negative publicity about diseased rockfish is killing this industry. He asked Mr. Jones if there was any way to get the analysis that microbacteriosis (micro) has not caused an increase in natural mortality rate out to the public. Howard King promised to prepare a bullet page for him that night and fax it to him for presentation at another meeting.
Commissioner Richie Gaines asked if the prevalence of micro is increasing in the Bay. Mr. Jones replied that the first comprehensive study is presently underway, but it looks like 50% of resident fish in the Bay are affected. There is a decrease in size to age, but not as significantly as during the '90's. Mr. Gaines felt that there is less interest in fishing. People don't want to pay to catch just 16" fish, they want a large fish for their investment. He predicts that license sales will continue to go down.
Commissioner Mike Critzer said he is receiving a lot of questions from clients about whether, or not, the fish are safe to eat and what size fish are affected the most. Mr. Jones answered that age 3 years, or so are most affected. Some entire schools are affected.
Chairman Gilford asked that the Commissioners be given a summary of the workshop. Mr. Windley said the summary should be available before Oct. 28 th and that he will make it available to Howard King for distribution to the Commissioners.
Marty Gary , of the Fisheries Service, gave a handout with a summary of the workgroup that convened in late June. The aftermath of the group meeting was also summarized in the handout. He displayed a poster with hooks of different sizes, from different manufacturers that showed that sizes are not consistent across manufacturers. The only accurate measurement is the gap between the point on the hook and the shank. That will be the recommendation of the workgroup to the Commission in November.
(Commissioner Baynard noted that she was never notified of the workgroup meeting, although her name was listed as a member.)
Commissioner O'Brien indicated that there seemed to be a misunderstanding; he thought the Flats' fishing was artificial lures only, no bait allowed. Mr. Gary explained that bait came in by omission; the original regulation didn't stipulate "no bait". No one thought anyone would use anything but artificial lures. The water temperature and turbidity of the water was not good for artificial lures, so people began to use bait. The workgroup believes that the mortality rate on the Flats will decrease if non-offset circle hooks were used. Mortality is delayed in deep hooking, sometimes up to 24 hours, so you don't see a lot of dead fish in one specific area.
Commissioner Bill Carrier expressed concern with the size of the "J" hook, not the circle hook. He believes that enforcement seems to be a problem with the proposal and the workgroup needs to address that. Mr. Gary promised to try to reconvene the workgroup one more time before they present their proposal to the Commission.
Paul Piavis, of the Fisheries Service, gave a Power Point presentation on Yellow Perch in the Choptank and Nanticoke Rivers. ( A copy of this presentation is included with the minutes.) He discussed the data on the charts. The Choptank has been opened for recreational fishing since 1992; management considerations are 1) Expanding population and low F allows or regulated expansion of fisheries, 2) Status Quo, 3) Possible re-opening of commercial fishery, conservative approaches recommended.
The Nanticoke was closed to harvest in 1989 and remains closed; management considerations are 1) Expanding population with healthy age structure and 0 mortality for 13 years allows for expansion of fisheries, 2) Status quo, 3) Re-open recreational fisheries only with 9" minimum and 5 fish creel limit, 4) Re-open commercial and recreational fisheries - conservative re-opening, restrictive season and robust slot limit (8 ½ - 11" slot).
Commissioner Dave Dansberger asked if they had considered increasing the creel limit; five fish per day will not feed a family of four. He would like to see a good pan fish fishery in the state. Mr. Piavis said that access is limited, so it is mostly a bank fishery. He suggested that someone should look at increasing access.
Commissioner Baynard asked if Mr. Piavis was looking for a recommendation from the Commission. Mr. King said the Department would like feedback from the Commissioners. He and Mr. Jones said that should commercial fisheries be opened, it would be limited. Mr. Jones said the Department could explore some size limits if the Commission requested it.
Sherman Baynard , of the CCA, said they have been involved with yellow perch for many years and has worked with the Department to institute an FMP. The CCA believes that biology shows that the two rivers can stand some fishing mortality, but is opposed to increasing commercial fisheries. That would not enhance the recreational fishery.
A motion was made by Commissioner Gaines that the Commission ask the Department to go back and do research on expanding the recreational fishery and return the results at the November meeting. The motion was seconded by Commissioner Dansberger . Eight votes in favor, 0 opposed. The motion passed.
Chairman Gilford asked that the information be made available before the meeting so the Commissioners can be prepared. He asked for clear, concise suggestions.
Howard King gave an update since Kenny Keen, who attended the Mid Atlantic Fisheries Management Council (MAFMC) meeting, was absent. The MAFMC was petitioned to modify the current plan to a 50/50 split. The change the plan, the Council has to go through an amendment process. Amendment 14 was initiated, but will take months to complete. Commissioner Gaines asked what this meant for the Bay and the Oceanside. Mr. King said there would be an increase in quota, but not necessarily a smaller minimum size. Chairman Gilford wondered if they could go to a smaller minimum size with fewer fishing days.
Gina Hunt, of the Fisheries Service, turned the update over to Howard King . Mr. King presented two ideas for Fisheries legislation this year. 1) Sport fishing licensing exemption for handicapped people. Provisions are already made for freshwater fishing, but not for the Chesapeake Bay and other tidal areas. The current law allows an exemption for "a patient under treatment by a State-approved mental health facility, or an individual who attends or resides in an approved therapeutic program which involves fishing activities." They would like to have the same exemption for tidal, as for Inland areas. Discussion among the Commissioners was in favor of this legislation.
2) Legislation proposing one commission modeled after the Wildlife Commission, instead of the current separate Sport Fish and Tidal Fish Commissions. This commission would have fourteen members and would provide advice to the Secretary. If adopted, the existing members of both commissions would serve out their current term. Commissioner Bill Windley commented that he could not see how one could maintain a true 50/50 split (between sport fish and tidal fish commissioners). He feels that it would cause animosity when the balance shifted. He also felt that one single commission could not deal with all the interests involved. Commissioner Ed O'Brien felt that the interests of all stakeholders could not be adequately represented by only 14 people. Commissioner Richie Gaines said it would be an immense job if they could get it to work; commercial fishermen will not be interested in recreational issues and vice versa. Commissioner Windley wondered if the third user group interested in fisheries, the evironmentalists, who were recently recognized by the ASMFC would also be considered when appointing representatives to a single commission. Chairman Gilford expressed the opinion that it would be an invitation to disaster, unless the Department is only interested in broad-spectrum advice. Commissioner Dave Dansberger asked Mr. King if DNR is looking at this from a cost/time management perspective. Mr. King answered that one commission would be more efficient in both areas.
After some more discussion that freshwater issues would be overshadowed by commercial ones, the consensus of the Commission was that the current structuring of the two commissions works well. There could be room for some improvement, a TFAC member should be represented on the SFAC, just as Diane Baynard is their representative on the TFAC. But, the Commissions should remain separate.
Denny Wolfe, of the Northern Bay Chapter of MSSA, spoke to the Commission again about his proposal to move the striped bass trophy season line to Wharton Point on the Eastern Shore and Lego Point on the Western Shore. This would allow the fishermen from the Northern Bay to fish two weeks earlier without having to travel hours down the Bay. His chapter contends that most of the spawning fish are gone by May 15 th ; they would like the spring season to open on May 16 th and to protect any spawning fish that may remain, have a slot limit of 18"-26" for those two weeks. Commissioner Gaines asked if he wanted all spawning areas to be opened at that time. Mr. Wolfe said his proposal was only for the Northern Bay area right now. Commissioner O'Brien wondered how this would affect the current quota given by the ASMFC. Mr. Jones said anything taken would have to come from the current quota. He said that the maximum fishing mortality rate is .4 and this year's estimate is .62, which is over the threshold allowed. This would not be a good year to go forward to the ASMFC with an increase. Commissioner Dansberger made a motion for the Department to consider Mr. Wolfe's request to open the season two weeks early in the Northern Bay. Mr. King said specific dates, sizes and geographic locations would have to be included. After discussion about exactly what Mr. Wolfe is proposing and suggestions that opening new areas should be done slowly and cautiously, Commissioner Dansberger modified his original proposal to the main body of the Bay only, and to wait until Mr. Jones information on moving the line from Tolchester to Wharton Point.
Commissioner Gaines amended the motion: To open the main stem of the Bay that is currently closed from 5/16 - 5/31 at Tolchester Point to the Susquehanna Flats with a creel limit of 2 per person per day, a slot limit of 18" - 24".
Commissioner Dansberger accepted the amended version, and seconded it.
The vote was 8 in favor, 1 abstention. The motion passed.
In other business, Mr. King said that in November, he would like to discuss combining the fishing regulation books into one with more information. This would save money. Commissioner Gaines asked Mr. Gary for a calendar of Commission meeting dates. Gina Hunt discussed an NRP proposal to request a second form of ID to prove license identity while fishing. Currently, the person only has to present a fishing license. She asked for any objections, or thoughts. The Commission was in favor. She also gave a handout of the online license sales sample. She said phone orders will be started in November; online orders by December. There will be a $3.00 phone order fee; the licensee will receive a confirmation number on the phone to use until the license is received in the mail. There will be an online service fee of $1.00 - if a decal has to be mailed, and extra $1.00 will be added.
Chairman Gilford adjourned the meeting at 9:20 pm.