Wednesday, April 24, 2013

How Hard Can it Really be to Count Fish?

Figuring out how many fish are in the Gulf of Mexico and how many we can harvest isn’t rocket science; it’s harder.

Photo: Stubb
Harder, because fisheries are dynamic; and because there are an overwhelming number of factors like tides, temperature, salinity, composition of the ocean floor, nutrients, and biological interactions among fish that complicate the data and prevent straight forward cause and effect relationships from being identified.
Most fishermen have experienced this firsthand; one day the bite is on fire and fish are practically jumping in the boat, but when you return to the same spot a few days later there is nothing. Fish are finicky, they move, and they are hidden from plain view.

Photo: Muehlstein
Likewise, we all have some magic formula for a good fishing day, whether it be based on tides, moon phases, water temperature, or changes in air pressure. Different variations in the environment give different results even when our approach remains the same. Add salinity, ocean currents, nutrients, and water chemistry to the mix and there are almost too many variables to handle.

These challenges, and the ever present possibility for surprise or disappointment at the end of your line, are all part of the reason fishing is such a captivating activity.  It’s these same challenges that makes studying fish a very difficult endeavor.

Photo: Cone
Truthfully, we do not, and likely never will, know exactly how many fish are living in the Gulf of Mexico. Marine scientists and fisheries managers from across the country and around the globe share the challenge of getting the best fisheries data possible to make sound fisheries management decisions.

The following series of blogs titled “How hard can it really be to count fish?” will explain how fish stocks are assessed, the difficulties involved, and how scientist are continuously working to overcome the challenges of studying fish.

Photo: NOAA
The first piece of the puzzle titled “Fisheries Dependent Data Collection” explains how data is collected from fishermen to figure out what is being caught. 

The second piece titled “Fisheries Independent Data Collection” will explain the research that is done by scientist on the water. 

The final article - “South East Data Assessment and Review” - will explain how all the data is brought together and used to make conclusions about the health of a fish stock and the amount of fish that can be harvested.

So, stay tuned as the mystery of fisheries science is revealed. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

April 2013 Council Meeting Preview

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council will meet next week in Gulfport, Mississippi. During the meeting the Council will discuss and make decisions about a range of different fisheries issues that you might be interested in.

Photo: Mark Miller
The meeting is open to the public and we invite you to join us at the Courtyard Marriott, or you can listen in live from your computer. Check out the committee agenda and the full Council agenda to figure out when the Council will be discussing the topics that you want to hear about.

Public comment will be held Wednesday, April 17th beginning at 1:45 pm. An informal question and answer session for the public will be held Tuesday evening immediately after the Council adjourns (around 5:30).

The following is a brief description of some of the things the Council plans to address next week:

Regional Management for Recreational Red Snapper
Photo: Robert Navarro
Red snapper is managed as a single unit in the federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Since red snapper is subject to a Gulf-wide quota, states with inconsistent regulations impact federal management. Recently, states have begun to express a desire to make red snapper regulations that are more suitable to local needs.

The Council has been considering ways to manage the recreational red snapper quota in separate regions in the Gulf. Scoping workshops to gather public input have already been held electronically, and in cities around the Gulf. At this meeting the Council will review an options paper that was drafted using public comment, and make recommendations on how to move forward with the issue.

For-Hire Days-at-Sea Pilot Program
The Council is considering initiating a pilot program that would allow a sample of for-hire fishermen to fish a specified number of days or trips throughout the year instead of using the recreational season. The pilot would be evaluated and the Council could make an informed decision about whether a days-at-sea program should be implemented for the entire charter fleet.

The Council collected public input at scoping workshops that were held in different cities over the past few weeks. A video tutorial, quick guide, and online comment form are also available for at-home use.

It’s not too late to share your thoughts! Council will review public opinion next week and decide how to move forward.

Photo: Emily Muehlstein
Headboat Electronic Reporting for Reef Fish and Coastal Migratory Pelagics
The Council is considering alternatives that could change the frequency and method of fishery data reporting by headboat vessel operators. Improving data, especially in the recreational sector, could reduce the chance of exceeding Annual Catch Limits and triggering accountability measures. The Council will review a proposed framework action and decide how to move forward with the idea.

Funding for Electronic Logbooks for the Shrimp Industry
The Council plans to review a framework action that considers how to fund a program to install and maintain electronic logbooks on all federally permitted shrimping vessels.

Spanish Mackerel and Cobia Stock Assessments
The Council will review results and Scientific and Statistical Committee recommendations from recent benchmark stock assessments for cobia and Spanish mackerel.

Photo: Mark Miller
Red Drum
The Council will review the history of red drum management, consider current research, and begin to discuss the possibilities and obstacles to opening harvest of red drum in the federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Advisory Panels
The Council will review recommendations made by the Ad Hoc Private Recreational Data Collection Advisory Panel and the Ad Hoc Artificial Substrate Advisory Panel Meetings.

The Council will also review the resumes submitted by the public and select new members for the Advisory Panels and Scientific and Statistical Committees.

As always, if you have any questions please contact us.