In the scoping document, the Council poses several relevant questions. Here’s how we are suggesting readers answer them when providing public comment.
How should the Council evaluate potential conflicts between the commercial chub mackerel fishery and recreational fisheries for large tunas and billfish?
- The Council should bring in scientists and economists with knowledge and experience with offshore fish from the start.
- The Council should bring in recreational and commercial fishermen who depend on highly migratory species to participate as advisors as the plan is developed.
- The Council should collect all information possible to predict the impact of any increase in catch of chub mackerel on predators and other fishermen and communities.
- In the end, the Council should be able to have a solid understanding of how many chub mackerel are needed to sustain predators at a healthy level, and an understanding of the economic tradeoffs between keeping chub in the water or taking them out (including at key places and times) on the full range of fisheries and species.
What, if any, action should the Council take to address these potential conflicts?
- The Council should try and minimize conflicts in every way possible (i.e. the potential time/area closures suggested in the scoping document).
- After the draft plan is complete, the Council should reconsider whether to initiate an expanded commercial fishery if the significant impacts to existing fisheries cannot be avoided.
What ecological and socioeconomic tradeoffs should the Council consider when developing management measures for chub mackerel?
- Chub mackerel are a significant forage source to many species, such as tuna and billfish, but also a variety of other fish, marine mammals, and sharks, that matter to the State of XX and me.
- The Council should assess the health of offshore predators of chub mackerel and the potential that catching chub could reduce the productivity of those resources, including the time and area where the catch could have a particular impact.
- From an economic perspective, the fishery has grown in recent years, including 2013 when over 5.2 million pounds were caught and sold at a relatively low value (scoping document suggests it was sold for 19 cents a pound).
- On the other hand, recreational fishermen spent an estimated $23 million on private boat trips targeting tunas, billfish, and sharks – all known predators of chub mackerel – in New England and the Mid-Atlantic in 2011 alone.
- An economic model estimated that these expenditures generated $266 million in total economic outputs, $96 million in labor income, and generated 1,824 full or part time jobs from Maine to North Carolina.
- An increase in the commercial chub fishery has the potential to completely undermine multi-million dollar offshore fisheries if not managed in a way that protects the needs of offshore fishermen and others who depend on the healthy resource.
- The Council should evaluate the cost/benefit of any increase in directed commercial catch between these fisheries and use the public resource wisely.
Should the Council use gear restrictions, seasonal closures, control dates, or other measures necessary to manage the chub mackerel fishery?
- I support considering the full range of these measures, especially at specific times and places, for example, around the offshore canyons during the summer when a lot of the commercial and recreational fishing for tuna and billfish is occurring.
- These approaches can avoid area conflicts and localized depletion, while maintaining the same overall catch limit.