June 25, 2009

Schumer, Gillibrand Announce Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Approves $1 Million for Fish Conservation Efforts in Long Island Waters

Funding Will Address Urgent Scientific Problems Limiting Successful Management of Summer Flounder and Black Sea Bass in the Mid-Atlantic Region

U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand today announced that the Senate Commerce, Justice, and Science Subcommittee has approved the FY10 Appropriations Bill which includes $1 million for the Partnership for Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Science (PMAFS) - Fish Stock Improvement Initiative.  This funding will assist in the development of urgently needed data to improve the management of summer flounder and black sea bass. The bill will now proceed to the Senate Floor as the next step in the appropriations process.  Schumer worked closely with members of the Appropriations Committee to include funding for the project in this year's spending bill.

"This funding will provide a big boost to the Long Island fishing industry," Schumer said.  "While the Long Island fishing industry is reeling from the economic downturn and sky high fuel costs, this funding will provide necessary data to ensure that the fishing community and the Long Island economy are not hurt by unfair quotas and size limits."

"In order to protect our fishing industries and our fisheries, we to make the best data available," Senator Gillibrand said. "For far too long, inadequate and archaic data has determined regulations that have affected thousands of lives on Long Island, from Freeport to Greenport to Montauk. This funding will enable better data collection for the management of these fisheries."

PMAFS will use the funding to focus on the development of urgently needed data to improve the management of summer flounder and black sea bass. To do this, PMAFS will appoint a select steering committee of academic scientists and key recreational and commercial fishery representatives. This steering committee, in collaboration with federal and state regulatory partners, will establish targeted research programs addressing key data inadequacies, and as a consequence, secure improved management of these key recreational and commercial species.  The recreational summer flounder and black sea bass fishing sectors include individual anglers, party and charter boat businesses, boat builders, fishing tackle manufacturers, bait and tackle retailers, marinas, and many other businesses in fishing communities from North Carolina to Massachusetts. The coast-wide commercial fishing fleet comprises many family owned businesses that have operated for close to a century and span multiple generations.  The fisheries involve both large and small vessels and provide products that are key components of the offerings of most seafood restaurants and seafood retailers.  These benefits to the culture and economy of the Mid-Atlantic are only possible with long-term sustainability of the summer flounder and black sea bass fisheries.

Example projects that may be carried out by PMAFS include the following: (a.) Evaluation of discard mortality by trawl capture using live tanks and tagging and monitoring of survival; (b.) Improvement in recreational discard estimates for private/rental vessel anglers;  (c.) Evaluation of critical aspects of reproductive biology including spawning season, sex ratio, size and age at maturity, fecundity, and egg quality; (d.) Determination of the relationship of natural mortality rate with age and sex; (e.) Parameterization of forward-projecting numerical models capable of using sex-dependent and age-dependent formulations and, for black sea bass, the change in sex from female to male; (f.) Development of a survey program to identify the sex ratio of commercial and recreational landings and discards; and (g.) Development of supplemental surveys, particularly for black sea bass, to better assess population structure in areas not accessible by NMFS trawl surveys.

A new era in the management of the marine fisheries of the U.S. began with the passage of the scientific standards for domestic fisheries management in the 1996 "Sustainable Fisheries Act" (SFA) Amendments to the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSFCMA).  This statute set as the goal of management maintaining fisheries at maximum sustainable yield. The need to develop more sophisticated stock assessment and data collection techniques to address the new requirements in the MSFCMA, the necessity of assessing the effectiveness of regulations implemented to meet the requirements of the MSFCMA, the effect of climate change on marine resources, and the need to reduce discards, address discard mortality through gear technology, protect habitat, and provide adequate protection for species of concern far exceeds the fiscal resources currently available in the Mid-Atlantic region.

PMAFS is a multi-state multi institutional partnership that combines the recreational and commercial fishing industries with the expertise of leading academic institutions in the Mid-Atlantic region. PMAFS is the first and only organization of its kind in the Mid-Atlantic. PMAFS will provide the framework enabling these institutions and concerned industry groups to effectively address the most urgent scientific problems in fisheries management and will incorporate this critical information into the management process through well-established partnerships with NMFS, MAFMC, and ASMFC committees and assessment programs.

Now that the bill has been approved by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee, it will be sent to the Senate Appropriations Committee. Following approval by the Full Committee and the Senate, the bill will move towards Conference with the House and then to the President for signature.