Guy Harvey Magazine

SPR 2017

Guy Harvey Magazine is focused on fishing, boating, scuba diving, and marine conservation. Portfolios from the world's best fishing photographers, articles on gear, travel, tournaments, apparel, lifestyle, seafood recipes, sustainable fisheries.

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58 | www.GuyHarveyMagazine.com Fisheries management is a prickly situation. Like anything affected by politics, or when you must balance the conclusions of science with the realities of business, there are many viewpoints. Some fall on the far left or the far right, and as always, the answer usually lies somewhere in the middle. When it comes to fisheries regulations, I believe "the middle" is often the implementation of slot limits on recreational fish. It offers an effective and more balanced management approach than more restrictive size and catch regulations. This can be true in many situations, but one that is going on right now in my region of the country is the regulation of summer flounder. A three-fish limit of 19 in. is being proposed in New Jersey, but this new rule is likely to wreak havoc on the local charter industry and I don't think it's necessary. Before I get into the particulars of why slot limits can be a better option in this and other situations, I want to offer a disclaimer. I propose the following viewpoint with the understanding that the scientific data currently collected by NOAA is, by their own admission, "fatally flawed." This means they aren't really sure their data is correct, as the mechanisms of data collection are sloppy and inconsistent at best. Once sound and accepted scientific data is established, then you can confidently justify hard-nosed regulations to protect a species. Otherwise, knee-jerk regulations can not only be detrimental to the fish stocks but local economies as well. Okay, first, we should consider the impact of the proposed regulations on fish stocks. Any time you focus on taking one size class fish out of an ecosystem, it inevitably will skew the age population. If you set regulations that only allow anglers to harvest breeding-class fish, there will not only be fewer breeders but also fewer young fish to replenish the population. Conversely, if regulations allow for the taking of small, sexually immature fish, fewer will have the opportunity to reach sexual maturity and, therefore, stocks decline. Slot limits, in theory, work well to spread the harvest out among the entire population. In the case of summer flounder, a fish over 19 in. is generally considered a female breeding fish. Rather than target these breeders, a more sensible answer would be to spread out a slot, say three fish between 15 and 18 in. and one fish over 18 in., so you can keep a trophy fish if you catch that fish of a lifetime. There are plenty of examples of slot limits being used successfully. In my opinion, the finest regs for striped bass were when New Jersey had a two-fish limit with one fish between 24-28 in. and one fish over 28 in. That kept the killing of breeders to a minimum while allowing the take of a mature, smaller fish for the grill, too. (Now the N.J. rules stand at two bass: one fish between 28-43 in., and one over 43 in.) Down south, to rebuild declining redfish stocks, Florida allowed a single fish to be taken between 18 and 27 inches, and that fishery has rebounded nicely in the past six years. Now to the business of business. Though protecting the future of fish populations and stocks are of primary importance when determining regulations, another concern is how regulations affect the local economy and the jobs SLOT LIMITS SAVE FISH...AND JOBS BY NICK HONACHEFSKY

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