The sportfishing industry expressed its support for a new bill in Congress to ensure the smaller fish in the ocean that serve as the food source for most marine sportfish, known as forage fish, will be sustainably managed. Introduced by Reps. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), Brian Mast (R-Fla.), Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.), Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Billy Long (R-Mo.), and Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), the Forage Fish Conservation Act would require that the role forage fish play in the marine ecosystem be accounted for when federal fisheries managers set catch limits on them.
“Recognizing the important relationship between healthy forage fish populations and heathy sportfish populations, the recreational fishing community has long advocated for forage fish conservation,” said Mike Leonard, vice president of Government Affairs for the American Sportfishing Association (ASA). “We are grateful to Reps. Dingell and Mast for their bipartisan commitment to marine fisheries conservation through the science-based forage fish measures included in the Forage Fish Conservation Act.”
In 2014, the Commission on Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Management, chaired by Bass Pro Shops Founder and CEO Johnny Morris and Maverick Boats President Scott Deal, released a report identifying key policy changes to the federal marine fisheries management system to benefit fisheries conservation and public access. One of the six key recommendations of that report was improving management and conservation of forage fish.
“The Forage Fish Conservation Act is consistent with the Morris-Deal Commission’s recommendation, by incorporating important considerations for forage fish into the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act,” said Leonard. “Because these integral parts of the marine food web are becoming increasingly targeted for commercial exploitation, it is important that forage fish management accounts for their role in marine ecosystems.”
Forage fish provide food for nearly all recreationally important fish species, as well as seabirds and other marine life. Meanwhile, human demand for these nutrient-rich species continues to increase.
However, the Magnuson-Stevens Act is not currently designed to account for the unique role of forage fish in the marine ecosystem, instead relying on traditional single-species management approaches. The Forage Fish Conservation Act would require that the impacts on fish populations and the marine ecosystem be considered before allowing harvest on any currently unmanaged forage species, and that predator needs be accounted for in existing management plans for forage fish.
Almost one-half of North Carolina’s 11 million pounds of marine recreational landings in 2017 came from three species: yellowfin tuna, dolphinfish, and wahoo. Clearly, the act of hooking—and then successfully bringing the catch aboard—is important to saltwater anglers.
At the time of this study, fisheries managers were unsure whether to require the use of circle hooks in offshore dead-bait troll fisheries. Some studies had found that circle hooks maintained catch rates but reduced rates of deep hooking for billfishes, compared with J hooks. If circle hooks were required, what impact would it have on catch rates in these troll fisheries? Members of North Carolina’s charter boat industry were eager to find out.
Fisheries scientists partnered with charter and recreational fishermen to compare catch rates for circle hooks and J hooks for three common fish species in the N.C. offshore, dead-bait troll fishery: dolphinfish, yellowfin tuna, and wahoo. Prior to testing, scientists and expert fishermen met at a planning workshop to determine the hooks and gears to be tested “side-by-side” on 75 trips. It was important for everyone to come to agree on the parameters, including selecting specific circle hooks that are comparable to the J hooks used in this fishery. The scientists then ran computer models to better understand how such factors as hook type, leader type, species, trip type, and wave height affected catch rates.
Generally, more fish were caught on J hooks than circle hooks. In fact, computer modelling suggests that fishermen can expect 65 percent greater catches of the three species with J hooks. The results confirm the general observation of the charter boat industry that J hooks perform better than circle hooks in this fishery.
While king mackerel were not a large proportion of the total catch in this study, the research team found that J hooks also were more effective than circle hooks in catching this species.
As tackle manufacturers continue to introduce new hooks and terminal tackle, will these results hold? They certainly could. The planning workshop for the study generated many novel rigging and fishing techniques with circle hooks, but only the most promising were tested.
This release was provided by Hook, Line & Science, courtesy of Scott Baker and Sara Mirabilio, North Carolina Sea Grant.
All Atlantic highly migratory species tournament operators will be required to submit an HMS tournament catch summary report within seven days after tournament fishing has ended.
An Atlantic highly migratory species (HMS) tournament is a tournament that awards points or prizes for catching Atlantic highly migratory species (i.e., swordfish, billfish, sharks, and/or tunas).
Most of the catch data in the summary report are routinely collected in the course of regular tournament operations. NOAA Fisheries uses the data to estimate the total annual catch of highly migratory species and the impact of tournament operations in relation to other types of fishing activities.
Existing regulations require operators of Atlantic highly migratory species tournaments to register four weeks in advance of the tournament. Operators must provide contact information and the tournament’s date(s), location(s), and target species. Tournament registration can be done through the Atlantic Tournament Registration and Reporting system.
Tournament operators can also request educational and regulatory outreach materials from NOAA Fisheries at the time of registration.
For further information on concerning reporting, please contact Arietta Venizelos at (305) 361-4214.
Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed a mapping tool that identifies sites for re-establishing oyster reefs that maximize their ecological benefits—such as water filtration. This Geographic Information Systems (GIS)-based tool could inform restoration of other vital, sensitive coastal habitats.
Oyster reefs, salt marshes, and seagrass beds provide valuable ecosystem services such as water filtration, shoreline protection, and wave buffering during storm events. When these habitats are damaged, restoration efforts are critical to their recovery—and to the overall health of coastal ecosystems and communities. However, not all coastal habitats are created equally, and where restoration or conservation efforts take place makes a big difference in the quantity and quality of ecosystem services delivered.
“This work focused on identifying key areas for oyster reef restoration that would provide water filtration benefits in the Pamlico Sound,” says Seth Theuerkauf, scientist at The Nature Conservancy and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NC State Ph.D. graduate, and lead author of a paper describing the research. “Globally, less than 15 percent of the historic distribution of oyster reefs remain, so restoration efforts have to focus on efficiency. The current challenge is to identify areas where restoration efforts would yield maximum ecosystem services.”
Theuerkauf and NC State colleagues David Eggleston, professor of marine sciences, and Brandon Puckett, former NC State Ph.D. student and current research coordinator for the NC Coastal Reserve, utilized GIS tools to develop a model that could predict the best locations for oyster bed reestablishment that would provide maximum likely water filtration benefits.
“Typical models currently focus on basic environmental factors, such as water salinity and the restoration’s impact on other uses of coastal space, like fishing or boating,” Theuerkauf says. “Our model goes beyond that and takes into account the impact and variation in ecosystem services oyster reefs provide.”
The researchers developed three versions of their model: one that identified areas where oyster restoration yielded maximum water filtration benefits; one that identified areas that would best sustain the overall oyster population; and another that identified areas with a balance between water filtration and population enhancement.
“We are excited that this tool has proven useful to guide local restoration efforts such as the Swan Island Oyster Sanctuary restoration project currently underway in North Carolina,” Theuerkauf says. “The beauty of this model and approach is that it can be modified for use in a number of different habitat restoration efforts—such as mangrove restoration in Florida, where the benefits the habitat provides are different from those of oyster reefs, but similarly very valuable.”
Sportsmen are spending millions of dollars on fishing equipment, but which brands are they buying? Southwick Associates surveyed more than 11,000 anglers in 2018 through their online AnglerSurvey.com consumer panel to identify the top brands in the market.
In 2018, some of sportfishing’s most frequently purchased brands include: top fluorocarbon fishing line brand—Seaguar; top monofilament fishing line brand—Berkley Trilene; top soft bait brand—Zoom; top leader brand—Ande; top fish finder/sonar brand—Humminbird; top fishing clothing brand—Columbia; top tackle box brand—Plano; top bait bucket/aerator brand—Frabill; top trolling motor brand—Minn Kota; and top cooler brand—Coleman
A variety of key fishing products are examined in the Southwick Associates 2018 Fishing Participation and Equipment Purchases Report. This in-depth resource illustrates angler’s participation and shopping behaviors, including the percentage of sales occurring across different retail channels, brand purchased, price paid, and demographics for anglers buying specific products. Additional information tracked includes total days spent per activity, type of fishing, and targeted species.