Thursday, September 28, 2023



The National Marine Fisheries Service recently published a proposed rule that would identify an area off southern New England, including Cox’s Ledge, as a “habitat area of particular concern.”

NMFS’ action follows a framework adjustment approved by the New England Fishery Management Council, which seeks to affect multiple fishery management plans, including those regulating New England groundfish (Northeast Multispecies), Atlantic sea scallops, monkfish, the Northeast skate complex, and Atlantic herring.  The referenced area

“would be within and around wind lease areas in Southern New England, including Cox Ledge, to focus conservation recommendations on cod spawning habitats and complex benthic habitats that are known to serve important habitat functions to Council-managed fishery species.”

There is little question that Cox’s Ledge is important cod habitat.  For many years, it also supported an important recreational fishery for cod, one that I became very familiar with when I was young.  I first fished there in May 1968, when I was still in my last year of grade school, and returned many times over the next dozen years until, around 1980, the fishery began to wane.

But that importance raises a question about NMFS’ recent announcement:  Why did the agency—and more to the point, the New England Council—wait so long?

Federal regulations provide that

“[Fishery management plans] should identify specific types of areas of habitat within [essential fish habitat] as habitat areas of particular concern based on one or more of the following considerations:

(i)               The importance of the ecological function provided by the habitat.

(ii)              The extent to which the habitat is sensitive to human-induced environmental degradation.

(iii)            Whether, and to what extent, development activities are, or will be, stressing the habitat type.

(iv)            The rarity of the habitat type.”

The NMFS notice states that

“if adopted, the [habitat area of particular concern] is based on all four of those attributes.”

The notice also states that

“An area’s status as [a habitat area of particular concern] should lead to special attention regarding potential adverse effects on habitats within the areas of particular concern from various activities (e.g., fishing, offshore wind energy).”

As noted earlier, Cox’s Ledge has always been an important area for cod fishermen.  Not only recreational fishermen, but also commercial harvesters, have long fished the spot.  But up until recently, when wind energy leases were granted and wind farm development appeared imminent, the New England Council seemed to have little concern about human impacts on the region’s fish habitat.

That was evident in the years around 2010, when fishermen were surprised by an unexpected resurgence of cod in the Cox’s Ledge area.  As also noted in NMFS’ proposed rule, those cod were winter spawners, which reproduced between the months of December and April.  Although managed as part of the Georges Bank cod stock, genetic analysis has shown such Cox’s Ledge spawners to be a part of a “Southern Complex” of fish that are more closely connected to cod in the Gulf of Maine, and which form a distinguishable subpopulation of cod. 

Such subpopulation can be described as a

“semi-independent, self-reproducing [group] if individuals within a larger population that undergo[es] some measurable, but limited, exchange of individuals with other areas within a population,”

but might also constitute a finer-scale spawning component, which are

“segments of a population that do not differ in genetics or growth, but occupy discrete spawning areas interannually.”

Some research has suggested that

“Once a spawning site has lost its resident population, it may remain barren even when spawning cod are present on neighboring grounds.”

That being the case, the New England Council’s decision to declare the Cox’s Ledge area a habitat area of special concern, not only for cod, but also for Atlantic herring, Atlantic sea scallops, little skate, monkfish, ocean pout, red hake, winter flounder, and winter skate makes perfect sense.

Such factors would have justified protecting the area's habitat many years ago.

After all, the Cox’s Ledge area was always important to the local cod subpopulation, which had been spawning there for a very long time.  As noted earlier, cod abundance on Cox’s Ledge increased sharply around 2010, after having fallen to very low levels for a couple of decades.  In response to that brief resurgence, both recreational and commercial fishing vessels concentrated on the new abundance of fish; while the recreational boats didn’t cause habitat damage, the commercial trawlers undoubtedly did. 

It is well established that

“The direct effects of trawling and dredging include loss of erect and sessile epifauna, smoothing of sedimentary bottoms and reduction of bottom roughness, and removal of taxa that produce structure.  Trawl gear can crush, bury, or expose marine flora and fauna and reduce structural diversity…

“Repeated trawling and dredging can result in discernible changes in benthic communities.  Many studies report that repeated trawling and dredging causes a shift from communities dominated by species with relatively large adult body size toward dominance by high abundance of small bodied organisms.  Intensively fished areas are likely to remain permanently altered, inhabited by fauna that readapted to frequent physical disturbance…  [citations omitted]”

Yet, despite such settled science, the New England Council, which is peopled largely by representatives of the commercial fishing industry, made little or no effort to declare the Cox’s Ledge area a habitat area of particular concern in order to recognize its possible vulnerability to commercial fishing gear.  Such action was only taken when commercial development for wind power loomed. 

In fact, the area being considered for designation is defined in the proposed rule as “within and around wind lease areas in Southern New England, including Cox Ledge,” suggesting that wind power development was the primary threat to the cod and other relevant species.

That doesn’t mean that wind development isn’t a potential threat to the region’s cod.  The report from the 2022 National Saltwater Recreational Fishing Summit includes a summary of a presentation made by Capt. Rick Bellavance, a Rhode Island charter boat operator, who noted that when the five-turbine Block Island Wind Farm was developed,

“During the construction period, opportunities for recreational fishing were limited by an exclusion zone around the operation, the underwater noise produced by driving the pilings, and a longer schedule than planned…

“After construction…anglers felt that there are fewer cod present now than before the turbines were constructed,”

although the abundance of other species, including black sea bass, striped bass, bluefish, and dogfish, appear to have increased in the vicinity of the turbines.

It’s not clear whether anglers’ perception in a decline in cod abundance reflects reality, and even if it does, such decline may have been caused by factors other than the turbines’ construction.  However, there is no question that the noise associated with such construction is substantial, and could conceivably negatively impact the cod’s spawn; it is also at least possible that the intense human activity associated with such construction could disrupt spawning activity.

At the same time, it is very clear that commercial fishermen don’t like wind farms, and fear that wind development might hurt cod fishermen as much or more than they impact the cod themselves.  A 2021 article quotes a Montauk, New York trawler captain, whose fishing area includes the region around Cox’s Ledge, as saying,

“There’s so many things going against you as a commercial fisherman in the United States.  And now these wind farms, it’s almost like that’s the final nail in the coffin.”

While such fishermen do fear that turbine construction could impact fish stocks, their greater concern is that, although fishing will technically be permitted within the wind development areas, the turbines will be spaced to closely together to allow the use of trawl gear.

With such concerns, it’s hardly surprising that it took wind farm development to spur the New England Council into considering habitat impacts around Cox’s Ledge, while potential damage from trawls evoked little concern.

With all things considered, there are good reasons to hope that NMFS’ proposed rule to find the Cox’s Ledge region a habitat area of special concern will ultimately meet with approval.

But there are also reasons to hope that the regional fishery management councils won’t focus merely on wind farms, but will also consider the impacts of fishing gear, including but not limited to trawls, on the health of marine habitat.







Sunday, September 24, 2023



The hot new buzzword in recreational fishery management circles is shark “depredation.”

Over the past few years anglers, particularly in Florida and some of the other southern states, have been whining about sharks stealing and eating hooked fish that anglers’ wanted for their own meals.  Not surprisingly, sharks often target some of the largest fish that find themselves on fishermen’s lines, as those are the fish that fight the hardest and longest, and thus ring the loudest dinner bell for submarine predators, while irritating anglers all the more.

Depredation has been getting a lot of publicity lately, with Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA) inserting language into Rep. Jared Huffman’s (D-CA) Sustaining America’s Fisheries for the Future Act of 2022 that would make

“Projects to better understand shark depredation, what causes increases in the behavior, and how to best address the behavior”

a new priority for the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA), with Rep. Graves as a co-sponsor, went one step further, introducing H.R. 4051, the so-called “SHARKED Act,” a bill intended

“To direct the Secretary of Commerce to establish a task force regarding shark depredation, and for other purposes.”

Even the National Marine Fisheries Service seems to have jumped aboard the shark depredation bandwagon, inserting language into the “guiding principles” for its newly-revised Recreational Fishing Policy that would encourage

“Improving understanding of the impacts of depredation on recreational fisheries.”

I’ve written about the shark depredation issue before, and won’t go any farther down that road today, except to note that of the species most often accused of such depredation two, the sandbar and dusky sharks, remain overfished, with the rebuilding date for the former stock estimated at around 2070 , a considerable while away, while the rebuilding date for the latter is estimated to be sometime between 2084 and 2204, with 2107 the most likely year in that span, meaning that most people reading this post probably won’t see a rebuilt stock in their lifetimes.

Two other alleged depredators, bull and lemon sharks, remain unassessed, and the health of those stocks is unknown.  It seems a situation that calls out for caution.

Still, fishermen complain that

“You can’t bring fish to the boat anymore because once you’re hooked, they’ll eat them,”

claiming, without factual support, that there is

“a small imbalance in our shark population,”

and calling for what is euphemistically deemed “additional management” to “combat the shark population.”

It wasn’t that long ago that we heard fishermen and spearfishermen saying the same thing about Florida’s goliath grouper.

One website,, wrote in 2012,

“There is a big controversy that has erupted with anglers complaining that these giants are reducing the population of sportfish on our reefs due to their voracious feeding habits, and destroying the ecosystem of the reefs.  Anglers are frustrated when they reel in their catch to have it stolen by yet another hungry Goliath.  Once you hook up a giant you have to spend a large amount of energy and to properly reel it in only to turn around and release the unwanted catch.  Anglers want the species population reduced and have suggested opening them up to fishing for a short time annually, possibly in the summer when there are less anglers in the area.  Anglers feel that someday there will be nothing left but Goliaths on our offshore wrecks and reefs which will definitely have an impact on tourism and the local fishing industry.”

Sound familiar?

Just two years ago—September 21, 2021—National Public Radio reported on complaints about goliath grouper depredation, and the need to harvest a few of those then-protected fish in order to reduce the alleged problem.

In its report, NPR described the debate over permitting a limited harvest of goliath grouper, and quoted one spearfisherman, Dick Kempton of the St. Pete Underwater Club, who complained

“You can’t dive a range finder or a wreck in the bay or a channel marker that hasn’t got one, two or three resident giants living there.  They eat everything that comes by.”

The report also quotes biologist Chris Koenig, who has studied the big groupers for over two decades.  Counter to some of the claims that goliaths have grown too abundant, he opines that

“What we see is a population that is just teetering on the edge.”

His wife, biologist Felicia Coleman, shares Dr. Koenig’s long experience with goliath groupers, and has noted that while smaller goliaths were abundant, the number of big fish was in decline, and followed that up by saying,

“When you’re looking at population recovery, the important thing is what is the size of the reproductive population, that is the adults.”

And the adults may not be doing as well as some anglers and spearfishermen claim.

Despite the warnings given by some biologists and other interested parties, Florida ultimately decided to allow some harvest of goliath grouper, although to limit any possible harm, they restricted such harvest to no more than 200 fish per year, established a  24- to 30-inch slot size limit, and required a $150 ($500 for out-of-state anglers) permit to assure that only those seriously interested in harvesting a goliath might do so.

Even with such restrictions, the population of goliath groupers has apparently declined since harvest was again permitted.  According to James Locascio of Florida’s Mote Marine Laboratory, a study conducted at six goliath grouper spawning sites found that, at all but one of such sites, the abundance of adult goliath grouper declined between 2013 and 2022.

Such decline probably cannot be blamed solely on Florida’s decision to allow some goliath grouper harvest, since that is far from the only source of fishing mortality.  Dr. Locascio noted that, according to logbooks provided by commercial fishermen, about 1,700 goliath grouper had been caught and discarded between the years of 2000 and 2020; because such logbooks only represented about 10% of the region’s commercial fishing fleet, the bycatch and dead discards of goliaths during that period could have been substantially higher.

Although adult goliath grouper may not be retained by fishermen, they are nonetheless the target of a substantial recreational catch-and-release fishery, that sees anglers dropping down large baits on heavy bottom fishing gear, in the hope of catching and releasing a fish that might weigh in excess of 500 pounds.  While there are rules governing such fishery which are intended to limit release mortality, it is inevitable in any recreational fishery, particularly those employing live bait, that some of the released fish will not survive the experience.

Although the mortality rate may be relatively low when fish are caught from a boat, where hooks can be easily removed and the weight of the fish is always fully supported by the surrounding water, one of the attractions of goliath grouper is that anglers don’t necessarily need a boat to catch one; like sharks, goliaths are readily available to the angler willing to put in the time and effort to catch one from shore, or from shoreline structure such as piers, bridges and causeways.

Thus, while Florida law prohibits large goliath grouper to be removed from the water, one can often find photos of fish dragged into water far too shallow to support their full weight, fish that will have to be dragged back over the bottom for at least a short distance before they can regain their ability to swim.  Goliaths caught from elevated structures such as piers and bridges remain in deep water, but when the time comes for them to be released, they also remain out of anglers’ reach, meaning that hooks often cannot be removed from their mouths, forcing anglers to cut the leader some distance away from the fish.

Both those practices place additional stress on the fish, and could easily increase the rate of release mortality.

Thus, placed in the overall context of commercial discards and recreational release mortality, Florida’s recreational goliath grouper harvest becomes just one more factor that, when added to all the rest, militates against fully rebuilding the stock.

So the answer to the question, “How does a shark resemble a goliath grouper?” is fairly simple.

Both sharks and goliath groupers include fish in their diets. 

Both are opportunistic predators, and both are more than willing to take the easy route of stealing a fish from an angler’s line rather than chasing one down on their own.

Thus, both get anglers annoyed—so annoyed that anglers are calling on fisheries managers to lower the predators’ numbers, so that people, who come from the land to hunt fish, don’t have to compete with the native ocean predators for what the fishermen see as snapper and grouper and other species that rightfully belong to them.

And, of course, sharks and goliath grouper resemble each other in one more, very important way.  Many shark stocks, like the big grouper, are in tenuous condition, either overfished or on the brink of such depletion, and additional harvest might well push them over the edge.

Of course, that would probably please a large slice of the recreational fishing community, who see both sharks and goliaths as little more than obstacles to filling the fish box, and wouldn’t object if their numbers were thinned.

It seems as if goliath grouper abundance may, once again, be on the decline, but managers can still keep sharks on the road to recovery.

Provided that they don’t yield to complaings about depredation, and so treat them the way that they did the big groupers.



Thursday, September 21, 2023



It has become a recurrent theme.

Every year, the National Marine Fisheries Service’s budget for the next fiscal year is considered, and every year, there are those who seek to slash it to the bone and beyond, supporting cuts so deep that they threaten the agency’s ability to function.  This year’s struggles over the NMFS budget are likely to be some of the worst that we’ve ever seen.

The Senate, in an effort to comply with the terms of this year’s debt ceiling bill, is likely to seek a $42 million reduction in the NMFS budget.  That cut has drawn its share of criticism; Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), observed that

“I have very real concerns about the impacts these cuts will have on Alaska’s fisheries.

“We have the well-deserved reputation across the world as the gold standard of fisheries, and keeping that reputation requires strategic investments in things like stock-assessment surveys, data collection and other resources essential to sustainable resource management.  I’m committed to making sure Alaska’s fisheries have the resources to remain a world-leader.”

While Sen. Murkowski is naturally concerned, first and foremost, with the fisheries of her home state, her concerns are just as applicable to all of the nation’s marine fisheries. 

The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation Management Act is probably the most comprehensive and most successful fisheries law in the world, but is has created a science-based management system, and good science doesn’t come cheap.  Using science to develop management measures that continually adapt to the changing health of every fish stock is a very resource-intensive process.  It certainly requires far more financial support, while producing far better results, than a system based on anecdotal reports and purely economic concerns.  Unfortunately, there are too many people, in both the recreational and the commercial fisheries, that would love to see such a haphazard approach take root.

If the House of Representatives gets their way, such people might just get their wish, as the House has recently proposed a 14% cut—about $900 million—to the NMFS budget.

Even at today's funding levels, NMFS lacks the resources to regularly assess all of the recreationally and commercially important fish stocks, including currently unmanaged forage species, assemble the data necessary to protect marine ecosystems from accelerating commercial activities off the nation’s coasts, and fully evaluate the impacts of a warming ocean on marine fisheries.  A 14% reduction in NMFS’ budget would clearly hamstring the agency.

And that’s probably exactly what the House majority would like to do.  While every House budget is slanted toward the ideology of the majority party, the rhetoric surrounding the 2024 budget is an extreme example, with the Appropriations Committee, sounding almost like a caricature of political communication, saying that

“The bill reins in the Washington bureaucracy by right-sizing agencies and programs…”

without ever explaining why such agencies and programs aren’t the right size right now.  

Not surprisingly, there were also the obligatory references to “eliminating the regulatory state” and “reducing government restrictions on businesses, in order to boost private sector growth and innovation,” language that keeps their corporate donors happy and so also keeps the contributions flowing in.

The concept of conserving natural resources for the use and enjoyment of future generations never appears in the budget-related documents, something which is also no cause for surprise, nor is it surprising that the majority of House members have little interest in adequately funding an agency such as NMFS, which regulates business in order to achieve such conservation goals.

But the House may have reached a new low with language that it included in the appropriations bill for the Commerce and Justice departments, where it included a policy statement declaring that

“None of the funds made available by this Act shall be used…by the Department of Commerce for…climate change fisheries research…  [formatting omitted],”

since climate change, and the impacts that it is having on coastal fish stocks, may be the single greatest challenge facing today’s fisheries managers. 

In the Pacific, it’s causing real harm to salmon, both by decreasing the amount of food available to the fish when they’re in the ocean and by creating physical changes in the water itself, which make it more difficult for salmon to feed, escape predators, and even find their way back to their natal rivers.  Warming waters are also forcing Pacific cod farther north, into waters where they may not be able to spawn successfully.  A rapidly warming ocean is also the most likely cause of the collapse of the Alaskan snow crab fishery, which has caused a substantial disruption to the state’s commercial fishery.

In both the Gulf of Mexico and the South Atlantic, scientists are blaming warming waters for the sharp decline in southern flounder abundance, a decline which has harmed both commercial and recreational fishermen.  Researchers in North Carolina have suggested that a shorter exposure to cool water has caused an imbalance in the southern flounder population, causing males to far outnumber females and reducing the spawning potential of the stock.

Climate change’s effects are also being felt is New England and the Mid-Atlantic region.  The stock of northern shrimp, once a relatively small but reliable fishery in northern New England, has collapsed, and a moratorium with no readily discernable end has been imposed on the fishery.  The same warming waters are probably impairing the recovery of depleted Atlantic cod stocks.  

On the other hand cobia, historically a southern fish that only rarely ventured north of the Chesapeake Bay, is becoming more and more common farther north; viewed as a beneficiary of the warming ocean, scientists believe that the center of cobia abundance on the East Coast will, before long, shift from the Chesapeake Bay to somewhere off New Jersey.  The recent explosion of black sea bass in New York and New Jersey can be attributed largely to warmer winter water temperatures at the edge of the continental shelf, where the fish spend the winter. 

Anecdotally, there has been an incursion of traditionally southern species into more northerly waters.  Here off Long Island, dolphin have always been available during the summer, but never in the numbers we’ve seen in the past decade, when the fish, once merely a target of opportunity for tuna and billfish anglers, became the target of directed fishing effort.  Just this year, while shark fishing in 20 fathoms of water, I’ve had anglers aboard my boat accidentally hook both cobia and wahoo, something that has never happened before.  A handful of anglers are now targeting both sheepshead and black drum in New York’s bays, while southern sharks, such as blacktips, spinners, and even the occasional bull, are showing up far more often than they did a decade ago.

Given such climate-driven changes, drafting a bill that would prohibit NMFS from looking into the effects of climate change on the nation’s marine fisheries would seem to rise to a sort of legislative malpractice.  Yet that’s just what legislators who are ideologically committed to rejecting all scientific evidence of climate change, and to carrying out the wishes of their corporate sponsors, are trying to impose on the agency right now.

It's hard to say where it will end. 

As the old saying goes,

“You just can’t fix stupid,”

so it’s not very likely that many in the House majority is going to bend.  Given the nature of politics, it’s probably not very likely that the minority party will reach out across the aisle, to the handful of rational majority members, to make needed changes in what is, and will remain, the majority’s budget bill.  More likely, they’ll insist on the House taking up their party’s bill from the Senate, a move that might make some obscure political sense, but will only guarantee additional gridlock.

Thus, the federal fishery management program is likely to be crippled by politicians more interested in scoring points for their side than in doing good work for the entire nation.

We can only contact our legislators, urge them to move, and hope that against all the odds, they take heed.


Sunday, September 17, 2023



Last week, here in New York, newspapers announced that the trial of a Long Island commercial fisherman, accused of illegally landing over 200,000 pounds of summer flounder, along with an unspecified amount of illegal black sea bass, had begun.

The allegations follow a pattern that we’ve seen on Long Island before.  A fishermen knowingly harvests too many fish, often summer flounder, files false landings reports with the National Marine Fisheries Service, and then connives with the operator of a fish dock/landings facility to conceal the illegal landings.

The New York Times noted that the wholesale value of the illegal landings was about $888,000.  The retail value at fish markets and, particularly, restaurants would have been substantially higher.

So the question becomes, how should the fisherman pay for his crime, in which he stole over 100 tons of a regulated natural resource not only from the public at large, but from the future?  As I noted in a recent post, the summer flounder stock isn’t exactly thriving right now.

Granted, the fisherman has not yet been convicted, and the presumption of innocence guaranteed by the United States Constitution still applies.  However, it’s only human to speculate, and given that his alleged partners in crime, Bryan and Asa Gosman, owners of the sprawling restaurant/fish market/fishing dock operation on the west side of Montauk Inlet, and Bob Gosman, Inc., a fish wholesaler, have already cut deals with federal prosecutors, and could very well testify on the government’s behalf, it’s not unreasonable to speculate that his guilt will eventually be proved.

The wholesaler, Bob Gosman, Inc., has already been assessed, and has paid, a $50,000 fine, which doesn’t sound like much more than a slap on the wrist, considering the value of the illegal fish that it handled.  Bryan and Asa Gosman have not yet been sentenced, and it can only be hoped that the court will be less lenient with them, for even though they didn’t actually catch the over-limit flounder, they provided the willing and eager market into which they were sold.  According to the Times, they even acted as lookout at times, standing by to warn the fishermen of the presence of law enforcement personnel when the illegal flounder were landed.

The fisherman faces serious penalties, including jail time and the forfeiture of the money received for the illegal fish.  It is not impossible that, should the National Marine Fisheries Service begin an administrative action separate from the current prosecution, he could even lose his permit to fish for summer flounder, a loss that would force him out of the fishery.

Previous cases have demonstrated that at least some courts have little tolerance for large-scale illegal fishing. 

In 2015, another fisherman who landed a somewhat higher volume of illegal summer flounder, 290,000 pounds, was sentenced to seven months in jail and three years of supervised, post-release probation, and compelled to pay $603,400 in combined fines and forfeitures.

Like the fisherman in the current prosecution, the individual convicted in 2015 conspired with the operator of a fish dock to hide his illegal landings.  That fish dock operator, who served a similar function as the Gosmans did in the current prosecution, was sentenced to four months in jail and three years of supervised probation; fined $6,000; required to make a $15,000 “community service payment” to the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County, which operates a federal Sea Grant program intended to protect summer flounder habitat; and forfeit $510,000 as restitution for the illegal landings.

In that case, the fish dock laundered 246,376 pounds of illegal summer flounder, worth $510,000.

We can only hope that those found guilty in the current matter face similar fates.

And they very well might for, once the jury returns a guilty verdict, or the accused agrees to a guilty plea, the federal courts on Long Island have proven very intolerant of those who knowingly abuse fisheries resources.

Unfortunately, the state courts have not demonstrated the same attitudes, particularly on the South Fork of Long Island, where fishing remains an important part of the local economy.  There, poachers often escape with only the lightest slap on the wrist, which does nothing to deter further illegal activity.

One of the worst examples I’ve heard of occurred a couple of years ago, and was reported in the newsletter of a local sportsmen’s organization.

“On 11/7, ECOs Ike Bobseine, Landon Simmons and Taylor Della Rocco took the 31’ Safeboat to patrol the Atlantic Ocean.  After several compliant recreational vessel checks, the crew observed a vessel in the Atlantic Ocean south of Montauk.  On board, 2 persons were hauling up a gill net, both commercially permitted fishermen.    On board, in a cooler, were 11 tagged striped bass, all using allocation tags issued to another fisherman, who was not on board.  They had, also, an additional 82 unused striped bass tags.  An additional 5 untagged striped bass were found, hidden, on board, which were all under the 26” minimum size for commercially harvested striped bass.

“The captain admitted that he was out of striped bass tags for the year, and knew that it was illegal to fish using someone else’s tags…The fishermen were each charged with a misdemeanor, for the illegal commercialization of fish, plus a separate violation for possessing undersized fish and illegal use of tags.  In total, each fisherman faced penalties of up to $800 for the 16 illegal fish and an additional penalty of $5,000, based on the current market value of the fish.  The current market value of the fish illegally on board the vessel was $388.02…

“On 1/5, in East Hampton Town Court, the captain pled to a violation, with a $100 fine and a $75 surcharge; all other charges were dismissed.  [emphasis added]”

That’s not an uncommon outcome in East Hampton and Southampton town courts, where the poachers are often respected members of the community, whose families often can trace their presence in town back to colonial times.  When the prosecutor and the judge grew up in the area, were elected by the town’s residents, and feel little need to enforce conservation laws, the nominal fines handed out for illegal fishing become little more than a cost of doing business, and not a deterrent at all.

A very different problem, but the same result, prevails in more urbanized parts of the state, where district attorneys and judges spend much of their time dealing with criminals accused of robbery, rape, assault, homicide, and serious larceny and drug charges.  Hardened by such day-to-day fare, such persons often see natural resources crimes, no matter how serious, as less important, and less deserving of prosecutorial and judicial time.

I just learned last week that conservation officers were told by one judge not to bring any charges against anglers who fail to obtain the required salt water registration before going fishing; the out-of-sorts jurist reportedly declared,

“I don’t want to see any more of these in my court—it’s a waste of time.”

Such attitudes do wonders for lawbreakers’ morale, but can’t be particularly encouraging for conservation officers, who spend long, and often uncomfortable, hours building a case, only to have it belittled by a judge or D.A. who is far more interested in non-resource matters.

It is well past time for states, including New York, to adopt something much closer to the federal model, where forfeiture of poachers’ ill-gotten gains is required in addition to any fine, and jail time becomes a real possibility for chronic offenders.

In addition, administrative actions focused on the suspension or revocation of the licenses and/or permits needed to fish, in response to repeat or particularly egregious offenses, would go a long way to weed out the bad apples.  

While even a large fine may be an ineffective deterrent if the rewards of illegal fishing are large enough, a permit revocation that forces a fisherman off the water will, if nothing else, prevent repeat offenses, and provide other fishermen with a good reason to obey the law.

But so long as fishermen face only minor consequences for violating fisheries laws, violators will continue to thrive.



Thursday, September 14, 2023



As soon as the news emerged that that National Marine Fisheries Service had found a problem in its Fishing Effort Survey, it was certain that the traditional opponents of federal fisheries management would seek to spin that news into an attack on the Marine Recreational Information Program, which is used to estimate recreational catch and landings.

They have made such attacks before, inspired by nothing more than a desire to kill more fish—most often red snapper—than MRIP-based regulations would allow.  But when NMFS, in its continuing efforts to ensure the accuracy of MRIP data, discovered a problem that needed fixing, the opponents of the federal fishery management system lost no time in piling on.

The harshest attacks, as one might expect, came from the Center for Sportfishing Policy, a group which represents the fishing and boatbuilding industries, along with some “anglers’ rights” organizations, and has the savvy—and, more importantly, the cash—to hire public relations professionals willing and able to present the Fishing Effort Survey story in a way most likely to alienate the average recreational fisherman from the federal fishery management system.

A typical comment came from Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Sportfishing Policy, who proclaimed,

“NOAA has had multiple chances to fix management of recreational fisheries, and it has failed every time.  A ready alternative exists in states that have already taken steps to develop better recreational data than the feds have ever had.  It’s time to stop making the same mistakes, stop wasting taxpayer money, and stop causing chaos in recreational fisheries management and coastal communities.  It’s time for all parties to work together to properly fund state efforts to manage recreational fisheries.”

It’s important to note the subtleties within Angers’ statement.

While he used the newly-discovered problem with the Fishing Effort Survey to open the discussion, his intent goes far beyond merely counting the fish that anglers might catch.  He is using the Fishing Effort Survey issue as justification to attack the entire federal management system, as part of the Center’s ongoing efforts to move responsibility for managing recreational fisheries from NMFS to state managers, where science-based management can be more easily overridden by political efforts.

I’ve written about such efforts before, most recently in the context of the Coastal Conservation Association (a constituent of the Center for Sportfishing Policy) and its so-far successful endeavors to employ the Louisiana legislature to frustrate Louisiana’s professional fisheries managers, in order to prevent them from adopting the regulations needed to rebuild the state’s overfished spotted seatrout stock.

From what people tell me, the same folks are planning to block Louisiana’s efforts to protect and rebuild red drum in a similar, political way.

We also see some telling words come from Michael Leonard, vice president of government affairs for the American Sportfishing Association, the primary fishing industry trade group and another constituent of the Center.

“The recreational fishing community’s confidence in federal fisheries data couldn’t be lower.”

Of course, what Mr. Leonard is far slower to state is that he is one of the people who has been doing his best to undercut anglers’ faith in the federal data collection system.  As early as 2017, he wrote an op ed piece for Sport Fishing Magazine, in which he averred,

“The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act requires all fish stocks to be managed to an annual catch limit (i.e., number of pounds that can be caught in a year).  When that limit is reached, the act requires that the fishery be shut down.  If the limit is exceeded, punitive measures go into effect in future years.

“That works for commercial fisheries…

“Unfortunately, our federal fisheries management system is attempting to manage the nation’s 11 million saltwater anglers the same way, not recognizing the numerous fundamental differences between recreational and commercial fishing.

“One of those major differences is the way in which they estimate catch.

“…To be honest, the [National Academy of Sciences report on MRIP] is generally complimentary on progress made recently…including switching from surveying anglers via randomly cold-calling coastal household landlines to a mail survey.

“In the 21st century, it may be hard to believe that sending surveys through the mail is considered major progress, but that goes to show how low the bar has been set.

“…anglers will still be left with a system that is not capable of providing information as frequently or accurately as commercial fishing harvest data, or the degree necessary to meet current statutory requirements…”

So if angler confidence in MRIP couldn’t be lower, Mr. Leonard can certainly take a bow for helping to drive it down to such a nadir.  And he didn’t do so without reason.

After all, he is employed by a fishing tackle trade group, and at least some believe that, while science-based regulations might increase fish populations, they also decrease industry profits.  Thus, undercutting the public's confidence in federal estimates of recreational catch and landings could be a reasonably profitable activity, so long as stocks don’t drop too far.

Yet, in the end, all of the comments made by the Center for Sportfishing Policy and its fellow travelers ignore the fact that, while the federal system has its flaws—flaws that NMFS is constantly trying to unearth and repair—there is no reason to believe that the state systems are any better, at least on a consistent basis.

Take, for example, the state data used to govern the recreational red snapper fishery in the Gulf of Mexico.

There are five states that border the Gulf of Mexico, and each has its own, unique state program for estimating the recreational red snapper catch.  The Center for Sportfishing Policy has long condemned NMFS estimates of red snapper landings, claiming that they overstate reality and, as seen in Mr. Angers quote, above, also claim that the states have developed better data-gathering systems.  

But we only have to look back a little over a year to discover that one of the biggest issues down in the Gulf was the “calibration” of state estimates to allow them to be compatible with the MRIP data.  The reason for such calibration was pretty simple—each survey used a different methodology, which led to different results even when they were purportedly measuring the same recreational landings.  But what was interesting about the whole thing was that the data from two states, Florida and Louisiana, tracked the MRIP numbers pretty closely, while the data from Alabama and Mississippi estimated a far lower level of landings than the federal managers did.

That leads to some interesting questions.

If the state data-gathering programs were as good as the Center claims them to be, and MRIP as bad as the Center avers, one might reasonably expect a clear trend, in which the state estimates were all far lower than those developed by MRIP.  But what we find is that two of the states’ estimates are roughly equal to MRIP’s, while two other states’ estimates are far lower.  

That would suggest, given the currentsuspicions that the Fishing Effort Survey overestimates fishing effort by 30 to40 percent, that both Florida’s and Louisiana’s surveys, which emulate MRIP’s results, are probably flawed as well.  And if the currently contemplated long-term study confirms that the Fishing Effort Survey overestimates effort by just 30 to 40 percent, the Alabama and Mississippi data programs, which return estimates less than half the magnitude of those developed by MRIP, still seem to be underestimating actual landings.

So it’s probably a stretch to say that the state data systems are any more accurate than MRIP.  It’s not unlikely that all five programs are equally, if perhaps differently, flawed. 

That doesn’t even consider the data developed by Texas, using a system so archaic that no one has yet figured out how to convert it into data that might be compatible with MRIP.  Yet as old and inaccurate as the Texas system is believed to be, it’s interesting to note that neither the Center for Sportfishing Policy, nor its component organization, the Texas-based Coastal Conservation Association, has ever publicly criticized the Texas system for being inaccurate and slow to develop estimates, and neither organization has ever suggesting that the archaic state system be replaced with something capable or providing more accurate and more timely reports.  

Such failure certainly casts doubt on the sincerity of their criticism of the federal management program, and again reinforces the fact that the effort to move fishery management to the state level is about neither better data nor better science, but merely about more effective political control.

Politics and fishery management are inseparable, and in their effort to gain political advantage, we can expect to see the various trade groups and anglers’ rights organizations try to spin the Fishing Effort Survey’s recently discovered faults into an attack on the entire fishery management system.

But NMFS is already working toward a solution to MRIP’s troubles.

When you find someone working to prevent such a fix, and seeking to abandon MRIP in favor of diverse state systems, you can be pretty sure that such folks have their reasons.

Those reasons probably don’t include rebuilding and maintaining healthy fish stocks, although rebuilding and maintaining profits, at least in the short term, are likely aims.

Sunday, September 10, 2023



It wasn’t so long ago that the first Atlantic salmon caught in Maine’s rivers each season was delivered to the President of the United States.  

The tradition began in 1912, after a Bangor angler named Karl Andersen caught a salmon in the Penobscot River on April 1, and sent it to President William Howard Taft.  Maine’s salmon were already in trouble by then, with a multitude of dams blocking their access to spawning grounds and too many of the remaining fish being removed by both commercial and recreational fishermen; as time passed, sewage and other pollution added to the salmon’s woes.

Conditions in the Penobscot worsened, and the tradition of the Presidential salmon was suspended during the Eisenhower administration, in the late 1950s.  It began again in 1984, when President Lyndon Baines Johnson was gifted with a salmon from another Maine stream, the Narraguagus River, but the tradition came to another, and so far final, end in 1992, after angler Claude Z. Westfall delivered a Penobscot River fish to President George H. W. Bush at his summer home in Kennebunkport.

After that, the health of Maine’s Atlantic salmon runs continued to decline, to the point when, in 2000, they were included on the federal endangered species list.  The salmon, which used to run up all of New England’s major rivers, had died out along much of their former spawning range, despite significant, costly, and ultimately futile efforts to restore them to waterways in most states between Connecticut and New Hampshire.

Only in Maine did the runs survive, and they remained at serious risk, with seemingly fewer fish returning each year.  The salmon faced a world of adversity, from dams that blocked their access to spawning grounds, to polluted waters in their natal streams, to walls of nets that intercepted adult salmon as they fed and grew in the Atlantic Ocean west of Greenland.

But there are a few encouraging signs that suggest that those Atlantic salmon that spawn in Maine’s rivers might just be in the earliest stages of a recovery.

For now, the nets off Greenland are no longer a threat.  In 2018, two salmon conservation organizations, the Atlantic Salmon Federation and the North Atlantic Salmon Fund, agreed to fund alternative economic development, scientific research, and marine conservation education initiatives, in exchange for ending Greenland’s commercial salmon fishery.  Unfortunately, that agreement sunsets in 2029.

But perhaps because the nets have been removed from the water, perhaps because of more favorable environmental conditions, or perhaps because of a lot of hard work being done up in Maine—or, most likely, some combination of all three—a few more salmon seem to be returning to Maine’s rivers today.

There are still very few fish by historical standards. 

Scientists believe that, when its run was still healthy, between 75,000 and 100,000 Atlantic salmon returned to the Penobscot River each year.  As the run collapsed, those numbers dropped to just a few hundred, and there was real fear that the fish might be extirpated from the state.  But there are signs of things, perhaps, getting better. 

More than 1,500 salmon returned to the Penobscot this year, following on the heels of a 2022 season when 1,320 were counted.  Those were the second and third highest returns in the past decade, although little more than half of the 2,900 or so salmon tallied in 2011.  

It’s hard to call a run that, at best, is about 2% of a healthy population a positive sign, yet when you can move from hundreds of returning fish to over a thousand, and see such returns in consecutive years, it can still be a positive trend.  Counts of salmon returning to the Penobscot have exceeded 1,000 fish in four out of the last five years, a contrast to the immediately preceding period, when returns topped out at 840.

Sean Ledwin, director of sea-run fish programs for the Maine Department of Marine Resources, believes that the increased returns could be a sign that conservation measures are beginning to have an effect.  He also suspects that an increase in river herring numbers might be helping the salmon, by diverting the attention of seals and other predators.

Still, if Maine’s Atlantic salmon can recover, it’s going to take a lot of work, money, and time.

Right now, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service has two fish hatcheries dedicated to nothing but Maine’s Atlantic salmon.  One, the Green Lake National Fish Hatchery, is located in Ellsworth, Maine; the other, the Craig Brook National Fish Hatchery, is located in Orland.  The latter hatchery maintains brood fish from seven Maine rivers, the Penobscot, Machias, Narraguagus, Sheepscot, East Machias, Dennys, and Pleasant rivers, and produces about 3 million salmon eggs each year.

Some of those eggs are planted directly into the rivers.  Others are grown out at the Green Lake hatchery for releasr into the Penobscot, which receives about 850,000 juvenile salmon each year.  Salmon are released at every stage of their lives, from eggs to adults, to maximize the chances of some surviving.  

Releasing juveniles forces the fish to survive two or three years in the wild before returning to the river; while that may help produce fish most likely to survive the marine environment, it also results in many young salmon falling victim to predators in the rivers, along the coast, and in the open ocean.  Releasing adults enhances survival rates, but could also produce salmon that, at least as juveniles, are better suited to survival in a hatchery than in a natural environment.

Unlike many hatchery operations in freshwater and on the Pacific Coast, which have created genetic issues by mixing different strains of fish and developing strains more able to thrive in hatcheries than in the wild, the federal hatcheries working to restore Maine’s salmon are making every effort to get the genetics right.  The genome of each brood fish is recorded, and computers used to determine which fish should be paired to maintain the highest possible level of genetic diversity.

Released salmon may be tagged in various ways, ranging from a fin clip to an acoustic tag, so that biologists may recognize them when they return to the rivers.  At this point, it appears that about 92 percent of the returning fish have hatchery origins, which suggests that at least a few of the returning fish were hatched in the river.

The percentage of salmon hatched in the river, rather in hatchery tanks, will hopefully increase with time, but no one reading this is likely to fish for Maine’s Atlantic salmon in their lifetimes.  Assuming that everything goes according to plan, federal fisheries scientists hope that the salmon might be taken off the Endangered Species List in about 75 years.

And there are plenty of reasons to worry that things won’t go according to plan.  A warming ocean could impact the survival of salmon before they return to the rivers, either by limiting their food supply or by creating conditions more favorable to predators that feed on the fish.  A changing climate and land development may further degrade coastal rivers.  And people might just lose interest in the salmon’s survival.

Still, the recent increase in salmon returns provide reason to hope that Atlantic salmon may yet be restored to the rivers of Maine.

And that sort of hope is more than the salmon had just a few years ago.


Thursday, September 7, 2023



Since we were very young, we—or at least those of us raised in functional households—were always told to “play fair.”

It was a sort of amorphous instruction, that covered a lot of different territory.  It went far beyond just not cheating at games, to touch on many other aspects of day-to-day life, such as not ganging up on someone, either physically or socially, not taking advantage of another’s disability, sharing one’s good fortune, etc.

So most of us grow up with some concept of fairness.

It’s interesting to note that such concept of “fairness” is shared with other species.  Experiments with brown capuchin monkeys suggest that such monkeys will demonstrate marked objections to seemingly unfair outcomes, such as receiving inferior rewards compared to those given to other monkeys engaged in similar conduct.  Other primates, rats, dogs, and even crows have demonstrated similar behavior.

Still, the fact that “fairness” is a broadly shared concept doesn’t mean that it we all view the same things as “fair.”  Watch two children split up a cupcake.  It’s pretty likely that, if the pastry is cut in a lopsided way, with one piece noticeably smaller than the other, the child receiving that piece will start yelling something like “That’s not fair!  He got the big half!”

We’ve all seen that happen, and probably said something similar back in our younger days.

But, unless the child who received the larger piece is atypically empathetic, or raised in a very caring and principled home—and, perhaps, not even then—it’s pretty likely that such child will not be the first one to complain about the division being unfair.

And that sort of thing pretty quickly trickles down into fisheries issues.

The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act uses the word “fair,” as well as derivatives such as “fairly” and “unfair,” a total of 22 times, and uses the closely related word “equitable,” and its derivatives, 15 times more.  But not everyone agrees on what those words mean.

The disagreements emerge in different contexts, but there is probably nothing in the fisheries arena that generates more claims of unfairness than allocation decisions.  National standard 4, included in Magnuson-Stevens, states that

“Conservation and management measures shall not discriminate against residents of different States.  If it becomes necessary to allocate or assign fishing privileges among various United States fishermen, such allocations shall be (A) fair and equitable to all such fishermen, (B) reasonably calculated to promote conservation, and (C) carried out in such manner that no particular individual, corporation, or other entity acquires an excessive share of such privileges.”

Despite the letter of the law, there can be real disagreements about what a “fair and equitable” allocation of fishing privileges looks like.  In that regard, it would seem that the simplest case to make is that allocating all of the harvest of a particular species to one sector, and denying the other sector any share of the landings—for example, so-called “gamefish” laws that outlaw commercial harvest—is clearly unfair, and unable to survive a national standard 4 challenge.

But that’s not the case.

After the National Marine Fisheries Service adopted a billfish management plan in the late 1980s, which prohibited the sale of Atlantic marlin and spearfish, and even prohibited their possession by any vessel also possessing gill nets or longline gear in U.S. waters, representatives of the commercial fishing industry sued.  The court ultimately upheld the management measure, saying that it did not violate national standard 4, because gill net and longline boats were still permitted to possess and sell billfish outside of United States waters, because the no sale requirements applied to recreational fishermen as well (a dubious argument, given that once someone puts a fish into the stream of commerce, that person is, by definition, engaged in commercial fishing), and because size limits imposed by NMFS reduced recreational billfish landings.  Thus, the management measure impacted both sectors, even if some of the provisions did have a greater impact on the commercial fleet.

The commercial sector probably didn’t consider the court decision any more “fair” than the regulations themselves, but it remains the law of the land.

The fact that a regulation may have a disparate impact on different sectors does not, by itself, create a national standard 4 issue.  In Alaska Factory Trawler Association v. Baldridge, trawlers and pot fishermen challenged a regulation that allocated most of the Gulf of Alaska sablefish catch to the longline fishery, and would eventually completely phase out the use of fish pots in certain regions.  The court found against the plaintiffs, deciding that the management measure represented a reasonable way to address gear conflicts, that the reduced trawl quota reflected Advisory Panel comments, and so had a rational basis, and that social and economic benefits, and so the overall benefit to the nation, would accrue from the action, even though it did, to some degree discriminate against the trawl and pot sectors.

Once again, it’s hard to believe that the trawler and pot fishermen found the court’s decision fair.  However, it still stands as an important legal precedent.

Yet there can still be times when courts find that real, actionable discrimination exists.  In Guindon v. Pritzker, a court found that a reallocation of red snapper that favored the recreational sector was unfair, after NMFS adopted a Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council decision to base allocation on years when the commercial fishery was bound by a hard-poundage quota, and so could not increase its landings, while the recreational sector was only governed by a “soft” recreational harvest limit which that sector could, and often did, exceed, with few consequences ensuing.  Allowing the recreational sector to benefit from chronically exceeding its harvest limit, while the commercial sector suffered because it remained within its quota, was a step too far for the court, which ruled that the reallocation was unfair, violated national standard 4, and was thus invalid.

Still, despite cases like Guindon v. Pritzker, courts are generally slow to find unfairness in federal management measures.  The East Coast summer flounder fishery is a case in point.

A 2018 benchmark stock assessment observed that

“…summer flounder are shifting northeast over time, and this shift has continued in recent years…the shift northward is evident even in small fish.  Indeed, recruits appear to be shifting northward at a faster rate than spawners, suggesting that they are not merely tracking the expansion of spawners northward.  There are apparent changes in spatial distribution of summer flounder over the past four decades with a general shift northward and eastward.  Spatial expansion is more apparent in the years of greater abundance since about 2000, although it has continued even with the most recent declines in biomass.”

But when we look at the distribution of commercial summer flounder allocation, we find that states’ initial allocations are based on landings during the period 1980-1989, effectively setting states shares’ based on where the fish were four decades ago, before the “general shift northward and eastward,” noted in the stock assessment, began.

As a result, two southern states, Virginia and North Carolina, are allocated almost half of all commercial summer flounder landings, even though boats from those states may have to sail for hundreds of miles to catch any quantities of fish, while states farther north, where the fish are abundant, see much smaller quotas, like the 7.6% held by New York and the 6.8% held by Massachusetts.  The 24.8% of the quota held by the five coastal New England states is significantly less than the 27.6% held solely by the single state of North Carolina, even though there are far more summer flounder swimming off the coast of New England than might be found off the Tar Heel State.

The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council has recently agreed to allocate a few more fish to the northern states if—and only if—the commercial allocation exceeds 9.55 million pounds in any particular year.  However, in the upcoming 2024 season, the commercial quota will not reach that benchmark, so the basic allocation described above will apply.

From that situation, we see two different concepts of “fairness” emerge. 

Fishermen in the northern states believe that it is unfair to manage commercial summer flounder fishermen with quotas based on forty-year-old data, that don’t reflect the current patterns of summer flounder abundance.  At least one state, New York, has unsuccessfully sued NMFS over the issue, while Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), as recently as 2021, introduced legislation titled the “Fluke Fairness Act,” which included findings that

“The fishery management plan for summer flounder does not account for regional changes in the location of the fluke stock even though the stock has moved further to the north and changes in effort by anglers along the East Coast,”


“The States have been locked in a management system based on data collected from 1981 to 1989, thus, the summer flounder stock is not being managed using the best available science and modern fishery management techniques.”

Such findings generally sum up the feelings of fishermen throughout the northern end of the summer flounder’s range, who feel that it is grossly unfair to deny them access to fish sitting right off their ports, simply because, forty years ago, those fish happened to be somewhere else.

The other side of the argument is expressed by fishermen in Virginia and North Carolina, who believe it would be unfair to reduce their states’ summer flounder quotas, simply because the fish have moved north, and their boats have to travel farther to find them.  They see efforts to reallocate commercial allocations as a “quota grab” on the part of northeastern fishermen, and argue that

“people have invested in licenses and businesses related to this fishery.  Changing allocations will affect business models and business plans,”

and also that

“with any allocation, there will be winners and losers…Reallocation will bankrupt people in the south…Managers shouldn’t take what people have and give it to other states.”

To them, fairness requires that allocations take on an almost hereditary nature; once granted to a state, they pass down through the generations of fishermen, unchanged and unchanging.  Whatever happens out on the ocean, with respect to the movements and abundance of fish, quotas must remain immutable.

Perhaps it all comes down to the fisherman’s comment that “with any allocation, there will be winners and losers,” with the winners judging “fairness” through one set of eyes, and the losers through another.  Or, to fall back on an old aphorism, the perceived fairness of a management action all depends on whose ox is being gored.

Thus, we often see commercial fishermen feel that managers unfairly favor the recreational sector, saying that while the commercial sector provides food for people all across the nation, the recreational sector consists largely of well-heeled people merely “playing” with the fish.  At the same time, striped bass anglers have complained that recent actions intended to reduce fishing mortality were unfair, because while the specified reductions were taken from actual recreational landings, commercial reductions were taken from the quota, a fairly meaningless action given that the commercial sector, both overall and in several states, does not come close to landing its entire quota in any event, and might not have to cut back its overall landings at all.

How one conceives "fairness" all depends on where one stands.

Thus, I always get uneasy when I hear people either support or oppose fisheries actions because of their perceived “fairness,” as fairness is an ephemeral concept at best, and one which is frequently reinterpreted, depending on how an action will impact a particular assortment of people.

As coldhearted as it might sound, I always favor decisions that are based solely on data, and not on emotionally fraught concepts like “fairness.”  I view such things from one standpoint only:  Will a particular management measure make it more or less likely that a stock will be maintained at a healthy, sustainable level of abundance in the long term? 

Sometimes, to achieve that goal, someone—whether we define that “someone” as individuals or an entire sector—is going to have to be hurt, and perhaps sacrificed.  It might seem very unfair, but in the end, it could help to avert the greatest inequity of all—denying future generations the opportunity to know and enjoy a healthy, vibrant, and thriving sea.