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Bert- How are we doing? 2021 Stock Status

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    Posted: 28 July 2021 at 1:03pm
"How are we doing?" was the typical opening line that CCA past-president Bert Owens asked former DMF Director Louis Daniel during every MFC meeting public comment period.

How are we doing according to the July-2021 stock status released by NCDMF?

NOT GOOD!

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Division of Marine Fisheries publishes annual stock overview

MOREHEAD CITY – The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries today released its annual Stock Overview of state managed marine fisheries species.

The 2021 North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries Stock Overview reviews available information, such as long-term trends in catch, biological data and management, through 2020 to determine the overall condition of North Carolina's state-managed species. It also provides links to information on federally-managed and interstate-managed species important to North Carolina.

Highlights of this year’s stock overview for state managed species include:
  • Estuarine Striped Bass –A 2020 peer-reviewed benchmark stock assessment using data through 2017 found that the Albemarle-Roanoke estuarine striped bass stock is overfished and overfishing is occurring. This triggered stricter harvest restrictions in the Albemarle Sound Management Area that took effect Jan. 1, 2021. Amendment 2 to the N. C. Estuarine Striped Bass Fishery Management Plan is being jointly developed with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.
  • Shrimp *– In February 2020, the Marine Fisheries Commission approved proposed rule language to reclassify special secondary nursery areas that have not been opened to trawling in years to permanent secondary nursery areas. The commission adopted the reclassification of nine areas in February 2021 through a revision to the Shrimp Fishery Management Plan Amendment 1. The rules became effective in May 2021. Development of the Shrimp Fishery Management Plan Amendment 2 is underway and focuses on further reducing bycatch of non-target species and minimizing ecosystem impacts.
  • Blue Crab *– Amendment 3 to the Blue Crab Fishery Management Plan was approved in February 2020, and management measures were implemented to address the overfished and overfishing status of the stock based on results from the peer-reviewed 2018 benchmark stock assessment. Amendment 3 also contained the framework for establishing criteria for Diamondback Terrapin Management Areas (DTMA) where terrapin excluder devices are required. Two DTMAs were established in May 2020 in Masonboro Sound and the lower Cape Fear River, and beginning in March 2021, all pots used in these areas are required to have an approved excluder device in each funnel from March 1 to Oct. 31.
  • Southern Flounder – Commercial and recreational seasons implemented in 2020 reduced landings but did not fully meet reductions required by the Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan Amendment 2. Development of the Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan Amendment 3 is under way. Amendment 3 will examine more robust management strategies, such as quotas, slot limits, size limit changes, gear changes, and species-specific management for the recreational fishery.
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The report including my editorial comments-

State Managed Species

Bay Scallop
 (actually severely depleted)
The state takes the easy road on this one by claiming-

Bay scallops "are sensitive to environmental change and may experience high levels of predation, which can impact annual abundance. As a result, a stock assessment is not an effective tool for management."

The old predation theory, like gray trout, is an absolute management failure looking for an excuse. The problem with bay scallops is that the DMF and MFC allowed severe overfishing for years to the point the stock collapsed. Predation by rays may be helping to keep the stock from recovering, but over-fishing and destruction of SAV habitat by bottom disturbing gear is what crashed the stock-



Blue Crab (Overfished with Overfishing Occurring)
"Results of the 2018 benchmark stock assessment indicate the blue crab stock is overfished and overfishing is occurring. The assessment passed peer review and the model was accepted for use in management."

Overfished with overfishing occurring. SOSDD. ...and the division fails to address shrimp trawl bycatch where blue crab is #6 after Atlantic croaker, spot, weakfish, mantis shrimp and Atlantic brief squid in pounds of trawl bycatch.


Eastern Oyster(actually severely depleted)
"A stock assessment could not be conducted due to limited data; therefore, population size and the rate of removals from the population are not known. Commercial landings from public bottom have been variable, and landings from private bottom in the past few years have increased significantly due to more interest in aquaculture. Work is underway with N.C. State University and the Nature Conservancy to develop methodologies to determine survey methodologies."

Total bullballyhoo. The native eastern oyster stock is estimated to be only at 10% of historical abundance. The stock is depleted yet DMF and the MFC continue to allow highly destructive bottom disturbing gear like oyster dredging. Not only does this dredging completely destroy our remaining oyster rocks, but commercial fishermen are illegally dredging oysters off manmade oyster sanctuaries intended to act as a nursery area to provide spat for regrowth of our native population.

The bottom images below using side-scan sonar show the before and after images of a sanctuary where illegal dredging took place-


Estuarine Striped Bass
Albemarle/Roanoke System (overfished with overfishing occurring)
"Results from the 2020 assessment indicate the Albemarle Sound-Roanoke River (A-R) striped bass stock is overfished and overfishing is occurring. With overfishing occurring in the terminal year of the assessment (2017), adaptive management measures contained in Amendment 1 are required to reduce the total allowable landings to a level that is projected to lower the fishing mortality back to the target."

Expect a full closure.

Central/Southern Management Area (actually severely depleted)
"The Central Southern Management Area stocks include the Tar-Pamlico, Neuse, and Cape Fear rivers. Based on genetic analysis, a high percentage of the fish in these systems are hatchery reared (stocked) with limited natural recruitment occurring. Supplement A to Amendment 1 to the N.C. Estuarine Striped Bass Fishery Management Plan instituted a recreational and commercial no-possession limit in the CSMA to provide stock protection until Amendment 2 to the N. C. Estuarine Striped Bass Fishery Management Plan is adopted. A traditional stock assessment cannot be conducted because of limited data; therefore, stock status is unknown. Matrix model results indicate CSMA populations are depressed to an extent that sustainability is unlikely at any level of fishing mortality and a tagging model showed consistent decline in abundance estimates for striped bass in the Cape Fear River from 2012–2018."

Already closed to all harvest.


Hard Clam (unknown)
"A stock assessment cannot be conducted due to limited data; therefore, population size and the rate of removals from the population are unknown. Harvest fluctuates, often in response to changes in demand, improved harvesting methods, and increases in polluted shellfish area closures."

Highly detrimental bottom disturbing gears are still allowed in the fishery. Mechanical harvesting methods should be banned.

Kingfishes (unknown, but should be concern)

"A stock assessment is not available due to lack of migration data, so an annual trend analysis with management triggers is used to monitor the stock. Due to impacts from Covid, a complete trend analysis is unavailable in 2020. However, since two triggers must be activated for two consecutive years and only one management trigger was activated in 2019, no action is required."

Red Drum (unknown)

"The regional benchmark stock assessment (North Carolina and all states north), conducted by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission in 2017, indicates that overfishing is not occurring and that management targets continue to be met. The size of the fish stock (overfished status), however, continues to be unknown due to limited data available for the adult population."

River Herring(severely depleted)

"An Atlantic coastwide stock assessment update for river herring was completed in August 2017, with data through 2015, by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. The North Carolina portion of the coastwide stock assessment is for the Albemarle Sound blueback herring stock only, due to the long-term data available for this area. River herring in other parts of the state are currently listed as unknown by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission due to the lack of data for these systems. The stock assessment update found that the North Carolina stock in the Albemarle Sound was not experiencing overfishing due to the harvest moratorium, but the stock remains overfished. The factors leading to this recommendation of stock status remain largely unchanged since the 2012 stock assessment, despite fishing pressure that is negligible. The spawning stock biomass remains at 12 percent of the amount necessary to replace itself in the complete absence of fishing."

Sheepshead (unknown)

"No stock assessment is currently available for sheepshead. Landings trends and other biological data prompted the Marine Fisheries Commission to implement harvest restrictions in June 2015. The division continues to monitor landings and collect data on the stock. In 2020, the commercial and recreational landings were below the 10-year average."

Declining landings could indicate a problem.

Shrimp (doing just fine, but unsustainable bycatch and impacts to habitat must be addressed)

"The stock is considered an annual crop that consists of three species of shrimp (brown, pink, white). Population size is determined mainly by the number of shrimp entering the population each year, which is driven by environmental conditions. A stock assessment is not an effective tool for management, but annual landings are a good indication of relative abundance. Draft Amendment 2 is under development and focuses on further reducing bycatch of non-target species and minimizing habitat impacts in the shrimp trawl fishery."


Southern Flounder (depleted- overfished for 20+ years)

"The 2019 stock assessment of southern flounder in the south Atlantic indicated that the stock is overfished and overfishing is occurring. The assessment passed peer review and the model was accepted for use in management. Amendment 2 to the Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan was approved in August 2019 implementing reductions in total removals in North Carolina of 62% in 2019 and 72% beginning in 2020. Development of Amendment 3 is underway, as required by Amendment 2."

The commercial industry killed 80% to 90% of the stock due to an severe over-capacity of pound nets and gillnets with DMF and the MFC requiring no quota based sustainable harvest measures. The management can was kicked down the road for twenty years.

Spotted Seatrout (viable)

"The 2014 stock assessment indicated that the spotted seatrout stock in North Carolina and Virginia was not overfished and that overfishing was not occurring in the terminal year (2012). Recreational and commercial landings in 2019 and 2020 increased compared to the previous years, but there is no indication that the stock is at risk. A benchmark stock assessment for spotted seatrout is underway coinciding with the scheduled fishery management plan review, and it will incorporate data through February 2020."

DING DING DING, we have a winner.

Active cold-stun management measures and three warm winters has led to a phenomenal speckle trout fishery. Current management needs are addressing commercial gillnet targeting of over-wintering mature females in canals and creeks.

Striped Mullet (unknown)

"Amendment I to the Striped Mullet Fishery Management Plan was adopted in November 2015. An update of the 2013 stock assessment model with data through 2017 indicated overfishing is not occurring, but could not determine the overfished status. Review of 2020 commercial landings indicated neither the maximum (2.76 million pounds) nor minimum (1.13 million pounds) triggers had been exceeded. A review of the plan began in July 2020."
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TomM Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 July 2021 at 9:32pm
No mention of spot/croakers/gtrout 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Rick Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 July 2021 at 8:03am
Originally posted by TomM TomM wrote:

No mention of spot/croakers/gtrout 


Back in 2017 the Division made a change to stop reporting on interstate managed species and only report on NC managed species.   ...lipstick on pig by taking out spot, croaker and weakfish problems caused by shrimp trawl bycatch.

2017

Changes make annual Stock Status Overview Report
more user friendly, striped mullet reclassified


MOREHEAD CITY — The North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries has changed its annual Stock Status Overview Report to make it more user friendly and better correspond to stock status determinations at the federal and interstate management levels.


A new webpage design separates state-managed species from those cooperatively managed through a federal or interstate entity. The Division of Marine Fisheries assigned a stock status only to the 14 state-managed marine fisheries stocks. For the remaining 23 stocks, the state defers to the stock status assigned by the principal management agency, including the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council.


Additionally, the Division of Marine Fisheries has redesigned the individual species pages, making them more visual with photographs and color graphics showing fishery landings and abundance trends. The new pages also give life history and updated management summaries.

The Division of Marine Fisheries classifies the status of important marine finfish, shellfish, shrimp and crabs as viable, recovering, concern, depleted or unknown. Definitions of these categories can be found here.

The annual classifications are based on biological and statistical data from the prior year and describe the overall condition of North Carolina’s state-managed fishery resources.

This year’s Stock Status Overview Report reclassifies one state-managed species. Striped mullet moved from “viable” to “concern” because monitoring triggers established in Amendment 1 to the North Carolina Striped Mullet Fishery Management Plan were met. 2016 commercial landings fell below the minimum landings threshold established in the plan. Also, Division of Marine Fisheries sampling surveys showed low striped mullet abundance.

Under the striped mullet plan’s guidelines, the division will review striped mullet data in more detail to determine what factors are responsible for this decline and to decide if management action is needed.

No other state-managed species were reclassified, but the status of red drum, currently listed as “recovering,” is now based on a new regional stock assessment which indicates that the stock continues to meet or exceed the management targets set forth in Amendment 1 to the North Carolina Red Drum Fishery Management Plan.

The complete 2016 Stock Status Overview Report can be found here. The stock condition of overfished and overfishing, if known for a state-managed species, is highlighted in the comments column of the state-managed species table. A stock is overfished when the population size is too small. Overfishing occurs when the removal rate of fish is too high.

For more information, contact division Fisheries Management Section Chief Kathy Rawls at 252-808-8074 or Kathy.Rawls@ncdenr.gov.

nr-38-2017


Then in 2018, they tried to add a little more lipstick by stopping the use of status terms like viable, recovering, depleted, concern and unknown-


2018

Changes to fisheries annual report changes terminology
to reflect stock assessment determinations

MOREHEAD CITY — The North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries is continuing efforts to better explain the health of the state’s fisheries by tying its annual stock overview report to terminology commonly used in peer reviewed stock assessments.

In this year’s report, the division no longer assigns fish stocks to one of the five former categories: viable, recovering, depleted, concern, and unknown. Instead, the stock status for a species is tied directly to the most recent peer reviewed stock assessment determination of overfishing and overfished/depleted.

Assigning species stock status to one of the former five categories had become increasingly difficult over time because definitions of the terms overlapped, and stock conditions were often in transition. Tying the stock status determinations to peer reviewed stock assessments removes subjectivity. For species that do not have an overfishing/overfished status, the report still documents trends in biological data and summarizes management.

It is the second consecutive year that the division has substantially changed the stock overview. Last year, the division altered the format of the report to clarify the role the state plays in management of each species, separating state-managed species from those cooperatively managed through a federal or interstate entity.

Three state managed species warrant notation in this year’s stock overview:

Blue crab — Results of the 2018 benchmark stock assessment indicate the blue crab stock is overfished and overfishing is occurring. This assessment passed peer review and the model was accepted for use in management. The division is developing Amendment 3 to the Blue Crab Fishery Management Plan in conjunction with an advisory committee.

Striped mullet — Amendment 1 to the N.C. Striped Mullet Fishery Management Plan, adopted in 2015, requires the division to initiate further analysis of the striped mullet data if commercial landings fall below 1.13 million pounds or above 2.76 million pounds in any given year. In 2016, commercial landings of striped mullet fell below the 1.13 million pound minimum to 964,348 pounds, triggering the analysis. A 2018 update of the state’s 2013 striped mullet stock assessment found that overfishing is not occurring; however, it cannot be determined if the stock is overfished. The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission will discuss potential management options at its August meeting.

Southern flounder — A January 2018 stock assessment of southern flounder in the south Atlantic indicated that the stock is overfished and overfishing is occurring. This assessment passed peer review, and the model was accepted for use in management with the condition that it be updated with information through 2017 so management is based on the most current data available. The update is underway and expected to be complete this fall. The division is developing Amendment 2 to the Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan in conjunction with an advisory committee.

For more information, read the entire 2018 Stock Overview and read this month’s Division of Marine Fisheries INSIGHT newsletter or contact Division Biologist Lee Paramore at Lee.Paramore@ncdenr.gov or 252-473-5734.

nr-57-2018

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Rick Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 August 2021 at 4:11pm

With so many stocks in bad shape, maybe DMF should honestly start looking at shrimp trawl bycatch.

1999 was a big year for shrimp effort basis on landings- 


My post from 2018 on the declining Blue Crab stock-

Originally posted by Rick Rick wrote:

Stock Assessment starts on page 307-


Executive Summary
The model estimated an overall declining trend in catch, relative abundance indices, population size of both male and female recruits and fully recruited crabs, with a rebound starting in 2007. Females had higher natural mortality estimates than males. The estimated fishing mortality remained high before 2007, and decreased by approximately 50% afterwards.

The stock status of North Carolina blue crab in the current assessment (2016) was determined based maximum sustainable yield (MSY). Based on the results of this assessment, the North Carolina blue crab resource in 2016 is overfished with a probability of 0.98, given the average spawner abundance in 2016 being estimated at 50 million (below the threshold estimate of 64 million). And, overfishing is occurring in 2016 with a probability of 0.52, given the average fishing mortality in 2016 being estimated at 1.48 (above the fishing mortality threshold estimate of 1.46).

Basically...a female blue crab mates once in her life.  She has seminal receptacles to store sperm from that one mating.  She fertilizes her eggs from that receptacle as often as she spawns over a one to two year period.  The female spawns near high-salinity ocean inlets where currents take the eggs offshore for the larvae to develop on the continental shelf.  Currents, onshore winds and spring tides bring the developing larvae back to the inlets to enter the Pamlico Sound.  The larvae settle out on the shallow grass flats behind the Outer Banks for further development.  There is a secondary dispersal with wide distribution throughout the estuaries of NC that is triggered by density as the juvenile crabs grow.  That transport occurs across the Pamlico Sound.  The males prefer more "upsteam" and  brackish waters where mating typically takes place with maturing females.  After mating, the females begin a migration towards the inlets for two peak spawning periods, April-June and August-September.

Note: The blue crab is considered sexually mature at a carapace length of 127mm.

NCDMF uses all of the surveys to monitor the blue crab stock. One of those is the P195 Survey that I've made numerous posts on concerning my weakfish nursery area work in the Pamlico Sound.


The P195 survey occurs twice per year- June and September.

Note the drop in CPUE in the combined (June and September) data beginning in 1999-

Also in 1999, note the change in the relationship between the September CPUE versus June CPUE.



During the discussion phase of the stock assessment, DMF staff put forward the following hypothesis-

Blue crab is sensitive to flow and salinity, larval and juvenile crabs depends on flow to distribute spatially before settling down (Etherington and Eggleston 2000). North Carolina experienced three sequential destructive hurricanes in 1999, namely Dennis (end of August), Floyd (midSeptember) and Irene (mid-October). Heavy rainfall during the first two hurricanes caused massive flooding, reduced salinity, and anoxic conditions in the Pamlico and Neuse River systems, which forced blue crabs out of the rivers and aggregate in Pamlico Sound where the harvest of crabs was high in 1999 (Paerl et al. 2001; Burgess et al. 2007). Statewide catch of fully recruited crabs and female recruits in 1999 was among the highest of the study time period. Low recruitment estimates during 2000-2001 in this assessment may represent a recruitment failure due to the low spawning stock size caused by intense harvest of spawners after the 1999 hurricane season and the potential disruption in larval dispersal and initial settlement caused by the hurricanes (Etherington and Eggleston 2000; Eggleston et al. 2004).

I am having trouble understanding the premise that severe overfishing in 1999 was due to an influx of fresh water from two hurricanes that concentrated blue crabs for easy pickings (pun intended) and the implication that event was the beginning a population decline resulting in our current stock status.

The landings history below just does not support the above statement. 




So what changed in the 1998-2000 period?

What changed for Gray Trout about the same time?  There was a nice recovery occurring after the closure of the winter flynet fishery South of Hatteras began in 1992.  That recovery collapsed in 2000 with weakfish being severely depleted today.

 


Bingo-
Status Quo in NC Fisheries Management-

This assessment did not include discards due to a lack of data. However, discards of blue crabs in North Carolina waters could be a significant source of mortality, especially in the commercial gill net fishery. This assessment, without discards considered, could be overestimating population size. Thus, it is important to establish data collection programs for fishery discards to help improve future stock assessments. Page 42

Deny, Defend, Deflect, Delay






Edited by Rick - 04 August 2021 at 5:18pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote chriselk Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 August 2021 at 1:51pm
Rick,
I had missed the weighted CPUE you presented.  It is a stunning drop and may be the most powerful objective piece of data in support of your work.  

There is no explaining that piece of data.  I believe even legislators can understand that.

They say the key to clarity is brevity.  
The above comments are my personal opinion and do not represent those of any organizations or agencies I may be a member of.
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