2015-03-26 / Nature

Local Anglers Want New Angle on Fisheries

By James Merolla

There is a sea change on the horizon for local salt water anglers and it is not for the better.

Fish populations are dwindling and catch limits are being reduced, both commercially and recreationally. So, the people most affected – local fishermen who have traversed Narragansett Bay for half a century or more – have asked the experts for a new angle on angling.

Fishing experts, scientists, businesses that depend on recreational fishing, and fishermen themselves descended on the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Warwick on Tuesday, March 24, for an all-day symposium called, “An Abundant Future of Recreational Fishing in Southern New England," hosted by the Rhode Island Saltwater Angler Association (RISAA).

The results from the invitationonly conference may guide the way forward for fisheries in southern New England to increase fishing stock by making waves cooperatively.

The purpose of the symposium was to identify ways to preserve the future of recreational fishing and increase access to all types of fish, through improved management and better stewardship of resources.

Rich Hittinger, first vice president of RISAA, said that symposium participants stressed re-establishing "abundant" fisheries for the benefit of all recreational fishers. "The most important shortterm work is to continue education efforts targeting everyone from politicians to fisheries managers to scientists and fisherman."

“This is an excellent opportunity for some of the best professionals to come together and make progress on improving our fisheries to everyone’s benefit," Hittinger continued. “The symposium looked

How Intelligent are Birds?

The Ocean State Bird Club will present a program entitled, “Why Birds? How the Biology of Birds has Baffled Scientists for Years” at the Jamestown Philomenian Library on Saturday, March 28, from 3 - 4:30 p.m. Ornithologist and Newport resident Dr. Charles Clarkson will be the speaker. Now the coordinator of the Rhode Island Breeding Bird Atlas, a comprehensive survey of breeding statistics of Rhode Island’s birds, he has taught at Roger Williams University and Salve Regina University. He also taught ornithology and tropical ecology for the Semester at Sea, leading field excursions throughout Central and South America and in Europe. Dr. Clarkson has also monitored a bird banding station at Beavertail State Park, Jamestown, for the past two years.

Despite being one of the easiest groups of organisms on earth to observe, birds have baffled humans since they first saw them fly across the sky. While science has made significant strides in understanding their basic biology and physiology, many aspects of birds are still largely unknown: their evolutionary history, their migratory patterns and their intelligence to name a few. This lecture will explore what is known about birds and the mysteries that remain within the field of ornithology.

For more information on the talk or to learn more about the Ocean State Bird Club, contact Candy Powell at 401-423-1492 or candacepowell48@gmail.com, or visit oceanstatebirdclub.org. at increasing the abundance of fish through proper management. Simply put, this symposium is about an ecosystem creating more fish for everyone.”

Hittinger said that discussions at the event may result in lower catch limits for recreational anglers in the near future, “but in the long term it should result in more fish available to catch.”

“We want politicians and fisheries managers to understand how important recreational fishing is to the economy and begin to shift the emphasis from taking as many fish as possible from the ocean to management that will increase abundance. Long range, we want this to yield regulations that improve recreational fishing,” said Hittinger. For commercial fishermen, Hittinger said, “It may mean a modest reduction in commercial harvest. We hope that it will be a continuation of changes leading away from unsustainable practices.”

RISAA hopes that conference results will contribute to the development of the new National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s (NOAA) national recreational fishing policy and influence fisheries management policies.

The symposium also looked at how NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service counts fish and how that could be changed to better support recreational anglers and facilitate rebuilding fish populations.

“We hope this yields changes in fisheries policies to account for documented shifts of fish populations more northward and changes to increase fish abundance,” said Hittinger.

In related news:

One 'Keeper' Per Day, Not Two

On March 17, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) imposed stricter regulations on the recreational fishing of striped bass, in a bid to reverse a decline in stocks. For the past decade, local anglers could take home up to two striped bass of 28 inches in length or longer daily (“keepers”). DEM has reduced that bag limit to just one fish per day this season, which runs from late April through October. The length remains 28 inches. The reduction does not affect commercial catches. The change was announced by DEM director Janet Coit while she attended an environmental conference in Washington, D.C. She told the Providence Journal that the decision to halve the daily keeper limit was one of the most difficult she has had to make. Striped bass fishing has been a matter of concern and consternation for New England anglers for years, since the fish began to precipitously decline during the 1970s.

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