Data Deficit

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“Recent management actions have highlighted deficiencies
in the current lobster and Jonah crab reporting
requirements.
” – Maine DMR  Joel Woods photo

• Whether the data elements currently collected should be expanded to collect a greater amount of information on the lobster and Jonah crab fisheries.

• How, and at what resolution, spatial information should be collected.

The addendum also provides several recommendations to NOAA Fisheries, including implementation of 100% federal harvester reporting, creation of a fixed-gear vessel trip report (VTR) form, and expansion of a biological sampling program offshore.

According to the draft document, the recent management actions “have highlighted deficiencies in the current lobster and Jonah crab reporting requirements. These include a lack of spatial resolution in harvester data and a significant number of fishermen who are not required to report.

As a result, efforts to estimate the economic impacts of these various management actions on the lobster and Jonah crab fisheries have been hindered and states have been forced to piece together information from harvester reports, industry surveys, and fishermen interviews to gather the information needed. In addition, as the lobster and Jonah crab fisheries continue to expand offshore, there is a greater disconnect between where the fishery is being prosecuted and where biological sampling is occurring. More specifically, while most of the sampling occurs in state waters, an increasing volume of lobster and Jonah crab are being harvested in federal waters. The lack of biological information on the offshore portions of these species can impede effective management.”

Maine accounts for over 80 percent of lobster landed in the U.S.

Current management requires at least 10% harvester reporting, with the expectation of 100% harvester reporting over time, and 100% dealer reporting. All states have implemented 100% harvester reporting, except Maine, which has 10% harvester reporting.


 

There is a greater
disconnect between
where the fishery is being
prosecuted and where
biological sampling
is occurring.


 

According to the draft document, the lack of 100% harvester reporting in Maine and in federal waters “means that assumptions must be made about the activity of the lobster and Jonah crab fisheries. While 100% dealer reporting along the coast provides information on the total amount of lobster and Jonah crab landed in each state, it is not always clear where these lobster and Jonah crab are caught and what level of effort is required to harvest them.”

Maine’s 10 percent reporting is based on an annual random draw, which includes not only active licenses but so-called “latent” licenses, or those that had no landings the previous year.

About 50 people showed up at the Ellsworth meeting. They heard a proposal that would minimize the number of latent licenses included in the draw, in order to get a more accurate measure of active fishing.

Department of Marine Resources (DMR) Commissioner Patrick Keliher said the DMR supports modifying the 10 percent to apply primarily to active state-licensed fishermen.

“We’ll maintain the 10 percent but improve how we do it,” Keliher said.

“What’s your definition of active harvesters?” one man wanted to know.

“People who are landing lobsters,” said Keliher. “Our 10 percent is greater than the other areas combined that have 100 percent. So with that information, I’m very happy to remain at 10 percent.”

DMR lead lobster scientist Kathleen Reardon explained that, when DMR reviewed how the 10 percent has panned out to date, it turned out there was one year, under the current method of harvester reporting for Class 1 licenses, that the 10 percent included 40 active license holders and 70 latent license holders.

“That’s oversampling the latent licenses,” said Reardon. “That’s not giving us information. We need the information on the active fishery.”

Under the proposed modified system, she said, far fewer latent license holders would be asked to report.

“We aren’t just throwing out those latent licenses,” she said. “We’re sampling a few of them. But we’re getting more of the active license holders….If we’re going to put money in to collect information, let’s make sure it’s information we can use.”

Keliher said he would argue for the modified 10 percent report in Maine at the next ASMFC meeting.

Maine Lobstermen’s Association President David Cousins said the MLA board supported the DMR’s proposal.


 

That option received
a resounding “no”
from the crowd.


 

“I’m for the 10 percent and for getting more real fishermen,” agreed one man.

Trescott lobsterman Bill Anderson said he’d like to see a lot more reporting come from federally permitted fishermen.

“I’m concerned you’re not seeing the real picture of what’s happening,” Anderson said. “When you get into Area 3, I believe that some of the boats that used to fish further south have moved up this way more. There’s more fishing in the Georges bank area than there used to be 10, 15, 20 years ago.”

Anderson said another concern of his is deficits in existing data sets, particularly given the increased numbers of federally permitted fishermen.

“It’s a matter of where the people are fishing out there, and how they’re moving,” he said. “When you’re in three miles, you’ve got a lot of smaller boats and you kind of know where they’re going to fish every year. Between the department and your patrols, you have a good idea of what’s going on in state waters,” he said. “But when you have people in federal water, you have less information and less understanding.”

One man wanted to know why the 100 percent dealer reporting wasn’t sufficient. Ware responded that dealer report don’t include the amount of effort or location associated with catch.

Fishermen were also asked about reporting components. Fishermen in all states already report on their unique trip ID, vessel number, trip start date, statistical area, number of traps hauled, number of traps set, species, pounds and trip length. Maine fishermen also report on depth and soak time, and on number of traps per trawl and number of buoy lines.

An option under consideration also recommended reporting on bait type. But that option received a resounding “no” from the crowd.

“I want to ensure we’re maintaining what we’re collecting now,” said Keliher.

Lastly, fishermen were asked if they wanted to modify the spatial resolution of their harvester data. Currently, harvesters report by National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) statistical areas. But according to the draft document, the resolution is too coarse to respond to ongoing marine spatial planning efforts, including offshore wind projects and coral protection zones.

Options included:

• Option A: Status quo

• Option B: Report both NMFS statistical area and Lobster Con servation Manament Area in which they fish

• Option C: Report both NMFS statistical area and distance from shore, which would be categorized as 0-3 miles, 3-12 miles, or greater than 12 miles. The option would allow managers to separate landing between the inshore, nearhosre, and offshore fisheries.

• Option D: Report fishing location based on 10-minute squares, which divide the coast, in order to provide more fine-scale data on where the fishery is occurring.

• Option E: Pursue electronic tracking in part or all of the fishery.

Maine already does Options A and C, said Keliher. “So the question is, do we want to have you guys coloring in those 10-minute square?” he said. “It can help show how the fishery is progressing offshore.”

Option E received another resounding “no,” and the consensus was to maintain Maine’s program as it is.

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