Local fishermen landed more than 100,000 pounds of fluke this summer at Menemsha. The landings by 10 small draggers and about five handline fishermen represents one-seventh of all the landings made in the state. The state quota for fluke was 702,614 pounds.
The report on local landings came out of a state fisheries public hearing held in Tisbury on Monday afternoon.
Warren Doty, a member of Dukes County/Martha’s Vineyard Fishermen’s Association, asked officials from the Division of Marine Fisheries if there was a way to establish a fluke sector for the Menemsha fishing fleet next year, based on that 100,000 pounds or more.
Creating a sector within the state for fluke would allow the Menemsha fishermen an opportunity to manage the way they want to catch the fish, Mr. Doty said. If given their own quota of 100,000 pounds plus, Island fishermen themselves could choose the days they can fish and not fish, and most importantly, extend the fishing season so fishermen could continue to work and fish markets continue to sell product through the summer season.
Under the state system, Mr. Doty said, the fluke quota was taken too quickly. The commercial season opened in June and closed on August 11.
Mr. Doty said his organization is already pursuing a new federal Vineyard groundfish sector, which is in the process of being established. He said there is a fluke sector in Rhode Island.
It also was reported that under the current quota system, draggers are encouraged to go out and fish on bad weather days. Fishermen who have mechanical problems with their boats are shut out of the fishery until they can get repairs done.
Mr. Doty added that fishermen could chose not to fish when the price of fish is too low at the market. If there was a sector, the management of the quota locally could take those matters into account.
Paul Diodati, director of the state division, was encouraging about the idea. He said it would be difficult but the division would help. Mr. Diodati warned that if the establishment of a Menemsha sector went to public hearing, there probably would be strong opposition elsewhere in the state, especially from the hundreds of fluke permit holders who haven’t fished but reserve the right to fish.
The hearing at the Tisbury Senior Center was held to solicit comment from the Vineyard fishing community on further restricting the harvesting of blue crabs, moving the minimum size to five inches, and lowering the daily catch limit from 50 to 25 for both commercial and recreational fishermen.
The state also sought feedback on proposed changes being made to the winter flounder fishery, new lobster gear restrictions in the Boston and Cape Cod Bay area, coastal shark fishing restrictions and to clarify the use of gillnets.
There were about a half dozen fishermen at the hearing.
Striped Bass Commercial Closure
The state Division of Marine Fisheries closed the commercial striped bass season on Wednesday, August 26. The closure does not impact the ongoing recreational striped bass season which continues. The season began in July.
Fish markets can continue to sell striped bass, but the fish will likely be coming from out of state.
First False Albacore
The false albacore have arrived. Michael B. Middlebrook, 12, of Berkeley Heights, N.J. was out fishing on a charter with Willy Hatch on Tuesday morning. The young angler didn’t know what he had until the fish got close to the boat.
He said it was like pulling in a truck.
Captain Hatch said they were fishing off Wasque Rip for blues and striped bass when the young angler got the fish. Mr. Hatch said they used live scup for bait. He operates a boat called Machaca, a 31-foot JC Sportfish, mostly out of Falmouth, though he was once far more regular in Edgartown.
The young angler’s father, Brian Middlebrook, was aboard. He said they’ve been fishing with Mr. Hatch once a year for six years.
More than a week ago, it was reported that a false albacore was caught off Hedge Fence, but was never landed.
Hurricane Bill took two days of fishing away from most Vineyard charter captains. Capt. Charlie Ashmun of Edgartown said he returned to fishing on Tuesday and found the water still a little smokey. While the fish seldom leave an area, big hurricanes stir up the water and drop the visibility. “[Tuesday] wasn’t easy. We tried a few different places and a few different things to catch fish,” Mr. Ashmun said.
“I think storms scatter the fish. They don’t concentrate in one area. For me, I look for the birds and cast there,” the captain said. “[Wednesday] was nice. We had gentle three or four-foot swells,” he said.
The effort was worth it. Mr. Ashmun said they found bluefish, 12 to 13 pounds in size. “This has been a great summer for bluefish,” he said.
New Bedford Fishing Fleet
A group of five New Bedford fishing boats came to Vineyard Haven waters to draw presidential attention to their plight. The flotilla carried slogans on their boats. One slogan said: “Catch Shares Privatize the Sea.” The vessels showed up off Vineyard Haven harbor at noon. They were on their way out to Georges Bank to continue fishing.
“We hope as the Obamas enjoy their vacation, they will eat some of our famous New England seafood. And we trust that given the President’s concern for working families, he will remember the fishermen,” came from a widely-circulated press release announcing the planned event.
Proponents of the Vineyard visit are trying to draw attention to their opposition to the implementation of sectors in the new fisheries management regime, where many critical details remain unknown. The fishermen fear they will lose their livelihood and their boats under the new regulatory system.
“We ask for the time to realistically examine the management options that we have, and to make the decisions that will determine the future complexion of our businesses, our communities and of one of our oldest fisheries in a measured and well-reasoned manner,” according to Bob Vanasse, of Saving Seafood, a New Bedford based organization pushing for preservation of the resource and jobs. í