State's anglers, bureaucrats prefer stats in 'Cerfs' report

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Posted by on April 10, 2005 at 11:59:38:

Blame the Murphs and credit the Cerfs for some sweeping changes this week in the 2005 recreational groundfish season.

Actually, the Marine Recreational Fishery Statistics Survey (MRFSS) has been blamed for overstating the number of fish caught by recreational anglers in recent years.

But the California Recreational Fisheries Survey (CRFS), which was implemented last year, has produced what the Department of Fish and Game is calling "more timely and accurate estimates of recreational catch and effort in ocean waters."

Now, thanks to the CFRS, DFG marine managers are able to look at catch data on a monthly basis and make quicker decisions. Thus, DFG Director Ryan Broddrick announced this week that there will be some in-season adjustments in the groundfish season.

Starting in the southern management area (Point Conception to the Mexican border), groundfish season will be open April 16 through December from 0-60 fathoms (0-360 feet), except during September and October, when fishing is restricted to 0-30 fathoms (0-180 feet).

The adjustments apply only to state waters (0-3 nautical miles from shore), pending action by the Pacific Fisheries Management Council, which is to meet today and decide whether to extend the adjustments to federal waters (3-200 nautical miles from shore).

Broddrick, acting at the request of the Fish and Game Commission, decided to expand opportunities to anglers in state waters.

"The California Recreational Fisheries Survey is the best scientific method available for evaluating all forms of recreational ocean fishing," Broddrick said. "To the extent that these data support additional fishing opportunities, the department will make those opportunities available."

Broddrick said fishing could be restricted in the future if new CFRS data show that species are being hauled in by recreational anglers at levels greater than allowed.

The announcement is a clear victory for organizations such as the Sportfishing Association of California and United Anglers of Southern California, both of which have been highly critical of MRFSS as viable data for recreational fishing take.

Forbes Darby, recreational fisheries coordinator for NOAA Fisheries, said recently that CFRS was a much better way to gather recreational fishing data than MRFSS.

"CRFS actually targets recreational anglers off docks, boats, piers and the like," Darby said. "MRFSS does random digit dialing with the hope that the survey-takers get a recreational angler on the line. They ask good questions once they get a fisherman, but it's such a bigger, broader pool, they only get small numbers."

Bob Fletcher, president of SAC, urged the Fish and Game Commission on March 18 to use the CFRS data, which he believes is "the best available science and the best available data for making management decisions, especially if that data showed declines and resulted in more restrictions."

"Now we have data showing that recreational anglers caught less than quotas," Fletcher said in a letter to Fish and Game Commission President Jim Kellogg.

Fletcher predicted a month ago that "CFRS will usher in a new era of accuracy in recreational catch information." That new era replaces the errors of MRFSS

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