States Schedule Public Hearings on Weakfish Draft Addendum IV

Atlantic coast states from New York through Florida have scheduled their hearings to gather public comment on Draft Addendum IV to Amendment 4 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Weakfish. The dates, times, and locations of the scheduled meetings follow. It is anticipated that South Carolina will also be scheduling a public hearing. The details of this hearing will be released when available. Please note that some states will also be conducting hearings on other ASMFC proposed species management actions.

New York State Dept. of Environmental Conservation

October 5, 2009; 7:00 PM
Marine Resources Headquarters
205 North Belle Mead Road, Suite 1
East Setauket, New York
Contact: Steve Heins at (631) 444-0435

New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife
October 6, 2009; 8:00 PM
Toms River Township Clerk-s Office
L. Manuel Hirshblond Room
33 Washington Street
Toms River, New Jersey
Contact: Tom McCloy at (609) 292-7794
* Public comment will also be gathered on Striped Bass Draft Addendum II (7 PM)

Delaware Dept. of Natural Resources and Environmental Control
October 7, 2009; 6:30 PM
Richardson and Robbins Building Auditorium
89 Kings Highway
Dover, Delaware
Contact: Craig Shirey at (302) 739-9914
* Public comment will also be gathered on Striped Bass Draft Addendum II (6:00 PM) and Shad Draft Amendment 3 (7:30 PM)

Maryland Dept. of Natural Resources
October 13, 2009; 5:30 PM
Tawes State Office Building, C1 Conference Room
580 Taylor Avenue
Annapolis, Maryland
Contact: Jim Uphoff at (410) 642-6785 ext. 2106
* Public comment will also be gathered on Scup and Black Sea Bass Draft Addendum XX

Virginia Marine Resources Commission
October 7, 2009; 6:00 PM
2600 Washington Avenue, 4th Floor
Newport News, Virginia
Contact: Rob O’Reilly at (757) 247-2236
* Public comment will also be gathered on Shad Draft Amendment 3 and Scup and Black Sea Bass Draft Addendum XX

North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries
October 14, 2009; 7:00 PM
Roanoke Island Festival Park
1 Festival Park
Manteo, North Carolina
Contact: Michelle Duval at (252) 808-8011
* Public comment will also be gathered on Striped Bass Draft Addendum II (6:00 PM)

Georgia Coastal Resources Division
October 6, 2009; 6:30 PM
Holton’s Restaurant
Exit 76 – Interstate 95
13711 Highway 84
Midway, Georgia
Contact: Spud Woodward at (912) 264-7218

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
October 15, 2009; 6:00 PM
Jacksonville Public Library, Southeast Branch
10599 Deerwood Park Blvd
Room B
Jacksonville, Florida
Contact: Jessica McCawley at (850) 487-0554

The Draft Addendum will propose a range of options to reduce fishing mortality, including complete harvest moratoria and limited bycatch only fisheries. It was developed in response to the findings of the 2009 weakfish stock assessment which shows weakfish stocks at an all time low and current fishery removals unsustainable under existing stock conditions. Specifically, the assessment indicated that weakfish abundance has declined markedly, total mortality is high, non-fishing mortality has recently increased, and the stock is currently in a depleted state. The assessment report was reviewed and approved for management use by an independent panel of fisheries scientists.

The weakfish stock is depleted at an all-time low of 2.9 million pounds (1,333 metric tons), far below the proposed biomass threshold of 22.4 million pounds (10,179 metric tons). At this stock size, recent fishery removals (landings and dead discards combined) represent a significant proportion of the remaining biomass. While the decline in the stock primarily results from a change in the natural mortality of weakfish in recent years, it is further exacerbated by continued removals by the commercial and recreational fisheries.

Natural mortality has risen substantially since 1995, with factors such as predation, competition, and changes in the environment having a stronger influence on recent weakfish stock dynamics than fishing mortality. Given current high natural mortality levels, stock projections indicate that the stock is unlikely to recover rapidly, even under a harvest moratorium. In order to rebuild the stock, total mortality will need to be reduced, although this is unlikely to occur until natural mortality decreases to previous levels. On a positive note, juvenile abundance surveys indicate that young-of-the-year weakfish continued to be present in numbers similar to previous years, suggesting that recruitment at this point has not been severely limited in spite of low stock size.

The Board has placed the Draft Addendum on a faster timeline than standard addenda. Staff and the Plan Development Team will prepare a draft for Board review and consideration on September 28th. If approved, the draft will then be made available for public review and comment shortly thereafter. The Board will meet again in November to consider public comment and take final action on the Draft Addendum. Under Commission procedures, the Board may opt to implement the Addendum under emergency action, with approved measures taking effect immediately upon Board action.

Fishermen and other interested groups are encouraged to provide input on Draft Addendum IV, by attending public hearings or providing written comments. Copies of Draft Addendum IV will be available shortly after September 28th via the Commission’s website at under Breaking News. Public comment will be accepted until late October (final deadline to be set upon the Draft Addendum’s release) and should be forwarded to Nichola Meserve, FMP Coordinator, 1444 ‘Eye’ Street, NW, Sixth Floor, Washington, DC 20005; (202) 289-6051 (FAX) or at (Subject line: Weakfish Draft Addendum IV).

source: ASMFC press release