Managing Fish In The Real World

Managing Fish In The Real World

By John Papciak


By now you’ve probably heard about the latest Striped Bass Stock Assessment. If you are like most, you were probably confused with the acronyms and the bureaucracy. Let me take a minute to try to put the situation into a scenario you might be better able to relate to.




Let’s say you just got called into your boss’ office.


Times are getting tough, not like it was in ’05. He wants your input with setting plans for next year. Whether he will listen to you is another story, but at least he’s asking.


You’ve been around the block more than most. Realistically, at this point, you know the company will book sales of about 62. The original sales “target” was 72, but that was a pipe dream. You wonder why it is still put out there, no one takes that target seriously.


62, on the other hand, that’s getting a bit close to the “threshold” of 58, which is absolute zero. Anything below 58 and you know the company is probably losing money. They’d probably have to lay people off and close some operations. Nasty stuff like that. You’ve been there before, and you promised yourself “Never Again.”


Maybe now is a good time to be proactive, rather than wait and hope for business to improve?


In walks the whiz-kid from Finance. He gives you both a copy of his updated forecasts. It has all the latest projections from Marketing.


You thumb through the report making believe you understand it all, but it’s really complicated (it’s thorough, but maybe more complicated than it needs to be).


It’s all these acronyms and technical terms. He’s got all these different types of forecasts, and you don’t know which, if any, is more reliable than the next. There are so many tables and graphs, your head is spinning. At least they are all pointing in the same general direction. And at least the direction seems to jibe with what you are seeing and hearing in the real world.


You know it’s gotten harder over the last few years, but just how bad are things?


The whiz kid’s conclusions are hard to interpret.


“At current status, the probability of losses increases until 2015-2016, but declines thereafter. If corrective action is delayed until 2014 or 2015, the probability of losses increases.”


It takes a long time to get through the techno mumbo jumbo, but there is one set of graphs that is easier to understand.


The graphs show the different forecasts over the next few years. It looks like there is a 60% chance of the company being in the red by 2015 – but only if immediate corrective action is taken. If there are delays in taking action, the chances of losses increase to almost 80% by 2015.


“Wow, 80% chance of being in the red, that’s bad,” you say to yourself!


Then it sinks in – no matter what they do, it will almost certainly get worse before it gets better. Cutbacks are hell. Losses and layoffs are worse.


So where is the silver lining? When does it getter better, and then by how much?


The Whiz-Kid’s projections all show a return to profit by 2017, but not by much. It will not be a return to the boom years. This is the new normal. And a lot of the upside hinges on some new prospects that may or may not materialize by 2017.


The whiz-kid is going to get an ear full, that much you do know. Some will want to discredit the report, others might already be working behind the scenes to find a way to spin it. Maybe they will twist his arm for a “new” forecast? You know none of the Big Shots around the place is going to accept any cut in HIS empire, not without a fight.




Well, that’s how it all might unfold in the private sector, but we will have to wait to see how this plays out in the business of managing fish over at ASMFC. Only time will tell. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) Management Board gets together in late October to review the 2012 Striped Bass Stock Assessment.


How do you think it will turn out?





You can read it for yourself in the ATLANTIC STRIPED BASS ASSESSMENT SUMMARY FOR 2013


Key Excerpts-


The Atlantic striped bass stock was not overfished or experiencing overfishing relative to the new reference points from the 2013 SAW/SARC57 (Figure B1-B3). Female spawning stock biomass (SSB) was estimated at 61.5 thousand mt (136 million lbs), above the SSB threshold of 57,904 mt, but below the SSB target of 72,380 mt. Total fishing mortality was estimated at 0.188, below the F threshold of 0.213 but above the F target of 0.175.

When compared to the biological reference points currently used in management (ASMFC 2008), the stock is neither overfished nor experiencing overfishing. Female SSB in 2012 is above both the target (46,101 mt) and the threshold (36,000 mt), and F2012 is below both the target (0.30) and the threshold (0.34).


Projections: Five-year projections of female spawning SSB and fishing mortality (Figure B4) were made by using a standard forward projection methodology. If the current fully-recruited F (0.188) is maintained during 2013-2017, or if it increases to the threshold or decreases to the target, the probability of being below the SSB threshold increases until 2015-2016, but declines thereafter. If action to reduce F is delayed until 2014 or 2015, the probability of being below the SSB threshold increases (Figure B5). If the current removals, meaning landings and dead discards of 3.59 million fish, are maintained during 2013-2017, the probability of the fully-recruited F being above the F threshold increases rapidly starting in 2013 and reaches near 1 by 2014 (Figure B6). If constant removals equal to 50% of the 2012 removals are taken during 2013-2017, the probability of fully-recruited F being above the F threshold is near zero.

5 comments on “Managing Fish In The Real World

  1. Jerry

    In 2012, SB stock was not overfished or experiencing overfishing. When compared to biological reference points the stock is neither overfished nor experiencing overfishing. If current removals are maintained, the probability of fully recruited F being above threshold approaches one. Really? Is it even remotely possible to maintain current removals? And is that not the definition of overfishing? The low end of 2 sigma female SSB is just over 40k MT. Yikes. Nice job decyphering this stuff, midnight rambler.

  2. Jerry

    Chances of the Giants missing the playoffs are approaching one. If these guys are right, they are brilliant and they nailed it. If they are wrong no one read the report anyway (and fewer understood it). I hope all those schoolies start breeding soon, in the meantime those half oz bucktails should remain hot.

  3. in&out

    1. limit all recriational boat and commercial quantities. 2. stop them from keeping rats,from what I hear they ate all the carp and other fish out of the New York City Parks already we can do this by I don’t know maybe supporting wildlife and game agencies. 3. taking pictures with 30 40 and 50 pound fish doesn’t make your rod any bigger,it just kills millions of eggs.this is just some small things to do to help the striped bass fish re without including the environmental issues.but sorry it will never happen because we are way too greedy. don’t eat striped bass it’s bad for you. support a catch and release only striped bass fishery. ……………

    1. Gus T

      I totally agree with you increase commercial and recreational quotas. And I would love a catch and release only law on the striped bass, but the truth is human beings are greedy and as long as there is money to be made off this fish they will go after it until it’s at the point of collapsing again and then they will start all over again like they did in the 80s. And somebody please stop the charterboats customers that are hanging big fish to show their Friends that cought it without having any knowledge and history of the striped bass fishery.

  4. joe ganun

    I just tried to access the link. The guys in Washington who never work are all still never working but getting paid. The ladies and gents in the field, who do work are not working , and not getting paid. Shut Down ? More like an absolute cluster……
    There are less bass, everyone knows it. Mortality is the issue, slots help, size minimums and catch limits help but there is no worthwhile enforcement. Make the penalties severe. as in loss of driving priveleges, $1,000 fines etc. Anyone bozo can spin a report to say what they want. Just change the target or the base line.


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