ASMFC 2021 WINTER MEETING SUMMARY & ACTION

ATLANTIC STRIPED BASS MANAGEMENT BOARD MEETING SUMMARY

The ASMFC’s winter meeting took place last week and the Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board convened and there are some important takeaways for those of us interested in the health of the fishery. Below you will find a summary of the results of the meeting and, based on these developments, some suggestions for how we can keep fighting to influence better policy.

At the bottom of this summary you will find links to the meeting documents as well as the YouTube link to view the meeting recording. If you missed the meeting we encourage you to take a look.

Recreational Release Mortality Still a Matter of Debate

The meeting opened with a presentation of stock assessments based on alternative recreational release mortality data. In short, when best-case and worst-case scenario data were used to calculate the effect on Striped Bass, the results were just about the same as they are believed to be today—which is not good. But the presentation revealed several important deficiencies: fisheries managers regard a fish released properly the same as one subject to the abuse common to those caught and released from a party boat (angler behavior), high-temperature/low-oxygen conditions and size/age of the fish. It’s unclear how usable or valuable this data is without taking those criteria into consideration. There’s nothing much we can do about it except collectively practice good catch-and-release techniques.

Stock Assessment Delayed

The technical committee voted to delay updating the Striped Bass stock assessment that had been scheduled for this year. Because of the new regulations and effects of the pandemic, the assessment was delayed until 2022 with the hope that the data will be better. There is also a “two stock” model for evaluating both ocean and Chesapeake Bay stock health that may be used in the 2022 assessment if it passes peer review.

Circle Hook Exemption Debated

There was a lengthy debate over a proposal by Massachusetts and Maine to exempt “tube and worm” rigs from the circle hook mandate for bait fishing. The two states want two years to study whether tube and worm rigs, which are popular with the for-hire fishery, result in deep-hooking of fish. Most agreed that, because tube & worm rigs are fished actively—trolled or retrieved—the danger of deep hooking was minimal, but some expressed concerns that the exemption would be used as a loophole.

This debate took almost 2 1/2 hours and led to almost 100 public attendees leaving the meeting, likely out of pure frustration. Much like conservation equivalency, as soon as 1 or 2 states asked for the exemption the rest followed suit. No doubt this was a massive waste of time for both the board and the public. This study could have been conducted in 1 state as the results could be applied to the entire fishery, there is no need to make this into a coastwide ‘study’.

Ultimately the exemption passed and now we are faced with the possibility of loophole, compliance and enforcement issues. Not to mention making already complex regulations more confusing to the public. We will continue to follow this issue and update when necessary.

Public Input Encouraged for Upcoming Management Changes

The most consequential item discussed during the meeting concerned adoption of a “public information document” (PID) to be issued in advance of work on Amendment 7 to the Striped Bass management plan. A PID is issued to help inform the public prior to the solicitation of input for the drafting of a new management plan. That PID has since been issued (link below), and soon the ASMFC will schedule public hearings and ask for suggestions that will help shape the future of striped bass fisheries management along the Atlantic coast.

Stripers Forever is reviewing the PID and will make recommendations for how we can be an important part of that discussion and make sure the recreational fishing community is heard on this matter. It will be vital that we speak in one clear voice when the time comes. We welcome your input and ideas during this time, please email us at stripers@stripersforever.org.

It was clear during the meeting that there are still those intent on putting pressure on the Commission to increase the commercial harvest, arguing that the stocks are fine and recent cuts are due to miscalculations. John Clark, fishery manager from Delaware, claimed that there were so many striped bass in Delaware Bay they were emaciated because of a lack of forage. Because people like John are relentless in their efforts, we all must be as well.

Speak Loudly and Be Heard

We know that conservation-minded, recreational anglers constitute an overwhelming majority of the striped bass fishing public. We know we can be a powerful voice for protecting these valuable fish for the future. We will do what we can to have our collective voice of conservation heard and heeded.

Stay tuned. We will keep you all informed through email, social media, and our website. Thanks for your participation in the conservation of Striped Bass…Make it a Game Fish!


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Stripers Forever | 209 Winn Road Falmouth, ME 04105
stripers@stripersforever.org

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