ASMFC 2023 Spring Meeting Summary – An Enormous Win for Striped Bass Conservation

ASMFC 2023 Spring Meeting Summary – Addendum II & Emergency Action


An Enormous Win for Striped Bass Conservation

Taylor Vavra | Vice President


May 2, 2023 | During the commission’s spring meeting, the Striped Bass Management Board took historical and unprecedented action to protect the 2015 year class and ensure that the stock has a greater than 50% chance of rebuilding by 2029. The board initiated Addendum II and enacted emergency action which is effective immediately and will implement a coast-wide slot limit of 28-31” for the harvest of striped bass. Under the 2021 fishing mortality rate the stock had a 97% chance of recovery, which dropped to less than 15% given the higher 2022 fishing mortality rate that more than doubled based on new MRIP (Marine Recreational Information Program) data.

Things were not looking good as the meeting kicked off with John Clark (DE) and Tom Fote (NJ) both questioning the new MRIP data. Their arguments were largely unfounded and it did not take long for the board to move past them on onto the more important business at hand. Dr. Davis (CT) immediately proposed a motion for Addendum II, it was seconded by Emerson Hasbrouck (NY). There seemed to be overwhelming board support for the motion as the discussion went on. Dr. Armstrong (MA) proposed a motion, seconded by Mr. Borden (RI), to amend by adding a provision that would allow the board to respond to the upcoming 2024 stock assessment. This is more of a precautionary move as the results of that stock assessment could overlap or occur after the finalization of Addendum II. The motion to Amend was unanimously approved and it was added to the language of the original motion. Meeting staff also stated that the 2024 Stock Assessment could in fact include projected impacts of Addendum II.

With the final language for the motion now it place the board would vote and it passed unanimously. The board initiated draft Addendum II to Amendment 7 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan. It will address 2024 management measures to reduce fishing mortality. Included will be the ocean recreational, Chesapeake Bay, and commercial fisheries. Modifications to the slot limit, possible seasonal harvest closures, and maximum size limits will all be considered to reduce fishing mortality back to the target for 2024. The board also plans to review the upcoming 2024 stock assessment and there is a provision in the approved motion that would allow for action to be taken if needed. The board will revisit draft Addendum II at the summer meeting, at which time the document could be approved for public comment or sent back to the technical committee for further development.

After a quick break the meeting resumed with a bang! Dr. Armstrong (MA), seconded by Mr. Borden (RI), proposed the board take emergency action that would shrink the slot limit to 28-31″. This was a very welcome but unexpected surprise to many. At first it seemed to be a long shot for the board to approve. Dr. Davis (CT) almost immediately made a motion to amend and proposed that the for-hire sector regulations remain status quo for the initial 180 day period that the emergency action is in place. His reasoning being that they have already booked trips based on existing regulations and it would unfair to force regulation changes mid season. This motion quickly saw a good amount of opposition, Mr. Luisi (MD) made the clearest statement saying that this should apply equitably to all recreational anglers. The motion failed in a 4-10-0-2 vote, this was great news.

The emergency action would face one more hurdle in a motion from Mr. Nowalsky (NJ) to postpone until the August meeting. His reasoning was that the emergency action was not on the agenda, he had been given no prior notice and there would be no public comment on it. This motion found no support from the rest of the board. In fact, Sarah Peake (MA) replied by saying “They call it ‘emergency for a reason…Let’s not kick the can down the road.” She also noted that the board had received many comments from the public asking that action be taken ASAP to protect the stock. Her prediction was the angling public would applaud the boards approval of such measures. She was certainly correct in that prediction. In what seems to be a reoccurring theme in this meeting, the motion to postpone failed in a vote where only NJ and DE voted in favor.

Ultimately, the board would vote 15-1-0-0 to pass the emergency action. Can you guess who voted against? You got it, good old NJ, showing us all just how committed they are to rebuilding the stock, the only state to vote against. The emergency action will be in place for an initial 180-day term, ending October 28, 2023, but can be renewed by the board twice for a maximum length of 2 ½ years. This emergency action will likely remain in effect until Addendum II is finalized and new regulations are put in place for 2024. This 31-inch maximum size for harvest applies to all recreational fisheries where a higher (or no) maximum size applies. All bag limits, seasons, and gear restrictions will remain the same. States are now required to implement this required measure and change regulations as soon as possible but no later than July 2, 2023. The commission will hold at least four hearings beginning in mid to late May to inform the public about the emergency action.

Lastly, the board took final action on Addendum I to Amendment 7 and approved Option E. This would allow the board to approve voluntary transfers of ocean commercial quotas between states. Importantly, this would not be allowed when the stock is deemed overfished. The board can also set certain criteria for these allowable transfers, including limits on how much, when the transfers occur, and the eligibility of a state to make the request based on total landings to date.

While we believe that there were many instances where board action could have been taken to avoid the need for such strong measures, we do commend the steps that were taken to get the stock back on track to recover by 2029. There was enormous outreach by anglers, guides, captains, companies, and conservation organizations to take immediate action. The board heard that call and acted upon it, we thank them for that. Numerous board members openly stated that they had received comments from the public and in turn felt that they needed to act on them. A HUGE THANK YOU to the anglers, captains, guides, businesses and other conservation organizations who continue to support us and fight for the cause. You were part of the process, your voice was heard, you made this happen.

As Addendum II develops throughout the summer, we will keep tabs on its progress and provide updates at every turn. This action was certainly a step in the right direction, but this battle is far from over. The stock is a long way from being the healthy and abundant fishery we know it can be. Founded in 2004, Stripers Forever has been at the forefront of striped bass conservation for close to twenty years, and we don’t plan on giving up anytime soon. A big thank you to all who continue to support us and who have stepped up to fight for the cause.

Thank you for your continued support!


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