ASMFC Winter Meeting Summary – Addendum 1: Commercial Quota Transfers

ASMFC Winter Meeting Summary – Addendum 1: Commercial Quota Transfers

Taylor Vavra | Vice President


We asked you to step up and be part of the process on Addendum 1, you did in a big way. After sending in written comments and eight public hearings, over 98% of comments supported Option A (Status Quo) – Transfers not permitted. Unfortunately on Tuesday January 31st the ASMFC Striped Bass management board choose to completely ignore our collective voice. This was not the first time and unfortunately it likely won’t be the last. Ultimately the board elected to postpone action on Addendum 1 until May. They have tasked the technical committee (TC) with further analysis and projections on how commercial transfers might affect the stock and rebuilding plan. To say that we were disappointed with this result would be a major understatement.

The meeting started out with a summary of Addendum 1, the options available to the board and eventually the results of the public comment period. It remains unfathomable, but that would be the last mention of those results for the remainder of the meeting. Not one board member recognized the overwhelming support for Option A and the desires of the public to prioritize the rebuilding of the stock over maximizing commercial harvest. It is an embarrassment to the ASMFC that Addendum 1 is even being discussed as the stock is currently over overfished and supposedly in the process of rebuilding. Aside from Option A, this addendum does nothing but jeopardize the large breeders that make up the spawning stock biomass (SSB). Whether or not the TC estimates support that, the board should be playing it safe and remain solely focused on protecting the SSB and rebuilding the stock.

It was no surprise that John Clark, Delaware’s fishery manager, started off by making the motion that the board approve Option D. His general argument being that it was the most conservative option available. He knew that this would be the best shot at getting Delaware the increase in commercial quota which they have long desired. This was not how we had hoped the discussion would begin. It remains unclear how many votes this motion would have received because soon after Dr. Jason McNamee, Rhode Island’s fishery manager, provided a substitute motion. Seconded by Dr. Justin Davis, Connecticut’s fishery manager.

We are not against having as much information as possible to make an important decision but in this case it might have been a good idea to have done this prior to asking for public input. When the data becomes available in May, it was made clear that the board can act on it without public input. It feels as though it was a colossal waste of time holding the hearings and gathering written comment when it was completely ignored and we will not be given a second chance to weigh in on this. In addition to that, it has also become clear that this works in the favor of those who would like to see commercial quota transfers approved. Most likely the TC will find that this increase will be minimal in comparison to the 2022 recreational landings data (MRIP) which will also be available at that time.

But the expectation is that 2022 recreational landings combined with catch and release mortality will be greater than 2021. Those numbers could have a big impact on the rebuilding plan and possibly indicate that the stock will not rebuild by the 2029 deadline. If so, it could in fact force the board to initiate a new management action to get back on track and meet the deadline for rebuilding. Whether or not that comes in the way of a moratorium of other reductions in F (fishing mortality) remains unknown. The bottom line is, the future of the stock continues to exist in a cloud of uncertainty under the management of the ASMFC.

The motion to postpone passed with a 15-1-0-0 vote. I feel like a broken record in saying, they’ve done it again, kicking the pro-verbal can down the road. The board asked for public input and we gave it to them in form of overwhelming support for Option A (status quo) – no commercial quota transfers. It was their responsibility to take action, one way or another, they choose to leave this issue unresolved. Two parties pay the price for that, the angling public and Striped Bass. This was an unfortunate turn of events and we are saddened by having to report back with the news. Rest assured, we will stay on top of this and be there when MRIP data the the TC projections are made public. Stay tuned!

Thank you for your continued support!


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