IMMEDIATE ACTION REQUEST- MADMF COMMERCIAL SEASON EXTENSION

On August 10 the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) issued an advisory of a proposed in-season adjustment to the commercial striped bass fishing regulations for 2020 that would open up a third day to commercial fishing. It offered justification that because of COVID-19 and the likelihood that Mass would, for the third year in a row, fail to catch its striped bass quota, the move would provide some financial relief to commercial fishermen.

The advisory included a 14-day period for public comment, but DMF reneged on that promise and decided after only 10 days to adopt the proposal, increasing fishing pressure on breeder-sized female striped bass.

You spoke out in numbers during that abbreviated window and we know many of you planned to send your notes in opposition during the last weekend. You were not only ignored, but you were denied your voice on this important issue.

We think you deserve to be heard. That is why we sent the following letter to Gov. Baker, Lt. Gov. Polito, Sec. Theoharides, and Dir. McKiernan asking for an explanation, an accounting, and a reversal on the decision.

We’ve sent a copy of the letter (below) to local and angling media and now we are asking for you to also let the Commonwealth know that you are not happy with this decision, and that you are not happy with the process leading up to it.

Please send a copy of the letter and a brief, personal note to Governor Baker and Director McKiernan letting them know how you feel. Be polite. Keep it clean. But make it clear you believe the decision to increase commercial fishing pressure on breeding-size female striped bass was a mistake.

The policy is scheduled to go into effect September 1, so PLEASE ACT NOW to make sure they get the message.

Thank you!

EMAILS SHOULD BE SENT TO THE FOLLOWING ADDRESSES:


Dear Governor Baker:

On August 10, 2020, the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries issued an advisory entitled, DMF Proposing In-Season Adjustments to the 2020 Commercial Fishing Limits for Certain Quota Managed Species. Among the proposals was opening additional days to the commercial striped bass season. Justification for the proposal was “with consideration of market impacts resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic” and to “provide active commercial fishermen with additional access to these quota managed fisheries during the fall.”

The advisory stated that “DMF will be accepting public comment on these proposals through 12PM on Monday, August 24, 2020.”

On Friday, August 21, DMF issued a follow-up advisory entitled, DMF to Make In-Season Adjustments to 2020 Commercial Striped Bass, Black Sea Bass and Summer Flounder Limits. That advisory stated that “the Marine Fisheries Advisory Commission (MFAC) approved several recommendations made by the Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) to make in-season adjustments to 2020 commercial fishing limits for striped bass, black sea bass, and summer flounder. This action was taken four days before the end of public comment with no indication as to whether the public was for or against the proposals and in what numbers.

Furthermore, the justification for adding a third open day for commercial striped bass fishing was that, “This action also accommodates commercial fishermen who seek to conduct their fishing activity over consecutive days to take advantage of night fishing opportunities that may otherwise be limited by having non-consecutive open fishing days.”

In 2019 the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (AMFC) found that the Atlantic striped bass population was in trouble. Stocks have been in decline for some time, as has spawning success. The ASMFC declared that striped bass were “overfished, and overfishing is occurring.” The Massachusetts delegation to the ASMFC annual meeting was among the more vocal groups advocating for the most aggressive harvest reductions as public support for strong conservation measures was overwhelming. As a result, regulations were changed coastwide to reduce both recreational and commercial harvest.

An indication of the dire situation was the fact that Massachusetts had failed to meet its quota in either 2018 or 2019. There were simply not enough fish available to the commercial fleet. Despite a reduction in the commercial quota, it appears that Massachusetts will fall short again in 2020.

Stripers Forever would like to know why DMF rushed to make their decision while the period of public comment was still open and how, when public support for harvest reductions and conservation was overwhelming less than a year ago, their decision seems to indicate that support has vanished. Our members made it clear to us that they were opposed to the proposal, and we even heard from individuals who have traditionally opposed our efforts to end all commercial fishing for striped bass that the proposal was illogical and that they, too, would speak out in opposition.

If DMF believes striped bass are “overfished, and overfishing is occurring,” increasing fishing pressure on the already beleaguered population at this time makes no sense. The 35″ minimum size limit for commercially harvested striped bass all but ensures every striped bass caught for market in Massachusetts is a breeder-sized female—the very fish on which the future of the species depends.

Incidentally, the justification to allow fishermen targeting striped bass on overnight trips to land and sell their fish the morning after their catch makes no sense. A commercial fisherman who wants to fish at night and sell their catch in the morning could strike out, begin fishing at midnight, and return to dock in the morning after filling their limit. There is no advantage to fishing earlier since there is a daily limit on fish; one day’s catch is all that could be sold.

If it is economics the Commonwealth is concerned about, it is worth noting that studies have shown the recreational value of a robust striped bass fishery to be over one billion dollars to Massachusetts’ coastal communities, whereas the commercial fishery generates only a few million dollars in economic activity.

Stripers Forever and our 2,000+ Massachusetts members would like to know why DMF denied the public four days of its stated public comment period and would like to know what percentage of comments received by August 20 were in support of or opposed to the in-season changes to the commercial striped bass regulations.

We believe the decision was wrong. We believe the process was not proper. And we are disappointed that the decision undermines our potential leadership position on striped bass management. Stripers Forever urges Director McKiernan to provide these answers, to provide an accounting of public comment, and to reverse this decision in the best interest of the fishery.

Regards,

Dean L. Clark, MA State Co-Chair, Stripers Forever

Frederic B. Jennings Jr., Ph.D., MA State Co-Chair, Stripers Forever


 

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CONTACT INFO

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

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