ACTION REQUEST- ASMFC Draft Addendum VI to Amendment 6

Stripers Forever Favors Equitable Harvest Reduction for Wild Atlantic Striped Bass Management Plan

Option Two Mandates 18% Cut for Commercial Fishermen and Recreational Anglers

Stripers Forever, an international conservation organization fighting for the future of wild Atlantic striped bass, endorses Option Two of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s (ASMFC) Draft Addendum VI to Amendment 6 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Striped Bass. Stripers Forever also supports mandating the use of “circle hooks” for both recreational and hook-and-line commercial fishermen using bait.

Stripers Forever urges its members and all others interested in protecting wild Atlantic striped bass to write the ASMFC and state delegations to the Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board and request they do the same. The public comment period for Addendum VI to Amendment 6 ends at 5:00pm EST on October 7, 2019.

Option Two requires changes to current regulations resulting in an equitable 18% reduction in recreational and commercial harvest of striped bass. According to the Draft Addendum:

Option 2: Equal Percent Reductions

An 18% reduction in total removals relative to 2017 levels to reduce F to the target in 2020 where the desired percent reduction is applied equally (proportionally) to both the commercial and recreational sectors; both sectors would take an 18% reduction from 2017 levels. Under all sub-options, states have the flexibility to develop alternative regulations through conservation equivalency, including the allocation of the required reductions between the commercial and recreational sectors.

Option One would maintain the status quo. Option Three would cut the commercial harvest by only 1.8% and require the recreational angling community make up the difference to achieve an overall 18% reduction in total harvest.

Stripers Forever has no preference for the sub-options creating minimum/maximum length “slot limits” for recreationally caught striped bass under Option Two. However, the organization believes all states should require anglers using bait to use circle hooks, which have been proven to increase a fish’s chances of survival after release, as described under Option Three (3.2 Circle Hook Provision).

“Although we are disappointed that the proposed changes to striped bass regulations are not more aggressive, Stripers Forever believes that the changes described in Option Two are the fairest. Long term, we remain committed to seeing wild Atlantic striped bass designated as game fish along the entire Eastern Seaboard,” said Brad Burns, president, Stripers Forever.

  Submit your comments to the ASMFC:

Mail:

Max Appelman, FMP Coordinator

1050 North Highland Street Suite 200A-N

Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission

Arlington, VA 22201

Phone: (703) 842-0740

Fax: (703) 842-0741

Email:

comments@asmfc.org (Subject: Striped Bass Draft Addendum VI)

In Person:

Maine Department of Marine Resources

October 1, 2019 at 6 PM
Kennebunk Town Hall – Room 300
1 Summer Street
Kennebunk, Maine
Contact: Megan Ware at 207.446.0932

October 2, 2019 at 6:30 PM
Yarmouth Town Hall – Log Cabin
196 Main Street
Yarmouth, Maine
Contact: Megan Ware at 207.446.0932

New Hampshire Fish and Game

October 1, 2019 at 7 PM
Urban Forestry Center
45 Elwyn Road
Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Contact: Doug Grout at 603.868.1095

Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection

September 23, 2019 at 7 PM
Marine Headquarters, Boating Education Center 333 Ferry Road
Old Lyme, Connecticut
Contact: Justin Davis at 860.434.6043

September 25, 2019 at 7 PM
Port 5 Hall, 69 Brewster Street
Bridgeport, Connecticut
Contact: Justin Davis at 860.434.6043

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC)

September 4, 2019 from 6 to 9 PM
Ballroom at Bethpage State Park Clubhouse Bethpage State Park
99 Quaker Meetinghouse Road
Farmingdale, New York
Contact: Maureen Davidson at 631.444.0483

September 12, 2019 from 6 to 9 PM
NYSDEC Region 3 Office
21 South Putt Corners Road
New Paltz, New York
Contact: Gregg Kenney at 845.256.3199

New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife

September 3, 2019 from 6 to 8:30 PM
Roselle Park Borough Hall
110 East Westfield Avenue
Roselle Park, New Jersey
Contact: Heather Corbett at 609.748.2020

September 4, 2019 from 6 to 8:30 PM
Ocean City Public Library
1725 Simpson Avenue
Ocean City, New Jersey
Contact: Heather Corbett at 609.748.2020

September 12, 2019 from 6 to 8:30 PM
Bay Avenue Community Center
775 East Bay Avenue
Manahawkin, New Jersey
Contact: Heather Corbett at 609.748.2020

Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission

August 28, 2019 from 7 to 9 PM
Silver Lake Nature Center
1306 Bath Road
Bristol, Pennsylvania
Contact: Andrew Shiels at 814.359.5181

Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries

October 2, 2019 at 6 PM
Crowne Plaza Woburn
15 Middlesex Canal Park Drive
Woburn, Massachusetts
Contact: Mike Armstrong at 978.282.0308, ext. 109

October 3, 2019 at 6 PM
MA Maritime Academy, Admiral’s Hall
101 Academy Drive
Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts
Contact: Mike Armstrong at 978.282.0308, ext. 109

Rhode Island Division of Fish & Wildlife

September 24, 2019 at 6 PM
University of Rhode Island Bay Campus
Corless Auditorium
South Ferry Road
Narragansett, Rhode Island
Contact: Nicole Lengyel Costa at 401.423.1940

Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control

August 29, 2019 at 6 PM
DNREC Auditorium
89 Kings Highway
Dover, Delaware
Contact: John Clark at 302.739.9914

Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Fisheries Service

September 25, 2019 from 6 to 8 PM
Calvary United Methodist Church (Basement Room) 301 Rowe Boulevard
Annapolis, Maryland
Contact: Michael Luisi at 410.260.8341

NEW HEARING: October 3, 2019 from 6 – 8 PM

The American Legion Dorchester Post 91
601 Radiance Drive
Cambridge, Maryland
Contact: Michael Luisi at 410.260.8341

Virginia Marine Resources Commission

September 9, 2019 at 6:30 PM
Virginia Marine Resources Commission
380 Fenwick Road, Fort Monroe
Hampton, Virginia
Contact: Alex Aspinwall or Pat Geer at 757.247.2200

Potomac River Fisheries Commission
September 10, 2019, at 6 PM
222 Taylor Street
Colonial Beach, Virginia
Contact: Martin Gary at 804.224.7148

District of Columbia Department of Energy and Environment

September 12, 2019, at 6 PM
Aquatic Resources Education Center
1900 Anacostia Drive
Washington, District of Columbia
Contact: Julia Robey Christian at 202.450.7878

North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries

September 11, 2019 at 6:30 PM
Dare County Administration Building Commissioners Meeting Room
954 Marshall C. Collins Drive
Manteo, North Carolina
Contact: Chris Batsavage at 252.808.8009


Draft Addendum VI was initiated in response to the 2018 Benchmark Stock Assessment, which indicates the resource is overfished and experiencing overfishing. The Draft Addendum explores a range of management alternatives designed to end overfishing and reduce fishing mortality to the target level in 2020.

The Draft Addendum proposes management options for both commercial and recreational sectors in the ocean and in Chesapeake Bay in order to reduce total fishery removals by 18% relative to 2017 levels. The proposed measures include reduced quotas for commercial fisheries, and changes in bag limits, minimum sizes, and slot size limits for the recreational sector. Since catch and release practices represent a significant component of overall fishing mortality, the Draft Addendum also explores the mandatory use of circle hooks when fishing with bait to reduce release mortality in recreational striped bass fisheries.

Draft Addendum VI is available at http://www.asmfc.org/files/PublicInput/StripedBassDraftAddVI_PublicComment_Aug2019.pdf or via the Commission’s website at http://www.asmfc.org/about-us/public-input. Fishermen and other stakeholders are encouraged to provide input on Draft Addendum VI either by attending state public hearings or providing written comment. Public comment will be accepted until 5 PM (EST) on October 7, 2019 and should be sent to Max Appelman, Fishery Management Plan Coordinator, 1050 N. Highland St, Suite A-N, Arlington, VA 22201; 703.842.0741 (FAX) or at comments@asmfc.org (Subject line: Striped Bass Draft Addendum VI).


Please contact us at striper@stripersforever.org with any questions.

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ASMFC ACCEPTS PRELIMINARY STOCK ASSESSMENT

In February we reported that the ASMFC’s “preliminary” stock assessment report indicated what those of us who fish a lot for stripers already knew, and that was the spawning stock biomass ”SSB” – total weight of spawning age fish in the striper population – has shrunk below the “threshold” level, and corrective action is required – see graphic.

The current SSB is estimated to be at about the same level as it was in 1992, and many of us believe the number of larger striped bass that were around in 1992 was much greater than we are looking at today. Further evidence of problems for striped bass comes with a recognition that spawning success in Chesapeake Bay during the last 15 years has slumped to about one half of what it was during the glory years of the 1990s.

Finally, fishing mortality, that is the percentage of the striped bass population killed by fishing, has risen to levels well above the threshold where corrective action is supposed to have been taken. As you can see from all of these graphs the decreased spawning stock and increased fishing mortality are trends that began about 15 years ago. There was evidence of this at many points along the way, but as has always been the case, the ASMFC is very slow to take steps to cut back on fishing mortality.

In their April 30th meeting, the ASMFC accepted these findings and charged the scientific board to come up with various measures including slot limits and closed seasons to bring the fishery in to compliance with the 17.5% reduction that is thought to be required to rebuild the SSB. It is unknown at this time what these new regulations will look like – though it was expressed that a 35” minimum size in the recreational fishery would achieve the required reductions.  This large minimum size would cut recreational harvest almost in half, and would raise catch and release mortality a small amount. It was also determined that recreational and commercial interests would share equally – relative to their catches – in the reductions. The potential new management measures are supposed to be decided upon in August, taken to public hearings in September, and then formalized at the annual meeting the last week in October for implementation in 2020.

Stripers Forever’s board is still discussing the possible options. It’s safe to say that all of us would put the stripers first and are willing to support whatever measures the ASMFC decides on that will bring about the necessary mortality reductions. We do, though, think that this is also a time when we should be examining the goals for striped bass management.

In the 1970s the striped bass population collapsed from overfishing. A complete moratorium on harvest was implemented in Chesapeake Bay, and coastal fishers accepted a minimum size that eventually increased all the way out to 36 inches. This formula created a striped bass population the likes of which no living person had ever seen. The abundance of stripers created an entire striped bass saltwater fishing culture, put hundreds of guides into business, sold tons of boats, and drew many thousands of citizens to the ocean. It was wonderful to witness. This recreational striped bass fishing infrastructure has been slowly declining for years. Some striper fanatics saw it coming very early on. The beginnings of the increased bag limits and commercial quotas had an immediate and obvious effect on the fishery. That is why in 2003 we started Stripers Forever. As you can see looking at those graphs, we were right. The commercial fishery should never have been reopened, and instead of concentrating the whole coastal fishery on large stripers there should have been a slot limit and a season if necessary, to keep mortality in the desired zone.

Striped bass cannot be everything to everyone. We cannot, simultaneously, fish for them commercially, make them the target of head boats, hold up the dead bodies of the big breeders, gut hook them with bait in lukewarm water, have unlimited season-long possession limits, and expect to have an abundant resource and the great fishing opportunities that provides. Stripers Forever will be advocating for a new day in striped bass management that stewards these fish for their greatest socio-economic value to the public.

The ASMFC has accepted the findings of the stock assessment; Connecticut, Massachusetts and Virginia have already sent a strongly worded letter to the ASMFC suggesting more action be taken ASAP. Virginia has also taken emergency action and canceled its spring trophy season. We will continue to follow this and bring updates to your attention as things progress.


ASMFC Main Meeting Materials

ASMFC Supplemental Materials

ASMFC Summary


 

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ASMFC PRELIMINARY SB STOCK ASSESSMENT

In a meeting of the Atlantic States Marine Fishery Commission (ASMFC) held on Wed. 2//6/19 the striped bass management board was presented with a preliminary benchmark stock assessment that said the striped bass spawning stock biomass had slipped to well below the target level.  This puts the stock into the formally overfished category.  It was also found that overfishing was still taking place.  Overfished and overfishing, while they don’t sound it, are somewhat technical terms.  But they essentially mean that the size of the fish stock in question is less than the acceptable level that the managers have set, and that the current mortality through fishing is too high for the stocks to recover.

I looked back through old SF records and saw that 2006 was first of some formal recognition by the ASMFC that the spawning stock biomass was beginning to shrink.  Never ones to act to quickly to reduce fishing effort the ASMFC continually kicked this can down the road until 2014 when it was noted that a 50% reduction in fishing mortality was really what was required to get the stock back on track.  I remember listening to the ASMFC meeting when Paul Diodati of Massachusetts made a motion to put an immediate 40% cut in place for the 2014 season.  No one else was ready to swallow that bitter pill, and in 2015 measures went into effect to cut mortality back by 25%, and a little less than that in Chesapeake Bay.  Predictably it wasn’t nearly enough.

Our annual fishing survey has turned out to be a very accurate gauge of how many fish are really out there, and while there was a small uptick for a couple of years in the number of small fish anglers were seeing, the numbers of large – breeding sized – striped bass has been sliding every year for a long time.  You can see it clearly in arenas like the MA commercial fishery, where over the last few years the commercial fishermen couldn’t find any number of large bass in one area of the state after another.  All the catches were coming from one or two large schools, and finally those fish ran out too.  In 2018, in spite of allowing fishing until into October when the migration had ended in MA, the landings for the season were about 754,000 pounds against a quota of 847,000 pounds.  By comparison in 2014 1,139,000 pounds were landed before the end of August.  And you can bet everyone tried hard to catch those fish because the flesh of the bass was selling for a lot of money per pound.

The recent assessment was accepted by the ASMFC managers in spite of some clear reluctance by some of the commercial fishing jurisdictions, but nothing was done to set in motion conservation measures for the 2019 fishing season.  The earliest that any adjustments could now be made is for the fall fishery, and no one is willing to bet how that debate will come out.  It is within the authority of the ASMFC to simply reduce the acceptable stock size “lower the bar” and continue on with the current regulations.  We certainly hope that won’t be the case, and without a doubt the largely recreational and game fish states will be pushing hard for some serious reductions.  Stripers Forever will be at the forefront of that advocacy.

There was one bit of good news coming from the meeting, and that was an essentially unanimous vote to write a letter from the ASMFC to NOAA requesting that the boundary lines of the EEZ not be changed in the area around Block Island which would have allowed recreational fishing for striped bass, and therefore a cover for black market commercial bass fishing too.

The only silver lining in all of this is that we may be presented with a return of the opportunity that we missed in 1988 to designate striped bass as game fish in all the coastal states.  Had that happened, we are confident that the decline we have all witnessed in the last 10 or 15 years would not have taken place.

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MDMF PROPOSES NEW SB REGULATIONS

DAWN COMES TO MARBLEHEAD“, a memo from Massachusetts

For those that are not familiar with the expression “Dawn comes to Marblehead” it literally refers to the easternmost town in Massachusetts that is the first to “see the light” from the rising sun. It also refers to a person or in this case people who are slow to grasp the facts but finally understand.

Background: Massachusetts is the number one destination for striped bass fishermen. More striped bass are killed in Massachusetts both purposefully (commercially) and inadvertently (catch and release – C&R – mortality) than any other state along the east coast. After many years of putting pressure (read Stripers Forever plus many others) on the MA Division of Marine Fisheries (MDMF) to take conservation measures to reduce released striper mortality the Division itself is finally proposing new striped bass regulations to address the wasteful loss to C&R. Having the Division making the proposals themselves is a major game changer and their proposals are the exact changes that we have been seeking, pleading for, for more than 10 years…. the sun has risen over Marblehead – finally!

MDMF is proposing that the use of gaffs to remove or attempt to remove striped bass from the water be prohibited. It is impossible to accurately measure a fish while it is still swimming on the end of a line. A high proportion of the striped bass caught in MA will be under the legal keeper size of 28 inches and will have to be released hopefully alive. Using a gaff is deadly and wastes a valuable resource that is already in trouble.

Also, it is proposing to mandate the use of inline circle hooks beginning in 2020 by anglers fishing for striped bass with whole or cut natural baits. The circle hook mandate would not apply to artificial lures designed to be trolled, casted and retrieved, or vertically jigged with a natural bait attached. Using in-line circle hooks will dramatically reduce the number of fish that are gut hooked and unnecessarily die after being returned to the water.

These proposed regulations will be heard at two public hearings. WE URGE YOU TO ATTEND and express your support of both proposals! The public hearings scheduled to take comments on these and other proposals are at 6 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 25, at Admiral’s Hall at the Mass. Maritime Academy, located at 101 Academy Drive in Buzzards Bay; and at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 27 at DMF’s Annisquam River Station, located at 30 Emerson Avenue in Gloucester. Mark the dates.

The Division of Marine Fisheries will also accept public comment through 5 p.m. on Friday, March 1. Please address all written comments to Director Pierce and submit to DMF by e-mail at marine.fish@state.ma.us or by post to 251 Causeway Street, Suite 400, Boston, MA 02114. Please do this as soon as you finish reading this memo. Thanks!

You have an opportunity to have a direct impact on the outcome of these hearings and thus potentially save the lives of many thousands of striped bass. Please don’t let these fish be killed because we were too lazy to make a small effort to save them. There are times when, as members of Stripers Forever, we are handed a wonderful opportunity to make a difference. This time is now.

This is not a lecture although it sure reads like one. No, the fact is that you will make a difference whether you act or not. If each of us is proactive and show up in numbers and send enough emails we will convince the nine-person oversight board (MA Marine Fisheries Advisory Commission) to implement the proposals. However, if we (you) choose to do nothing then the commercial folks will once again rule the day and the Board will vote the proposals down. Your choice, to take action or to do nothing will, as I said, make a difference – one way or another.

Sorry, I guess this actually is a lecture! However, the outcome really is up to you and what you choose to do about it. Yes, you have heard us ask for your help before but this time, because these proposals now come from the Division itself and not us or from “the outside” as before, this time we have a real chance to be successful. A ton of work has been invested in trying to change the rules in order to protect more fish from wonton waste. Let’s make it happen. With your help – PLEASE – this time it has a real chance of becoming a true conservation reality…… and, it sure would be nice to win one for a change! Please mark your calendars and send that email. Thanks.

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CONTACT INFO

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

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