Immediate Action Request- EEZ Legislation Proposed

Last Year Representative Lee Zeldin of NY tried to pass federal legislation that took waters off Montauk Point NY out of the EEZ managed by NOAA and gave control instead to the State of NY.  He wanted to do this because commercial fishermen are not allowed to take striped bass from federal waters.  Luckily better thinking prevailed and his attempts were defeated.

Stripers Forever has always opposed efforts to open the EEZ to the keeping of striped bass because we feel that the EEZ closure which has stood since the mid-1980s provides a sanctuary for the large breeders.  This is especially important right now because the large stripers are relatively depleted, and these fish are the most important breeders and finest genetic specimens.

Rep. Zeldin is at it again!  He has introduced two amendments to appropriations bills that would prohibit NMFS and the U.S. Coast Guard from using any of their budget to enforce striped bass regulations in the EEZ.

You can find the language of the bills here:

We are suggesting that our members within the districts of these legislators individually join Stripers Forever in sending an e-mail that opposes these amendments to the following legislators:

The above links will take you to the online email form for each legislator. You cannot send them an email without using the online email form linked to above. You need to be a constituent of these legislators to e-mail them directly, but anyone so motivated can send them postal mail, which is what Stripers Forever has done.

The hearings on these amendments start as early as Tuesday 9/5, so please do this today.

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THE POTENTIAL DEREGULATION OF COOPERATIVE FISHERIES MANAGEMENT

HISTORY:

When the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) was created, it had limited enforcement authority. This meant that every State had the independent option to ignore or comply with the decisions of the governing body. Due to this regulatory ineffectiveness, in the early 1990’s the States worked cooperatively with Congress and passed the Atlantic Coast Fisheries Cooperative Management Act (Atlantic Coastal Act) requiring all states to obey regulations developed by the ASMFC or be subject to punitive action for that fishery in their state waters.

It has been this threat of punitive Federal action that has kept and made fisheries regulations enforceable. In fact, this forced compliance was primarily responsible for the final rebuilding of striped bass.

NEWS UPDATE:

It has been prophetically said that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. Because of a recent procedural ruling, it is now possible that we have returned to the old days of vested states interests trumping the collective wishes of the Commission. New Jersey came up with a plan (for Summer flounder management) that they maintained was equivalent to the one developed by the ASMFC. The ASMFC Technical Committee disagreed, and the member states voted to find New Jersey out of compliance and thus subject to penalty.

New Jersey followed procedural rules and appealed this decision to the Secretary of Commerce. Why the Secretary of Commerce? Because that is the process written into the Atlantic Coastal Act. In the new Washington spirit of deregulation, unsurprisingly, the Secretary decided the New Jersey plan was OK thereby undermining the unanimous (minus NJ) vote of the ASMFC.

We are not picking on New Jersey here. They followed the procedural rules. We are simply pointing out that, to our knowledge, this redress action has not been employed before now. No longer is a vote by the ASMFC traditionally the final word in regulating fisheries that fall under their jurisdiction. The regulatory or procedural dynamic has changed.

Some may applaud this decision as a victory for states’ rights. Politics aside, it does put the camel’s nose under the tent of potentially deregulating all cooperative interstate fisheries management. This unilateral ruling by the Secretary establishes an ominous procedural precedent. Without a federal hammer to require the states to accept the decisions of a multi-state commission such as the ASMFC, the regulatory authority of all multi-state compacts is in jeopardy.

Going forward, any member State of the ASMFC that does not like the regulation decisions collectively made by the ASMFC can appeal to the Secretary of Commerce and stand a chance of having their own management plan approved. In other words, potentially we are now back to the dark ages of fisheries management when each state could, with impunity, make its own selfish management decisions even when dealing with migratory species that recognize no state lines of jurisdiction.

As Sergeant Joe Friday would say, “Just the facts please, just the facts.”

  1. Many of States on the ASMFC allow commercial fishing for wild striped bass.
  2. The majority of delegates to the ASMFC politically align themselves in support of commercial fishing.
  3. Each State’s delegation is politically appointed to the ASMFC and assigned to advance that state’s interests.

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR THE FUTURE:

This new deregulated twist to what has been an established, procedural management precedent for nearly 25 years has ominous overtones. We are dangerously flirting with the return of the Wild West, when it comes to undermining coordinated and cooperative fisheries management between States.

Independent states behavior is what nearly ruined the wild striped fishery forever. Hopefully, saner minds will prevail and stripers will not repeat and be forced to undergo the history of state-by-state selfish exploitation. However, as long as they are managed as a commercial product each State will be out to get as much value from the fishery as they possibly can which will most certainly once again lead to over harvesting.

One way to combat the harvesting pressure that is brought to bear by commercial fishery advocates is if we, as concerned anglers and conservationists, can band together and have wild stripers declared a game fish. Accomplishing this will at least insulate them from commercial exploitation.

Dean Clark, Board of Directors- Stripers Forever

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North Carolina Striped Bass Prosecutions

Stripers Forever Asked to be Involved in a Federal Court Case Sentencing of Guilty Poachers in North Carolina

Stripers Forever and its members have been asked to provide information to the NC federal judge who will be sentencing a ring of commercial fishermen who conspired to commercially catch and then divide between themselves striped bass that were harvested from the EEZ so that they could land them in smaller quantities that were legal inshore.  Their guilt has been established. This was a major bust and the fear that the Department of Justice lawyers have is that during sentencing the judge will hand out a relatively light – cost of doing business – sort of fine that will not serve as a proper deterrent.

The fact the Stripers Forever has been asked to be involved is significant. Because Striped Bass migrate, any illegal activity affecting stripers anywhere along the coast affects us all. Below is the letter that Stripers Forever will be sending to the presiding judge. Additionally, the Department of Justice lawyers handling the prosecution have asked individuals to send in their own comments.


Honorable United States District Judge Terrence W. Boyle

United States District Court

Eastern District of North Carolina

Regarding the Impact of Illegal Striped Bass Harvesting by Commercial Fisherman in North Carolina

Dear Judge Boyle:

My name is Brad Burns and I’m the president of Stripers Forever, a membership organization representing more than 3,000 members with various interests in the striped bass fishery. Our members come from all the states along the East Coast and many inland states and foreign countries as well.
Striped bass are a migratory species that travel along the Atlantic seaboard. As such, what happens to Striped bass in North Carolina directly affects fishermen and the fishing economy up and down the coast. Stripers are targeted both commercially and recreationally. More than three million individuals fish for them each year supporting a 2.43 billion dollar recreational fishing industry. When these fish are targeted illegally the species suffers dramatically along with the incomes and quality of life for many Americans not just in NC but everywhere stripers migrate. This is a coast-wide issue.

Frederic B. Jennings Jr, a Ph.D. economist, recently completed a study that sheds new light on the recreational valuation of migratory striped bass. His study is based entirely on NOAA data, and his methodology has been peer reviewed by NOAA economists. It shows that the recreational value of just one striper is worth 20 times more than the retail market value of the same fish!

The social importance and economic value of the recreational striped bass fishery has deep roots in coastal communities. This is a highly regulated fishery designed to protect the species and the value they represent.  In spite of this the population of striped bass has declined and fishing guides as well as other jobs in the recreational fishing industry have already been lost.

In considering the seriousness of these crimes and in deciding your sentencing judgement please factor into your deliberations how illegally harvesting striped bass potentially effects so many people.

Respectfully Submitted,

Brad Burns, President of Stripers Forever


Your letters should be addressed as follows:

Honorable United States District Judge Terrence W. Boyle
United States District Court
Eastern District of North Carolina

But please e-mail the letters to:

Shane Waller (shane.waller@usdoj.gov) who is one of the federal lawyers handling the prosecution. He will present the letters to the judge as part of his sentencing argument. Keep it very brief, no more than two or three short paragraphs, and send it off asap. The lawyers are suggesting that the letters should be reasonably worded and not filled with sensationalist bad mouthing or statements urging the judge to “hang em” etc.  One concern is that being too strident may have just the opposite effect that we would want.
Socio economic impacts are especially important.  If you are a guide who has lost business, or if you used to go to NC in the winter to fish but have stopped because of the lack of fish, please make those sentiments known.

Thanks. This is a measurable opportunity for you and Stripers Forever to make a difference.

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ASMFC Addendum V to Amendment 6 Voted Down 10-5


On Tuesday May 9, 2017, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission debated on whether or not an increase in Striped Bass harvest of about 10% should be allowed for next year. The motion to take the increase out to public hearings failed 10 votes to 5. Hooray! NJ, DE, MD, VA, and the Potomac River Fisheries Commission – a shill organization that simply provides the Chesapeake Bay states an extra vote – all voted in favor, and all other states voted against. What changed from the first vote was that CT, NY, NC all changed their votes from yes to no, and that did it for us.

Why the change of heart from last winter when this idea was dreamed up? I think in the final analysis there were three reasons. The first was that the actual catch is hard to predict. The catch was thought to have decreased considerably on the coast but had actually increased in the Chesapeake Bay area, and these were the same people who wanted still more. It didn’t sell well. The scientists predicted that there was a very good chance that the catch in 2018 would actually increase by more than 10% even with no change in regulations. This was because of an increased number of fish in certain year classes that both the Bay and the coast are expected to fish on, and lastly because a stock assessment with a lot of new science is being proposed for 2018. Many thought it was likely that even if a change was made this year it would probably be changed again – perhaps reversed – next year.

In any case we dodged a bullet, and I hope our advocacy was helpful. This reprieve will give us a chance to see another year class born in the Chesapeake Bay before the issue is tackled again. Some of the recent YOY have been poor, but the trend isn’t really conclusive because there are also occasionally really good ones. The science is also evolving. During the meeting there was a discussion about the new science methods, and they are talking about some of the complicated aspects of the old models that we have long had issues with. I’m sure that all of the problems won’t be fixed, but perhaps the population estimates will get better and more reflective of what we actually see on the water. Along with the new science was a discussion about perhaps designing various stock reference points and management triggers to reflect a different set of values for the fishery, and how this will be an opportunity to take a new look at just how and for what values the striped bass fishery should be managed. Hopefully we will be able to influence this process to achieve more recognition of the socio-economic value of high quality angling.

Science and advocacy matters. Thanks to everyone who wrote and lobbied for no increase in the regulated harvest. Alone a single voice is nearly silent but together we have raised an awareness of the need to protect and conserve. I believe we have pricked and awakened the latent conscience of many regulators that are beginning to realize that no longer will the recreational fishermen and women silently allow commercially vested interests to destroy what is our fishery too.

Brad Burns, President
Stripers Forever​​​​​​​

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ACTION REQUEST: ASMFC Addendum V to Amendment 6 to Liberalize Management Measures

asmfc

Commercial interests are again demanding higher kill limits on striped bass.  Chesapeake Bay area commercial fishermen want to roll back the conservation measures put in place in 2013 and return to the harvest levels that caused coast-wide recreational catches to decline by up to 90%.

On May 9th the Striped Bass Board of the Atlantic States Marine Fishery Commission will consider whether or not to send this request for a larger striper kill out to public hearing.  We must act now and request that the ASMFC commissioners vote down this increase.

The recreational catch coast wide has dropped from a consistent 9 to 10 million fish in the early 2000s to 3 to 4 million in recent years.  This 65% or so drop in the average recreational catch has cost multiple times as many jobs in the recreational fishery as all the commercial striped bass fishing jobs that have ever existed.  Stripers should be managed for the far more socio-economically valuable recreational fishery, and that means more fish left in the ocean not less.

sb_yoy_graph

The chart above shows that under the higher catch limits the Chesapeake Bay year classes have become progressively less consistent and that the trend line for spawning success is down. We also know that the number of really large striped bass in the population is way down from the early 2000s. That was why the catch limits were all reduced just 3 years ago, and we should never return to those harvest levels.

So why is the ASMFC contemplating this move? The answer is simple, because the commercial fishing community in Chesapeake Bay has the governor’s ear, and the Maryland fishery executive on the striped bass board is charged with doing his best to get more fish for the state’s commercial striper fishery. We need to do our best to stop this from happening.

Our effort starts with getting the states that we each live in to vote in favor of fisheries conservation. The vote last time was close. However, both New Jersey and Connecticut voted in favor of the increased catch. Why? God only knows, but we need to tell the Governors of these states plus each state’s representatives on the ASMFC that we want good fishing, and do not want to return to the fishing mortality levels that so drastically reduced the stocks.

 

Here is how you can help: The Progress Map & State Info page on our website contains links to each state with regulations, quotas and important contacts for that state. You will find email addresses for all of your representatives to the ASMFC. Your state’s governor will either have an email address or link to a webform.

  1. Copy and paste the brief note below into an e-mail with the copied email addresses for your state pasted into the [To:] field. In the [Subject:] field enter “Striped Bass Conservation”. Please change the message as much as you want into your own words or thoughts.
  2. We also ask every member of Stripers Forever, no matter what state you live in, to send this letter to the governors and ASMFC representatives of Maryland and Virginia. It’s easy, with one e-mail all of this takes just a few minutes and makes a huge difference.

 

COPY THIS MESSAGE INTO YOUR EMAIL:


To Whom It May Concern,

The quality of our striped bass fishery is very important to me.  I do not want to see striped bass harvest levels returned to the levels of 2013 because I believe those levels will just continue to degrade this fishery.  Striped bass are a great game fish and good fishing is extremely valuable to the 3,000,000 people who angle for stripers along the Atlantic coast.  We don’t want striped bass to become just another depleted commercial species.  Please vote no on Addendum V to Amendment 6.

Thank you,

XXXXXXX


 

ASMFC New Release- February 3, 2017: Draft Addendum V to Amendment 6 to the Atlantic Striped Bass Fishery Management Plan

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ASMFC Addendum V to Amendment 6 to Liberalize Management Measures

An important development is underway in striped bass management.  The main thrust of this movement comes from the Chesapeake Bay states.  Fishery managers from this area are claiming economic hardship for their commercial fishermen due to the 20% reduction in quota that they took two years ago in reaction to a declining spawning stock biomass and sporadically poor spawning success.  They want to resume catching striped bass at the levels that were allowed prior to this reduction.

At the winter meeting of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission this point of view was voiced and a vote was taken to consider an addendum to the fishery management plan that would allow the increase. The northern states, which have arguably seen the greatest decline in their overall striped bass fisheries, would be expected to oppose such a proposal.  Those states recognize that the quality of striped bass fishing has declined significantly since its peak 15 years ago, and they want to see the stock rebuild.  Surprisingly, Connecticut and New Jersey, both game fish states, cast their votes with commercial interests to allow more stripers to be caught and killed. The result was very close, with just one vote causing the proposed addendum to move to the next phase of consideration. This is a clear demonstration that in some cases the people who find their way into ASMFC advisory roles do not support the views of the fishing communities they are supposed to represent.

The Stripers Forever Angler Surveys have shown continuous erosion of angler satisfaction with the striper fishery.  Spawning success in Chesapeake Bay has been very sporadic.  This past year was again one of the lowest years on record for baby stripers.  The striped bass spawning stock continues to erode and may very well now be below the target levels set by the ASMFC to provide a sufficient component of large female bass.  It is most certainly not a time when we should be returning to higher catch levels.

The commission will vote on the addendum at their spring meeting, which begins May 8th, 2017. Shortly before this meeting we will supply our members with names and contact information of ASMFC commissioners and a more detailed view of the reasons to oppose this increased kill. We will ask you to join us in contacting the members of the ASMFC and also the governor in your state – make no mistake, the governor’s office is where the move in the Chesapeake Bay area is coming from, and letting them know how you want them to vote on this ill-conceived addendum.  In the meantime, if you know your ASMFC representatives or people of political influence in your state – especially CT and NJ – let them know how you feel about this issue.


ASMFC New Release- February 3, 2017: Draft Addendum V to Amendment 6 to the Atlantic Striped Bass Fishery Management Plan

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CONTACT INFO

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

ABOUT US

Welcome to the official web site for Stripers Forever, an all-volunteer organization dedicated to making the striped bass a gamefish. By eliminating commercial exploitation of the #1 recreational saltwater fishery on the east coast, over 3,000,000 recreational anglers will enjoy the social and financial benefits that will come from an improved striped bass population.

MISSION STATEMENT

Stripers Forever advocates for the conservation and responsible stewardship of wild striped bass along the Atlantic Coast.

Stripers Forever, a non-profit, internet-based conservation organization, seeks game fish status for wild striped bass on the Atlantic Coast in order to significantly reduce striper mortality, to provide optimum and sustainable public fishing opportunities for anglers from Maine to North Carolina, and to secure the greatest socio-economic value possible from the fishery.

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