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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ASMFC 2023 Spring Meeting Action Alert


ASMFC 2023 Spring Meeting

Taylor Vavra | Vice President

Technical Committee Meeting Summary

Gonna keep this simple and get right to the point. On March 30, 2023 the ASMFC striped bass technical committee met, it was clear from the start that this was going to be a tough one. A review of NOAA preliminary 2022 MRIP data has revealed that harvest sky rocketed in 2022, total harvest in pounds went from 15.8M in 2021 to 35.3M. (see NOAA chart below) Harvest more than doubled and that will have a grave effect on the probability of rebuilding the stock, reducing it by 83-86%. We are now looking at a 14.6% probability of rebuilding, even less if Addendum 1 (commercial quota transfers) is approved. Many of us suspected would happen, the 2015 year class (eighth largest on record), entered into the slot and provided some areas on the coast with some incredible fishing last season. A double edged sword of sorts, great fishing translated into a LOT more fish being harvested.

‘We have to give something to get something.’

Yet again we have been delivered some really bad news and find ourselves at a cross roads with the striped bass stock. The current management plan has failed and now it’s a matter of when, not if the board moves to initiate Addendum 2. The requirements of Amendment 7 clearly state that the stock must be rebuilt within a 10 year period and with a 50% probability of success. If the board does not take immediate action at the May 2nd meeting there is a very strong likelihood we will not rebuild (reach target biomass) by 2029. One reason for delayed action could be a motion to postpone until the next stock assessment. Another would be to wait for final MRIP numbers, that seems less likely as a correction would be minimal and we are dealing with a very large shift from 2021 to 2022. The technical committee clearly stated that they are very concerned about any delay in addressing this. Yet again it will be up to the board to fulfill their responsibilities and act now.

I prefer not to use the phrase “I told you so” but at this point that’s kinda how we are feeling. Time after time we go in circles, tweaking and adjusting a management plan that shows little sign of working. This type of management is not sustainable, it is not good for the stock, it is not good for the people who depend on fishery to feed their families and it is not good for the anglers who want to see an abundant population of striped bass so they can enjoy it and see their kids do the same. Many years ago we funded a study by the Southwick Associates to compare the relative economic values of commercial and recreational striped bass fishing, but it also takes the important step of determining what the socio-economic landscape would be like if commercial fishing for wild striped bass were to cease and the fishery managed purely for recreational/personal-use fishing. To cut to the chase, a striped bass is worth way more in the water than it is on a plate. Our goal is to create an abundant striped bass fishery that serves the greatest economic good, protecting the jobs and industries that need a quality fishery to operate and flourish.

We have to give something to get something. This translates to having a long term vision for the fishery and giving back for a period of time in order to reach our collective goal. During the process that led up to Amendment 7 to the management plan for striped bass, we strongly suggested that an equitable (commercial and recreational) harvest moratorium be put in place for a period of time. To this date, it is the only clean and clear cut approach that has in fact rebuilt the stock back to abundance. Remember those phenomenal years of fishing in the late 90’s and early 2000’s? We also suggested seasonal harvest closures, particularly in and around spawning areas. Coming off four straight years of very poor spawning success in the Chesapeake, the Hudson River has become one of the most important spawning areas on the coast. Those fish both pre and post spawn stage in the NY bight, a vast majority in Raritan and Jamaica bays. These areas need protection in the early spring when fish are moving in and out to spawn. The upper Hudson river, where the majority of spawning takes place, needs to be protected with both a no target and no harvest closure in the spring while spawning is taking place. The concern over enforcement is irrelevant. Put the measures in place, many will comply, some may not and get caught, some may get away with it. At the end of the day and at this point in time, anything will help in getting us back on track.

ACTION ALERT – ‘Be part of the process’

We submitted a letter (see below for letter, link to view the PDF is at the bottom of this page) to the board and it has been included in the supplemental materials for the May 2nd meeting (link also below). In our letter we are calling on the board to fulfill their responsibilities and act now. We are asking them to take Addendum 1 (commercial quota transfers) off the table and instead initiate Addendum 2 to address the MRIP harvest data and increase the rebuilding probability to ensure that it happens by 2029.

Now we are asking you to step up, be part of the process, make your voice heard and email the ASMFC Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board members with your thoughts. Let them know that the current management process is failing and that they should do everything in their power to act swiftly and act now. Let’s flood their inboxes in the days before the meeting, the more that speak up the better. This is a really important time for the future of striped bass, we cannot take the foot off the gas. And if a new addendum is initiated, we will be following it closely and yet again asking for your participation to create the best outcome possible.

Below you will find the email addresses for all currently listed commissioners, administrators, governors appointees, legislators and proxies. Please copy and paste that list into your email and send ASAP. It is best that you use your own words but please feel free to use our letter for guidance.,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, MARYJDIZE@GMAIL.COM,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, GJENNINGS@ASAFISHING.ORG,

In the additional links section below you will find links to our letter to the board, meeting materials and a link to May 2nd webinar meeting. We will follow with another reminder on the meeting itself, as always we encourage you to attend.

Thank you for your continued support!


Tuesday May 2, 2023 Spring Meeting Live Streaming (8:30AM – 12PM EST)


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Addressing Common Misconceptions About Stripers Forever

Photo- Taylor Vavra


Addressing Common Misconceptions About Stripers Forever

Mike Spinney | National Board Member


After more than twenty years involved in striped bass conservation (including before Stripers Forever was founded), I’ve learned to laugh at the ways our opponents attempt to discredit our efforts to effect a radical change in the way striped bass are managed. What choice do I have? During that time I have personally endured insults, threats, and lies about my character. I recall once while testifying at a public hearing on legislation Stripers Forever had worked to introduce before the Massachusetts legislature, one man made the ridiculous claim that if we were to succeed, he would be unable to have children.

Laughing at the absurdity doesn’t mean such mischaracterizations aren’t frustrating. Especially when they seem intentional; as a means of attacking the legitimacy of our organization and the credibility of the policies we believe hold the key to long-term recovery and abundance of wild striped bass. No policy or approach that Stripers Forever advocates is without successful precedent. Our critics know this, but they refuse to say so publicly.

Make it a Game Fish

Stripers Forever was founded in 2004 and from the start our motto has been “Make it a Game Fish.” This approach is commonly derided as a resource grab by a small group of “elitist” anglers who want all the fish for themselves, or as an attack on commercial fishing and the fishermen who target them. It is also implied that we believe game fish to be a magic bullet and that all fisheries managers need to do is to deny the commercial fleet access to striped bass and all will be fine.

Truth is, designating striped bass as a game fish is merely a tool to give fisheries managers the means to make better decisions without having to address the conflicting goals of trying to balance abundance and “maximum sustainable yield” or MSY. Once a species is protected as a game fish, regulations such as size and bag limits can be quickly adopted to ensure a single goal is achieved. To deny that this is the case is to deny history.

Redfish are one of the most popular game fish along the U.S. Gulf Coast. Well regarded as table fare, they were also targeted as a commercial resource. Much like striped bass, most redfish were harvested by recreational anglers, but the conflict of managing for both abundance and MSY saw redfish in steep decline until efforts by recreational fishing groups saw redfish declared a game fish, starting with Texas in 1981 and eventually coastwide. Since then, and with a singular management focus, redfish have flourished, growing to wide abundance and generating a robust recreational economy. In fact, in dollar value, redfish are the country’s top saltwater sport species generating more than $4.8 billion in economic activity per year.

Recognizing the overwhelming value of an abundant economic fishery, species like tarpon, bonefish, and snook are also protected and managed exclusively as game fish. If striped bass were afforded game fish status and the population were to return to post-moratorium abundance, it is estimated they would be the focus of a recreational angling economy worth more than $6 billion.

When We Say Moratorium

During the initial public comment period in the lead-up to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s (ASMFC) draft and adoption of Amendment 7 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Striped Bass, stripers forever generated a lot of attention when we called for a ten-year harvest moratorium for striped bass. Throngs of anglers, frustrated with decades of ASMFC failure, rallied to the cause while our critics howled with outrage—and distortions.

They claimed we wanted the fishery shut down completely for ten years, but that is not what a harvest moratorium means—and they know it. A harvest moratorium would allow angling for striped bass to continue on a catch-and-release basis, which already constitutes the majority of recreational angling for stripers. But recreational anglers account for most fishing mortality, they claim, so nothing will change. Fish will still die!

What will change is that 100% of the coastal commercial quota—nearly two million pounds of breeding sized female fish—will remain in the water, alive, and able to return to the Chesapeake Bay and Hudson and Delaware Rivers to spawn. This is a vital component to any recovery plan. You need big, mature females to reproduce and keep new generations of fish in the pipeline. Looking at the results of the Chesapeake Bay young-of-year surveys since 2012, six were de facto failures (including the worst year on record), two were below average, and three were just above average. That does not bode well for the future.

(It’s worth noting that the strong 2011 year class disappeared and that the ASMFC admitted it failed to act fast enough to protect the 2015 year class. Given concerns over warming oceans and inconsistent water quality in the vital Chesapeake nursery areas, there are too many variables to risk focusing a commercial fishery on fecund female fish.)

And as with our position on game fish, the idea of a harvest moratorium is not without a successful precedent. Even though the moratorium that was imposed in 1985 after striped bass stocks collapsed was not coastwide, it was enough to relieve pressure on striped bass—especially in Chesapeake Bay. As a result, striped bass rebounded and produced strong spawns in 1989, 1993, and 1996. The ASMFC declared striped bass “recovered” in 1995 and resumed active monitoring of the species. Ironically, striped bass have been in steady decline ever since.

We Remain Steadfast

Today, Stripers Forever remains steadfast in our belief that the best path to recovery for striped bass begins with game fish designation, at which point common sense management protocols designed to encourage species abundance can be implemented. These policies are already supported by an overwhelming majority of the 300,000 strong recreational angling community who recognize that effective fisheries management often requires sacrifice. How can you characterize as selfish so many who have, for years, demanded more restrictions on themselves even as the commercial fishing lobby keep asking for permission to kill more fish?

Rest assured, Stripers Forever will continue to fight for the recovery of striped bass. We will continue to be a voice for those anglers who want to see a healthy, abundant striped bass population that they, their children, and their children’s children can enjoy for generations to come.

Thank you for your continued support!


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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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