ASMFC Nov. Meeting Summary & ACTION ALERT- Addendum 1: Commercial Quota Transfers



ASMFC Nov. Meeting Summary & Addendum 1: Commercial Quota Transfers

Taylor Vavra | Vice President

Let’s begin with a quick summary of the important takeaways from the November 80th Annual meeting of the Striped Bass Management Board.

We were pretty surprised when the stock assessment update was released ahead of the November ASMFC meeting and it indicated that the stock is overfished but that overfishing was not occurring. So the SSB (spawning stock biomass) is below both the target and threshold but F (fishing mortality) is also below both the target and threshold. To put it simply, according to the update, our large spawners are still in trouble but overall we are killing fewer fish. Based on that and other data being considered, the stock assessment update states that Striped Bass have a 78.65% chance of being above the target by 2029. Seemed like pretty good odds and initially we were very happy to hear this.

Then came the meeting on November 7th and the presentation of the stock assessment update. It soon became clear that things were not as positive as that 78.65% chance had first indicated.  The percent chance of getting SSB above the threshold and target hinges on F (fishing mortality), this is to be expected. It should be understood that F (fishing mortality) directly correlates with effort, the number of anglers targeting Striped Bass. The greater the effort, the more fishing mortality. While effort and F can be estimated or forecasted for future years, there really is no way to know exactly what that number will be. Looking at commercial landing/discard and recreational landing/release mortality charts you will see that almost no two years are the same.

As you can see in the series of graphs and chart below, only the slightest change in F greatly reduces the percent chance of bringing the SSB above the threshold and target. When I say a slight change, we are talking about F changing from 0.1363 to 0.2013, resulting in a dramatic change in the percentage chance of getting the SSB above the threshold and target. We quickly go from a 96.7% probability of getting the SSB above the threshold to 59.4%. The probability of getting the SSB above the target goes from roughly 78.6% to a scary 30.5%.

Mike Armstrong of MA said the following directly after the stock assessment update presentation, “The projections seem really sensitive to F, which you know, is a no brainer. But, we’re talking about operating in the hundredths place and a few point change there really changes the course of how we recover. I conclude with, its just this board should be very cautious, cause it doesn’t take a lot to change the course of the recovery. A very relatively minor rise in F will put us back in the recovery period.” We applaud Mr. Armstrong on his conservation minded approach and strong words for the board as things move forward. Unfortunately the reality of this situation is that it may be too little, too late.

Following Mr. Armstrong some more questions and comments were taken. Here is where we have a little bit of good news. Emerson Hasbrouck of New York, jumping off Mr. Armstrong’s previously quoted comments, asked to put some guardrails on F. “So, if the retrospective pattern is showing, or is telling us that we tend to over estimate SSB and underestimate F, we are getting close to being on the razor’s edge here.” He went on to ask if the board was going to get another update on F next year or if it would be the usual 2 years. Mr. Hasbrouck then asked for an interim update to see where things are so that if needed the board to make adjustments to the management plan to try and stay on track with the rebuilding. This was the most positive aspect of what was otherwise a very disappointing meeting.

So how did we get to this point and why didn’t the ASMFC take more aggressive preventative steps in recovering the stock? The ASMFC has a long track record of mismanagement, let’s not forget that it was their actions, or lack thereof, that put us in this position. The writing was on the wall for years prior to the board even acknowledging there was a problem with the stock. Then came the years-long delay in getting management plan in place. While we cannot fully explain why things are this way we can certainly say that we made our best attempt to pursue and support a simpler plan in the way of an equitable commercial and recreational harvest moratorium. This coupled with required angler education on best practices for catch and release would have given the stock the best chance at recovery.

While we will not deny that recreational catch and release plays a significant part in F we cannot be blind to the fact that the commercial sector is largely targeting and harvesting breeders (SSB) over 35″. So currently the ‘slot’ really only applies to the recreational sector while the commercial sector continues to decimate to the spawning stock biomass (SSB) which is already in trouble. On top of all that, we have had four straight years of very bad recruitment in the Chesapeake. Maybe I am wrong but at the moment it seems hard to find any positive news coming out of the ASMFC and we have not even gotten to the good part yet. (Read on below)

Based on this so-called 78.6% chance that the stock will be at or above the SSB target in 2029 no further reductions are needed at this time. While, as stated earlier, we would have liked to have seen a more aggressive and preventative approach to come out of Amendment 7, this seemed to be expected. Entering from stage left…conservation equivalency (CE). To our surprise and horror, this conclusion of no further reductions needed, meant way more than we ever could have imagined. A technicality or accurately a loophole in Amendment 7, means that states can continue to make use of CE in 2023. How could this be? There was over 98% agreement amongst the public and conservation organizations that CE has no place in the management of an overfished stock currently experiencing overfishing. Is it a surprise that the ASMFC has yet again failed to recognize the public’s outcry to take CE off the table? Unfortunately not. This has become standard practice for the ASMFC and the management board, it has come to be expected.

And unfortunately that is not the the end of the story. Aside from what we would call a massively misleading figure with regards to rebuilding probability and the loophole of CE emerging from the grave, the board is now considering Addendum 1 to Amendment 7, commercial quota transfers. In one of the most ill timed and astonishing moves the board is actually considering maximizing commercial harvest in the midst of the rebuilding of a stock that not long was considered both overfished and experiencing overfishing. This Addendum runs contrary to nearly everything conservation organizations and the public wants. How it even saw the light of day at a time like this remains unexplainable.

We are not going to get into extreme detail on this, quite frankly it doesn’t deserve it. Here is the simple truth; for years now the ocean commercial quota has not been fully met and usually rests somewhere around 65%. If Addendum 1 were to be approved states would do everything they could to grab unused quota and harvest more Striped Bass, most importantly and as we discussed earlier, breeder sized fish 35″ and bigger. This would do further damage to an already unstable SSB during a time of poor recruitment. The impact that this would have on the rebuilding plan is unclear but it would be safe to assume that this would work directly against it.

So, yet again, we ask that our supporters be part of the process and make your voices heard. Take a few moments to write your comments and send them off to the ASMFC. Let them know that there is no place for such an addendum while the Striped Bass stock is recovering and rebuilding. Below is the info you will need to do so. There is only one option to support, Option A (status quo): Commercial quota transfers are not permitted. Below you will also find a list of the remaining scheduled hearings. You do not have to be a resident of a given state to attend in person or online and give your comments. We do suggest that either way you email your comments, the more comments received by the ASMFC, the more likely this addendum never sees the light of day.

Thank you for your continued support!

Link to Addendum 1 to Amendment 7: DRAFT ADDENDUM I TO AMENDMENT 7


Subject Line: Striped Bass Addendum I

Support: Option A (status quo): Commercial quota transfers are not permitted.

Comments will be accepted until January 13, 2023 at 11:59 p.m. (EST).


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ASMFC 80th Annual Meeting (11/7/22), Stock Assessment Update & MD YOY Report

ASMFC 80th Annual Meeting of the Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board


On Monday 11/7/22 from 3 – 5:30 PM EST the ASMFC will hold its 80th annual meeting of the Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board. The webinar link, meeting agenda and meeting material links are all below. On the agenda is consideration of the 2022 stock assessment update (more info below) and Draft Addendum 1 (commercial quota transfers). As always we will be in attendance and will report back with a summary of the meeting.

To register for the live webinar please go here: ASMFC 80th Annual Meeting- Striped Bass Management Board (GoToMeeting Webinar ID: 153-669-435)


ASMFC 2022 Stock Assessment Update

On October 26th, ahead of the 80th annual meeting, the 2022 stock assessment update was released. While there is some good news, it is important to look a the big picture before anyone begins to celebrate. We were fully expecting some bad news from this update and are now equally alarmed at the idea that things seem to be turning around. As you will see in the two charts below the update now states that the stock is no longer experiencing overfishing. The fishing mortality rate (F) is now at a level below both the target (dashed line) and threshold (red line), overall there were less fish being killed in 2021. You could point to a number of reasons for this but most likely the main reason being reduced effort.

On the flip side, the stock is still overfished, the SSB (spawning stock biomass) is well below the threshold reference point (red line).

As you can see in the chart it does appear that the SSB is headed in the right direction, maybe the slot is working? Either way it appears we have a few more years before the stock is no longer overfished. Several of the strong year classes will soon be within the slot and that could easily push the SSB back in the wrong direction coming out of four straight years of poor recruitment.

The stock assessment update is projecting a 78.65% chance of the stock being rebuilt by 2029 if fishing mortality (F) remains the same. Based on this, the assessment states that there is currently no need for a reduction in catch. While that is a high percentage, what happens if effort and in turn fishing mortality increases in the coming years? In conjunction with poor recruitment (young-of-year) there is a good possibility that the ASMFC is setting itself up for disaster. This is when we return to our belief that a coast-wide recreational and commercial harvest moratorium is the most fool-proof way to rebuild this stock. While many point towards recreational catch and release mortality as a driving cause for the current condition of the stock, 9% of those fish will not survive as opposed to 100% of those harvested. Based on NOAA data, in 2021 3.5 million pounds of Striped Bass were removed (harvested) by the commercial sector and 15.8 million pounds on the recreational side. So if a harvest moratorium were put in place, each year roughly 20 million pounds of Striped Bass would remain alive. With all the ifs, ands and buts surrounding this assessment and the management of the stock by the ASMFC we still believe that a temporary coast-wide recreational and commercial harvest moratorium would be the best option at this point in time. Unfortunately there is very little likelihood of that or any other reduction happening based on this stock assessment update.

In addition to these uncertainties, in a blog post on Nov. 5th, the folks at ASGA brought to light some very upsetting news regarding CE (conservation equivalency). To quickly summarize, because management measures are not going to change (stock assessment update) it is possible that both Maryland and NJ could continue to use CE. There was nearly complete agreement amongst organizations and the public on the removal of CE during the Amendment 7 process. The fact that it remains a question only leads to more mistrust in the ASMFC and their ability to manage Striped Bass back to abundance. We urge you to read their blog post and immediately email your states commissioner and ask that they  keep CE fully off the table until the stock not experiencing overfishing and is not overfished.

MDDNR 2022 YOY (young-of-year) Survey Results

Unfortunately the Maryland DNR 2022 young-of-year survey has brought more bad news to the table. The juvenile Striped Bass index is dangerously low for a forth consecutive year. This lack of good recruitment is not good and could have long term implications even if the stock is rebuilt by 2029. Rebuilding the stock is wonderful as long as we have fish entering the system and growing to spawning size. While it seems that spawning in VA and NY has been better than normal, the Chesapeake is a primary spawning area for Striped Bass and without it there is yet again more uncertainty around the future of Striped Bass, rebuilt stock or not.

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ACTION ALERT- ASMFC Summer Meeting (8/2/22)


ASMFC Summer Meeting of the Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board


On Tuesday 8/2/22 from 1:30 – 5 PM EST the ASMFC will hold its summer meeting of the Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board (meeting agenda below). This has the potential to be a very important meeting as there will be an update on the forthcoming stock assessment, tentatively due to be released in October. Along with many others, we are not expecting great news to come from the stock assessment update. After several years of poor recruitment (also referred to as YOY- Young of Year or JAI- Juvenile Abundance Index) and increased effort (more anglers fishing for Striped Bass) things are headed in the wrong direction and it is very likely that more action will need to be taken in order to reach the goal of rebuilding by 2029.


The meeting materials (links at the bottom of this email) contain some very interesting and somewhat scary data points regarding poor recruitment, a downturn in SSB (spawning stock biomass) and abuses of conservation equivalency. As always we will be in attendance and will report back with a summary of the meeting and a closer look at some of these data points.


To register for the live webinar please go here: (Webinar ID: 822-004-851)

Thank you!



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ASMFC Draft Amendment 7 Has Been Approved

ASMFC 2022 Spring Meeting

Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board- Meeting & Final Action Summary

By Taylor Vavra (Vice President)

On May 4, 2022 the Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board approved Draft Amendment 7 to the interstate management plan. After more than 2 years of deliberation, hard work and public comment we now have a plan in place that will hopefully solidify the rebuilding of the stock. Did everything go as we had hoped? No, but this was still a big win for Striped Bass conservation.

During the PID portion of this process, Stripers Forever made the suggestion that we were in need of a equitable harvest moratorium (both recreational and commercial) to restore the stock. Unfortunately the ASMFC turned that around and offered only an option for a recreational harvest moratorium, something we could not support. If a harvest moratorium is put in place it absolutely needs to be an equitable one. Since the end of the last moratorium and the prolific seasons that followed, the ASMFC has done nothing but diminish the stock, ultimately leading to overfishing at a time of historically low recruitment. Many have lost faith and trust in the ASMFC’s ability to manage the stock and thus lead to us supporting what would have been the simplest and most full proof way of rebuilding it.

We were also in strong support of seasonal spawning closures as a method of protecting the SSB during the important pre spawn and spawning timeframe. Given the previously mentioned years of historically low recruitment, this would have potentially helped turn that around. There were a few reasons (outlined below) which contributed to that option failing.

Outside of those two items there are a multitude of options to be both excited about and proud of accomplishing. The overwhelming public outcry for accountability, quicker action and more conservation minded management could not be ignored by the board. To say that you played an important part in this outcome would be a major understatement. And for that, we could not be thankful enough.

Major accomplishments included; keeping the current 10 year rebuilding timeframe, keeping triggers and thresholds in place and in some instances improving them, requirements for the board to act quicker in the face of low recruitment and low SSB (spawning stock biomass) and likely most importantly, dramatically reworking CE (conservation equivalency) to limit its usage and close a loophole which previously allowed states to take advantage of it. The win on CE is enough to celebrate but as you will read below, there was so much more.

With Amendment 7 now in place the next major hurdle will be the results of the upcoming stock assessment, likely available sometime around October of 2022. Many believe we are in for some bad news on this front but only time and the data will tell. Based on those findings there is a good chance that either a moratorium or seasonal closures are back on the table as either no harvest or no target. We are fisherman too, we don’t look forward to not being able to get out on the water and chase Striped Bass. But at the same time, we need to do what is best for the fishery and if that means missing out on some fishing to let mother nature do her thing and rebuild the stock, then so be it.

Stripers Forever has been and always will be about doing what is the absolute best for the fishery, not our own self interests. We maintain a long term vision and hope of an abundant and healthy stock. The fish deserve it, as do our younger generations who have not had the chance to experience an abundant and healthy fishery.

Thank you for your continued support and for being a part of the process!

(At the bottom of this blog post you will find links to the audio and slides (YouTube video), presentations (PDF), ASMFC meeting summary and the ASMFC new release.)


The meeting started off with a fairly quick discussion and vote on the rebuilding plan, section 4.4 of Draft Amendment 7. For section 4.4.1 the board approved option B, to rebuild the SSB to target level by no later than 2029. For section 4.4.2, again the board voted to approve option B, to allow for quick board action in the event that the next stock assessment indicates that we cannot rebuild the stock within the timeframe. We supported both of these options so let’s consider this a win. This is based off the “low recruitment regime assumption”, averaging the lower years of the juvenile abundance index (JAI) or young of year (YOY) instead of including some of the higher years. This is a more conservative and realistic approach to the rebuild.

After a lunch break the board dived into the meat and potatoes of Draft Amendment 7 and started off with section 4.1 Tier 1 Fishing Mortality (F) Management Triggers. Another win here, we supported options A1, B1 and C1. While status quo options were selected, the board did not elect to approve any of the other sub options which would have weakened and allowed for longer timelines to reduce fishing mortality (F). Long story short, these were the best options on the table.

Moving on, the board then discussed Tier 2 options and with another quick vote approved sub options A2, B1 and C1. Another win across the board, we supported all three options approved. Sub option A1 did not put in place a deadline to implement a rebuilding plan. The board now must implement a rebuilding plan within two years of the SSB (spawning stock biomass) management trigger being tripped. Sub option B1 keeps in place a trigger if SSB falls below the threshold and C1 offers the shortest time frame to rebuilding if the female SSB falls below the target.

Next up were the Tier 3 options and Stripers Forever supported sub options A3 and B2. While the options we supported were not approved these options do improve on where we were at prior. A2 works off a ‘moderate sensitivity trigger’ as opposed to A3 which would be considered a ‘high sensitivity trigger’. B3 puts in place an interim F target and interim F threshold calculated using the low recruitment assumption and allows for reevaluation using those reference points. The management program then must be adjusted  to reduce F to that interim target within the timeline defined in Section 4.1 (1 year).

Lastly for section 4.1 the board discussed and voted on the Tier 4 Deferred Management Action sub options. The board approved sub option F, this was an unfortunate turn of events, the public has lost faith and trust in the board and wanted any deferred management options to be removed. This essentially creates a loophole where the board can defer action if action is already being taken in response to a different trigger. We will have to see how this plays out as things move forward. For now we have to chalk this one up to a lose, nothing horrific but this could open the door to problems in the future. We will have to cross that bridge when we get there and again speak up and hold the board accountable for their actions.

We supported sub option B2-B of section 4.2.2 because it would have provided the best protection for the SSB while they spawn. The motion on the table was for option B2-A, a required no harvest spawning closure. While not our first choice we would have been thrilled to see any type of spawning closure. Unfortunately the motion failed in a 4-11-1 vote. This was a lost opportunity to protect pre spawn and spawning fish which we believe is vital to the recovery of the SSB and stock as a whole. Many other species benefit from shortened seasons or spawning closures and Striped Bass should as well. Especially considering the stock is currently overfished with overfishing occurring, the least we can do is allow for a short window of uninterrupted spawning. There were several factors which contributed to this vote, enforcement and compliance at the top of the list. The claimed inability to enforce these closures is an excuse not to enact them, not a reason. Putting the no target closure aside, a no harvest closure is easily enforceable, especially in a place like the upper Hudson River where there are fewer species being targeted during that timeframe and a much smaller geographic area to cover. The board needs to put the fish first and let the states develop and fund the enforcement needed to make these options a reality. Compliance was another driving factor as there was a (largely unsubstantiated) claim that the current 80% compliance estimate is likely inaccurate and therefore would make this option pointless. This is largely an unfounded claim, with substantial penalties put in place on the enforcement side we believe the 80% compliance estimate is easily reachable if not surpassed. This is where gear and boat seizures could have played an important role in dissuading anglers from breaking these laws. We may be having this conversation again based on the outcome of the next stock assessment next fall.

With a unanimous vote the board approved a modified version of sub option C1 of section 4.2.2 which would make it unlawful to use a gaff when fishing for Striped Bass. This is a no brainer, gaffing fish with the current state of the stock just makes no sense. Very happy to see this option approved.

Stripers Forever supported sub option D1 would have required states to perform outreach and education. We believe both of these items are essential to reducing recreational discard mortality, potentially accounting for 50%, it is believed to be one of the biggest contributors to overall mortality. We did not want to give states the option to do so. It seems that states are aware of its importance and hopefully take the action needed. Either way we will certainly make a major effort to improve our contribution in these outreach and education efforts.

This was another easy choice and we are happy to see sub option C2 of section 4.2.2 approved. If fishing for other species on unapproved gear (think bait fishing with a j-hook for sea bass or blackfish) a by-catch Striped Bass must be returned to the water immediately without unnecessary injury.

Finally the board began to address section 4.6 Alternative State Management Regimes. This was a very important section and we were very happy with the results. First up, the board approved sub option B1-A. CE (conservation equivalency) programs would not be approved when the stock is overfished. This was a major win and will prevent states like Maryland and New Jersey from taking advantage of CE to avoid reductions to rebuild the stock. CE has no place in a fishery which is currently overfished with overfishing occurring.

Options C & D of section 4.6.2 were up next. We supported sub options C3 and D3 which operated on the tightest estimates, least amount of risk and largest buffer. We would have liked to have seen more conservative options selected but this is still an improvement and further limits and dissuades CE usage.

Another big win here in the battle to limit CE damage. Stripers Forever supported the approved sub option E2. Coast-wide reductions, like the most recent 18%, affect each state differently, some states represent a larger share than others. Up until now CE has essentially created a loophole where states could implement CE to avoid taking their full share of the reduction. Point and case, New Jersey during the last 18% coast-wide reduction. This is a bit complicated but, the condensed explanation is that option E2 requires states who choose to implement CE to take on their full share of the reduction under the coast-wide measures.

The beginning of the end. Motion passes unanimously and all provisions of Amendment 7 as approved above are now effective immediately.

Amendment 7 to the the Striped Bass Interstate Fishery Management Plan (as amended today) was unanimously approved by the board. This is a huge moment for Striped Bass and a huge step forward in what we hope will be the rebuilding of the stock. While everything did not go our way, this is still a big win for Striped Bass.


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