Yesterday, I sat in on the meeting of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Striped Bass Management Board. Representatives from North Carolina to Maine looked at the latest stock assessment and public comment to determine whether or not to change the striped bass regulations.
There was a clear divide between New York/New England and the Chesapeake Bay States. Representatives from the bay states insisted that their fishery was primarily on the smaller male striped bass that do not migrate from the bay, a segment of the population they believed to be healthy, while the coastal states, with the exception of New Jersey and Delaware, wanted to see an immediate reduction in fishing mortality on the Spawing Stock Biomass, that is the larger migratory fish, most of which are female. Options supported by the bay states included a 17% reduction in harvest, or an incremental 7% reduction in harvest over three years. The New England States and New York supported the most conservative option, a 25% reduction effective in 2015. In the end, a compromise was reached to reduce striped bass fishing mortality by 25% in the Coastal States and 20.5% in the Chesapeake Bay, beginning in 2015.
The public comment was overwhelmingly in favor of the 1-year, 25% reduction, and this was repeatedly brought up as representatives from the New England States argued for that option. It was great to see that the comments written in or made at the public meetings were heard, and further proof that fishermen need to make their voices heard when it comes to these issues.
The next big vote for striped bass recreational fishing had to do with the proposed limits. The board voted for 1 fish per day at 28 inches OR a conservation equivalency to a 25% reduction. This means that states have the option to implement limits that differ from 1 fish at 28 inches as long as the ASMFC Technical Committee approves them as achieving a 25% reduction. Some of those options provided by the ASMFC Technical Committee that meet those requirements include 2 fish per day at 33 inches, or a number of slot limits that allow for 1 smaller keeper and one “trophy.”
While many recreational fishermen were hoping for a more conservative option to pass, such as 1 fish per day at 32 inches, having the 25% reduction starting next year is an overall win for striped bass and striped bass fishermen.