Striped bass rules are changing for 2020 and beyond to reduce striped bass harvest and end overfishing on the resource. While Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York are expected to adopt a 28” to 35” slot limit for all recreational fishermen, Rhode Island is considering special regulations, including a different slot limit (32” to 40”) with the possibility of another distinct slot limit (30” to 40”) for the “for-hire” (charter) fishery.
Fishermen and fisheries managers from adjacent states have expressed concerns over Rhode Island’s plan to enact different regulations and a special set of rules for the for-hire fleet. In a letter dated February 21, 2020, the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) requested that the Rhode Island Division of Marine Fisheries keep coastal striper regulations consistent from Maine to New York. The Connecticut DEEP Fisheries Division submitted a similar request in a letter dated February 28, 2020.
“We have serious concerns about the unintended consequences that inconsistent regulations among neighboring partner states will create,” wrote Dan McKiernan, Acting Director of DMF. “We believe that having a consistent recreational size limit among as many coastal states as possible is an optimal approach for conservation of the resource as well as angler education, compliance, and enforcement.”
McKiernan also pointed out that Rhode Island’s adoption of management alternatives could erode the conservation benefit of slot limit management, given how striped bass migrate between states during their spring and fall migrations. Fish of 35” to 40” in length that will be protected in ME–MA and CT–NY will be open to harvest in RI; while fish of 28” to 32” length that will be protected in RI will be open to harvest in ME–MA and CT–NY.
Compliance and enforcement will also be a challenge with different minimum and maximum sizes among neighboring states. Consider the productive fishing grounds adjacent to other states, such as off Block Island, that are frequently shared by vessels leaving port in Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.