Friday, July 27, 2012

DNR Considering Control Date for Commercial Striped Bass Harvest Management


Annapolis, Md. (July 25, 2012) ─ The commercial fishing industry has asked the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to use February 29, 2012 as the cutoff (control date) to establish a commercial waterman's striped bass harvest history. DNR and the watermen are working together, addressing several issues, to improve Maryland's Commercial striped bass management system. A control date would help provide an accurate representation of an individual’s fishing history.

The Atlantic State Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) ─ the coordinating conservation and management body for states that share fisheries resources along the east coast ─ is considering requiring a standardized striped bass tagging program for all east coast states with commercial striped bass programs.

"The Department is confident that this collaborative effort with the watermen will result in a management system that will ensure the long term sustainability of the fish population and the fishing industry," said Mike Luisi, DNR estuarine and marine fisheries division manager. "In part, this can be accomplished by instituting a system that improves quota monitoring and allows increased flexibility with solid harvest validation and accounting measures.”

“One of our goals in developing management options has been the security of full time watermen and the reduction of latent or unused permits. Establishing a control date will help us meet this goal,” said Larry Simns president of the Maryland Watermen’s Association.

One of the requirements from ASMFC would mandate that states limit the number of tags distributed based on the established annual quota and some measure of the average size of harvested fish. Under this type of system, Maryland will need to make substantial reductions in the number of tags issued to fishermen each year.

Objectives of a new management system would focus on simplifying current regulations, easing the economic issues created by derby-style seasonal fishing, and addressing the unpredictable reserve of inactive commercial license holders, who may return to the fishery at any time.

“Potential ASMFC–mandated changes to striped bass commercial tag distribution will certainly add some urgency to establishing a new management system in Maryland,” said Luisi. “There will be ample opportunity for public and stakeholder input regarding any management changes and options as we proceed. We are now planning for a series of open house events in September.”

One potential solution being discussed by the workgroup would limit the distribution of striped bass tags to watermen who have a striped bass harvest history. Those individuals who have not been active in the striped bass fishery, but have held permits would have less access to tags. Setting a retroactive control date helps mitigate the effects of inactive watermen suddenly entering the fishery in 2012 for the sole purpose of reporting a harvest. Anyone considering investing in a striped bass permit should be aware that the harvest history associated with that permit may be an element of a new management system.

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