Monday, November 3, 2014

A Good Day for Striped Bass

A victory for the fish for sure, but still a long way to go to continue to fight for these amazing fish.

Here is the release from Maryland's DNR...

ASMFC Approves Addendum IV; requires reduction in  2015 coastal and Chesapeake Bay striped bass fisheries 

This week the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) acknowledged that while the striped bass population has declined, it remains at a healthy level.  In response to stakeholder preferences, ASMFC made a purposeful decision to take a more conservative management approach to achieve higher levels of abundance.

For more information, see the ASMFC press release at

To better understand how ASMFC's decision will affect Maryland anglers, see the summary at

Statement from DNR Secretary on the ASMFC Striped Bass Action

And here is the release from ASMFC via the CCA MD Facebook Page...

MYSTIC, CT (10-31-14) - The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s (ASMFC) Striped Bass Management Board voted this week to adopt new, more conservative reference points for striped bass and reduce fishing mortality by 25 percent in the coastal states and 20.5 percent in the Chesapeake Bay. The decision is welcome news for recreational anglers who have grown alarmed at the precipitous decline of the most popular gamefish on the East Coast. 

“It is good to know that the days of allowing serial overfishing to go unchecked are over,” said Richen Brame, Regional Fisheries Director for Coastal Conservation Association. “The states acted decisively to end overfishing and reduce mortality to begin restoring abundance. This should set this critically important Atlantic coast gamefish on the path to recover to former levels.”

The action by ASMFC will likely end overfishing of striped bass and is forecast to return fishing mortality to the target rate within two years. Anglers have been concerned about the decline in striped bass abundance since about 2006, but previous stock assessments, using different parameters, had not detected problems. The latest stock assessment, completed in 2013, confirmed what anglers long suspected and determined that overfishing had been occurring for at least six of the previous 9 years. The cause of the stock’s decline has been attributed to several years of below average spawning success which is at the mercy of a variety of environmental factors.

“Anglers began sounding the alarm on striped bass many years ago and the science just wasn’t where it needed to be to detect the problem,” said Brame. “The overwhelming majority of comments to the ASMFC on this issue have been from anglers asking for action to be taken proactively, before a crisis could develop. The system corrected itself, identified the problem and took action to set it right before we reached the point of no-return. Overall, this is a good management outcome.”

The new reference points adopted at this meeting to gauge the health of the stock are more conservative than previous thresholds and should help prevent future declines.  

While anglers are relieved to see the new management direction, some valid concerns still remain. While the coastal recreational fishery will face a true 25 percent reduction from 2013 harvest levels, the coastal commercial fishery will face a 25 percent reduction in quota. Since the quota has not been met, some states will see little if any reductions in their commercial harvest, which is troubling.  

“In the past when abundance was much higher, recreational removals accounted for 75 percent or more of the mortality,” said Brame. “With the decline in abundance, the recreational and commercial contributions are nearly equal. So the Board’s decision to not base the coastal commercial reductions on actual catch is patently unfair. Both sectors should be treated equally.”

And finally, here is the release from CCA Maryland via the CCA MD Facebook Page that helps break it down...

New regs for 2015 Maryland coast and Chesapeake Bay.  

Summary of actions:

Coastal commercial fishery: 25% reduction from Amendment 6 quotas.
- Since several states have not been achieving their quotas, this action may not result in any harvest reductions from recent levels. The ASMFC needs to revisit this issue for fairness, however, the planned harvest restrictions in the coastal recreational fishery are projected to achieve a reduction greater than the required 25% and, if so, this is expected to make up for the lack of reductions in the coastal commercial fishery. 
- Maryland’s coastal commercial quota will be similar to 2013 levels.

Coastal recreational fishery: Change from 2 fish at 28” to 1 fish at 28”, or an alternative plan to achieve a 25% reduction from 2013.
- A 1 fish at 28” is projected to achieve a 31% reduction which as mentioned above will help offset the actions taken for the coastal commercial fishery.
- The ASMFC agreed that the coastal recreational fishery should take the largest reductions because this fishery has been the principal cause of increased fishing mortality, and consists of primarily female fish.

Chesapeake Bay Spring trophy fishery: This is a conservation equivalent fishery to the coastal recreational fishery so we need to reduce harvest 25% from the 2013 level. To achieve this reduction, a 1 fish at 36” is expected. Currently, we are at 1 fish at 28”. The season will remain the same – 3rd Saturday in April to May 15.

Bay commercial fishery: 20.5% reduction from 2012 harvest.
- The ASMFC supported the Bay jurisdictions request to base the reduction off of the 2012 harvest instead of 2013 because the Bay jurisdictions proactively reduced the 2013 harvest quota by 14% in response to decreased abundance. The coastal states did not take any action in 2013.  
- Basing the reduction off of 2012 provides MD a Bay commercial quota of 1.471 million pounds. If 2013 was used, our quota would have been 1.321 million pounds.
- Maryland’s Bay commercial quota in 2014 is 1.925 million pounds.

Bay recreational fishery: 20.5% reduction from 2012 harvest. Given stakeholder preferences to maintain our current 2 fish creel limit and May 15 to December 15 season, we will need to increase the minimum size from 18” to 20”.

Commercial size limits: No changes are required by ASMFC. There was an option to make the commercial size limits consistent with recreational size limits but the ASMFC rejected this option.

Next steps: All the actions above are to be in place prior to the 2015 fishing season. Maryland will proceed accordingly:

- Conduct public scoping of the above management changes beginning in mid-November.
- Commercial quota changes will be implemented by public notice prior to January 1.
- Recreational rule changes will be pursued through regulation. An emergency regulation is needed to implement the coastal recreational rule changes by January 1. The Bay’s recreational rule changes can be handled through a normal regulatory proposal if submitted by mid-December to be effected by the start of the spring trophy fishery on the 3rd Saturday in April.


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