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ASMFC STRIPED BASS VOTE DRAWS MIXED REVIEWS

Many anglers are anxiously waiting to see what direction New York will ultimately take to meet the 18 percent reduction required by ASMFC.

By Fred Golofaro  |  November 11, 2019
ASMFC STRIPED BASS VOTE DRAWS MIXED REVIEWS
New regulations to take effect in 2020 will have a significant impact on the future health of the striped bass fishery.

I’ve been getting lots of feedback since the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s (ASMFC) Atlantic Striped Bass Board approved Addendum VI to Amendment 6 of the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Striped Bass, with many folks questioning the results of the board’s vote on size limits and the hearing process leading up to their decision, while applauding other aspects of the Addendum.

A subsequent press release from ASMFC summarized the details of the newly voted on addendum. “The Addendum reduces all state commercial quotas by 18 percent, and implements a 1 fish bag limit and a 28 to 35-inch recreational slot limit for ocean fisheries and a 1 fish bag limit and an 18” minimum size limit for Chesapeake Bay recreational fisheries. States may submit alternative regulations through conservation equivalency to achieve an 18-percent reduction in total removals relative to 2017 levels. Addendum VI was initiated in response to the 2018 Benchmark Stock Assessment, which indicates the resource is overfished and experiencing overfishing. The Addendum’s measures are designed to reduce harvest, end overfishing, and bring fishing mortality to the target level in 2020. Since catch and release practices contribute significantly to overall fishing mortality, the Addendum requires the mandatory use of circle hooks when fishing with bait to reduce release mortality in recreational striped bass fisheries. Outreach and education will be a necessary element to garner support and compliance with this important conservation measure.”

Many people felt that the commission, by its vote on the controversial size limit issue, was simply pushing the issue off on the individual states through conservation equivalency while basically opening the door to the same one fish, 28-inch minimum size limit already in effect along the Striper Coast. There is a strong sense among the angling community that we should be protecting fish at the lower end of the slot and allowing them additional spawning opportunities. The 28 to 35-inch slot passed by a surprising 12 to 1 vote, although it did rate highest in a NYDEC survey, which was contradictory to public feedback at Long Island’s public hearing. New York’s Marine Resources Advisory Council which advises DEC on marine issues, voted to support a 32 to 40-inch slot.

At the other end of the spectrum, a lot of anglers expressed concern that the release mortality on fish 36 inches and larger will be extremely high, especially in the case of big fish weighing 30 pounds or more. Not being able to keep a trophy fish, especially a potential state or world record, or a big fish that cannot be released successfully, was also addressed by some readers. One had been in touch with the IGFA and was told they would be monitoring the outcome of the states’ decisions, possibly considering certified hand scales.

There was considerable disappointment in the ASMFC’s decision on the slot limit in that it was contradictory to much of the input provided by anglers at public hearings. Some went so far as calling the hearings a farce, with the resultant decisions already a done deal. Yet to their credit, the striped bass board’s members apparently did consider public input when it came to two other critical issues. We heard virtually no complaints when it came to passage of Option 2 for an equal 18-percent reduction in both the recreational and commercial sectors. There was also overwhelming support for passage of Option B requiring mandatory use of circle hooks when using bait for striped bass. This means that any angler who uses live or dead natural bait when targeting striped bass must use inline, non-offset circle hooks as defined by the ASMFC.

States can now go back to the board and tweak the regulations as long as they can prove an 18-percent reduction. Many anglers are anxiously waiting to see what direction New York will ultimately take. States are required to submit implementation plans by November 30, 2019 for review by the Technical Committee and approval by the Board in February 2020. States must implement mandatory circle hook requirements by January 1, 2021. All other provisions of Addendum VI must be implemented by April 1, 2020.

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