Commercial Quota Increase for Striped Bass Denied

Despite a strong effort from the commercial sector, the proposal to increase the commercial striped bass kill was overwhelmingly shot down this afternoon.

The vote was 10-4-1.  Only Rhode Island, New York, Delaware and North Carolina voted against the motion that would keep commercial harvest at current levels.  The Potomac River Fisheries Commission abstained, and the District of Columbia was absent from the meeting.

See CCA press release below for more info.

Conservationists praise ASMFC decision on striped bass

Managers reject proposal to increase commercial harvest

CHARLESTON, SC – After months of intense debate, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) announced today that it has denied a proposal to increase the commercial harvest of striped bass by up to 50 percent. Public sentiment has run intensely against the proposal from the moment it was introduced last February, as recreational anglers up and down the East Coast flooded their ASMFC representatives with calls to deny the proposal.

“This is a great day for conservation,” said Richen Brame, CCA Atlantic States Fisheries director. “Managers were very much in danger of increasing mortality at a time when the stock is declining, but they took the conservative approach in light of all the uncertainty surrounding the stock today. They should be commended for refusing to take a path that could have ended in disaster.”

Last February, conservationists were stunned when the ASMFC Striped Bass Management Board chose to ignore a host of significant concerns from scientists and enforcement officers about the health of the striped bass population, and instead directed its staff to draft a proposal to increase commercial harvest. Anglers who remembered the dark years of the ‘70s were alarmed that managers were attempting to ramp up commercial harvest even as anglers were seeing serious warning signs on the water.

“CCA members, particularly in Maine and New Hampshire, have said repeatedly they are not seeing striped bass in the abundance seen just a few years ago,” said Mac McKeever, president of CCA Maine. “Anglers in the northern reaches of the striped bass range are the canaries in the coal mine when it comes to the health of the striped bass population, and anglers here are not encountering anywhere near as many fish as they did just a few years ago. There is definitely reason to be concerned.”

Other warning signs pointing to a need for managers to take a cautious approach include declining trends in the striped bass Juvenile Abundance Index, “significant and unreported” poaching in the Exclusive Economic Zone, and the potentially devastating impact of Mycobacteriosis in Chesapeake Bay, the primary striped bass spawning ground for the entire Atlantic Coast. Seventy percent of the fish sampled there had lesions associated with the disease and in aquaculture, Mycobacteriosis infections are virtually always fatal.

“Our members were especially motivated to contact their representatives on the ASMFC throughout this process and let them know this is no time to be talking about increasing harvest of striped bass,” said Charles A. Witek, chairman of CCA Atlantic Fisheries Committee. “The problems facing striped bass today are far more complex than simple overfishing. Managers did the right thing by taking a precautionary approach to management. Striped bass are the crown jewel of ASMFC’s management successes and should be treated as such.”

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After obtaining an undergraduate degree in Political Science from Loyola College in Maryland, Captain John McMurray served in the US Coast Guard for four years as a small-boat coxswain and marine-fisheries law enforcement officer. He was then recruited to become the first Executive Director of the Coastal Conservation Association New York. He is currently the Director of Grants Programs at the Norcross Wildlife Foundation in New York. He is the owner and primary operator of “One More Cast” Charters. John is a well known and well published outdoor writer, specializing in fisheries conservation issues. In 2006 John was awarded the Coastal Conservation Association New York Friend of Fisheries Conservation Award.

Posted in Articles, Conservation, Lead Article
3 comments on “Commercial Quota Increase for Striped Bass Denied
  1. ASMFC Striped Bass Board Approves Addendum II
    Coastal Commercial Quotas Remain Unchanged; Juvenile Abundance Index
    Management Trigger Improved

    Charleston, SC – The Commission’s Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board approved Addendum II to Amendment 6 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Striped Bass. The Addendum revises the definition of juvenile recruitment failure based on a recommendation from the Striped Bass Technical Committee. The Management Board approved status quo management for the coastal commercial quotas, which were being considered for an increase as part of the Addendum.

    “After lengthy deliberation, the sense of the Board was that recent fishery trends do not warrant an increase in fishing mortality, commercial or recreational, at this time,” said Board Chair, Jack Travelstead. “The Board also accelerated the assessment schedule, requesting an update assessment in 2011 prior to the next benchmark assessment in 2013 to more closely track changes in the fishery and the resource.”

    The proposal to increase the coastal commercial quota was intended to bring more parity between the commercial and recreational fishery sectors.
    Although Amendment 6 established management programs for both fisheries based on the same target fishing mortality rate, the coastal commercial fisheries are controlled by quotas whereas the coastal recreational fisheries are managed through possession and size limits. As a result, the recreational harvest has increased with expanding striped bass population levels, and now accounts for approximately 70 percent of total harvest. The Management Board opted to maintain the existing coastal commercial quotas for several reasons, including a 66 percent decline in estimated recreational catch from 2006 to 2009; a 25 percent decline in estimated striped bass abundance from 2004 to 2008; and several years of below-average production of fish from the Chesapeake Bay. The 2011 assessment update will help to indicate whether these trends are short- or long-term, and if corrective action is necessary to maintain the spawning stock biomass above the target level.

    Juvenile abundance indices are an important component of the striped bass monitoring program. Under the management plan, six states are required to conduct juvenile sampling surveys, and the resulting indices of abundance are analyzed for recruitment failure. “Recruitment” is the appearance of young-of-the-year fish in the nursery areas. When recruitment failure occurs in a given year, there likely will be reduced abundance and availability of fish from that year class when surviving fish become available to the fisheries.

    Management action is prompted when recruitment failure occurs for three consecutive years in any of the surveyed areas. The revision results in a fixed value to determine recruitment failure in each surveyed area rather than a value that changes from year to year. Additionally, the data points used in the calculation have been standardized, which will result in a more conservative evaluation of recruitment failure in several surveys. Under the revised definition (as with the original definition), three consecutive years of recruitment failure has not occurred in any area, and no management action has been triggered based on the juvenile abundance indices.

    Copies of the Addendum will be available on the Commission website (
    http://www.asmfc.org) under Breaking News. For more information, please contact Robert Beal, ISFMP Director, at 703/842-0740 or rbeal@asmfc.org

  2. avatar mncahill says:

    Thanks John!

    Rhode Island, New York, Delaware and North Carolina anglers should take a really close look at the way the voting went…is that really the way you wanted your guys to vote?

  3. avatar Steve Byrne says:

    While we are thrilled at the outcome, I would like an explanation from our New York asmfc commissioners who voted for the addendum, despite 97.8 percent of NY comments that were against it. The final tally for NY Public Comment was 790 against the addendum and 17 for. If our representatives ignored overwhelming opinion for the sake of a more conservative position, they would be acting in accordance with common sense, and with what I believe the basic asmfc guidelines are.

    Instead, they chose to ignore the angling Public and forge ahead with their vote to increase commercial striped bass fishing. I can only wonder exactly who does our asmfc representatives think they represent – the 17 individuals in favor of the addendum, or the other 97.8 percent?

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