There’s actually a lot to write about this week, but the final version of the below letter, from the New York Coalition for Recreational Fishing, to Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Commissioners and staff, came across my desk today. I think it speaks volumes about how fed up the public is with striped bass management and is worth the read. If you feel like paraphrasing and sending your own letter, you may find links to your commissioners here: ASMFC commissioners. Later this week, maybe I’ll write about something other than striped bass for a change.
To Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Officials:
The Coalition for Recreational Fishing is writing this letter to offer comments regarding proposed option changes and striped bass management.
To say that the Coalition is disappointed in a lack of action from ASMFC and its recent approach to striped bass management is an understatement. Our disappointment is fueled by several significant factors. First, Amendment 6 (2003) states that when a trigger or triggers are exceeded action MUST be taken in one year. However, although triggers were exceeded, no action has been taken. Instead, there has been a seemingly endless array of motions that are clearly designed to delay action, alter amendment 6, and obstruct the proper management of the species. These delays run contrary to the ASMFC amendment rules and are potentially even more damaging to the striped bass population as it also struggles against poor recruitment since 2000, Mycobacteriosis disease, and intense fishing pressure on existing year classes. This failure to take action is an outrage. The failure to act is illogical, is a travesty, and recreational fishers up and down the coast demand ASMFC action now!
Second, it appears to the world outside of the ASMFC that a well-thought-out plan for management has been hijacked by representatives from the states for purposes of their own greed and the greed of their associates. We demand to know why officials in charge of ASMFC have allowed state representatives to delay action and attempt to misappropriate the plan and amendment 6 that is intended to protect and preserve the striped bass. Did we not learn a painful lesson from the 1980s when delays in action almost brought the species to endangered status?
Third, the ASMFC board has hidden behind a smoke screen of demands for precise statistics, studies of option effects, more studies to study studies, and the possible outcomes of “new” ideas that would permit the increased harvest of male fish purported to be in “excess,” and the exploitation of the 2011 Chesapeake year class before, God forbid, it “escapes” from the estuary and enters the coastal migration where all users might enjoy the resource. Have we conveniently forgotten that MANY MALES must attend a single female in order to properly fertilize her eggs? As far the 2011 YOY, why should Chesapeake fishermen be allowed a “privileged” harvest and effect future migrations thus depriving coastal anglers of equal opportunity? Every recreational angler knows, albeit in the absence of precise data, that the Atlantic Coast population of striped bass has declined and is declining rather rapidly. All one needs do is go fishing regularly for striped bass and compare recent results with their results from the 1990s in order to appreciate that reality. Also, although much attention is paid to the Chesapeake stock since it is the largest, ask any Long Island angler and he’ll tell you that the Hudson stock is in even worse shape. In the western Long Island Sound anglers are dependent on the Hudson stock for their overall success. To make matters worse in the Hudson, the highly publicized 2007 Hudson year class has not turned out to be the predicted bonanza. There are some fish caught from this year class, but they are few and far between whether one fishes in Little-Neck Bay, Mid-Sound off Eaton’s Neck, or along the Connecticut shore.
Fourth, when we blow away the smog and fog of misdirected studies and debates, the REAL reason for all the delaying tactics is the desire of some people to make MONEY from the killing of striped bass. We ask why ASMFC officials continue to move ahead at a snail’s pace in light of the extreme effects a declining population of striped bass has on the millions of non-dollar motivated anglers? Non-dollar motivated anglers’ sole interests lie in engaging in a sporting interaction with striped bass, a concern for the food species they need, and healthy ecosystems to support vibrant populations of marine life. Of course in the process, striped bass sportsmen contribute millions of dollars to coastal and local economies. These local and regional businesses include small, family-run operations that have been harshly and extremely affected both by a poor economy nationwide and a decline in the striped bass population. Somehow, this portion of the economy doesn’t receive the same emphasis by ASMFC board members as does the demands from those who make money from striped bass. Yet, all studies have shown there is a straight-line connection between the size of the striped bass population and how much money sportsmen spend on their recreation. The coalition does not represent people who wish to get rich at the expense of the striped bass population. Those who exploit the population are only interested in how many fish they can kill instead of how healthy the population is or the quality of the angling experience of non-dollar motivated fishers. There is an enigma in this, and it is shortsighted because all interest groups benefit most when stocks are at the highest levels. It is shocking in this era of supposed “enlightened” fisheries management to bear witness to the reality that the erroneous time-honored approach in fisheries of the “prisoner’s dilemma” is still alive and well when most thought it dead decades ago.
So, with not a single dollar bill of motivation, here is what the coalition supports and demands. Yes, demands, because the time for tomfoolery and delays has past, and the needs of the species MUST NOW COME FIRST!
- We demand immediate action: One year and not three.
- We demand a 31 percent reduction in mortality in one year. Since any plan only has a 50 percent chance of success, delays will reduce the odds of success, since more and more fish will have perished.
- We support a one fish at 32-inch per angler per day, regardless of where, how and when the fish is caught. We demand this regulation be applied to all venues, including party boats and charter boats. Making $$ on the fish does not justify providing these harvesters with an advantage. This provision has been a thorn in the sides of the majority of independent recreational fishers, and it’s time to end this unfair and scientifically unsound practice. Likewise, one fish at 32 inches should be the standard in the estuary as well. The notion that only small fish are caught in the estuary is nonsense. All places have their seasons, and that’s why anglers invest great effort in the estuaries around spawning time. Yet be it Chesapeake Bay, the Hudson River or the Connecticut River, it is true that fewer big fish are taken during off-spawning times, but they are caught. Stripers migrate from place to place, and each area has its bigger fish season. All anglers in all regions should abide by the same regulations.
- Minimize the dragger bycatch, either directed or truly accidental.
- Take immediate steps to end the severe poaching of small fish in the inner cities of Baltimore, Philadelphia, Boston and New York.