Earlier in the week at the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Council 68th Annual Commission, which was held in Newport, RI, the commission voted 8-6 on against opening allowing bigger catches in Chesapeake Bay and elsewhere. In addition, they defeated the proposal to allow states to roll over unused parts of their commercial harvest quota from one year to the next.
On the Reel-Time Forums, the support for the proposal was broken down quite clearly on commercial vs. recreational lines. The recreational anglers, which represent the overwhelming majority of our community members were against the proposal while the commercial anglers were in favor of it (and also suggest quite persuasively that recreational catch allotment should be cut…). I suggest a good read of this thread…especially a compelling proposal for the State of Maine outlined by Doug Jewett here.
The Coastal Conservation Association reports (read the full piece here…):
In its formal comments before the ASMFC against the proposal, CCA cited several disturbing trends in the striped bass fishery, including a dramatic decrease in the number of striped bass caught and released by recreational fishermen, particularly in the northeastern states of New Hampshire and Maine, the prevalence of the fatal disease Mycobacteriosis among the Chesapeake Bay spawning stock, and a Fish and Wildlife Service annual survey that encountered the fewest striped bass in the survey’s history.
“While officially the stock is not overfished and not undergoing overfishing, there are signs that the overall abundance is declining,” said Brame. “The proposed action to allow the commercial industry to take more fish was not a remedy for any of the problems we are seeing with striped bass. Increasing abundance is what will fix those problems.”
The meeting of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission took place on Monday, November 2nd at Goat Island, Newport Rhode Island. There was a lengthy delay of some thirty minutes before the proceedings. I surmise this time was spent as a last minute attempt to align constituents. Finally at 1:45 pm the meeting began.
The usually business was reported by several advisory groups to the whole panel. A synopsis of the current striper stock was given in chart form using PowerPoint. Most charts were too small for all to see. Two of the more interesting discussions were centered on the Microbacterialosis and poaching issues. More investigating was required. No one knew the direct impact on either topic but felt it was substantial on the stock assessment. Further studies were recommended. Discussion tabled.
Finally after more than an hour and half, the debate about Article II began. Several constituents made opening statements. Those in favor of the “Roll over Quota” seem to center around the scientific studies done in various areas. Their argument was the numbers were not below the level of sustaining the level of striped bass. All but three studies done by most of the coastal states showed a decline. Maryland, Connecticut, and New York showed a slight increase. There argument, the committee policy dictates a three year norm of a negative slope before any changes can be made.
Those against the “Roll Over” expressed their views by the current trends of the fishery. Most constituent’s felt that their views were a representation of the populous of fishermen given thru e-mails, letters, and phone call. The public attending were given only a small amount of time for discussion. Only three were given the opportunity to speak.
Finally after lengthy discussions and a one minute caucus the roll call vote was polled individually by each coastal state. Final tally count for Amendment II, four in favor of a roll-over, eleven were against.
Immediately afterward, the principle supporter of the amendment asked to make revisions. After lengthy discussions and another panel vote, she was ruled “out of order with parliamentary procedures.
The recreational anglers, who care about the future stock of striped bass, know that this is not the end. Commercials will test the water again either by extending the seasons, quotas, or size limits, possible trying to enlarge the Exclusive Economic Zone.
Capt. Doug Jewett from Brunswick, ME came a long way to express his views and opinions. Doug eloquently expressed the poor conditions along the Maine and New Hampshire coast the last few seasons. He handed out ball caps with the theme “No Roll Over” that helped give a visual message of those in attendance. If you have a love/passion about striped bass you need to stay informed on the subject
Personal Opinion: I’ve watched the fishing reports along the coast for many years, and I see two distinct things today. First, this is a fishery in transition. The fish aren’t seen inshore like the used to be, and while there are lots of theories as to why, there simply isn’t enough science. Secondly, the fishing north of Cape Cod, particularly north of Cape Ann, is a shadow of what it once was. This may be a climactic change, it might be environmental, or it could be any number of other things. Simply, the results, or lack thereof, speak for themselves. It’s time to act, both on the commercial AND the recreational front to ensure the future of the fishery.