ASMFC Ignores Striper Data

ASMFC MEETING UPDATE, Boston, MA 11/8/2011 Summary: The Striped Bass Management Board met on 11/8 to determine if public hearings should be held to discuss a reduction in the allowable striped bass harvest. This proposal was prompted by those who felt the downturn in the fishery was significant and should be addressed proactively. Unfortunately the proposal was defeated by a vote of 9 to 6, as the states with commercial fisheries led the effort to continue harvesting at current high levels.

The ASMFC commissioners disregarded a great amount of public testimony as well as government statistics that show that the fishery is rapidly deteriorating, due at least in part from the poor recruitment of young fish and the overharvesting of large ones. MA Co-Chairman, Dean Clark, provided strong conservation testimony from Stripers Forever. A number of other Stripers Forever members also spoke in favor of reducing fishing mortality.

Conclusion:
The general pro-commercial leanings of the ASMFC itself are evident in this decision to continue the excessive rates of harvest. The greater economic and social worth generated by the recreational striped bass fishing industry when stocks are abundant simply does not resonate with the ASMFC as a whole. States voting to deny any striped bass harvest reduction considerations until the 2013 stock assessment is available were: MA, NY, NJ, MD, VA, and NC. Voting to hold public hearings to consider a harvest reduction proposal were: ME, NH, RI, CT, PA, and DE. With the exception of NJ whose reasons for voting with the commercial states were poorly explained, the vote found commercial states on one side of the vote and game fish states on the other. The deciding votes were cast by PRFC (Potomac River Fishery Commission) – a shill in the process that gives MD and VA an extra pro-commercial fishing vote – USFWS, and NMFS. In our view USFW and NMFS should have erred on the side of conservation, in recognition of the fact that the coast wide recreational catch is off by some 75%. The votes of these federal agencies typically go along with the scientific statements of the ASMFC, and those continue to claim that the overfishing threshold has not been reached, and that overfishing is not occurring. In our view these statements do not reflect reality. First, the large margin for error in these calculations calls for a risk averse policy, and second, the fact that a 75% decrease in fish caught does not sound any management alarms just proves that the plan does not reflect the best interest of the fishery. We think that this kind of risky management is why so many of our fish populations have declined to dismal levels.

Remedy:
This cavalier and destructive behavior by those entrusted with our marine resources is proof positive that the only way wild striped bass will be saved is by legislatively making them a game fish. Our goal must continue to be having game fish status for striped bass in a majority of the states on the ASMFC striped bass management board. To do this we must turn at least one or two more of the commercial states into game fish states. On a side note, we are proud to have been a part of the effort to have the menhaden harvest numbers brought down. Thankfully, the ASMFC voted to reduce the harvest by adopting a far more conservative threshold and target which when implemented will have a direct and positive effect on the threatened striped bass stocks. That said, we have our work cut out for us when it comes to protecting striped bass. It is our belief that once MA votes to protect wild stripers as a game fish other states will follow. We held one-on-one meetings with key state legislators in Boston last week and showed them an advance copy of our new game fish video. Our visits were very well received. We appreciate your continuing support and thank you for helping to advance the game fish effort. Brad Burns Pres. Stripers Forever