From Stripers Forever

Here is a report on the August 8th meeting of the Atlantic States Marine Fishery Commission striped bass management board that dealt primarily with the proposed commercial tagging program. The press release from the ASMFC is copied in at the end.

The short of it is that the new tagging program, designed to help close some of the loopholes in the commercial fishery was approved, and all states must begin using it by the 2014 season. As they say though, the devil is in the details, and there is at least one important detail that was left out of this plan. The plan had a series of options that were sent out for public comment earlier in the summer. Stripers Forever commented and we gave our members the information on the options and suggested that they comment too. Essentially Stripers Forever agreed with the findings of the Interstate Task Force set up by the ASMFC. One of the important findings was that striped bass be tagged at the point of capture. Here is a quote from the Law Enforcement Committee of the ASMFC Striped Bass Management Board: "THE MOST EFFECTIVE ENFORCEMENT OF A TAGGING PROGRAM RESULTS FROM TAGGING FISH AT THE POINT OF HARVEST. THIS OPTIMIZES ON-WATER AS WELL AS DOCKSIDE MONITORING AND ENFORCEMENT."

When it came time for this point to be voted on Paul Diodati Dir. of MA Div. of Marine Fisheries with a second by Rick Belavance, President of the Rhode Island Charter Boat Assoc. substituted a measure to give each state the option to decide at what point in the capture-through-sale process the fish must be tagged. The substitution passed by 8 votes to 7 with one abstention. There was then a vote to pass the substituted measure which passed by a vote of 8 to 6 with one abstention. These are not roll call votes, and unless you are present at the meetings, and very quick at identifying the voters, you cannot tell which states voted as they did. Great detail is recorded of other less important points, and we can only surmise that these votes are not recorded so that they can be taken in anonymity. In any case all of the other options on the plan were in line with the recommendations of the task force, and all were either unanimous or with one or two opposed votes.

Why is tagging at the point of capture important, and why did some states vote against it? If the fish do not need to be tagged until they are sold, a fisherman can then can catch a commercial limit of striped bass and drive away with them legally. The fish can then be dispensed with them however one wishes – legally or illegally. If no one sees what you have done you can report nothing and keep your tags, the fish are never reported against quota, and you pay no taxes on your income. There is nothing good about this, yet some states with commercial fisheries weren’t ready to agree to take a simple measure to help protect the resource. It is truly appalling.

Stripers Forever will attempt to follow the tagging regulations in each state and with the help of our members exact as much political pressure as we can on the process to make tagging at point of capture a hallmark of the plan. Clearly, though, the only real resolution to this type of problem is to end the commercial fishery for striped bass everywhere once and for all. Only then will there be any hope of a truly consistent, high quality public fishery for striped bass. That remains the long term focus of Stripers Forever.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, AUGUST 8, 2012 PRESS CONTACT, TINA BERGER, 793.842.0740

ASMFC Atlantic Striped Bass Board Approves Mandatory Commercial Tagging Program through Addendum III

Alexandria, VA – The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission's Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board has approved Addendum III to Amendment 6 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Striped Bass. The Addendum establishes a mandatory commercial tagging program for all states and jurisdictions with commercial striped bass fisheries and recommends increasing penalties for illegally harvested fish. The tagging program includes requirements for timely catch reporting, increased accounting of unused tags, improved standardization of tag type, and the use of biological metrics for determining state/jurisdiction tag quantity. These measures are intended to prevent commercial striped bass quota overages and the illegal harvest of striped bass. Both undermine the sustainability of striped bass populations, as well as reduce the economic opportunities of commercial and recreational fishermen who legally participate in the fishery.

The Addendum responds to recommendations of the Interstate Watershed Task Force (IWTF). The IWTF conducted a multi-year, multi-jurisdictional investigation on illegal commercial striped bass harvest within Chesapeake Bay, resulting in over $1.6 million dollars in fines against 19 individuals and three corporations for more than one million pounds of striped bass harvested illegally. The investigation revealed some current control measures for regulating the harvest of striped bass were ineffective or inadequately designed to maximize compliance. The investigation also found that greater accountability of wholesalers was necessary. All public comment received on the Addendum was in favor of the mandatory tagging program and, in addition, the program was supported by NOAA Fisheries and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

All states and jurisdictions, with the exception of Massachusetts and North Carolina, are required to implement Addendum III's measures by the opening of their respective 2013 commercial fishing seasons. North Carolina was granted an extension due to the timing of its season (North Carolina's fishery opens December 1st), while Massachusetts lacks an established commercial tagging program and needs additional time to develop its program. Both states will be required to implement their programs by January 1, 2014.

The Addendum will be available on the Commission website (wwww.asmfc.org) under Breaking News or by contacting the Commission at 703.842.0740 by the end of August. For more information, please contact Kate Taylor, Fishery Management Plan Coordinator, at ktaylor@asmfc.org or 703.842.0740.