Striper Hearing

From Stripers Forever:

The game fish bill was heard by the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Member in Boston last week. Some of our opponents had gotten to the committee chair, and the initial testimony in the hearing was arranged in opposition to the bill. We heard the usual rhetoric about needing to sell striped bass to make a living, that Stripers Forever just wanted all the fish for themselves, and that according to the ASMFC all is well with striped bass. Over the next six hours, however, supporters of striped bass game fish in MA more than held their own against the commercial testimony. We haven’t received a final tally, but many people testified throughout the hearing in favor of game fish, and the quality of the pro-game fish testimony by guides, tackle shop owners, economists, fishery scientists, and concerned private citizens was passionate and well-articulated. The long hearing wore down the committee, and by the mid-way point only four of 17 committee members were left in their seats to hear the testimony.
Within 10 days the committee is required to take action on this bill which could be to study it, assign it to a special committee, or vote it out of committee one way or another. We want this bill to be voted out of committee “ought to pass” so that we can take this important policy debate to the full legislature. We need your help again right now to make this happen. Below you will find a suggested letter that we ask you to send individually to every member of the committee. This LINK will take you to a page on our website that has Word document attached containing the e-mail address of every committee member as well as the Speaker of the House and the Senate President. All you need to do is copy and paste the letter below into an e-mail, and then copy and paste the addresses into the To: line of the e-mail. This will take about one minute, and it is vital that as many people as possible who care about striped bass take this action. Please, act now!

Dear Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Member: I urge you to vote “ought to pass” on An Act relative to the Conservation of Atlantic striped bass (S337, S392, H260 and H1145).” Listed below are the main arguments from the proponents of continued commercial fishing for striped bass and my rebuttals: Our opponents say “don’t legislate fishery management”. This is the first of a number of sound bites presented by supporters of the status quo to mislead the committee. HB260 calls for the DMF to regulate striped bass – as it should. We are asking the legislature to set a policy that will change the DMF management goal from the kind of exploitation that has ruined virtually all of our native fisheries to a goal of conservation, and optimal use for the public – game fish designation. Initiating this type of policy is solely the responsibility of the legislature. Our opponents say “cut the recreational fishery back not the commercial, the recreational fishery harvests 75% of the fish”. There are several half-truths and misleading assertions in that statement. For each commercial permit holder who reports selling even one fish there are about 500 private citizens who fish recreationally for striped bass in MA. The average recreational angler harvests a little over one half of one fish per year, while the average commercial fisherman kills 55. The impact of commercial fishing at 25% of the harvest is grossly disproportional based on the number of participants, and since all the commercial fish are large, breeding age females, it takes a great toll on the remaining brood stock. The commercial fishing permits show that 75% of the permit holders report not selling any fish at all. It is inconceivable that this is not a sham for large under the table catch meaning that the impact of the commercial fishery is undoubtedly greatly under reported. Our opponents say that “while we don’t make a large part of our living catching striped bass, it is important, and I need every piece to maintain my life style”. While this may or may not be true, the economic benefits to a relatively small number of mostly “recremercial” fishermen come at a very high price to the Commonwealth and the rest of its citizens. There are many more jobs in guiding, tackle sales, boats and motors, tourism and other related industries that are full time jobs dependent on good striped bass fishing. We should not lose these jobs to protect a part time bonanza that will very likely come to an end within the next few years anyway since we are clearly going to run out of large striped bass. Professional economic studies show that recreationally caught striped bass in MA are worth $133 per pound while they are worth only $ 6 per pound taken commercially. That means that the 65,000 commercially caught stripers, averaging 19 pounds apiece, costs the citizens of the Commonwealth $2,413 per fish! There is no justification to intentionally waste $156,845,000! Our opponents claim that the ASMFC says striped bass are not over fished. This is a very narrow statement, and it does not mean that things are good with striped bass. There are still some big, old stripers in the ocean, but even the ASMFC acknowledges that their numbers are decreasing rapidly and that current harvest levels cannot be maintained. There are seven failed spawning year classes in a row in the pipeline, and no matter what we do the population of large striped bass is going to plummet. We should preserve the big fish that are left as breeders, and not pillage them while they are still available. Also, a disease called mycobacteriosis has been killing Chesapeake Bay striped bass for years, and scientists have recently proved that this has materially elevated the rate of natural mortality in the striped bass population. The ASMFC has not allowed for this new source of mortality in its population estimates, and it is very likely that they are overestimating the population of striped bass alive in the ocean.

Here are some benefits that Massachusetts will gain by ending commercial fishing for striped bass, designating the species as a game fish, and conserving the commercial quota – not reallocating it to recreational harvest. An important conservation move needed to help turn around an important fishery that is in trouble. According to NOAA, striped bass fishing in Massachusetts has declined by 84% in the last 5 years. According to studies by a top socio economist more full time equivalent jobs and many millions in economic activity. This is a billion dollar industry now at risk. Protection of a pastime and way of life for many thousands of the Commonwealth’s citizens. Those who would no longer be able to sell striped bass can still join the rest of us in fishing for them for enjoyment or food for our own tables.
The establishment of a policy to protect the singly most important saltwater game fish in the Commonwealth. There are 45 other species that are regulated and fished for commercially. This progressive enhancement will bear fruit for all the citizens of the Commonwealth now and in the future. It is the exact opposite of killing the golden goose for a short term, unsustainable gain.

Again, I urge you to vote for conservation, economic stability, and the best interests of thousands of residents of Massachusetts. Vote yes for HB260. Sincerely;

Want to do More? Go to this website http://www.malegislature.gov/Committees/Joint/J21 for the committee and make a phone call to the offices of the members. If you live in the district of any of these legislators this is triply important. Over 100 SF members live and vote in the districts of many of these legislators. 117 are in the district of Senator Pacheco, the chairman of the commitee. The e-mails are very important, but when you also pick up the phone, call that office, and tell them that you are a constituent and that you want striped bass to be designated as a game fish in MA it carries enormous weight.