Well, striped bass are overfished (for 11 of the last 13 years) and overfishing is occurring. If you haven’t read our summary on the current state of striped bass and background on its management authority, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), check out this link. The ASMFC’s Striped Bass Management Board met this past August to vote on several items, including Draft Addendum VI, which was initiated back in April due to the 2018 Benchmark Stock Assessment finding the stock to be overfished and experiencing overfishing. The Board approved the Draft Addendum for public comment–this is a step in the right direction. However, the Board is still not considering any motions to rebuild the stock within Amendment 6’s 10 year requirement.
The public will have ample opportunity to comment on the Draft Addendum’s various options in the coming months. This public comment period will be crucial for the fate of striped bass. And guess what: every comment–whether it be in person at state public hearings, email, fax, or mail–makes a big difference. I can say this from being at the August 8th meeting; many of the Board members spoke about the volume of emails they were getting about striped bass. Before you send a comment though, it is important to understand the multitude of options within the Draft Addendum.
The Draft Addendum, which can be found here, includes three options to reduce fishing mortality (F) to the target level in 2020 and a circle hook provision. The mutually exclusive options to reduce F are: “(1) status quo; (2) an 18% reduction in total removals where the desired percent reductions are applied equally (proportionally) to both the commercial and recreational sectors; and (3) an 18% reduction in total removals where the commercial sector takes a smaller percent reduction than the recreational sector.”
Of these three options, Option 2 is the clear choice for rebuilding this shared resource. However, there are more sub-options under Option 2:
Sub-Option 2-A: Ocean Recreational Fishery
Sub-Option 2-B: Chesapeake Bay Recreational Fishery
Out of the sub-options, 2-A1 and 2-B1 are the most commonsense and potentially-effective routes toward lowering F. 2-A1 (1 fish at 35″ and above) was successfully employed to recover the stock after the 1980’s near-collapse. Additionally, the effectiveness of slot limits has been called into question: a slot limit essentially would place increased pressures on a few age-classes, be limited in effectiveness because of conservation-equivalency, and would not assist in rebuilding the female spawning biomass. For these reasons and at this time, 1 fish at 35″ appears to be the best option to lower total removals.
For the Chesapeake Bay, the 1 fish at 18″ makes sense. The Chesapeake Bay recreational sector, on average, overfishes striped bass by 218%. So, the restrictive sub-option 2-B1 is warranted and, in theory, will bring Maryland’s recreational harvests in check.
Now that you have some background on the Draft Addendum’s options, share your opinions with the Board. You can comment in person at the various state public hearings–more information on dates and times can be found here. Also, you can send electronic comments by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with “Striped Bass Draft Addendum VI” in the subject line. The electronic comment period will end October 7, 2019 at 5:00pm. As stakeholders, our voices must be heard to protect and conserve this amazing resource for future generations.