Friday, March 25, 2011

ASMFC Tries to Slow Striper Kill

ASMFC moves to curb striper mortality. I like my title better...
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission's Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board has initiated development of Draft Addendum III with the goals of reducing striped bass fishing mortality up to 40 percent and further protecting spawning stock when it is concentrated and vulnerable.

Provisions of the addendum, if passed, could be implemented prior to the start of the 2012 fishing year.

The Board's action responds to recent trends in the fishery and resource, including a 66 percent decline in estimated recreational catch from 2006 to 2009; a 25 percent decline in estimated striped bass abundance from 2004 to 2008; and lowered recruitment in recent years.
As many of us have been screaming (or whining, depending on your point of view) for the past several years, striped bass populations show signs of crashing, as they did in the late 70s- early 80s.  That resulted in the moratorium on striper harvest in Maryland and Delaware from 1985-1989. Virginia had a shorter moratorium, 1989 only. 
Additionally, states in the northern extent of the fishery have expressed concern over decreased availability of striped bass as a result of the diminished water quality in the Chesapeake Bay during the summer months that may also contribute to increased prevalence of mycobacteriosis in striped bass.
I assume that by "northern extent of the fishery" they mean to say Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey, who have substantial fisheries, without having the responsibility for producing any substantial fraction of the coastal population (The Hudson has a small breeding population).  I agree that in all likelihood, myco is part of the story, and that a substantial fraction of the non-fishing mortality is death due to myco, directly or indirectly (e.g. sick fish predated by other fish).  However, I don't see where that helps, other than by making it more important to conserve the current ocean-going stock that provides most of the females in the breeding pool of Chesapeake Bay and other breeding centers.
Draft Addendum III will propose a range of fishing management measures including, but not limited to, adjustments to commercial and recreational minimum size, reductions in annual coastal commercial allocation, reductions in recreational bag limits, and reductions on fishing for striped bass in known spawning areas during the spawning season by at least 50 percent. The commercial and recreational fishery is currently managed through Amendment 6 to the Striped Bass Fishery Management Plan. The Amendment, passed in 2003, allocates the coastal commercial quota and set a two fish bag limit and a 28-inch size minimum for the recreational fishery, with the exception of the Chesapeake Bay fisheries, Albemarle Sound/Roanoke River fisheries, and states with approved alternative regulations.
This is likely to have important consequences for the spring trophy season in Maryland, where, in the past few years, the catch has been regulated at one fish over 28 inches per angler per day from mid-April through mid-May, a period when post spawn stripers are thought to be migrating out of the bay.  (The reality is that many prespawn stripers are caught during this season as well, as attested to by many angler finding fish full of ripe eggs).  One hopes that commercial fishing would be scaled back as well.  Of course, as a recreational angler, I think that striped bass should be a game fish only, but that seems unlikely in the current political climate.  Most likely recreational and commercial fishing will be restricted in tandem, with the goal to maintain the relative recreational/commercial take at 50/50. 

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