|Note blue tags in commercial fish|
Commercial fishermen asked state regulators Tuesday night to make recreational fishermen tag their striped bass the way commercial operators do, to make sure they’re not taking too many fish.
But the idea died when Doug Jenkins, president of the Twin Rivers Watermen’s group, in Warsaw, outlined his proposal to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission’s finfish management advisory committee.
“We’re losing our rockfish (striped bass) quota and losing our crab industry,” Jenkins told the committee.
He said the 20 percent cut in striped bass quotas imposed three years ago have hit commercial fishermen hard.
They believe they’re being discriminated against and that there’s a need to be sure recreational fishermen aren’t catching too many striped bass.
Jenkins said there are enough striped bass to allow commercial fishermen to catch more, and that striped bass preying on crabs is one reason why crab populations are down.
|Tagged fish from a trip with Pete|
For he most part, I suspect this proposal by Virginia watermen to force tagging onto all recreational Striped Bass is merely a thumb in the eye of their rivals. Tagging recreational fish doesn't serve the quite the same purpose as tagging commercial fish.
But the request comes at a bad time, when nobody seems to know for certain what the real state of the striped bass stock is, said Jeff Deem, chairman of the advisory committee.
A new assessment of fish populations, based on more detailed studies of where and how fish are caught, could upend everything fisheries regulators think they know about striped bass, said VMRC chief of fisheries management Rob O’Reilly.
On top of that, he said, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission last year rebuffed the Virginia commission’s request for a 10-percent increase in the quota for striped bass.
“Ten percent, that’s all we were asking for and they voted it down,” he said.
“We get outvoted on striped bass all the time.”
In 2014, the Atlantic States fisheries commission cut Virginia’s quota by 24 percent, to 1.06 million pounds.
Commercial fish are tagged on the boat with a tag rather like a zip tie with a serial number which has been registered as having been sold to a particular commercial fisherman, which goes through the mouth and gill. The tag is not easily removed without damaging it, so they cannot be reused. When a commercial fisherman sells a fish, that tag stays on until the fish is utilized, as untagged fish are illegal to sell. Tag numbers and weights are recorded when the fish is checked in for sale. Undersized fish could be tagged and sold, but then they could be traced back to the fisherman, who would be fined. Since commercial quota is based on a weight per fisherman, watermen can buy more tags to fill their quota if necessary, and have no use for extras.
Tagging recreational fish is merely a hassle to the recreational fisherman. In addition to the license, you'd need to buy tags, and guess at the number of fish you were going to catch and keep between runs to wherever you could buy the tags. Fish are not checked in (and I think any plan to make that happen is bound to fail). It might help managers track the number of Striped Bass caught by recreational fisherman. The main problem with recreational fishing is post-release mortality, which tagging wouldn't measure.