Thursday, February 15, 2024

Maryland Seeks To Permanently "Fix" Striper Regs

WBOC, Maryland is Considering Making Emergency Striped Bass Fishing Regulations Permanent

New emergency regulations governing recreational striped bass/ rockfish fishing, implemented two weeks ago by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), may become a permanent fixture in Maryland. The state's Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is contemplating the move, sparking concerns among charter boat operators who fear it could devastate their industry.

Under the previous rule, anglers were allowed to keep two striped bass per person, each in a slot size between 19 and 31 inches. However, the new regulation permits only one keeper fish per angler, limited to a slot size of 19 to 24 inches, with the aim that
the fish 25 inches and above are the breeders.

Charter boat operators, however, are voicing their apprehensions, contending that these regulations will not only impact their businesses negatively but could potentially ruin the entire industry if made permanent.

These emergency regulations don't become effective until the start of the season in May. In the meantime, the state needs to submit fishery management plans for the ASMFC's approval, by March 1.

"They are choosing to cut what we can harvest for our customers, so the product that we had in front of us before is not there," remarked Jason Seman, Vice President of the Maryland Charter Boat Association. "We have a season that's coming up in a matter of months, and we still don't have regulations that are finalized, so we don't know what product to broadcast to our customer base even."

Seman further emphasized the potential repercussions of such measures, particularly on the interstate commerce front. "It could ruin the entire industry. You have towns and townships that have people coming from out of state, so you have interstate commerce that's happening. So why would those customers travel to our state to fish on a fishery that is in a state of reduction?"

DNR officials, however, maintain that the regulations are essential for boosting the rockfish population in the Chesapeake Bay, which has been consistently low.

"It's another layer of protection for females as they make their way through Maryland and spawning ground," explained Mike Luisi, Assistant Director with Fishing and Boating Services at the Department of Natural Resources. "We're trying to do what we can to protect those spawning females as they come through Maryland. It's a better possibility that we'll have a larger year class which will boost the population for the future."

Seman pointed out that charter boats are being unfairly targeted by these regulations. The boats hold commercial licenses and are required to report everything they catch. But, recreational angler don't.

"So if the for-hire industry [charter boats] in Maryland only catches 7% of the fish, and you take 50 percent of their quota away from them, you're not doing anything," Seman argued. "93% is recreational catch, so by putting harsh regulation in the for-hire sector, you're not creating a positive impact in the state of Maryland."

DNR indicates that the idea to make the emergency regulation permanent is still in its early stages and could be a proposal by late April. The agency aims to strike a balance between conservation efforts and the interests of the fishing industry in Maryland.

At this point, I can't imagine the "emergency" regulations being rescinded for a long time. As I've said repeatedly, it will take one or more years with outstanding recruitment and a few years to pass for the fish to grow to fishable size before that should happen. Charter fisherman, relatively minor players in the fish mortality, don't like the part of the new regulations that cuts the limit of fish during the season from 2 to 1, fearing that it will substantially reduce the attractiveness of charter trips, and I see that as a real issue. I am one of those people who don't really care how many fish I keep, but I think that is a minority of the recreational fishing community. 

I also think that DNR needs to worry about discouraging anglers and losing license revenue. 

The Wombat has Rule 5 Sunday: Snow Bunny up for your digital pleasure at The Other McCain.

No comments:

Post a Comment