Managers reject proposal to increase commercial harvest
CHARLESTON, SC – After months of intense debate, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) announced today that it has denied a proposal to increase the commercial harvest of striped bass by up to 50 percent. Public sentiment has run intensely against the proposal from the moment it was introduced last February, as recreational anglers up and down the East Coast flooded their ASMFC representatives with calls to deny the proposal.
“This is a great day for conservation,” said Richen Brame, CCA Atlantic States Fisheries director. “Managers were very much in danger of increasing mortality at a time when the stock is declining, but they took the conservative approach in light of all the uncertainty surrounding the stock today. They should be commended for refusing to take a path that could have ended in disaster.”
Last February, conservationists were stunned when the ASMFC Striped Bass Management Board chose to ignore a host of significant concerns from scientists and enforcement officers about the health of the striped bass population, and instead directed its staff to draft a proposal to increase commercial harvest. Anglers who remembered the dark years of the ‘70s were alarmed that managers were attempting to ramp up commercial harvest even as anglers were seeing serious warning signs on the water.
“CCA members, particularly in Maine and New Hampshire, have said repeatedly they are not seeing striped bass in the abundance seen just a few years ago,” said Mac McKeever, president of CCA Maine. “Anglers in the northern reaches of the striped bass range are the canaries in the coal mine when it comes to the health of the striped bass population, and anglers here are not encountering anywhere near as many fish as they did just a few years ago. There is definitely reason to be concerned.”
Other warning signs pointing to a need for managers to take a cautious approach include declining trends in the striped bass Juvenile Abundance Index, “significant and unreported” poaching in the Exclusive Economic Zone, and the potentially devastating impact of Mycobacteriosis in Chesapeake Bay, the primary striped bass spawning ground for the entire Atlantic Coast. Seventy percent of the fish sampled there had lesions associated with the disease and in aquaculture, Mycobacteriosis infections are virtually always fatal.
“Our members were especially motivated to contact their representatives on the ASMFC throughout this process and let them know this is no time to be talking about increasing harvest of striped bass,” said Charles A. Witek, chairman of CCA Atlantic Fisheries Committee. “The problems facing striped bass today are far more complex than simple overfishing. Managers did the right thing by taking a precautionary approach to management. Striped bass are the crown jewel of ASMFC’s management successes and should be treated as such.”
CCA is the largest marine resource conservation group of its kind in the nation. With almost 100,000 members in 17 state chapters, CCA has been active in state, national and international fisheries management issues since 1977. Visit www.JoinCCA.org for more information.