CCA Striped Bass Comments - Draft Addendum IV

Posted on August 04, 2014

August 1, 2014


Douglas E. Grout, Chairman
ASMFC Striped Bass Management Board
NH Fish and Game Dept.
Marine Fisheries
225 Main Street
Durham, NH 03824‐4732

 

Dear Mr. Grout,

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the proposed draft Addendum IV to Amendment 6 of the Atlantic Striped Bass Management Plan.   The Coastal Conservation Association has long proposed reductions in fishing mortality of striped bass to help maintain or increase abundance and to enhance the age structure of the population.

Striped bass are one of the most valuable species to the Atlantic recreational fishery.  They are an important economic driver for many Atlantic coastal communities.  The recreational fishery depends on abundance to realize its full economic potential, yet striped bass abundance has declined steadily since 2006.

We understand the Striped Bass Management Board will consider management options in Addendum IV at their August meeting.   We are dismayed to hear the subcommittee of the Striped Bass Board has recommended elimination of all options that make real reductions in fishing mortality.  The advice of the Technical Committee was clear – if the new reference points are adopted then there must be at least a 25% reduction in fishing mortality to have a 50% chance in reaching the new target fishing mortality reference point.   That does not mean a 25% reduction in quotas, but rather a real reduction in harvest. 

We have the following concerns:

  • The female spawning stock biomass has declined steadily since 2004; it was just barely above the proposed threshold in 2012 (i.e., nearly overfished).
  •  According to the 2013 stock assessment, we have been fishing over the proposed fishing mortality threshold (overfishing) for 6 of the preceding 9 years.
  • The Technical Committee suggested that at least a 25% reduction in mortality was necessary to reverse these declines and that with only a 50% probability of being successful.  More stringent reductions would be necessary to have a higher level of probability than a coin toss. 
  • Amendment 6 requires management action by the Board if overfishing is occurring:  Should it be determined that overfishing is occurring (F greater than threshold defined in Section 2.5) the Management Board will take action to reduce the fishing mortality rate on the stock to at least the desired target level.
  • Anglers up and down the East Coast are encountering far fewer fish.  The number of striped bass caught and released alive declined precipitously from over 23 million fish in 2006 to just over 5 million in 2012. 

These are all warning signs that the Board seems willing to ignore, potentially risking one of the greatest fishery management success stories in the history of our country.  While the current stock condition is nowhere near the level it was before the moratorium, we are concerned that it is headed towards depletion and the Board is still contemplating minimal reductions in harvest.    We believe the time is past for excuses and inaction, it’s time to start restoring striped bass abundance and halt the decline. 

We strongly urge you to put options in Addendum IV that make real reductions that get us back to the Target fishing mortality rate and begin restoring abundance as soon as possible.  

Thank you in advance for your consideration.

 

Sincerely,

Bill Bird, Chairman
Natioanl Government Relations Committee Chairman
Coastal Conservation Association

 

cc:           Michael W. Waine
Fishery Management Plan Coordinator
Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission
1050 N. Highland Street, Suite 200A-N
Arlington, VA   22201