On October 30, 2019, members of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) Striped Bass Management Board voted 11 – 4 for Addendum VI Option 2 to require an 18% reduction in striped bass removals by both the recreational and commercial fishing sectors from North Carolina to Maine. A coalition of recreational fishing and boating organizations is lauding this decision to address the decline in striped bass after it was determined in 2018 that the population is overfished and experiencing overfishing.
To further decrease release mortality of striped bass, the Commissioners unanimously approved mandatory use of circle hooks when fishing with bait to be implemented in 2021. Non-offset circle hooks are designed to hook fish in the mouth and reduce “gut hooking” fish that swallow the bait. The effectiveness of circle hooks as a conservation measure has been proven through more than a decade of mandatory use in the Gulf of Mexico reef fish fisheries, and the use of circle hooks is widely supported in the recreational community as a way to release more fish alive.
“We appreciate ASMFC for recognizing the value of the sportfishing and boating industry in their decision to act quickly to end overfishing of striped bass,” said Mike Waine, Atlantic fisheries policy director for the American Sportfishing Association. “The focus now turns to the states along the Atlantic coast to work cooperatively and follow through with ASMFC’s commitment to treat the sectors fairly. It’s time to rebuild the striped bass population and the recreational fishing community stands ready to support these actions for the economic benefit of the entire striped bass fishing community.”“Striped bass are one of the most sought-after fish on the Atlantic coast and the official state fish of Maryland. We commend the Striped Bass Management Board for sending a clear signal that all sectors should do their part to recover this iconic fishery which is so important to our local economy and our culture,” said David Sikorski, executive director of Coastal Conservation Association Maryland. “Recreational anglers are key partners in the conservation and management of our fisheries resources, and we will be keenly focused on ensuring that the State of Maryland crafts conservation measures which will maximize the in-water benefit to the fish and recognize the many positive economic benefits that recreational fishing provides.”
“State fisheries managers are directly connected to their state’s fishery resources and their stakeholders, and across the country, they have proven themselves capable of both conserving the resource and recognizing the contributions of the recreational fishing sector,” said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Sportfishing Policy. “The collaborative decision-making process of the ASMFC is key to the future of the Atlantic striped bass fishery. We look forward to working with state leaders on our shared goals of sound conservation and stewardship.”
ASMFC aims to reduce striped bass removals by 18% coast-wide by implementing the following regulations in 2020 (states may submit for approval alternative regulations that better suit their striped bass population but must achieve an 18% reduction in total removals):
- One fish bag limit and 28 – 35-inch recreational slot limit per day for ocean recreational fisheries
- One fish bag limit and an 18-inch minimum size limit per day for Chesapeake Bay recreational fisheries
- Reduction in all state commercial quotas by 18%
Earlier this month, the American Sportfishing Association, BoatU.S., Center for Sportfishing Policy, Coastal Conservation Association, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Marine Retailers Association of the Americas, National Marine Manufacturers Association and Recreational Fishing Alliance wrote a letter to ASMFC supporting these measures to end overfishing and begin rebuilding striped bass. Thousands of anglers also weighed in during the public comment period in support of equal percent reductions by the recreational and commercial fishing sectors to meet the goal of 18% reduction in total removals.
ASMFC is an Interstate Compact ratified by the states and approved by the U.S. Congress in 1942 to jointly manage their shared migratory fishery resources. ASMFC manages the striped bass stock from North Carolina to Maine. The fishery has been a success story for angler conservationists after it was brought back from the brink in the 1980s due to overfishing. While the stock is significantly healthier than it was in the 1980s, recent declining trends in the population are cause for concern. Therefore, reducing the amount of Atlantic striped bass removed by recreational and commercial fishermen is needed to rebuild the stock to a healthy status.
According to the ASMFC news release, states are required to submit implementation plans by November 30, 2019 for review by the Technical Committee and approval by the Board in February 2020. States must implement mandatory circle hook requirements by January 1, 2021. All other provisions of Addendum VI must be implemented by April 1, 2020.