June 15, 2021
Honorable Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio
Maryland Department of Natural Resources
580 Taylor Avenue
Tawes State Office Building
Annapolis, MD 21401
RE: Requested Closure for Maryland’s Striped Bass Commercial Fishery July 16-July 31, 2021
Dear Secretary Haddaway-Riccio:
On behalf of Maryland’s angling and boating community, we are requesting that Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MD DNR) implement additional conservation measures for Atlantic striped bass in recognition that the population is overfished and experiencing overfishing. On March 29, 2021, MD DNR announced a closed period for the Chesapeake Bay recreational fishery from July 16 through July 31 that includes a prohibition on both harvest and targeting of striped bass. This closure does not include the commercial striped bass fishery. Recognizing the need for strong conservation measures during a time when striped bass are in trouble, we request that MD DNR implement the same closure period for the commercial fishery to remove all fishing pressure on the Chesapeake Bay stock for that two-week period.
The planned closure for the recreational striped bass fishery in July will have significant economic impacts on sportfishing and boating manufacturers, retailers, wholesalers, charter boats and private recreational anglers. According to a survey in 2016, Maryland’s 744,236 recreational striped bass anglers (anglers fishing from their own boats and those fishing on charter/for-hire boats) supported 10,193 jobs and contributed $802 million to state GDP, which represents 97% of the total economic value of the commercial and recreational striped bass fishery, combined. Furthermore, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s report for 2020, MD DNR received $12,017,885 from fishing license sales as well as the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund, which is fueled by excise taxes paid on recreational fishing equipment and motorboat fuel taxes.
Although the closure will clearly have real and measurable economic impacts to our industry, we realize that in order to ensure the health and abundance of striped bass in the future, immediate and difficult management decisions must be made now. We understand that such actions are an investment in the future of our industry. However, MD DNR continues to primarily target the recreational fishery to achieve the conservation goals for striped bass despite both the recreational and commercial sectors benefiting from this shared public resource. As a reminder, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission took final action on Addendum VI to the FMP in November 2019 directing states and jurisdictions to take an equal 18% reduction in total removals from both the recreational and commercial sectors. Instead, MD DNR chose to place the vast majority of the reduction burden on private recreational anglers.
MD DNR’s justification for the July recreational fishing closure is based on the higher discard mortality of fish associated with poor water quality in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries (e.g., high water temperatures and low dissolved oxygen). These conditions create physiological stress that can increase mortality of fish caught, even when using responsible fishing techniques. However, what MD DNR failed to consider is the gear types used by the striped bass commercial fishery during July 16 to July 31 will also result in discards during the same period of poor water conditions. Therefore, the stated justification supports a closure of both sectors.
Our request is in recognition that the striped bass resource is overfished and experiencing overfishing and prohibiting all fishing pressure in the Bay during the two-week July closure will maximize the intended conservation gains of MD DNR’s actions. We understand putting the resource first comes at a significant cost to the fishing industry and that cost will be most severe for the recreational fishing sector because July is the height of the summer tourist season and there is not an abundance of other recreationally important species to target during this striped bass closure. Therefore, if the July closure is truly about conserving the striped bass resource, we urge MD DNR to implement the closure for all fishery participants.
Thank you for considering our request.
Glenn Hughes, President – American Sportfishing Association
Chris Edmonston, VP Government Affairs – Boat U.S.
Jeff Angers, President – Center for Sportfishing Policy
Steve Kline, Chair- Government Relations Committee – Coastal Conservation Association Maryland
Chris Horton, Senior Director Fisheries Policy-Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation
Matt Gruhn, President -Marine Retailers Association of the Americas
Susan Zellers, Executive Director Marine Trades Association of Maryland
Frank Hugelmeyer, President- National Marine Manufacturers Association