CCA Angler’s Guide to ASMFC Atlantic Striped Bass Addendum VI

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Coastal Conservation Association

Comments on Atlantic Striped Bass Draft Addendum VI

From CCA’s Angler’s Guide to Amendment 6 – 2002:

“CCA believes the Amendment 5 mortality target of F=0.31 is too high (the mortality target is a measure of the numbers of fish that can be taken without harming the stock). The population growth has slowed since Amendment 5 was implemented in 1995 (Figure 1). Another, more insidious problem is that the Amendment 5 mortality rate is too high to allow the age structure of striped bass to fill out. Striped bass live naturally to age 25 or more.

Fishing at the present rate is effectively cropping the age structure to about age 15-17. Since Amendment 5, the number of age 10+ fish has declined. We believe it is critical that the target fishing mortality rate be lowered in order to allow more fish to grow to those older, larger age classes ….

Why is this important? The primary reason is to create a stable spawning stock of healthy fish that can withstand several years of recruitment failure, a natural occurrence in striped bass. We believe an expanded age structure with more fish over age 15 will provide an essential safety net for the population to see it through bad recruitment years or catastrophic events. While striped bass females are 100% mature at age 10, some begin producing eggs much earlier. Thus at present over 60% of the estimated spawning stock is composed of fish under 10 years old. We prefer that the spawning stock have a larger component of the fish that survived longer than 15 years. This way, the more successful females, the ones that lived the longest, will be major contributors to the spawning stock and pass those successful genetic traits along to future generations.”

 

These words are as true today as they were 17 years ago. Please note the Fishing Mortality Rates (F) in Amendment 6 and those contemplated in Addendum 6 are relative to the estimated spawning stock biomass at recovery in 1995 generated in each stock assessment; the values may change but the end result is the same. Lowering F will have the same beneficial effect now as it would have then.

BACKGROUND

Striped bass are one of the most sought-after fish on then Atlantic coast, and a support vital fisheries in state waters from North Carolina to Maine. According to the latest NOAA Fisheries data, striped bass are the number one species caught recreationally in the country, in terms of pounds caught.  Striped bass are a long-lived, anadromous species, which means they return to a freshwater river annually from the ocean to spawn. Conditions have to be near perfect for them to have a successful spawn and generate an above average year class, which is why they have evolved to live 25-plus years – to withstand several years of below average recruitment.

These swings in recruitment are clearly noted in data used for managing this fishery, and striped bass anglers have a front row seat for these variable recruitment patterns, and the obvious or not so obvious changes in local abundance based on a number of factors. Adult striped bass live in the ocean for most of the year, spending the summer generally off the New England coastline and the winter off the Mid –Atlantic. The adults migrate up their natal river in the spring to spawn. After spawning, the young migrate to the estuary at the mouth of the natal river and spend several years there. They begin immigrating to the ocean to join the adult stock at about age 5 and are mostly gone from the bays and estuaries by age 7(approx. 28”) This coastal stock moves up the Atlantic coast in the summer and back south during the winter. Through their annual migration, and life cycle, the striped bass stock is subject to intense fishing pressure. Picture the striped bass population as a giant amoeba that moves up and down the Atlantic coast right next to the most populous coastal areas in the country.

The Atlantic striped bass stock is fished on 12 months out the year, and over time, has withstood this pressure remarkably well.

CURRENT STATUS

By many accounts, striped bass populations have been on the decline for a number of years. Last winter, the 2018 benchmark stock assessment officially painted a concerning picture for the striped bass population. The stock assessment, which was accepted for management use, indicates that the striped bass stock is overfished and is experiencing overfishing. These two terms mean that the estimated spawning stock biomass(SSB) of the stock has fallen below levels set within the current striped bass management plan, and that current fishing mortality(F) levels are too high. While this may or may not relate to your angling experience, this status has triggered management action.

PROPOSED MANAGEMENT ACTION

The Striped Bass Management Board has approved Draft Addendum VI to Amendment 6 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Striped Bass for public comment. This is an action that aims to end overfishing by returning fishing mortality (F) to the target levels within one year, as prescribed by the current management plan. The Draft Addendum proposes management options for both commercial and recreational sectors in the ocean and in Chesapeake Bay in order to reduce total fishery removals by 18% relative to 2017 levels. The proposed measures include reduced quotas for commercial fisheries, and changes in bag limits, minimum sizes, and slot size limits for the recreational sector. The Draft Addendum also includes options to consider mandatory circle hook use to reduce deep hooking mortality experienced by anglers using live or dead bait.

The full Draft Addendum VI can be found here:

http://www.asmfc.org/uploads/file/5d5c081eStripedBassDraftAddVI_PublicComment_Aug2019.pdf

PUBLIC HEARINGS & TALKING POINTS

ASMFC staff working in cooperation with state agencies, has scheduled at least one public meeting in each state represented on the Striped Bass Management Board. The full hearings schedule can be found here: http://www.asmfc.org/calendar/

CCA SUPPORTS THE FOLLOWING

• We commend ASMFC for taking immediate action to end overfishing.

CCA supports Option 2 – Equal Percent Reductions for all sectors. All sectors should take equal reductions as a

matter of fairness and equity.

• CCA has long supported reducing fishing mortality to provide for a greater abundance and develop a stock of larger, older fish. Thus, we support options that meet or exceed the 18% minimum reduction as provided for in Addendum VI, and support any proposed action with a higher probability of reducing fishing mortality.

• CCA supports conservation equivalency measures that meet or exceed the 18% reduction for all sectors, and are approved by the Technical Committee and SB Board.

• CCA supports the mandatory use of circle hooks when using natural bait as a matter of principle. All states should have monitoring programs, and enforcement plans in place so that conservation gains from circle hooks are realized.

*** Note that each state may be considering conservation equivalency(CE) measures that are specific to their state to meet the required reductions.  As we know more about the plans proposed by Maryland, we will provide further information to our membership.  CE proposals will be guided by a document that helps states understand what kinds of changes can be quantified and accepted for management use.  We fully expect a change in seasons and size limits for the 2020 fishery in Maryland to achieve the reductions necessary.****

MARYLAND PUBLIC MEETING: 

Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Fisheries Service

September 25, 2019 

6 to 8 PM Calvary United Methodist Church (Basement Room)

301 Rowe Boulevard Annapolis,

Maryland Contact: Michael Luisi at 410.260.8341 or michael.luisi@maryland.gov

***A SECOND MEETING HAS BEEN SCHEDULED FOR OCTOBER 3 IN CAMBRIDGE MD AT THE AMERICAN LEGION ON RT. 50. FROM 6-8 PM***

Helpful Links:

Atlantic Striped Bass Draft Addendum VI

Public Hearing Date ASMFC Press Release

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