Striped Bass Board Approves Draft Addendum II for Public Comment

It was a long Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission meeting last week. The Annual Meeting was packed with important agenda items and policy updates. The ASGA team was fully tuned in throughout the meetings, but all eyes were intently waiting for the Striped Bass Board, as news the week prior of another failed striped bass spawn in the Chesapeake Bay was sure to make things interesting. All in all, it was an OK meeting—the Striped Bass Board fulfilled its primary objective of approving Draft Addendum II and even meaningfully pared the document down, streamlining public engagement. However, we fear that even in its best possible final-form Addendum II will not be enough to get the striped bass stock back on track, given five consecutive years of poor (cough, cough failed) recruitment in Chesapeake Bay. Here are some of the main takeaways from the ASMFC’s 2023 Annual Meeting.

Five consecutive years of abysmal spawns out of the Chesapeake points to challenging days ahead for this fishery.

Striped Bass

  • The Striped Bass Board approved Draft Addendum II for public comment (sorry for the repetition). You can expect the ASMFC to publish a revised Addendum document and public hearing schedule in the coming weeks. Below you’ll learn about how the document changed. Also, stay tuned for ASGA’s official positions and public comment materials. 
  • The Ocean Recreational Options were already somewhat sparse (due to many options being removed during the August meeting), but two options were added: a new slot (30-33″) and that slot with an associated mode split for charter/for-hire. ASGA is uneasy with this slot for two reasons.  First by shifting the slot limit up, harvest will effectively chase the 2015-year class (one of the main objectives of the emergency action was to protect the 2015s). Second, making it easier to harvest a striper today is not in anyone’s best interest long term—now is the time to be precautionary. 
  • Chesapeake Bay Recreational Options were pared down substantially, leaving most of the options ASGA supported. The Board removed the B subset options, C subset options, E3, and E4. The remaining options all result in far greater consistency in the Chesapeake Bay and are projected to achieve necessary reductions in the Bay. 
  • Commercial Options in this document were far more complicated. Thankfully, the Board greatly simplified this section by removing the maximum size limit options and associated spawning potential ratio analyses. We will do a deeper explanation of why this is an acceptable outcome in the short-term in our Addendum II Alert.  For now, just know that commercial quota reductions in the Ocean and Chesapeake Bay are an integral part of this document.  

Everything Else: 

  • NOAA Presentation on Federal Effort Survey Overestimation: There was another NOAA Fisheries presentation on potential overestimation bias in the Federal Effort Survey (MRIP). This presentation felt more in-depth and informative. The primary takeaways are to NOT assume 30-40% overestimation across the board (different regions and fishing modes will have different impacts), there is confidence that the follow-up studies will confirm the presence of overestimation bias, fishing trends likely are not affected (scales of estimates, however, will change), implications for management are a long way away…
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  • Rob Latour from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science presented to the Menhaden Board about numerous new proposed studies he developed. These studies seek to better understand the Chesapeake Bay’s menhaden population and how this critical forage species impacts other aspects of the Bay’s ecosystems and fishing communities. 
  • The Red Drum Stock Assessment is rolling along.  Black drum are in an OK place for now.
  • The Policy Board approved a new Conservation Equivalency Policy for all the Commission’s fishery management plans. This document builds off the progress to establish guardrails for CE within the striped bass management plan and applies similar measures to the rest of Commissions’ managed species. We still have some questions, but this policy may very well bring additional accountability to the use of CE across ALL of the ASMFC’s management plans (this policy does not wipe the slate clean of existing CE programs, but species boards will look to this new policy the next time management acton is needed–such as after a new stock assessment). Further, it is our understanding that this document would not supersede the CE guardrails we achieved through Amendment 7 to the Striped Bass Fishery Management Plan.
  • Upcoming Stock Assessment Schedule:

There’s a quick update from last week’s ASMFC meeting. Stay on the lookout for ASGA’s advocacy guide for Draft Addendum II and how you can best assist efforts to responsibly manage striped bass and rebuild this fishery by 2029!

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