Regional commission liked less than deadly respiratory illness

Tony Friedrich VP/Policy Director

The results are in. New polling numbers show that a deadly virus that jumped species and has hundreds of millions under quarantine is liked more than a regional fisheries commission tasked with managing striped bass.

One area man commented, “At least coronavirus responds to treatment, this commission hasn’t restored and maintained a single stock in over 70 years.” Yet another area man said, “You have to appreciate the moxie in coronavirus. It knows how to produce results. This commission just finds ways to mess things up.” Well said “area man”.

The meeting on Tuesday started out OK but quickly descended into a carnival that was nothing less than shameful. I specifically use that word because no less than five “area people” attending the meeting said it to me.

ASGA would like to thank some commissioners for doing their best. Namely, Keliher (ME), Abbott (NH), White (NH), McMurray (NY), Davis (CT), and McKiernan (MASS) each tried their best to keep the meeting on track. It didn’t go unnoticed and all of us appreciate your efforts. If we missed anyone, please accept our apologies. Even with their best intentions, the Chairman referred to the meeting as “chaotic” and that was extremely kind.


We asked for accountability in our last blog. You know what? You sent your emails in and the topic came up multiple times at the meeting. You participated. Thank you. At least we know that we can push agenda items. That is a positive.

However, sometimes you see the train coming from a mile away. Here’s a quote from our blog last week.

In regard to a payback provision, if the 2020 numbers come back and show one or two states are using CE and not meeting the 18% reduction, they will have the overage deducted from their 2021 allotment. Makes perfect sense right?

How can anyone argue against this? If Maryland and New jersey truly believe that their plans will conserve fish, then this shouldn’t be an issue. If they are truly interested in being responsible to the coast, this just makes sense. If they fight against this solution, well…we have our answer.

Guess what happened? Accountability was being discussed and Maryland (Luisi) made a motion to postpone the decision until the amendment process begins. Let’s not forget that the amendment process will take about two years. So, no accountability for the state that is playing the system to exploit an unsustainable harvest.

As soon as the motion was made, PRFC (Gary) and NJ (Cimino) jumped up faster than a kid at a birthday party when asked if they want a slice of ice cream cake. PRFC took the second but only because the chairman didn’t see NJ waving their hands wildly. I saw it, others saw it. It wasn’t a good look. Furthermore, these are the exact states that we warned you about and they did it anyway. RI did no favors with this. MacNamee (RI) said accountability couldn’t be rushed and we needed time to do it right. No, we actually don’t. ASMFC makes molasses going uphill in January look down right speedy. We need some system of checks and balances so states like MD won’t overfish by 200% again and wipe out another year class. In RI’s desire for perfection in an imperfect science, they threw a massive wrench in the discussion.

Looking at this more broadly, the recreational community is constantly criticized for not being “accountable”. Well, we asked for it. No, we begged for it. We wrote blogs, asked our followers to send emails. People participated in a meaningful way. We made it an issue at the meeting. We were denied. So, you don’t have the accountability high ground anymore. You showed your colors and we saw it.

Are still wondering why the public has lost all faith in the commission, doesn’t want to attend meetings, and feels as though their opinion doesn’t matter? Seriously?

Conservation Equivalency

There were over 45 CE proposals submitted. Let that sink in. There were so many CE proposals that the Technical Committee can not guarantee that the coast will meet an 18% reduction. Let that sink in…again.

This is why ASFMC has to be reigned in. They not only established a plan that won’t rebuild the stock within 10 years, (13 at best), they also accepted so many CE proposals that they can’t assure us that the REQUIRED reductions will be met. Both of these issues would likely result in a lawsuit at the councils.

But, there is no accountability at the commission and it shows. In the case of NJ, they are actually submitting new CE proposals! How can this be? Let’s shed some light on the issue.

As the meeting progressed, states from North to South put forth their proposals. Maine, NH, and Mass went with the recommendations from the commission. When RI was up, they submitted a proposal that increased the maximum size to 40″ for their state. It was accepted and the review continued. NJ was soon after and their CE proposal was rejected. NJ then lamented that this wasn’t fair. It was suggested to go back to RI and reject their proposal.

Guess what happened? The RI proposal wasn’t rejected and NJ is changing their rules so they too can kill bigger fish, along with smaller fish, and heck, even some fish in between.

Here is what we have for the info that came out of a NJ meeting last night.

If NJ goes from 28-35 up to 28-38, with a variety of bonus tags, we are looking at numbers that don’t bode well for the fishery. The 18% coastwide reduction had some states reducing harvest considerably more than others. Why? Because they kill a heck of a lot more fish. It is everyone’s stock. You kill more, you have to give back more.

Note, they want to issue trophy permits too. Everything has to go to the Technical Committee. All the TC has to do is say “yes” or “no” for the question “Does it reduce harvest by 18%”. Remember, NJ had to reduce more to attain the 18% coastwide reduction because they kill more. Everyone knows this yet in some bizarro world of fisheries management, it is OK? This all but ensures the goals will not be met.

Let’s move on to Maryland. They used horribly flawed MRIP numbers to close April to targeting, they are still killing about 15-20k fish over 35″ in trophy season, and certain stakeholders are still killing two fish. MRIP is not designed to deliver accurate data from one state for a small time period. The PSE’s showed for April in MD display this. Law enforcement said that this was essentially unenforceable. The TC had deep concerns about the reductions being quantifiable. Yet, they accepted MD’s proposal. Why would this happen?

Let’s be honest here. The commission members have known each other for a long time. I’ve seen time and time again that people think the commissioners are being paid. I always hear “follow the money”. That isn’t true.

What is true is that there is always horse trading going on. “You vote for this and I will vote for that.” In the case of MD, every single commissioner knew that if MD didn’t get what they wanted, MD would go out of compliance. So, that’s what happened.

The familiarity among the commissioners has made them forget that they actually need to adequately manage fish. That is their job. Not to be friends, not to have a few beers after the meeting…. If anyone questions this, I’d love to debate them in an open forum. Some examples I will use are, a 13 year rebuilding timeline, allowing bad data to direct decisions, avoiding accountability, and knowingly accepting over 45 CE proposals that are impossible to quantify and most likely will not achieve the necessary coastwide reductions.

Yet, we feel like there is an air of superiority combined with a smidge of the decisions have already been made before we walk into the room. That’s why you have lost all faith with the public.

We have participated and been completely ignored. We attend the meetings. We only want what is best for the resource which is what is best for all stakeholders.

So where do we go from here? Well, we change the commission. We make them accountable for breaking their own rules. We take our fisheries back. We are tired of this circus and we need these fish for our businesses to survive. Future generations deserve better than what the commission is giving them.

Until the framework of the commission changes, none of our fisheries will recover. Stop treating the symptoms, attack the disease.

6 Responses

  1. Recreational Tags is the solution. Easy enforcement and better data. Make individual personally responsible.

    1. Actually, we did mention it Lisa. We mentioned it in this article, the last article, and probably a few articles before that as well.

  2. How about a little democracy? Rec and guides select two commissioners to represent their state for a 4 year term with an additional three member oversight board serving 3 years who are voted for by all stakeholders.

  3. A bit off subject , although not by far . Has anything been done to figure out what has been the cause of the 3 year disappearance of the bluefish population ? Has anyone given thought as to the timing of this sudden decline in srriper as 3 years ago the population by most accounts was very healthy and from personal experience the biomass made it as far as Barnegat light inside the eez before taking a sudden East south East then south erin path straight on by southern nj and Delaware beaches . The years were both subject to early Indian summer cold snaps that in years prior much less lengthy periods ( 2-3 days of 35-40 degree highs 29-32 at night lasting spans of 2 weeks instead then followed,by cold rain and finally a 2-3 day spurt of normal Indian summer 60 -65 degree high 42- 48 lows . In both cases the water dropped from 70-72 down to lower 50’s by the second week of April and both these years the federal participation in maintaining the eez was unprecedented , helicopters and drones were rumored … I say that because these years were far from banner in most states although I understand Maryland enjoyed a heaping pile of large striped bass however not large enough to account for the numbers th asmfc has published . And again where are the bluefish numbers and how is it that they could possibly be nearly dormant when not too many eat them or target them . I’ve heard rumors of foreign vessels netting in our federal waters , and the possibility of those vessels having responsibility in decline . Is there any truth to these accusations or is this a mere rumor ? I know that the fed boys don’t even pack enough authority to check these vessels thoroughly how the hell did we let that happen . The striper by accounts I’ve heard and seen pics of were off southern jersey beaches by some 15-20 miles off following bunker , is it me or does that nit make you wonder if the rumors are true or have truths laden in them and these trawlers whom again in our federal waters are unregulated and unchecked for their catches and limit quotas are there any other person or people’s eyes and thoughts going to the fact that for as long as I can remember bass low blues high in the bunker migration they swim together in a symbiotic relationship the blues taking a bite of every bunker it sees allowing the sinking dying bunker to find its demise to a smart lazy bass just under the bluefish barrage , If these trawlers are annihilating blue fish numbers my stock is that they are also catching large quantities of striper . My problem isn’t the fact there may be a decline in numbers which I’m still not convinced with the lack of true data and true numbers of the population, and 3 years ago it was claimed to be a very healthy mass , the mass skirted nearly 125-200 miles of the bulk of fishermen from Barnegat down to extreme southern Delaware generously still way north of the Maryland bite how else could those numbers drop so unexpectedly without some influence of commercial sized catches . I want fish here for my daughters to take their kids as mine did I I hope they will as well but we really haven’t been throwing them over the rail as in prior times that led to the depletion of numbers . How is it the rec guys always seem to take the hit be it flounder , which NJ-47 is allowing an additional 1000or 1500 lbs a week of as we speak , they know the wintering grounds now , so those numbers are a flash in the pan . That’s per permit I believe and size is like 12.5 or 13 inches although that doesn’t matter , we use circle hooks by law but they throw back undersized Dead fish as their nets kill everything they inhale . And now in my area they are coming across the reefs , these were made by fishermen , rec fishermen and 2 years back they banned the trappers from fishing the reefs stating it was a recreational area , yes they can net the reefs I’ve seen them on 4 occasions last year and that was the first year I’d seen that and my season along with a lot of others suffered not only in fluke but sea robin , sand sharks all the byvcatch junk fish they call them . Why is all this legal while they’re making money doing it and we put the funds for these projects in coffers by buying and spending moneys on fishing ? Who decided no traps but yes nets . I can hear it now the comments they’d get their nets hemmed up , I saw it they’re doing it and successfully . Old boy came through zigging and zagging but his nets were out and he was on the reef the ones our clubs and moneys paid for so when July comes around and everyone’s asking about the flounder you know where they went , then the minimum for us will rise to 19 or 20,inches and the number will be dropped as well . There’s no legitimacy to lie the cause or the full burden of fixing it on the recreational guy . Bag netting for a year possibly 2 if you doubt it and check out the following years numbers as the council told nj if they’re out of conformity it comes from next years quota ? Same for trawling taking a break a 2 years pan on flounder see what happens then if they take no jump in recovery of more than twice the limiting of rec guys does and numbers and sizes aren’t 30% higher than limiting rec fishing business as usual if indeed they jump up those numbers you have your reason . This won’t happen because they already know what the main factor is but money fuels the machine . Id love to be wrong about that if I am , prove it there’s got to be a connection between blues sudden eradication and the claims of bass numbers being low and it ain’t any rec fisherman I know

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