Deck Stacked Against Stripers for Addendum II

ASMFC 2023 Annual Meeting Preview: Will Historically Poor Spawn Spur Action at the Striped Bass Board? 

Title Photo: Bill Lecony

On Monday, October 16th the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission will meet in Beaufort, North Carolina for its Annual Meeting. The Striped Bass Board meeting is bar none the most important agenda item for us, but one thing is abundantly clear: last week’s news out of Maryland about the second-worst striped bass spawn on record will be front of mind for the striped bass community and the Board Members. Or at least we would hope…

The Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board will meet this Wednesday, October 18th from 2-5 PM.  The big topic of discussion will be Draft Addendum II. We aren’t going to do a deep dive on this Addendum yet because it is currently in draft form and won’t know the details of the final document until after the meeting. This week, we’ll also be paying attention to recreational data, stock assessment updates, NOAA Fisheries, Forage Fish, and new ASMFC Conservation Equivalency policy agenda items. 

Right now, Addendum II is another complicated document that will be a heavy lift for anglers to understand. This has become shockingly familiar territory for anglers and business owners trying to be involved and participate in the public comment process. They are asked to assess hundreds of dynamics, historical reference points and proposed management actions and then submit a brief, concise summary of their opinions on the fishery. It’s truly a surprise anyone participates in a public process this riddled with resistance – but the striped bass community always pulls through. We stand by the statement that the striper community is one of the most educated and engaged fishing communities on the globe.

The best possible scenario is that the document gets trimmed down while not losing the most conservative options. The Plan Development Team suggested removing some of those options already. ASGA is reaching out to board members and letting them know that the public and their comments should drive these decisions. One of the major notes on our war room whiteboard is the carveouts for gill nets. We will vehemently oppose this carveout once the document is finalized.  

If the draft document is approved on the 18th, the final document will go out for public comment.  From there, you all know the drill. The ASGA team will call “all hands on deck” to produce a comprehensive and clean review of the document along with our positions. We will share assets across multiple channels and media types, exhausting all our resources to educate and empower this community. From there, it is critical that you all show up for these hearings and give your testimony. It’s going to take an army of committed, educated and relentless voices to give these fish a chance.

ASGA remains committed to producing the resources necessary for our community to participate in this complex process.

One of the biggest dominos yet to fall is a crucial stock assessment update in 2024. While not a guarantee, this timeline leads us to an educated assumption that the measures in Addendum II will be around only for the 2024 season. Our major, immediate concern is five straight years of bad recruitment in the Chesapeake and no reductions to the Bay’s commercial quotas. It’s inconceivable not to address the fishery responsible for 80% of all commercial landings during five straight years of poor recruitment – culminating in 2023’s second-worst spawn in recorded history. This is a coastal fishery and managers from all states better come down hard on Maryland and New Jersey, or this will all be over soon. Take a look at our current positions as we anxiously await this week’s meeting…

  • In its current form, Draft Addendum II includes “conservation carveouts” for special interests—the anchored gill-net fishery being the most egregious. We have no more room for carveouts with the current state of the fishery and historically low recruitment.

  • Given the news of another terrible spawn in MD’s Chesapeake Bay (the fifth consecutive and second worst spawn on record), we hope the Board will act proactively to commensurately reduce mortality from the Chesapeake Bay’s commercial and recreational fisheries. The Bay’s fish are all of our fish. This is one migratory coastal stock. We cannot maintain nearly status quo pressures in the Bay on these minuscule age classes.  
  • At the very least, the Striped Bass Board needs to approve this document for public comment so that we can implement the addendum as quickly as possible. We have no time for delays.

  • We request a clear answer from states, the SB Board, and the ASMFC on why Chesapeake commercial measures cannot be implemented until 2025. 

Other Items on the Agenda for this week’s ASMFC Meetings: 

  • We await updates on important stock assessments. Most notably, we will receive updates on progress for the Red Drum Benchmark, Menhaden Ecological Reference Point Benchmark, River Herring Benchmark, the Roanoke/Albemarle Sound striped bass assessment, and Cobia assessments.  

  • On Tuesday morning, NOAA Fisheries will give the Commission a presentation on MRIP, potential overestimation biases in the Federal Effort Survey, and the next steps for this situation.

How to Tune in?  

As always, we’ll be sure to provide our community updates and a full debrief shortly after the meeting. It’s going to take a united front to push ASMFC to responsibly manage this resource and conserve it for long-term abundance – because our children and their children deserve the opportunity to experience our incredible fisheries.

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