Maryland Shields Commercial Striper Fishery From Accountability

Feature Photo: Rex Messing of Simms

Maryland Department of Natural Resources just sent out the following press release:

Maryland Department of Natural Resources Presents Emergency Regulations to Increase Protections for Maryland’s Striped Bass Spawning Population.”

To save you time, here’s the summary:

DNR is extending its recreational no-targeting closures to the Maryland portion of Chesapeake Bay to May 15 and implementing harvest closures on the flats until the end of May. The only upside to this action is the end of the trophy season. Unfortunately, that doesn’t do a lot to lower fishing mortality. The number of “trophy” fish being caught in the shortened season is almost next to nothing these days. There were 1365 ocean migratory striped bass in last year’s trophy season.  That isn’t a blip on the radar in the scheme of the troubled coastwide stock.

Hidden behind these emergency recreational measures is the Bay’s 3-million-pound commercial quota. There is a gill net and haul seine fishery in Maryland from January until the end of February. The spawn, or what little of one we have left, has been happening earlier, and anyone who tells you that the first wave doesn’t hit in the middle of February is lying to you. The Potomac River, which is its own jurisdiction and gets its own quota for some reason, has a hook and line, pound net, gill net, and misc. gear fishery that all collide with the spawn. Virginia has an anchored gill net fishery that intercepts giant striped bass coming into the bay to spawn. 

Since 2015, the Bay commercial fishery has taken almost zero reductions. The 2022 FMP update details the entire situation. While there has been a 49% reduction in recreational removals, there has simultaneously been a substantial increase in commercial harvest from the baseline year of 2017.  

While Maryland DNR is focused on PR stunts to make it look like they are doing something, here is what will happen next:

There is the potential for a 14.5% reduction in the commercial quota for Addendum II.  That will result in real impacts on the ocean commercial fishery.  It will do absolutely nothing for the Bay.  Why?  Because there are so few fish left that they are only catching 82% of their quota.  To get any reductions, the decrease must come from harvest, not a quota that isn’t being met.  Oh, and must we remind you and Maryland DNR that there have been FIVE consecutive years of failed spawning in MD’s portion of the Bay?

Maryland continues to play games within the bounds of striped bass management. This same state went on record saying that they would not be able to take any commercial reductions in 2024 because the tags would already be handed out. We all know that is a lie, nor is it the reason they don’t want to take reductions.

In reality, Maryland’s emergency regulations are not a solution to the ailments plaguing this coastwide fishery, but rather another rotten example of why these issues still exist. Special interests continue to take priority over the resource. So, yes, the trophy season is over.  But this action is a pathetic distraction that continues to bury Chesapeake Bay recreational anglers who have already taken almost a 50% reduction in harvest since 2017 while ignoring multiple commercial fisheries at all costs. It seems impossible, but Maryland DNR continues to raise the bar on sleight of hand to prioritize their own interests while destroying any hope of rebuilding this fishery for the rest of the coast.

For a full breakdown of our views on commercial striped bass fishing through the lens of Addendum II, you can listen to the following Guide Post Podcast episode:

5 Responses

  1. To know why these insane commercial quotes are still in effect just follow the $. Greed Trumps ecology every time! When will we ever learn? Punishing the recreational fisherman for commercial profit is just wrong, plain and simple.

    1. Hey Parker!
      Hope you had a great Thanksgiving. Normally, those overages go against the upcoming year’s quota. To be honest, I wish we had the same accountability for states that don’t meet their recreational conservation goals.

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