Striped Bass: A Heartfelt Thanks to the Community, and What Comes Next

By Tony Friedrich, Vice President and Policy Director

Photo Credit: LeeAnne Conway

 

We have been working on Amendment 7 for striped bass forever, it seems. The comment period is over. It is a strange feeling when you come to the end of a long journey. There is some relief for sure. There is also a host of mixed emotions. Did you do your best? Did you make mistakes along the way? You reflect on the good, the bad, and the lessons learned.

It needs to be said that we are extremely grateful to all of you. Everyone that took the time to pore through the extraordinarily complex 150-page document and write a personal email fighting for striped bass conservation deserves a pat on the back. When the process started, the team at ASGA was deeply concerned with how many people would comment. After the dust settled, we were shocked to see that we received 150% of the comments we generated during last year’s Public Information Document process—over 500. That is an astounding number.

We are also grateful for the over 80 non-profits, brands, and businesses that included their logo in our letter to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s (ASMFC) Striped Bass Board. It showed broad support for striped bass conservation. We hope that this is a stark reminder to ASMFC that a lot of people depend on an abundant striped bass population. This is something that the Striped Bass Management Board needs to understand as well. We aren’t a loud minority in this discussion. We are the fishermen, companies, and brands that depend on striped bass. We are the fishery. If our letter doesn’t show that, I’m not sure what does.

We are grateful for our Board and members. This fight is personal. We represent our friends. There is no other way to describe it. Every decision made, every letter written, and every step forward weighed heavily on us. It isn’t just about bringing striped bass back. It is about our friends being able to provide for their families.

The team behind the effort wanted one thing. We wanted to be able to look in the mirror on the Saturday morning after the public comment deadline and know in our hearts that we did everything we could. That we left it all on the field for our friends. We all felt that way.

We have momentum on our side and now is not the time to let our foot off the gas. Are all of y’all familiar with the term, “Vote with your wallet?” Our community needs to support the brands and organizations that support striped bass conservation. The next time you buy a rod, reel, tackle, or clothing, you should order it from one of the companies on our letter. When you make that order, tell them that you are making the purchase because you appreciate the company standing up for stripers. Join supporting groups like the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association or Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. Support all the groups that support striped bass! That is how we will win the long game.

So where do we go from here? The ASMFC’s Striped Bass Management Board will meet on May 4 at 11:30 AM in Arlington, VA (though folks can of course tune in remotely). The meeting is scheduled to conclude around 5:30 PM for those that plan on listening in. You may also recall that a stock assessment update for striped bass is scheduled for October; if the outcome is as bad as we fear it may be, more Board action may be required this fall to help get the stock back on track beginning in 2023.

Our biggest concern is for the long-term health of our fisheries, not just striped bass. If we win this fight, will be back here in 15-20 years, dealing with an overfished stock yet again? With the track record of ASMFC, that answer is probably “yes.” Many of us have been doing this for decades. You start to feel like Charlie Brown when Lucy pulls the football away. There is only one path forward for all of us. That is to reform the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. Because it isn’t just striped bass. It is shad, river herring, menhaden, weakfish, cobia, croaker, and many other species that are at risk from the flexibility that ASMFC regularly flaunts. ASMFC needs to be accountable for not following their own rules. Until that happens, we are nothing more than a hopeful Charlie Brown running towards a football only to end up flat on our asses wondering why we fell for it again.

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