Striped Bass: Comment Participation and Conservation Equivalency

We are writing this for the regular guys who might still give a shit after the carnival on Wednesday, October 30th.

We have gotten too many calls and emails to answer. So, we are going to address the two items we are hearing the most about. The first is angler participation in the comment period. The second is the concept of conservation equivalency. Some of you may have heard the term but don’t understand what it does.

Angler Participation in the management process

Let’s touch real quick on angler participation. Here are the numbers.

As you can see, Option 2A-1 was the clear winner. But, we aren’t here to talk about that today. We are here to discuss why there are millions of striped bass anglers and such little participation. In all of the state hearings, slightly over a thousand people showed up. Why are these numbers so low?

This question was asked by commissioners at the meeting on Wednesday. There was talk about better outreach, communication, etc. I was listening to them talk and almost had a mini-stroke. Don’t they get it? It is as plain as the nose on their face. Far be it from me to use my words to let them know. Here are some quotes from social media.

Sorry to say I was suckered in and thought my votes and letters mattered it’s time to get rid of ASMFC

Social Media

ASMFC ignored public comment favoring 1@35 and will send this fishery into further peril with its decision to do what it wants and set a slot. Majority of our fish are 2015 class and will be decimated in 2021 when they reach the slot. This is obvious to anyone who spends time fishing for stripers. Shameful display by the ASMFC

Social Media

Is there a way to take this above the ASMFC???? There is obviously corruption going on with NJ and MD going after their own interests yesterday, and somehow the rest followed suit which is awful. How can they let this squeak by that the fishery that belongs to “everyone” including the people who participated to say 1@35” coastwide is the preferred option

Social Media

I dont know… seems like everyone I know thinks the same thing. Many of us feel about the same on many votes, and it never seems like it goes the way everyone wants? Just hard for me , personally, to believe right now. Wish I didnt

Social Media

This was an appalling meeting to witness. You wasted everyone’s time requesting public comment if you’re only going to ignore the majority when it comes down to decision making time. We have no confidence or trust in ASMFC… our ’11 and ’15 year classes are now fatally vulnerable, our businesses will whither and the bass lose. DO better.

I can go on. It was hard to find quotes that weren’t laced with profanity. Several of these are from the ASMFC facebook page. Your Halloween post didn’t go as planned, did it?

Please, don’t spend more valuable resources on “outreach” to increase participation. I can save you a ton of money. The reason why people aren’t sending in letters and attending meetings is because they have lost all faith in the process. Your actions have made them feel like they don’t matter, aren’t heard, and have absolutely zero impact. You have beaten this community down to a point where taking five minutes to write an email isn’t worth it anymore. You solidified that sentiment on October 30th. Own it….you did it. You want to change it? Then start showing us a shred of respect.

Conservation Equivalency

This is far more simple to understand than you would think. When ASMFC sets “coastwide” limits on striped bass, CE can be used by any state to modify those regulations. For sake of discussion, the limit on striped bass was set at 28-35″ on Wednesday, October 30 to achieve an 18% reduction. Great! We can protect the big breeders. Nope… with CE, any state can now submit their own plan to reduce harvest by 18%. If state X wants to still harvest fish over 35″, they can include that in their plan. As long as it reduces harvest by 18%, they are good to go.

CE is allowed at ASMFC but not at the councils. Hence, many of the more difficult species to manage, striped bass, cobia, etc are handed over to the commission. Why? Because the flexibility inherent in this state management is a giant loophole to appease those calling for greater harvest. Sometimes things that look good on paper don’t translate in the real world.

Case in point, Maryland’s CE proposal several years ago was supposed to garner a 20.5% reduction. The result was a 217% rate of harvest over the course of a few years. Again, what looks good on paper doesn’t always work out in the real world.

We have done many angler workshops up and down the coast over the last year. One of the consistent messages was a coastwide size/creel limit on striped bass. It just makes sense. We are all fishing the same stock. As long as CE exists, this will never happen. CE was a huge part of why we didn’t support a slot limit. If any state can choose to kill a trophy fish, then a true slot limit will never exist. CE is the enemy. State management of shared resources is a quagmire of woe and despair. We need to standardize regulations if we ever want to start heading in the right direction.

We hope this answers some questions. CE and state management don’t work for our migratory inshore species. 17 of 26 species managed by ASMFC are either overfished, depleted, or the status is unknown. The track record speaks for itself. The system is broken. There are too many loopholes. We are playing against a stacked deck.

But please, don’t give up! The more you understand, the better advocate you can be. Most of you probably consider yourselves to be avid, hardened, salty, striped bass fishermen. WELL ACT LIKE IT. We got knocked down. Pick your ass up and learn to fight smarter. The more you understand, the less you will buy into the BS. You can give factual information on social media rather than wonder if the mindless, uninformed narrative that is so prevalent today has any validity. Isn’t the next generation of striped bass anglers worth your best effort?

11 Responses

  1. interesting that maryland is a hyperliberal state in most regards, but total weenies when it comes to the chesapeake…sure, they want their federal funding when it comes to preserving the bay, but those in charge frequently bend to the the pressures of the waterman, who have an entirely shortsided view when it comes to crabs, oysters, striped bass, and forage fish. and the citizens…clueless. have no idea that most of the crabs they eat are from somewhere else! they want their crabs (as a birthright) but wont lift a finger to help the crab/rockfish nursery in their own back yard. i’m a PA transplant and care more that the overwhelming majority of the people i know. made sure to comment to my delegate, who happened to be on the council – though i’m not sure what good it did. to all those who care, keep fighting the good fight!

    1. Francis,
      Great question!
      This is the timeline. States have to submit their CE proposals to ASMFC by Nov 30. The Technical Committee (TC) has to review those proposals. Everything will come out at the Feb 2020 meeting at ASMFC. If a state CE plan gets rejected, that state may go out of compliance. That will start a chain reaction up and down the coast. It will ultimately end up on the Sec of Commerce’s desk.
      We plan to do a couple of things. First and foremost, we have to make sure the TC adequately reviews the CE plans.
      ASGA is coming up with a “honey-do list” for folks like you that still want to help. Check back on the blog in about a week. Please let us know if you have any more questions.

    2. The one main thing anyone can do is to not keep any damn stripers. Simple. There are just not enough to go around. That seems obvious as well.

  2. In addition to better and more common sense regulations to conserve striped bass stocks practice better catch and release. Yes, the ASMFC has no backbone but fisherman are a huge part of the problem because we don’t impose limits on ourselves, our own egos. Catch and release itself will do nothing to help if anglers are catching too many fish in one specific area/aggregation of fish. Too many hero shots with fish out of the water will kill those fish. Also a negative shout out to fishing magazines that claim they are conservation minded but publish photos of anglers holding fish vertically out of the water and articles that brag about catching and releasing multiple fish. Guess what, half of those fish died. We have to do the hard thing and restrict our own catch: catch a couple of fish, practice best release, move on.

    1. Jeff,
      We wrote a great article on the blog and produced a quick-reference infographic as well. I can’t rehash all of it in this comment. But, the number one cause of release mortality is deep hooking. As in +50% of the release mortality number is directly related to deep hooking. That is the first thing we need to address. Circle hooks are the way forward. The other variables are interactive. Salinity, water temp, and air temp are all connected. Beyond that, if you catch a striped bass in cold, salty water, hooked in the mouth, the mortality rate is .8%. That doesn’t warrant stopping a person from fishing. The article is here. Please take a look.

      1. What about banning treble hooks and double hooks on plugs? We’ve all seen fish get mangled by a second treble hook that impales the fish and causes further damage.

    2. I said this before and still feel the same way strip bass season should not start till. After july 4 1 fish at 36 same goes for blue fish start of season 2 fish at 25″ if we don’t let them spawn it not going to happen

  3. I attended the public hearing meeting on September 25 in Bridgeport, CT, and wanted to follow-up on my comments there and support of Sub-Option 2A-1 and 2B-1 regarding Addendum VI to Amendment 6 to the Interstates Management Plan for Striped Bass.

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