Striped Bass Meetings

“The Fix is In”

Tony Friedrich VP/Policy Director

We are sorry for wasting your time. We know you are busy. We know you would rather be home with your family. We know you missed dinner. We know you left work early. We know this stuff is really hard to understand.

But, you tried anyway. You faced brutal traffic. You told your wife you wouldn’t be home to help with things the day before Valentine’s Day. You told your kids you wouldn’t be home to tuck them in. You read all the material, typed up comments, tried to be respectful, and tried to participate in a public process. You did it right but got treated like garbage last night in New Jersey.

Let’s take a look at some of the comments from social media regarding the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council meeting last night.

My Dad was turned away – too many people…. Hopefully the ‘right’ type of people are there and they turn it into a dumpster fire.

we were told that because if the fire code we had to wait outside. Which for good portion of time was in the 30’s and raining. A very large portion of the seating was taken up by people that just sat there and didn’t say a word.

They ask for public, have meetings but in the end ignore what the majority of people want.

that’s why those hearings are a waste of time. They wipe their ass with people like us.

There are plenty of videos out there on social media to substantiate these claims. We have reviewed them.

NJ is still trying to adjust their CE proposal for striped bass. Hence the need for “public comment” and a “public hearing” last night. Their hearing was held in the middle of nowhere at 5PM in a room that could not accommodate the crowd. Now, I have been running events for two decades. You plan for big turnouts. This is day one stuff. Do you honestly think there isn’t going to be a big turnout for striped bass?

So, bad planning is rough. Making people stand outside in 30 degree rainy weather is rougher. When the agenda came out, comments were listed at the end, after the votes would be made on striped bass. That error was corrected but by that time, the folks in the hallway were already leaving.

Things were not starting out very good. The best was yet to come. The New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council put up a slide with the winning option highlighted before comments were heard. Sounds too outrageous to believe right?

If you can’t make it out, here was the handout.

So, the fix was in. The public went through all of that and the decision was made before they parked their cars. Has the mandate for public comment just become a box that needs to be checked by state agencies? Do they go into these meetings knowing that they have to listen to a bunch of people “whine” and then do what they want anyway?

As a side note, New Jersey went with a 28-38″ slot. That isn’t terrible. What is terrible is that the bonus tag system has been extended by four months. Normally starting in September, New Jersey will most likely have a May 15 start to a bonus tag for a 24-28″ fish. That opens up the entire summer to small fish. You can not tell us that is good for an overfished stock. With only 5000 tags issued last year and slightly over 1000 returned, you have to question compliance with the bonus tag. Enforcement is woefully understaffed as well.

Maryland is no different. They took a beating on social media a few days ago. Just scroll down to the picture of the small striper and read the comments. DNR announced their spring regulations online and the public erupted. Why? Because they did the same thing that New Jersey anglers did. They educated themselves, showed up to meetings, tried to participate, and were completely ignored.

I was the last to speak at the DNR hearing in Cambridge, MD during the first striped bass public comment period. It was in a room at the American Legion. People inside the meeting were drinking. How utterly inappropriate is that? I was the last on the list to speak. I got through maybe 2/3rds of my statement before the meeting had to be halted and adjourned due to attendees yelling at me. It really doesn’t bother you after a while. The statement was fairly benign. If you do this long enough, you get a thick skin. But think about the people in the room with less experience. How many average anglers would speak in a crowd like that? I can tell you the answer is zero.

This is an op-ed that ran today in the Baltimore Sun. It tells the truth. We are the economic driver. We want the fish managed responsibly. We are being treated like we don’t exist. The proof? One concerned angler in Maryland made a sign on video that asked Maryland to adopt the 1 fish at 18″ for all. He got almost 400 signatures and well over 10k views. His letter was either not counted or counted as 1. By our recollection, it was ignored in the state paperwork. How awful is that?

Anyone recall that the overwhelming results of the comment period at ASMFC were also ignored?

We hear from the states and the commission that anglers don’t participate in the process. Well… Why is that? The process is shattered. As many said, “the fix is in”.

4 Responses

  1. Once in a while a very well respected conservation oriented and well known fisherman responds to my occasional but mild rants about the ASMFC being a garbage organization, The well meaning response is usually targeted at the good people in the organization. I’m tired of sending stuff, posting stuff and since I’m in NY, going to meetings to be constantly disappointed. If there are any intelligent people with a care for the future of the striped bass within that organization and they don’t speak up aggressively to get this fixed then they too are guilty as are the NJ and MD commissioners. Everyone knows what the answer is and that’s to ignore ( yes IGNORE ) the special interests and get on with rebuilding the stock. Either that of fold up your tent and hand this over to be governed under Magnusen-Stevens or even better yet , go Gamefish status.

    1. Mark, those can be extremely expensive. Right now, we don’t have the budget. Not sure if there is anyone else considering this action.

      1. Indeed, FOIAs can run into some righteous dollar amounts. I brought it up if only because the agencies in question are not exactly acting “transparently” – it would be “disinfecting” to bring their internal communications and deliberations into the light. What are the requirements for the agencies to report with whom they have met from industry or trade organizations or their lobbyists? If I had Bezos’ bucks I’d be spending it to fix what can be fixed, namely the issues around striper stocks, the Bay, non-point pollution from PA, removal of the Conowingo dam, etc.

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