Striped Bass Recap from ASMFC Hearing – Commercial Transfers (2.6.23.)

This blog is going to be long. I hate long blogs. It wouldn’t be fair to all of you if we cut corners on this one. So, grab a coffee and get ready for a big download. 

Let’s set the stage for this blog. The ASGA team was at the hearing in person for two days. We read all your comments on social and we listened to every second of the meeting. We deal in reality because that’s the only way we will bring back striped bass.  First, there are no payoffs going on at ASMFC. We saw that in the comments. It isn’t true. We would be the first to call it out. I would climb the highest steeple and scream if we thought that for a second. It just doesn’t happen, and we lose credibility when commissioners see those types of comments in our feeds. Believe me, they see it. It is frustrating and disheartening when we are ignored. We understand and feel the exact same way. If we stay on target, we will be more effective. Stay focused. That’s what stripers deserve from us. 

Let’s be clear on something. The ASMFC isn’t a monolith. There are many boards and staff members. What I am about to say is all about the Striped Bass Management Board and no one else. We work with ASMFC staff on a lot of different issues. They are real people who are professionals that know their jobs. You ever work with a board who directs your operations? It can be painful sometimes. That is the situation they are in. 

We could pull punches on this because being critical doesn’t do us any favors as an association. I have a responsibility to our membership first. They deserve the best I can give them. I call it like I see it. If you don’t like what I am about to say, then stop making me say it. 

ASGA spent an enormous amount of time educating the public. We have been fair, transparent, and operated with integrity. In the past, public participation was low. The comments that were sent in often did not cover relevant issues. Fisheries managers frequently opined that the public did not participate. In response to that, ASGA went on a campaign to educate the public on some dense topics and urged them to send comments in. We went above and beyond by asking our followers to draft personal emails. We never used form letters because we were told they didn’t count as much. To top it all off, some of our followers’ personal letters were counted as form letters. We could never get a definition from ASMFC on what a form letter is or how much form letters are discounted. We kept at it undeterred.

None of this means that our positions should win out just because we generated the most comments. However, not even mentioning the public input during a hearing is a travesty. Do you understand that? Are we being clear enough? This isn’t the first time it has happened. This isn’t a game. Our members’ lives depend on this fishery. Our businesses are no less important than the commercial sector. You hurt what little faith existed by never mentioning public comment. Stakeholders are even mad at us for suggesting their time and effort mean something. People don’t want to comment anymore, and you own that. You never mentioned the option that over 98% of the public wanted. Aren’t you supposed to represent your constituents? This board owes the public an apology and a commitment to listen to their concerns and comments. We aren’t mad because Option A was not passed. We are furious that this board spends hours discussing if circle hooks should be used for a tube and worm rig, while completely ignoring almost 2000 well-informed and professional comments. 

In the end, this is the motion that passed. 

We Are All Deflated, But Striped Bass Still Need Us

The motion directs the Technical Committee to provide data that will show what the impacts of fully exploiting the commercial quota are. We will never dispute that more data is better for everyone. I have a question though. Within the current context and condition of striped bass, why wasn’t this task completed months ago? Shouldn’t this be the first thing done? Think about it. If you wanted to fully exploit the commercial quota for striped bass, wouldn’t you request a report on the impacts? But, that was not done. So here we are. 

We can expect the results of this projection at the May meeting. There is something else that is going to happen at that meeting. 

Why is the May Meeting so Important? 

Commissioner Armstrong asked the board to review the harvest numbers from 2022. We appreciate this Commissioner Armstrong. This is critical because the much-heralded rebuilding plan relies on an abnormally low fishing mortality (f) rate. The target is (f)=.17. The threshold is (f)=.20. Rebuilding was based on the (f)=.14 from 2020 and 2021. This data was impacted by covid. 

The chart below shows the total F for striped bass since 1980 and is from the most recent stock assessment.  Since striped bass were recovered in 1995, we have been at or above the F threshold with two exceptions, 2020 and 2021. Oddly enough, this is the same period that rebuilding was based. When folks were saying there was a 78% chance of rebuilding, we started to become concerned. Why? Because the assumption that F would remain below a level that had not been reached once since before the recovery almost 30 years ago seemed to be quite a reach. 

The preliminary data is out for 2022. It is only missing the November/December data set. We can take a look at all the other waves to compare and contrast harvest levels. This is a good indication of where F will land for 2022. 

Just like everything else in fisheries, this is not a 1+1=2 deal. Harvest is just one part of the ratio that F is derived from. But it is a good indicator of what F will be. 

This is numbers of fish not pounds. 

We will look at only Mid-Atlantic and North Atlantic. We can ignore the South Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. 

** No data available for the North Atlantic. Mid-Atlantic only

Wave202020212022 Preliminary
Total without Nov/Dec1,274,1711,195,1722,518,704

In 22’, the preliminary data shows that we harvested almost double 2020 and well over double 2021. We all saw the fishing in New Jersey and New York in November and December. Who here thinks we maintained the unrealistic f=.14? Yup, we don’t either. 

Release mortality is 9%. So, we just take the total releases and multiple that by .09. Without Nov/Dec data for 22, it is extremely hard to estimate what the final totals will be. 

It is safe to assume that about 1,000,000 more fish died in 2022 when harvest and release mortality are combined. That is somewhere around a 20-25% increase. I will ask it again. Does anyone think that f=.14 is viable? We don’t either. In fact, we never did. The bottom line is that there is a high likelihood we are no longer on a track for rebuilding by 2029. This should be the number one concern of the board.

The board needs to review these numbers in May and initiate an addendum to ensure a rebuilt stock by 2029. 

Here comes my halftime speech. Life is not about how you act when things are going great. It is about getting knocked down and getting back up. You have to be tough to do this work. Being a little dumb does not hurt either. Our membership is a tight community. They deserve the best from this association. We understand you may have had enough and think it is pointless. That kills our soul after all the work we all put into this. If you give up now, everything you have done might be for nothing. You are probably thinking, “The fix is in, what chance do we have?” Our position is, “What choice do we have?”

We love these fish, and we are not going to stop fighting. 

3 Responses

  1. Tony, Willy, and everyone at ASGA,
    Thank you for keeping the fires lit under the angling community and providing us with clear, factual, information about the management issues facing Stripers and other species. I can tell that you are worried that these recent frustrations will dilute the numbers of anglers that will speak up to support science-based management decisions. Don’t worry, I really believe that you poked the bear and anglers are just beginning to get active and they are reaching out to their fellow anglers to urge them to voice their opinions.
    You are doing great work, thank you.

  2. Although I understand your dissatisfaction with some readers past emails to ASMFC, one need only to look at their website which shows species specific graphs and their plummeting numbers since 1985 to see there is almost no chance if them turning this around. If they are not in someone’s pocket, they are shockingly incompetent.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Recent Articles:

Browse by Category:

Search all Categories

Stand with Us

We rely on our members and donations to keep fighting for a sustainable tomorrow in marine conservation.

By using this website, you agree to our use of cookies. We use cookies to provide you with a great experience and to help our website run effectively. To learn more, please review our privacy policy.