Transferring Fish Quotas Is No Way To Protect A Fishery We Are Supposed To Respect
2022 continues to be a strong year for striped bass fishing. The Spring run was solid, some really large fish set up camp in The Bay for months, an unusually fun amount summered along the Maine coast and as waters cooled, bass put up many fights along the beach. Even still, there are a few feeding their way home along South County saltwater inlets to rivers and ponds. If you benefitted from the bounty and want to ensure recent management changes, like quotas and slot limits do not result solely short term gains, then you might want to weigh in with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. It’s easy, effective and highly influential, especially when recent changes look like they might change. And you can help us say No Striper Quota Transfers which just help other states catch more bass. Let ’em swim.
The ASMFC is seeking public comment on Draft Addendum I to Amendment 7 to the Atlantic Striped Bass Interstate Fishery Management Plan. This document addresses a quota system for commercial fishing and before you say, “I’m just a recreational angler,” the quota still affects striped bass, regardless of how they end up on a plate. The Commission has established a series of virtual public hearings for all anglers to offer comments. The closest to Southern New England anglers will be on Wednesday, December 14, 2022 from 6:00-8:00pm with RIDEM then on Monday, December 19 from 6:00 to 8:00pm with the Ma. Division of Marine Fisheries.
According to a Commission statement, “The Board initiated Draft Addendum I in August 2021 after deciding that changes to the striped bass commercial quota system would not be considered during the ongoing development of Amendment 7. With the adoption of Amendment 7 earlier this year, the Board re-initiated discussions on Draft Addendum I to consider voluntary ocean quota transfers, which could provide some relief to states seeking additional quota. The Draft Addendum proposes a range of options that would permit voluntary transfers of ocean commercial quota, including options based on stock status and options allowing the Board to set criteria for transfers on a regular basis. All those interested in the management of Atlantic striped bass are encouraged to provide input either by participating in public hearings, which may be conducted via webinar, or providing written comment.”
Be very afraid of words like “relief.”
Read the striper proposal, read between the quota lines
It is my opinion that transferring an amount of uncaught fish is a lousy way to protect a population of fish. According to the ASMFC “The 2022 assessment indicated the resource is still overfished but no longer experiencing overfishing relative to the updated reference points. Female SSB (spawning stock biomass) in the terminal year (2021) was estimated at 143 million pounds, which is below the SSB threshold of 188 million pounds and below the SSB target of 235 million pounds.” So the fishery is still overfished so now they are considering allowing one state to transfer “unused” quota so more fish can be killed elsewhere. If any of this is confusing, I suggest you read two pieces. One is an evergreen Fish Wrap piece called “ASMFC Needs Striper Knowledge. That piece will clear up a lot of the regulatory alphabet soup and serve as a primer to how regulations are created. You can also type in Amendment 7 to the Fish Wrap Writer website for more background. The other is a home run piece from the American Saltwater Guides Association. It’s on their website and titled, “Striped Bass at ASMFC: Never Let Your Guard Down.” It’s a spot on review and head scratch at how slippery the regulatory process can be and we are fortunate to have the ASGA watching closely.
If one segment of fishers did not catch all the fish the most recent, best survey data advised we could, then good for the fish. That’s why we say no striper quota transfers. Despite best efforts, numbers often get reassessed and projections changed so finding more ways to help people take more fish is not a viable solution. Quota transfers should not be considered until the striped bass fishery is one hundred percent rebuilt. Advocating for status quo is the best way to keep help protect striped bass.
You can register for these webinars, or any other on the slate, at https://register.gotowebinar.com/rt/1832736777112760332. If you have questions about Rhode Island regulations or positions for new ones, please contact Jason McNamee at 401.222.4700×2772414. If you have questions about how the Commonwealth sees these transfers, please contact Michael Armstrong at 978.619.0012. Public comment will be accepted until 11:59 PM (EST) on January 13, 2023 and should be sent to Emilie Franke, FMP Coordinator, at 1050 N. Highland St., Suite 200 A-N, Arlington, Virginia 22201; or at firstname.lastname@example.org with Striped Bass Draft Addendum I in the subject line.
And if you do speak with Dr. McNamee, RIDEM’s Deputy Director for Natural Resources, please say congratulations. He is the 2022 Captain David H. Hart Award winner, the ASMFC’s highest honor. “Rhode Island is lucky to have such an informed, influential, and collegial voice on the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission,” said DEM Director Terry Gray. “He is committed to fisheries science, management, and environmental stewardship and he’s a tenacious worker and relationship builder. All of DEM congratulates Jason.” Congratulations indeed. Jason is wealth of knowledge and we are fortunate to have him here in the Ocean State.