A public comment period has begun on the development of the most significant amendment to the Interstate Atlantic Striped Bass Fisheries Management Plan in nearly 20 years.
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission has released Proposed Amendment 7 to the Management Plan, which would replace Amendment 6, adopted in 2003. The public comment period on Proposed Amendment 7 will end on April 15.
One of the main objectives of Amendment 7 is to address recreational mortality in the Atlantic striped bass fishery. Recreational release mortality refers to fish that die after being caught and released by recreational anglers.
Fishing for striped bass is primarily recreational, according to the new draft amendment, released late last month. Recreational fishing accounted for 87% of total Atlantic striped bass removals in 2020, and over 80% each year since 1985.
An “overwhelming majority of the catch is released alive,” according to the document — about 90% per year since 1990 — “either due to cultural preference (i.e. the fish is not of legal size).
The mortality rate by capture and release by overlapping is estimated at 9%, which represents 54% of the total removals of striped bass in 2020. In other words, 54% of the striped bass removed from the fishery in 2020 died after being caught and released by recreational anglers. , while 33% was caught by recreational anglers. Commercial fishing accounted for only 11% of the 2020 harvest and commercial discards just 1%.
Recreational release mortality proportions have increased and accounted for the majority of recreational removals since 2017.
A 2018 reference stock assessment indicated that the striped bass stock had been overfished since 2013 and was experiencing overfishing, according to the commission’s Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board.
A 2020 addendum to Amendment 6 requires the mandatory use of circle hooks when fishing striped bass with bait to reduce release mortality.
The 149-page Draft Amendment 7 document examines various options to restore striped bass biomass to the target level set by the board by 2029. Draft Amendment 7 considers management actions to address mortality and size limits, public education and awareness, and seasonal closures.
The non-target seasonal closures aim to reduce the number of live releases by reducing the number of fishing trips interacting with striped bass, the document states. The closures would occur at different times in different states across the region, depending on when the striped bass fishery is most active.
Seasonal no-target closures would prohibit all recreational targeting of striped bass for a minimum of two weeks during times when the striped bass fishery is particularly active in each state.
The project presents two options for determining the timing of seasonal closures. One would require a two-week closure during a time when at least 25% of the state’s striped bass-led trips occur; in New York, this period is May-June. The other option calls for a two-week closure during a period when at least 15% of the state’s striped bass-led trips occur; in New York it would be anytime other than January-February and July-August.
Recreational striped bass fishing is a huge economic driver in the region (from North Carolina to Maine), contributing $7.7 billion and supporting 104,867 jobs, according to a report cited in the proposed amendment.
Proposed Amendment 7 recognizes that seasonal closures at peak times would have economic impacts on the fishery and the region.
View/download draft amendment 7 here.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation has scheduled two public comment hearings on the development of the draft amendment. The Long Island meeting will be held March 16, 6-8 p.m., at the DEC Marine Resources Division, 123 Kings Park Blvd, Kings Park.
The audio of the hearings will be broadcast live. Links and more information are available on the DEC website.
Public comments can also be made in writing, as follows:
By email: [email protected] (Type “Draft Amendment 7” in the subject line of the email.)
By mail or delivery to: Emilie Franke, Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, 1050 N. Highland Street, Suite 200 AN, Arlington VA. 22201
By fax to: (703)842-0741.
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