I suppose the big takeaway from this week’s striped bass meeting depends largely on your perspective. But first a quick distillation of what the striper board of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission accomplished:
- Approved Addendum II to Amendment 7, the long-term fishery management plan that aims to rebuild the striper fishery by 2029.
- Set Chesapeake recreational regulations: 19- to 24-inch slot limit, one fish bag limit and maintains 2022 season dates for all fishery participants. There will be no mode splits.
- Set ocean recreational fishery: 28- to 31-inch slot limit, one fish bag limit and maintains 2022 season dates for all fishery participants.
- Cut commercial fishery (ocean and Chesapeake) by 7%.
The commission can take expedited management action if the stock is not projected to rebuild by 2029.
It was instructive to me to see where all three Chesapeake Bay resource agencies — Virginia, Maryland and Potomac River — come down on things. All three, along with Delaware, voted against Addendum II. However, the 10 “yes” votes carried the day and states must implement the changes adopted by May 1.
Mike Luisi of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, who manages the state’s commercial sector, was particularly dogged in his efforts to try and “salvage” the 2024 season for the charter fleet.
Through a series of substitute motions, Luisi argued that the change from two rockfish to one would cripple some tackle shops and charter boat operations. (He and others had similar arguments why cutting the commercial quota wasn’t needed or fair). He warned of “retaliation” from the charter industry, suggesting that they’ll drop the e-reporting and revert to paper reporting — resulting in a loss of valuable data to managers.
I cannot imagine skippers abandoning wholesale the e-reporting system, given its convenience that DNR touts as a reason why it is so valuable. Do you want your old flip phone back? And if a mass exodus is imminent and the data so valuable, shouldn’t the state make it mandatory, or phase it in over a year and even offer it to recreational anglers?
It’s not lost on me that the charter fleet has some adjustments to make, and as a small business owner I get it — up to a point. When I wake up in the morning, I’m not owed a single thing I didn’t earn. You can plan and prepare until your eyes pop out, but there are never, ever guarantees. Unforeseen things happen, just like in fishing.
The downturn in the striper fishery has been a slow moving train wreck for more than 10 years, however, so anyone in our industry who claims to have been caught flat-footed by significant changes on the horizon must have had their head stuck in a barnacle .
Fishery managers do have a difficult job. The hardest part, I’d argue, is to do what’s best for the fish, crabs, oysters and a myriad of other species regardless of the noise from stakeholders. Like umpires or referees they don’t have a large fan base. Just call balls and strikes, not pick winners and losers.
Board chair Megan Ware from Maine, charged with making sure the rebuilding stays on course, noted in a press release: “The Board remains focused on rebuilding the stock by 2029. The upcoming 2024 stock assessment will be an important checkpoint on progress towards rebuilding. “
Allison Colden, executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation Maryland, voiced her organization’s concerns about the commercial quota, saying “the board stopped short of implementing the recommended 14.5% reduction for commercial fisheries, opting instead to reduce commercial quotas by 7%.”
For me to give you anymore of a play-by-play of the five-and-a-half-hour marathon would not only take too long, but we’d also get so wrapped around the prop that my ears would be on the same side of my head. And frankly, I’m too tired. I’ve spent much of my conservation career blowing the horn about this and other topics.
A former colleague spent a huge chunk of his nearly four-decade fisheries career attending thousands of meetings like the one held this past week. A few years ago, well into retirement, he mailed me a stack of letters, correspondence and even DNR and ASMFC brochures from the late 1980s to very early ’90s.
All were about the stripers’ recovery during and post-moratorium. It is stunning to read that, with just some slight differences in tone, what they discussed and were concerned about more than 35 years ago remains almost exactly the same. As Mark Twain once said: “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.”
Through Jan. 31: Third split of the regular duck season. Check the DNR website for specifics.
Through Jan. 31: Second split of migratory Canada goose season. Two birds per day. Check DNR for specifics.
Through Jan. 21: Third annual Chesapeake Bay Boat Show. Fishing and boating seminars, live music,
kids events. Maryland State Fairgrounds, 2200 York Road, Timonium. Details at: thechesapeakebayboatshow.com.
Feb. 1: Public hearing on summer flounder regulations from 6 pm to 8 pm Video call link: meet.google.com/hkq-ndez-ktj
Feb. 3: Youth Waterfowl Hunting Day. Visit the DNR website for details.
Feb. 7: Free State Fly Fishers Monthly Club Meeting. Capt. ‘Walleye Pete’ hosts a Q&A on bay fishing. Come join us for an informative talk and questions and answers. 7-8:30 pm Davidsonville Family Recreation Center (behind Ford Hall), 3789 Queen Anne Bridge Road.
Feb. 17: Free State Fly Fishers. Mark Bange’s presents “Kayak Fly Fishing in Local Waters.” 10 am-2 pm Davidsonville Family Recreation Center (behind Ford Hall), 3789 Queen Anne Bridge Road.
Feb. 17-18: 31st Annual Pasadena Sportfishing Group Flea Market.
Feb. 24: “Saltwater Expo” hosted by Annapolis Anglers Club at Annapolis Elks, 2517 Solomons Island Road, Edgewater. 8 am-2 pm Seminars from expert anglers and tackle from local dealers. Admission: $5 per person, kids 14 and under are free.