ASMFC keeps commercial bass limits in place


The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) voted 10-4 to reject a proposal to increase the commercial harvest of Atlantic striped bass in state waters Tuesday, Nov. 9. That is welcome news to many recreational Island fishermen who fear that striped bass stocks have declined.

In May, the ASMFC proposed an addendum to its current striped bass management plan, which would have increased the commercial striped bass quota by up to 50 percent. Recreational anglers from across the country opposed the proposal.

“The sportfishing industry applauds the Commission’s decision,” American Sportfishing Association Vice President Gordon Robertson said in a press release. “After months of deliberation, state managers have voted on the side of sound science and conservation, protecting this important fishery from over-harvesting and a potential repeat of the collapse of the 1980s.”

A recent report by the ASMFC’s Striped Bass Technical Committee predicts a steady decline of the number of adult striped bass through the year 2015, without consideration of increased commercial harvest.

In 2007, President George W. Bush issued an executive order declaring game fish status for the striped bass and barring commercial harvest in federal waters. Despite their game fish status, striped bass populations in the Atlantic are subject to significant and unreported poaching, the Sportfishing Association said. Additionally, menhaden, an important prey species for striped bass, has reached its lowest abundance in recorded history as a result of commercial over harvesting.

“This addendum angered and shocked anglers from the outset,” Mr. Robertson said. “Atlantic striped bass stocks are being threatened from several different fronts. In addition to illegal harvest in federal waters, more than 70 percent of striped bass are afflicted by the deadly disease Mycobacteriosis in the Chesapeake Bay, the stock’s primary spawning ground. Any increase in commercial fishing pressure in state waters could lead to a collapse for this economically and recreationally important fishery.”

He added, “The ASMFC decision is the first step to ensuring the vitality of this important fishery. The sportfishing community looks forward to working with managers to conserve and strengthen Atlantic striped bass stocks.”