Stripers Forever, an angling conservation organization, is calling for a 10-year complete moratorium on the recreational and commercial harvest of striped bass.
According to a press release, the organization is suggesting that the 10-year management plan created by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) has failed to yield positive results, and the species has yet to rebound.
“We are 18 years into a 10-year management plan that has utterly failed in its objective to rebuild striped bass stocks. Now the ASMFC is preparing to embark on yet another 10-year plan of compromise and half-measures, and stripers may not survive,” Mike Spinney, a member of Stripers Forever’s national board of directors, said in the release. “Bold, decisive action is needed to prevent a collapse of the fishery like we saw in the late 1970s. An emergency moratorium was adopted in 1984, and is the only approach proven to work.”
However, last year, officials with the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby voted to eliminate striped bass as an eligible species in the tournament. Additionally, a stringent slot limit of 28 to 35 inches and a possession limit of only one fish was implemented by the state Division of Marine Fisheries.
From 1985 to 1992, striped bass were not an eligible species, due to concerns about the health of the population. Since then, stocks have increased. But, more recently, the number of recreational and commercial landings has decreased, and figures illustrating the most recent changes to fishing laws are not yet available.
Although Derby vice president Joe El-Deiry said he doesn’t think a 10-year moratorium is necessary to allow the species to rebound, he said striped bass will be excluded from the Derby again this year. Other measures to reduce mortality rates have been taken by the state and the local fishing community, like switching over to circle hooks to avoid gut hooking, and reducing the number of treble hooks per lure.
“The way I personally feel, I am all about the science and the research. I feel the fact we just started using circle hooks and just started the new slot limit that has proven to work in other states is definitely a good start,” El-Diery said. “I don’t see where the science is showing that a 10-year moratorium is the only solution.”
He said that before taking measures like implementing a complete moratorium, the fishing community and conservation group should watch and see what happens with the stock in the coming years. “The fact that they are just implementing all these new things now, we need to let that play out for a few years and see how the fish rebounds,” El-Deiry said. “Those limits work without eliminating the opportunity for people to catch them.”
El-Deiry said catching that first large striped bass was one of the most memorable experiences for him, and he wants those opportunities to be available for future anglers.
“I definitely want to see those striped bass come back, because I know how exhilarating it was to catch that first 20-pound striped bass; I want to see generations of people be able to do that,” El-Deiry said.
Fishing and hunting fees could be increased
MassWildlife recently proposed an increase to freshwater fishing, hunting, and trapping fees for the first time in 25 years. Under the proposal, which will be explained in full during three information sessions throughout the month, the cost for a freshwater fishing license in Massachusetts would increase from $22.50 to $40 per year. The costs of licenses and permits to hunt bear, turkey, pheasant, waterfowl, small game, and deer (including archery and muzzleloader seasons) would rise from $47.70 to $160. The proposed fee hikes include nonresident hunting and fishing licenses and permits.
Massachusetts officials say the new revenue would make up for a decline in license purchases and rising costs that threaten to sap the agency of its primary funding source.
“With inflation up nearly 67 percent since 1996, increased agency responsibilities, and steadily increasing state-mandated costs such as payroll taxes and health insurance, revenue has not been meeting expenses for several years,” according to the MassWildlife website.
Additionally, sporting and hunting license sales have declined 20 percent and 50 percent respectively over the past 25 years, the website states, and the number of free licenses issued to those 70 years and older now totals approximately 27,000 per year.
In response to the proposal, El-Deiry said he is all for increasing revenue to the state so that ponds can be stocked, and limits and restrictions can be policed.
“If additional resources are required and they have to increase the fees to allow for that, I totally understand,” he said.