So what do you do when you don’t meet your harvest reduction goals? Ask to harvest more.
By Ross Squire
The Draft Addendum V to Amendment 6 to the Atlantic Striped Bass Interstate Management Plan was recently published by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. The Draft was crafted in response to a motion made by the Chesapeake Bay states for an easing in the current striped bass regulations that would result in 10% more fish being killed. The rationale for the motion was the economic hardship that the Chesapeake Bay states are experiencing as a result of the current harvest restrictions.
Thankfully, the Draft Addendum included 2015 harvest data that tells a very different story and reveals some interesting results. Unfortunately 2016 harvest totals were not finalized in time for the Draft Addendum but even that is telling. Instead of waiting for the most recent data to be available for review and analysis, the Striped Bass Management Board voted to move forward with the Draft Addendum.
For some background on the striped bass situation click here: Fissues Striped Bass. In short, new harvest reduction regulations were set in place in 2014 to help rebuild the striped bass fishery and protect the 2011 striped bass year class which was the fourth largest on record. Based on analyses conducted by the ASMFC Technical Committee, a 25% harvest reduction for the commercial and recreational sectors for three years was expected to provide the necessary protection to get the fishery back on reasonable footing. A full Technical Assessment is slated to be conducted in 2018 which will give new data on the effectiveness of these harvest reductions and the condition of the fishery.
The new regulations stipulated that with the exception of the Chesapeake Bay, all states would realize a 25% reduction from their 2013 harvest. The Chesapeake was granted a waiver from the 25% reduction and instead saw a 20.5% reduction from their 2012 harvest (which was larger than their harvest in 2013 – another gift?).
Draft Addendum V provides a snapshot for how each state did against their intended harvest reduction. In most cases, states accepted a 1@28″ regulation, while NJ and the Chesapeake Bay states submitted alternative regulations (conservation equivalency) that the Technical Committee felt would meet their respective harvest reduction goals. Here is what actually occurred:
2015 Harvest Goal (2013 harvest less 25%)
Actual 2015 Harvest
r from 2015 Goal
Percentage Reduction From 2013 Harvest
2015 Harvest Goal (2012 less 20.5%)
r from 2015 Goal
Percentage Reduction From 2013 Harvest
(Source: ASMFC Draft Addendum V, Table 2 and Table 5)
So what do these results for 2015 reveal?
All of the Coastal States well exceeded the required harvest reduction with the exception of New Jersey. Most notably, whereas these states had a goal of reducing their harvest by 25% from their 2013 harvests:
New Hampshire saw an 86.5% reduction; Rhode Island saw a 73.6% reduction; Connecticut saw a 39.2% reduction; New York saw a 63.0% reduction; New Jersey fell short on their harvest reduction realizing only a 14.8% reduction
The Chesapeake Bay did not produce a decrease at all. Rather than lower their 2012 harvest by 20.5% they actually resulted in an increase of 27.6%. They were 60.5% above their 2015 target goal.
What is clear is that unlike any of the Coastal States, the Chesapeake Bay contributed nothing to the harvest reductions. Rather than see a harvest reduction, they killed more fish than in 2012. The bottom line is that the total harvest reductions that occurred in 2015 were on the backs of Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Delaware, Maryland and to a lesser degree New Jersey. Yet, the Chesapeake Bay states have been declaring economic hardship?
Worst yet, the existing Chesapeake Bay regulations which have already proven to be faulty currently remain in effect. There is nothing in the Addendum IV that requires an adjustment to the state’s proposed conservation equivalency regulation even when they prove to be ineffective or flawed in achieving the intended harvest reduction.
Which means that even without this Draft Addendum V being adopted, the Chesapeake Bay states will contribute very little to reducing the harvest of striped bass. And yet they argue that they could and should be able to kill more striped bass.
The striped bass resource is anything but rebuilt. According to the latest stock assessment update, while striped bass isn’t technically “overfished,” the spawning stock biomass isn’t anywhere near the spawning stock biomass “target” (a parameter used to determine a rebuilt stock), and is quite close to the overfished threshold (the parameter used to determine when a stock is indeed overfished). It’s hard to justify ANY increase based on this alone.
Where we are now
The Striped Bass Management Board will discuss Addendum V to “liberalize” management measure this Tuesday (May 9), and will decide whether or not to put it out to public.
Now is the time to contact your ASMFC commissioner. Let them know that based on the science there is no biological justification for a harvest increase. The Chesapeake Bay jurisdiction has demonstrated little interest in reducing their harvest to comply with a mandated 20.5% reduction. Tell them that you don’t approve of the development of Addendum V. Because it’s not fair…to the striped bass resource, and to anglers in coastal states, who bit the bullet and in most cases put in place measures that achieved well beyond the required reductions.
Rather than permitting the harvest of additional striped bass, the Chesapeake Bay state(s) should be told to comply with the current regulations and meet their mandated 20.5% reduction.