ASMFC Spring Meeting Promises Controversy for Striped Bass & Menhaden

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission will meet next week at the Weston Alexandria (VA) between May 8 & 11. The most contentious meetings for the week will be Striped Bass & Menhaden but the agenda includes the appeal of the summer flounder decision, Atlantic herring and more.

The final agenda can be found here:

Striped Bass:  Tuesday May 9 1:00 – 3:15

The ASMFC Striped Bass Management Board will consider approving for public comment Draft Addendum V to Amendment 6 of the Atlantic Striped Bass Management Plan. Draft Addendum V seeks to relax harvest limits established under Addendum IV a few years ago. This increase of harvest was proposed by the delegation from Maryland and has in the opinion of staff been incorrectly reported as coming from the Maryland commercial fishing fleet. staff are aware that the real political push for this increase is being lead by the Maryland based Chesapeake Bay recreational for-hire fleet and we want our documents to reflect the truth as we know it.

The full document package for the meeting can be found here.

The supplemental documents can be found here.

The striped bass conservation based Facebook page (1 @ 32 Pledge) posted the following very interesting quotes taken from the meeting documents:

“As such, Draft Addendum V proposes alternative management measures aimed to increase removals by 10% compared to 2015-levels in order to achieve F target. However, the issue of relaxation becomes confounded as length‐frequency data from the catch in 2015 indicates a strong presence of the 2011 year class which is anticipated to join the coastal spawning population this year, and conservation of the 2011 year class was an objective of Addendum IV.”

“However, the TC stresses that although the assessment is very good, it may not be able to distinguish between F point estimates of 0.16 and 0.18. In other words, the upper and lower bounds of the confidence intervals for both F estimates would essentially overlap.”

“Option A: Status Quo
It is important to note that this addendum aims to achieve an increase in total removals (i.e., commercial and recreational harvest plus dead discards) by 10%, or approximately 327,000 fish, relative to 2015. Therefore, status quo regulations (i.e., current recreational and commercial regulations) could achieve or exceed target F in 2017 because 2016 preliminary removals are estimated to be greater than a 10% increase relative to 2015 levels. Refer to Appendix 1 for recreational fishery regulations by state and fishery.”

To make matters worse, the Oct 2016 Maryland young of the year index shows that 2016 is “well below” the 63 year average of this survey. Hopefully responsible minds prevail and this action dies a quick death.

Atlantic Menhaden: Tuesday May 9; 3:30 – 5:45

Tuesday is packed with controversy and the next chapter in the battle over what some consider “The Most Important Fish in The Sea” continues.

The Atlantic Menhaden Management Board will receive multiple updates on the technical development of Amendment 3 to the Atlantic Menhaden Management Plan. Amendment 3 is considering the subjects of re-allocation & establishment of ERP’s (ecological reference points). Allocation is easy to understand: who gets how many. Establishment of ERP’s would mean that for the first time along the East Coast, a fish would be managed by formally considering ecosystem services such as their importance to predators like striped bass.

Fireworks are expected during this meeting due to a political controversy surrounding what is called the Hillborn paper. The Hilborn paper appears to have been created to refute claims of another group of scientists behind what is called the Lenfest report. Both reports deal with the subject of forage fish management and their importance to predator species. To the surprise of no one; the Hilborn paper is produced by scientists linked to the commercial industry and favors higher commercial extraction while the Lenfest report which comes from scientists tied to the ENGO community favors conservation of forage fish. The political technique of those claiming harm by a proposed action creating new science to refute said action has already damaged the integrity of science based management. I guess those of us who pay attention to the water around us don’t need s science to know that predators need food and lots of predators need lots of food…or they leave. I hope the ASMFC as a whole views forage in a similar manner.

If you want to listen in to any or all of the ASMFC Spring Meeting you can do so via phone or computer simply by signing up here.