Striped Bass Addendum I

Next week ASMFC Commissioners from up and down the east coast will convene in Arlington, VA for the Commission’s Winter Meeting. As part of this meeting, ASMFC’s Striped Bass Board is scheduled to meet on Tuesday, January 31st at 3:30 PM to discuss Addendum 1 to Amendment 7 – which could bring the first substantial management changes since the enactment of Amendment 7 earlier this year

Addendum I seeks to address some Board members’ concerns related to how commercial Striped Bass quotas are allocated along the coast by proposing options to facilitate the transfer of quota between states. Currently, commercial quota allocations are based on a reference period from the 1970’s and transfers are not allowed. Undeniably, the both the state of the Striped Bass fishery and our understanding of it have changed considerably over the last 50 years. As it relates to commercial harvest, one significant difference is that North Carolina hosted a relatively large commercial fleet at that time but no longer does, leaving ~300,000 lbs. of Striped Bass unharvested annually under today’s management standards. The desire to more completely utilize the totality of the ocean commercial quota isn’t a new one for Commissioners who work to maximize Striped Bass landings – the issue was brought up most recently in the Amendment 7 Public Input Document (Feb 2020) and before being abandoned early in the process so that Amendment 7 could focus more directly on rebuilding an overfished stock.

As most expected, the November 2022 Striped Bass Stock Assessment confirmed that the Striped Bass were still overfished but also revealed that overfishing was no longer occurring (in fisheries jargon “overfished” refers to a depleted stock biomass, and “overfishing” refers to excessive mortality caused by anglers). It also brought the news that if current fishing mortality remained constant the odds of recovering the fishery by 2029, as required by Amendment 7, were nearly 80%. For the thousands of interested individuals, organizations, fishing clubs and businesses that advocated to recover Striped Bass through Amendment 7 this was a welcome development.

While each of the options to change management through Addendum I is unique, their outcome is the same – to facilitate the harvest of more fish commercially. ­­­­­Subsequently, an increase in fishing mortality from any of the proposed management changes (or for that matter, an increase in mortality for any reason) would lengthen the recovery timeline and reduce the odds of success by or before 2029. During the drafting of Amendment 7 BHA Chapters advocated for options that maximized the odds of recovery by 2029, and our priority remains the same now. As a result, the New England and New York Chapters of BHA have urged the Striped Bass Board to continue the status quo of not allowing commercial quota transfers by selecting Option A.

Read the New England and New York Chapter Comments on Addendum I


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About Chris Borgatti

BHA Eastern Policy & Conservation Manager