After discussion with anglers, business owners, fisheries managers and biologists, the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) fully supports a reduction in striped bass harvest along the Atlantic Coast, with equal reductions to both the commercial and recreational sectors.

Based on both staff and member observations, along with extensive review of the scientific data, RFA believes it’s important to reduce fishing mortality to a level that is at or below the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) target reference point as of 2015, and not by delaying action over several years.

With just one ASFMC public hearing left (September 29 from 6-8 p.m. at the Dare County Government Complex in Manteo, NC) RFA executive director Jim Donofrio said he’s confident with the position that he is set to deliver to ASMFC before the September 30 deadline.  “Last week, RFA active members along the Atlantic Coast began receiving our official position along with a comment card that anglers themselves can respond directly to ASMFC with their own personal position,” Donofrio said.

“According to the science, there’s a better than 85% chance that striped bass will be considered an overfished species within the next three years, and that’s not an option for RFA or our members,” Donofrio said.  “We’ve talked to a lot of individuals and business owners up and down the coast, and it would seem one option in particular, one fish at 28 inches, is perhaps the fairest, most efficient, and most productive option of all in terms of sustaining this fishery through to the next stock assessment.”

As per the ASMFC options presented to the public, RFA staff, chapter leaders, board members and volunteers have given consideration of the organization’s stated mission (“to safeguard the rights of saltwater anglers, protect marine, boat and tackle industry jobs and ensure the long-term sustainability of U.S. saltwater fisheries”), and believe that one option in particular presents the most efficient way of meeting the needs of the fish, the fishermen and the recreational fishing industry.

If you’re an active RFA member with annual dues up-to-date, you should’ve received the following by mail in the past few days.

For the coastal recreational fishing sector, RFA views the following immediate and long-term benefits of Option B1, a bag limit of one fish at the current 28-inch minimum size limit:

  1. Reducing the individual bag limit by one fish offers a 31% reduction in harvest (according to ASMFC), but would also effectively cut the number of broodstock fish harvested during the spring migration when pre- and post-spawn fish are congregated in key areas.
  2. Keeping the size limit at 28 inches will reduce bycatch mortality resulting from any increase in size limit (proposed in options B2, B3 or B5); the ‘one at 28’ option allows anglers fishing specifically for harvest to catch their ‘table’ fish more efficiently without undue harm caused to undersized fish.
  3. While a traditional ‘slot’ option to preserve and protect smaller fish and breeding fish alike is a sensible management option, RFA is concerned about the current recruitment classes; with the 2010 and 2011 recruitment years being the most robust of recent record, it’s important to protect those age 4 to 5 females until better than 90% can spawn (age 5 to 8) at least once before harvest.
  4. ASFMC has previously stated that reducing fishing mortality on fish aged 8-12 (32- to 40-inch fish) by half would result in “much greater egg production in the stock and an age distribution in which older fish are much more dominant”; as such, any slot option (proposed in options B4, B6, B7, B8, or B9) which focuses undue harvest pressure on more ‘fertile’ age/size fish in the stock could be counterproductive to conservation efforts.
  5. RFA continues to place little faith in the NOAA Fisheries’ (NMFS) ability to effectively account for recreational fishing effort and harvest. Specifically, options B2, B3, B4, B7, B8 and B9 indicate that “data available to estimate the percent reduction is limited because the combination of a bag limit and size limit changes simultaneously means only measured fish from the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) were included in the analysis which is a small subsample of the MRIP dataset for striped bass.” Since NMFS has limited data to make such calculations, there is far less confidence in calculating overall impact of such options.

Based on these five key bullet points, RFA expects to deliver an official position supporting B1, a bag limit of one fish at the current 28-inch minimum size limit for the coastal recreational fishing sector, with changes to be implemented as of 2015.

If you’re not an active RFA member with your annual dues up-to-date, go to www.joinrfa.org/join and re-up by PayPal or credit card.  Click here to download the comment card addressed to the ASMFC.  Anglers and recreational business owners are encouraged to submit comments regarding this document at any time during the addendum process. The final date comments will be accepted is 5 pm on September 30, 2014.

Comments may also be submitted by email (Subject: Draft Addendum IV) to Mike Waine (mwaine@asmfc.org).

Contact:

Jim Hutchinson, Jr. / 888-564-6732

Logo courtesy Recreational Fishing Alliance

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