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Lee Zeldin is at it Again

August 31st, 2017 by

I know this is the Maine Fly Fish blog, and while this note is intended primarily for anglers in New York, we all share the same resource so I’m posting here as well.

Representative Lee Zeldin of New York’s 1st Congressional District representing Long Island, tried last year to pass federal legislation that took waters off Montauk Point, New York out of the EEZ managed by NOAA and give control of the area to the State of New York. He wanted to do this because commercial fishermen are not allowed to take striped bass from federal waters. Luckily better thinking prevailed and his attempts were defeated.

Stripers Forever has always opposed efforts to open the EEZ to the keeping of striped bass because we feel that the EEZ closure—which has stood since the mid-1980s—provides precious sanctuary for larger striped bass. This is especially important right now because these large fish are relatively depleted, are the most important breeders and finest genetic specimens, and are the very fish upon which the future of the species depends.

 

Rep. Zeldin is at it again. He has introduced two amendments to appropriations bills that would prohibit NOAA and the U.S. Coast Guard from using any of their budget to enforce striped bass regulations in the EEZ.

You can find the language of the bills here

http://amendments-rules.house.gov/amendments/ZELDIN_028_xml825170923412341.pdf

and here

http://amendments-rules.house.gov/amendments/ZELDIN_029_xml825170924102410.pdf

We urge our members and any conservation-minded anglers within the districts of the below legislators, as individuals, to join with Stripers Forever and contact these legislators by letter, phone or e-mail and express your opposition to these amendments:

 

Rep. Jose Serrano https://serrano.house.gov/contact/offices/washington-dc-office

Rep. Nita Lowey https://lowey.house.gov/contact/offices

Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen https://frelinghuysen.house.gov/

Rep. Zeldin https://zeldin.house.gov/contact/offices

 

Rep. Serrano is from the Bronx, NY; Rep. Lowey is from Westchester, NY; and Rep. Frelinghuysen is from NJ. You need to be a constituent of these legislators to e-mail them directly, but anyone so motivated can send them postal mail. Especially if you are someone who travels to Montauk or anywhere along the New York coast to fish for striped bass or other marine species.

The hearings on these amendments start on Tuesday 9/5, so please do this today.

Thank you,

Brad Burns President of Stripers Forever

They Aren’t Recreational Fishermen

August 25th, 2017 by

Disappointing (and aggravating) news from the Cape Cod Canal that environmental police nabbed a bunch of folks for bag-limit violations. More than 300 pounds of fish were seized and charges are pending. The Cape Cod Times describes those accused as “recreational fishermen.”

Let me be clear: if they are guilty, they aren’t recreational fishermen. They are poachers. They are criminals. They are selfish, greedy sons-of…

Kudos to the anglers who saw what was happening and reported the lawbreaking. The Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries and the Environmental Police are under-funded and under-staffed and so much of their enforcement activity is driven by tips called in by regular folks who observe violations in progress.

Problem is, Massachusetts has only itself to blame for lot of the poaching that takes place. The state has long resisted the practice of tagging striped bass at the point of capture and instead only requires fish reported at the point of sale. As a result, the black market is robust. The officials interviewed following the Canal action this week said that they get calls reporting lawbreaking every day, and that they probably could have written a lot more citations that day, but for a lack of manpower.

We can’t know for certain if the 300 pounds of striped bass that were confiscated (not to mention the likely hundreds of other pounds of illegally caught fish not seized) were headed to the black market, but it’s highly likely. The Canal is notorious for its black-market poaching. Trucks are known to roam the roads along the canal picking up catches from scofflaw fishermen and taking them to market. Unless caught in the act the regulations are nearly impossible to prove. Once filleted you can’t tell one striped bass from another.

But it’s not only striped bass that are suffering from ambiguous fisheries regulations. Over at Fissues.org, Capt. John McMurray writes about the problem as it pertains to the beleaguered bluefin tuna.

The creeping ambiguity John describes is endemic to fisheries management, and it’s not by mistake. Too many in the recreational and charter fishing business want it both ways. They claim the mantle of the concerned recreational fisherman when it suits them, but then fight for liberalization of the regulations because “cake and eat it too” rules allow them to satisfy their greed. I’ve attended public hearings with such folks who thump their chests and boast of their club or charter credentials, then try to buddy up with the real commercial guys to argue for a bigger slice of that cake.

Stripers Forever believes designating striped bass as a game fish would effectively eliminate the problem. If you can’t sell buy or sell stripers legally, it becomes more difficult to hide the illegal ones.

2017 Striped Bass Quota: Where We Stand, What It Means

August 8th, 2017 by

The 2017 commercial striped bass season in Massachusetts started on June 26. It is six weeks later on August 8 as I write this brief post and according to Division of Marine Fisheries 49% of the 800K pound quota has been landed.

A little perspective as to why that is important.

  • In 2014 (the first year of the changed dates and landings) it took eleven weeks before the quota (1.15M pounds) was landed;
  • In 2015 it took seven weeks before the quota (870K pounds) was landed; and,
  • In 2016 it took seven weeks before the quota (870K pounds) was landed.

At this pace the commercial season is likely to run well into September.

My observation isn’t scientific, but the numbers and conclusions are consistent with what I’m hearing from the field. While there was early optimism because of the arrival of smaller schoolies running closer to shore than in years past, by the time the commercial season opened it seems there the market-sized fish (34”) have been fewer in number.

The keepers that are being landed are of good size, and for the casual angler who lacks historical perspective, it might seem like the fishing is great. Prior to the collapse of the striper fishery in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s the run of big fish was strong and then, suddenly, they were gone.

The 2011 year class that was supposed to be the salvation of the stocks has not been in evidence at expected levels. The 2015 year class probably accounts for the smaller fish this year as they’ve made their first migration beyond the Chesapeake. But the long-term prospects for the 2011 and 2015 fish to keep the pulse going is dwindling. Between the commercial and recreational harvest, mycobacteriosis, lack of abundant forage (namely menhaden) and a diminishing and inconsistent quality of spawning conditions, we’re pressing our luck. In between the modest spikes of 2011 and 2015 the spawns have largely been a disaster, including two of the worst years ever recorded (2012, which was the lowest recruitment year in history and 2016).

The trend is pointing downward, but the politicians and appointees entrusted with making decisions refuse to accept that drastic measures are needed to salvage the stocks and fulfill their mission of managing striped bass for the greater public good.

That public is the hundreds of thousands of anglers who travel to the Atlantic coast and (used to) spend billions of dollars fishing for striped bass. It is not the handful of part-time commercial striped bass fishermen who (in Massachusetts) have traditionally used the low cost of entry to defray the cost of gear, gas and grub by selling their catch at the dock.

Striped Bass: Bad Precedent and a Call to Action

August 6th, 2017 by

This time of year it’s easy to miss news that’s important to the angling community; after all, we’re out enjoying the summer weather and the fishing. But events in the mid-Atlantic are worth noting.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC)—the federal board tasked with managing fisheries along the Atlantic coast—implemented restrictions on fluke/summer flounder to ease pressure on a species that has seen better days. New Jersey thought the ASMFC’s cuts were too deep and would hurt the state’s commercial and recreational fisheries, so the state came up with its own plan. New Jersey’s convoluted argument was that, despite allowing the harvest of more fish, it’s plan would achieve the same conservation goal. The ASMFC disagreed and hit New Jersey with a moratorium.

Good news, right?

Well, New Jersey appealed the decision to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, who decided to overrule the ASMCF (and every other member state) and let New Jersey have its way. Hey, New Jersey was fighting for its citizens and that’s their job, but the implications of Commerce’s decision are dire, setting a dangerous precedent.

While far from perfect, the ASMFC’s advantage as a fisheries management body is that it fosters cooperative uniformity, which is vital to protecting migratory species especially. After all, what good does it do for one state to place harvest restrictions on a species if neighboring states don’t follow suit?

Of course, this is a critical issue for striped bass conservation. It is highly likely that the Commerce Department’s ruling on fluke in New Jersey is has emboldened Maryland—a state that has a long history of trying to get around striped bass conservation regulations using all sorts of wild theories and arguments—to revive its efforts to liberalize quotas.

For anglers who have the perspective of history, we’re seeing conditions today that are eerily similar to those that precipitated the collapse of the wild striped bass population in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. That disaster prompted a moratorium on commercial and recreational fishing. No one wants to see history repeat itself, but for conservation to prevail, we must increase protections on the striped bass harvest.

Of course, Stripers Forever believes the best long-term solution is for striped bass to be protected and managed as a game fish, but we dangerously close to returning to the days when selfish greed drove striped bass to the brink.

Conservation-minded anglers have the ability to do something, but it requires that we speak as one. Collectively our voice would be—should be—strong. When tens of thousands of voting constituents speak up, it makes a difference. If you agree with Stripers Forever that game fish is the best policy for protecting striped bass for the overwhelming public benefit and future of the fishery, won’t you join us? Membership is free.

Stripers Forever is an all-volunteer organization. We don’t collect dues and 100% of the money we raise from donations and our annual auction goes to the fight for striped bass conservation. All we ask is that you get involved.

Make it a game fish.

Kevin McKay
MaineFlyFish.com, Owner

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