On October 7, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) submitted a letter in favor of measures to reduce mortality in the Atlantic striped bass population in Draft Addendum VI to Amendment 6 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Striped Bass. A stock assessment completed late 2018 indicated the striped bass fishery was “overfished” and undergoing “overfishing” according to the management thresholds established in the striped bass fishery management plan.
The Atlantic striped bass recreational fishery is arguably the most important in terms of popularity with anglers, as well as economic impacts, along the Atlantic Coast. Despite management actions in 2015 to reduce fishing mortality aimed at preventing the stock from becoming overfished, the reductions in the previous management addendum failed to accomplish that management goal. As a result, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) will be considering additional management measures in the coming months, including individual state conservation equivalencies (CE), to further reduce mortality and rebuild the fishery.
Specifically, CSF supported an 18% reduction in removals for both the recreational and commercial fishery. This is the reduction in mortality deemed necessary by the ASMFC Striped Bass Technical Committee in order to end overfishing beginning in 2020 and to begin rebuilding the stock.
Much of the current mortality can be attributed to fish that were not harvested, but that were released alive and later died. This is known as discard mortality and can be the result of things like foul hooking or stressed caused by factors such as very warm water and/or air temperatures. Although the majority of released fish do survive, the fact that there are so many fish being caught results in the small percentage of released fish that die becoming a significant factor in the overall mortality of the population. For this reason, CSF supported the mandatory use of circle hooks in order to reduce discard mortality. Circle hooks do a much better job than ‘J’ hooks in preventing deep-hooked fish. Additionally, CSF encouraged the consideration of closed seasons for individual states when developing their CE proposals.
The ASMFC is set to discuss and take action on Addendum VI at their upcoming annual meeting scheduled for October 28-31. Each state will have the opportunity to submit CE’s that can differ from the coast-wide management measures selected by the ASMFC so long as they meet or exceed the minimum reduction in mortality and are approved by the ASMFC Striped Bass Management Board.