Action Alert on ASMFC August Meeting of Striped Bass

Striped bass are one of the premier sport fish pursued by anglers in Virginia and on the Atlantic coast. As such CCA Virginia believes the stock should be managed for abundance and age structure in order to increase an angler’s chance of encountering them on a fishing trip. That means managing in a conservative manner so that there is enough of an abundance of striped bass so that when anglers go fishing for striped bass that they would have a reasonable expectation of bringing some fish home. The Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board meets August 5th in Alexander VA and they will be making some important decisions concerning the future abundance of striped bass or we may be facing another moratorium on striped bass in the future.

• The Striped Bass Technical Committee has recommended the adoption of new reference points to guide management of Atlantic striped bass. The new reference points must be adopted by the Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board at their meeting on August 5th.

• According to the 2013 stock assessment, we have been fishing over the proposed fishing mortality threshold (i.e., overfishing) for 6 of the preceding 9 years.

• The female spawning stock biomass has declined steadily and been below its target since 2006; it was just barely above the proposed threshold in 2012 (i.e., nearly overfished).Stock projections show that spawning stock biomass will likely fall below the threshold in the coming years.

• The Striped Bass Technical Committee suggested that at least a 31% reduction in mortality was necessary to reverse these declines, and that with only a 50% probability of being successful. More stringent reductions would be necessary to have a higher level of probability than a coin toss.

• The Atlantic Striped Bass Interstate Fishery Management Plan Amendment 6 requires management action by the Board if overfishing is occurring: Should it be determined that overfishing is occurring (mortality)(f) greater than threshold defined in Section 2.5) the Management Board will take action to reduce the fishing mortality rate on the stock to at least the desired target level.

• Anglers are encountering far fewer fish. The number of striped bass caught and released alive declined precipitously from over 23 million fish in 2006 to just over 5 million in 2012. Total coastal recreational harvest has dropped from 31 million pounds in 2006 to a low of 19.2 million pounds in 2012.

• It just makes common sense to put in place management restrictions now to halt these declines and begin building abundance again.

• The 2011 young of the year striped bass index was one of the best in a decade. Those fish, if properly protected can rebuild the declining spawning stock to a healthier level. Fishing on that year class will begin this summer in Chesapeake Bay.

CCA Virginia requests that you take a few minutes and send a letter or email to ASMFC concerning your thoughts on the abundance of striped bass. You should ask that the Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board take action to restore the adequate abundance of striped bass. Send your comments so that they are received by 5:00 PM on Tuesday July 29thth in order for your comments can be given to the ASMFC Commissioners at their meeting on August 5th. Please send a letter or email to Mike Waine, Fishery Management Plan Coordinator, at mwaine@asmfc.org or Fax 703.842.0741. A personal letter or email in your own words concerning striped bass would be the best way to communicate your desires regarding the fishery. If you do not have the time for a personal letter or email then there is a sample letter as a guide provided below.

Address your letter or email to: Mike Waine, Fishery Management Plan Coordinator Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission 1050 N. Highland Street, Suite 200 A-N Arlington, VA 22201 Email mwaine@asmfc.org

Sample Letter

Mike Waine

Fishery Management Plan Coordinator Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission

1050 N. Highland Street, Suite 200 A-N

Arlington, VA 22201

Dear ASMFC Commissioners,

As you know, since the “recovery” of the striped bass twenty years ago, this premier sport fish has become the most sought after species by throngs of dedicated anglers in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The prime angling season for the species is eagerly anticipated and fuels an unprecedented economic engine for the entire coastal region. However, every angler is acutely aware that something “is wrong” – angler success has declined drastically over the past several years. While a long-awaited strong recruitment year occurred in 2011, such an occurrence was an anomaly. The most recent stock assessment (2013) proposed new reference points by which to judge the health of the stock. It indicated for the first time that the fishing mortality was above the target and the spawning stock biomass was below the target. In short, a clear signal that the population is headed in the wrong direction and corrective action is warranted. Fishery scientists have advised managers there should be at least a 31 percent reduction in mortality to return to the target and halt the decline in spawning stock biomass. Fishing at a rate above the target and nearer the threshold can lead to an age structure with fewer older, “trophy” sized fish. The best way to ensure a healthy number of larger, old fish is to reduce mortality and allow them to live to an advanced age. Anglers along our coast want striped bass restored to a higher level of abundance so they have a better chance of catching a striper and, perhaps a trophy on occasion. I believe the ASMFC should act as quickly as possible to halt the current decline. That means approving Addendum IV for public hearing, without the three-year phase-in option, at their August meeting, and putting in place measures that achieve at least a 31 percent reduction in harvest in 2015.

Thank you for your consideration,

Sincerely, Name Address City State Zip Phone

This CCA VA alert was provided as a public service by the Coastal Conservation Association Virginia (CCA VA). Feel free to forward it to your friends and associates. If you have any comments concerning this subject, send an email to info@CCAVA.org. CCA VA is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization whose goal is sustainable saltwater fisheries for this and future generations. We are active in legislative, regulatory, and educational activities affecting marine resources.