Last night, I attended the annual MA DMF proposed commercial striped bass season regulation changes meeting in Plymouth. Here are the proposed changes as written:
1. Lower the daily possession limit through the following options: a. DMF proposal to drop from 30 fish to 20 fish per vessel; or b. Public petition to drop from 30 fish to 20 fish per vessel except on Sundays and the opening day of the season when the limit would be 10 fish; 2. DMF proposal to reduce the number of open fishing days per week (currently set at Sunday-Wednesday) from four to three; Comments will be accepted regarding which days of the week would be open; 3. DMF proposal to prohibit commercial striped bass fishing aboard vessels engaged in for-hire recreational fishing; 4. DMF proposal to allow dealers to sell during April through November striped bass legally caught and documented from out-of-state. Whole fish would have to conform to the Massachusetts 34” minimum size and bear an official tag designating state of origin. This proposal does not alter the existing rules governing imported striped bass during December through March. 5. DMF proposal to open the commercial fishery on July 10.
MA Marine Fisheries states that specific management goals for striped bass are:
Halt declining ex-vessel prices Conduct longer fishing seasons Create less market glut Allow unlimited entry into the fishery Maintain fishing opportunity for all participants.
Here lies the problem. The last 2 stated objectives contradict the first 3 ! It is impossible to allow unlimited entry into a fishery that has a finite quota of fish allowed to be caught and still maintain good prices and avoid market gluts and short seasons !
Every one of these proposed regulation changes DO NOT deal with the problems at hand, which are too many fishermen for the amount of fish to be caught. The individual proposals unfairly impact the more experienced fisherman over the many, many part time guys that rarely catch 20 or more. Sunday fishing is the biggest landings day and should be limited, in my opinion. Before limiting tax paying residant charter captains from selling fish, I think NON-RESIDENTS should be limited. ANYONE, even out of state residents can currently buy a MA COMMERCIAL bass license ! That is just plain wrong, as these other states would not and do not allow us to go there and fish commercially ! If the resident state has no reciprocal agreement with the other then the applicant should not be allowed into the MA fishery !
In federally managed fisheries there is either limited entry ( where you can buy an existing permit or boat permit combo) or a limit on the amount of fish an individual can catch based upon his previous years of catch history. MA could and should do that on the bass season as well. MA does have many and most other state fisheries as limited entry ! There is a precedent !
Massachusetts DMF has about one half of its budget obtained from the sales of fishing permits. (See the MA DMF website budget info.) Perhaps that is why they seek to continue to allow unlimited entry into the striper fishery ? With over 5000 bass permits sold (@ about $85 each) and only 1200 or so actually reporting sales of fish, if they were to restrict entry to only those that sell the fish, they stand to lose around 3000 permits or about $255,000 annually. So there we have it. Follow the money ! In actuality the DMF is allowing so many people into a fishery in return for license revenues that they cannot control the fishery. They are prostituting this fishery into a devalued state in return for the 250-300 K derived from license sales !
Note: Of the 1200-1300 or so anglers reporting sales of striped bass, about 1000 of them report sales of less than 500 pounds a year, and approximately 800 of them report less than 250 pounds annually ! Yet these folks catch over half of the annual quota.
The end result is real fishermen who have put in years of sea time and experience are forced out because they can't make enough return on investment to make it worthwhile. Meanwhile, part time anglers are selling a fish or two under the table, here and there, and because there are so many, the limited quota is caught in a very short time. If they don't make money its OK because they have the job back home that supports the family. Massachusetts tax revenues are lost via exagerrated write offs and unreported sales.
I tend to side with the full time guys on this issue because I think it is important to keep the value of the fishery. By that, I mean a traditional fisherman and professional needs to be able to make enough money to insure an interest in the fishery. If only those that seek it as a hobby and don't depend upon the income are the participants, then it would be quite easy to do away with the fishery altogether as there is no real need or interest or financial gain to participate. I know that there are those out there that do not support any commercial fishery and I may lose a charter or two over my beliefs. But if you were to fish with me we most likely would be having this conversation in person anyway.
Thanks for listening,
Bruce & Miss Jillian