We are hearing more and more about the EEZ lately, as it pertains to striped bass fishing, so I thought I would do a report on the EEZ issue and how it became to be so much more in the news today. First, the EEZ is short for the “Exclusive Economic Zone” and it is a section of waters from 3 to 200 miles off our coastlines, beyond state waters’ control and under federal management. Therefore, it is under the control of the National Marine Fisheries Service, and as it pertains to the striper fishery, under recommendations of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, a coalition of all Atlantic seaboard states.
The EEZ was closed to all fishing for striped bass in 1988, as an amendment to the Striped Bass Conservation Act, approved on October 31, 1984. The Striped Bass Conservation Act was put in place to protect severely over-fished populations of the stripers. Conditions of the original Act stated, that there was a moratorium on the taking of striped bass, and authorized appropriations as needed for 18 months, and provided $200,000 for propagation of Chesapeake stripers to the states of Maryland and Virginia. There were several amendments that extended appropriations, one of which is the 1988 amendment adding the prohibition of harvest in the EEZ, but the end result was the striped bass stocks did recover due to the sacrifices of all states and all classes of fishermen, both recreational and commercial. In 1995 the striped bass stock status was officially declared “fully recovered”. According to the 2005 Striped Bass Studies report filed to Congress,
(Quote) Population abundance (stock size as of January 1) increased from 4.8 million fish in1982 to 60.1 million fish in 1997 and subsequently has stabilized at about 59 million fish. (Unquote)
Since 1995 we have enjoyed a healthy and robust striper fishery. There are some that will always complain about something, but all in all, we have a really healthy resource of striped bass. Since 1995, some recreational (myself included) and commercial fishermen have been fishing outside of the 3 mile line, even though technically illegal, it was not being enforced by the US Coast Guard and state Environmental police units. Only recently due to mail in postcard and letter campaigns from Stripers Forever, Coastal Conservation Association, and Recreational Fishing Alliance has this issue been looked at and recent enforcement actions started.
These groups have used this issue to generate membership dues, telling their membership to “stop the illegal harvest of striped bass”. They have told their memberships that those that fish outside of the 3-mile line are catching all the larger “breeder” fish. They have also told their memberships that the commercial harvests will increase due to increased effort. Both statements are completely and utterly false!! First, the commercial catch of striped bass is fixed and cannot increase. Any overages from one year are applied to the next years’ quota. Over 75% of the comment received against reopening the EEZ cited expansion of the commercial fishery as the reason not to reopen the area. The ASMFC acknowledges this is incorrect because a hard quota controls the commercial fishery. Second, there is MA Division of Marine Fisheries tagging statistical data available that proved there are no measurable differences in the size of the fish tagged outside state waters and within.
What really annoys me is that it is so typical of today’s society to blame another user group for something we don’t understand. If these conservational rec fishing organizations are so insistent that we don’t catch the larger “breeder” fish, then why do some of them fish in the rivers when big spawning bass are there? Why then, not impose or suggest a coast-wide slot limit so the breeders are thrown back? I guess it’s easier to impose those rules on someone else! Or perhaps just impose a fishing sanctuary in my backyard to benefit them? Then they will not have to live by the same rules they propose for me here on the Cape. Another really annoying thing is that Stripers Forever as a group, refused to sign on to a huge CHOIR petition of charter boats, whale watch boats, and other sport and commercial businesses to ask for increased federal observer coverage on the mid-water trawlers and draggers operating a mere ten miles away from their revered fishing grounds, stating that they didn’t believe in this issue. HUH?? I guess they don’t really believe in conservation, except only when it’s to benefit them! BASS eat herring – in case you didn’t know it!
In July of 2003 NMFS announced its intent on preparing an Environmental Impact Statement to analyze human impacts on revisions to the bass regulations pertaining to the EEZ. The findings of the EIS and recommendations from ASMFC are as follows:
1. Remove the moratorium on the harvest of Atlantic Striped Bass in the EEZ. 2. Implement a 28” limit on recreational and commercial Atlantic Striped Bass fisheries in the EEZ. 3. Allow states to adopt more restrictive rules for fishermen and vessels allowed in their jurisdictions.
In some areas, like Long Island Sound and Cape Cod Bay, it is legal to fish outside of the 3-mile line because of inland waterway shipping rules. This issue really ONLY EFFECTS southeast Cape Cod and Island Fishermen. So if I were to ask a Cape Cod Bay or a Long Island sound fishermen how he felt on this issue, perhaps he would say “I support you, that’s not fair”! Or perhaps he would say “ The heck with you, the less you catch the more there is for me”!
What would you say if I asked you?
I believe that fisheries should be managed scientifically and not politically.
Good fishing to you,
Bruce & “Marilyn S”
PS: Look at the:
ATLANTIC STRIPED BASS STUDIES 2005 BIENNIAL REPORT TO CONGRESS Submitted to the: Committee on Resources of the United States House of Representatives and Committee on Congress, Science, and Transportation of the United States Senate Prepared by: National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Prepared By: Gary R. Shepherd R.Wilson Laney National Marine Fisheries Service Fish and Wildlife Service Tom Meyer Robert Beal National Marine Fisheries Service Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission