I fish in the EEZ.
I always have and most of the Chatham, Harwich, Hyannis, Dennis, and Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard Charter and Recreational boats do too. I have built my charter business upon using light tackle and getting my customers out of the crowd of beginner, part time, impatient, and at most times disrespectful, fishers. Apparently, I have been doing so illegally, because there is a law called the Atlantic Striped Bass Conservation Act, approved on October 31,1984. The original Act was to impose a moratorium on the harvest of Striped Bass, and authorized appropriations as necessary for 18 months and provided the Act would be effective through 3-31-1986. It also authorized $200,000 for each of the states of Maryland and Virginia for the propagation of Chesapeake Striped Bass. In the next couple of years, there were several appropriations added. In 1986 it was amended to say that both Secretaries of Commerce and State would jointly decide to make a moratorium, and several definition amendments. In November of 1988, it was amended again to extend appropriations, and added the regulation of harvest in the EEZ. This amendment, added the restriction of harvesting stripers in the Exclusive Economic Zone, or EEZ, which is an area outside of state territorial waters, or the 3-mile line. This law was never enforced after the recovery of striped bass in 1995, partly because it was “under the radar” of most fishing participants and only affected a few in very select locations. Southeast Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard is one of those locations.
The reasons for the involvement of the regulations on a federal level was to protect the severely overfished status of the Atlantic striped bass. So coast wide, individual fishermen, both sport and commercial, made sacrifices and temporarily stopped the harvest of the striped bass. This conservation measure has been one of the most successful stories in fisheries management to date, and resulted in the official declaration of “recovered status” in 1995. Since then, the Striper stocks have continued to grow and are now at levels of record abundance. The 2001 stock assessment concluded that the “overall abundance of the stock is very high and fishing mortality remains below the target rate”. Amendment 6 states the “fishing mortality is below the target rate and the spawning stock biomass is 1.5 times above the target level”. With this recovery of the striped bass, individual states were again given the controls of managing their striper fisheries within ASMFC guidelines, and although some (Massachusetts) opted for more conservative measures, most states went with the maximum allowed under the new expanded ASMFC allowances. Based upon recommendations from the Atlantic States Advisory Commission, in July of 2003, the NMFS announced that it was considering a rulemaking proposal to be compatible with Amendment 6 of the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Striped Bass. Amendment 6 includes the results of the latest stock assessments developed by individual Atlantic Coast States, ASMFC, NMFS and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. NMFS announced its intent on preparing an EIS or Environmental Impact Statement to analyze human impacts on revisions to the bass regulations pertaining to the EEZ. This announcement was to initiate public comment on the proposed rulemaking. The public comment period was to close on August 20, 2003, but many sport groups complained, saying that they needed more time and it was reopened on August 26 to September 25, 2003.
The findings of the EIS and ASMFC recommendation to the Secretary 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 the ability to adopt more restrictive rules for fishermen and vessels allowed in their jurisdictions.
In support of their recommendations the Commission provided the following reasons to justify their recommendations.
1. “In 1995 due in part to a closure of the EEZ in 1990 to striped bass harvest, the population of this species was declared fully restored by the Commission. The purpose of closing the EEZ was to protect strong year classes entering the population and to promote rebuilding of the overfished population.” 2. “The commercial harvest is controlled by hard quotas; when they are reached the fishery is closed; and overages are taken out of next years quotas. The commercial quota will be landed regardless of whether or not the EEZ is opened.” 3. “Currently, recreational and commercial catches are occurring in the EEZ and these fish are required to be discarded. Opening the EEZ will convert discarded bycatch of striped bass to landings.” 4. “Because of management measures implemented since 1990, the striped bass population has recovered to a point where further examination of whether this fishery should occur in the EEZ is appropriate. There are expectations among a number of fishery industry stakeholders that their past sacrifices would result in future opportunities to harvest striped bass, and therefore, there are potential credibility issues associated with keeping the EEZ closed, especially in the light of the current status of Atlantic striped bass stock”. 5. “The recommendation to reopen the EEZ is part of Amendment 6 which incorporates new management standards to ensure stock conservation including targets and thresholds for both mortality and spawning stock biomass. Fishing Mortality is currently below target level, and spawning stock biomass is 1.5 times the target level.” 6. “Amendment 6 includes monitoring requirements and triggers that will allow the Commission to respond quickly to increased mortality.” 7. "The bulk of the comment (greater than 75%) received in opposition during the Amendment 6 process cited expansion of the commercial fishery as rationale to not open the EEZ. The Commission believes the rationale is incorrect because the commercial fishery is controlled by a hard quota."
OK Folks, those are the facts as to what the EEZ closure and the proposal to reopen it to striped bass fishing is all about. You will probably be able to find many people to tell you why it should remain closed and perhaps they will be able to explain why and perhaps not. My experience in asking that question has shown me that it is more about how that may benefit the person being asked than the data concerning the issue.
By that, I mean for example “ if the EEZ is closed will it mean more bass for me ??????? More on this later…..
Bruce and “Marilyn S”
See: Federal Register Oct. 20, 2003 Vol. 68 # 202, pg. 59906-59908