I have attached a letter that I sent in to my local paper in response to a column promoting Stripers Forever's position on "gamefish status". Obviously there are many things that we can debate about striper management, and this is my current view on this issue. I would prefer that we focus on habitat enhancement, stock rebuilding, and pay attention to the huge midwater and bottom trawling bycatch issues that are taking place 10-30 miles off our shorelines. I seek to increase observer coverage of these vessels. If I can get recreational fishing organizations to get on board with this issue, the sooner it will get done.
Thanks very much,
LOVING A STRIPER By Captain Bruce Peters
I LOVE striped bass ! I write in response to Peter Budryk’s “Fishing Lines” (Cape Codder, Oct. 24) in which he uses his column to promote Stripers Forever’s position of promoting “gamefish status” for striped bass. I have a differing opinion. I make my living taking others fishing for striped bass. www.sportfishingcapecod.com I also sell striped bass commercially, providing this natural resource to those that do not have the means to catch their own. I seek to always respect and conserve this fish, lest I “bite the hand that feeds me”. In the last couple of years there has been a push from organized recreational fishing clubs and groups, notably “Stripers Forever” to legislate the striper a gamefish, so they could no longer be sold in fish markets. That would mean my mom, yours, or the old couple down the street could no longer enjoy the Commonwealth’s resource of striped bass. It would be set aside solely for the use of sportfishing folks in center console boats and beach buggies with surf rods. Roughly 50 percent of Massachusetts commercial striper quota is caught here in Barnstable County. The argument for making stripers a gamefish is that they are worth more economically to the community than the revenues generated by the commercial sales of the bass. Stripers Forever uses the 2003 “Southwick Study” to argue this point. (http://www.southwickassocisates.com/freereports/Default.aspx.) Some question the figures in the study, saying that the folks spending all this dough are already spending a large percentage of the figures quoted in the study while on their vacations. Regardless of the questionable amount of dollars generated, what value is put on the rights of the Commonwealth’s non fishing residents to have access to the noble striped bass ? Is it equitable that only the recreational guys be the ones to have access to the fish? According to the Atlantic States Marine Fishery Commission’s, Public Information Document for Amendment 6 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Striped Bass, the commercial fishery has declined from 15 million pounds in 1973 to 6.5 million pounds in 1998. This is largely due to the landings being capped with annual quotas or limits on what can be harvested. In comparison, the recreational harvest has grown continually from 6.5 million pounds in 1979 to a record 15.9 million pounds in 1997 ! It is obvious that the commercial harvest is half of what it once was and the recreational harvest is double of what it once was. In 1998 sportfishermen harvested 1,363,668 Striped Bass. However, they accidentally killed another 1,202,157 fish through an 8 percent applied hooking mortality. (fish that die from poor handling, or hooks in the gills, stomach etc) In comparison, the TOTAL allowed commercial quota from all states was 1,223,828 fish in 1998 ! (Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s PID for Amendment 6 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Striped Bass, tables 1 and 2 -April11,2000 ) In my opinion, if the recreational fishery can afford to waste this many bass just to have fun, there sure is enough striped bass to go around so non fishing folks can buy a striper fillet for dinner! We all love fishing for and catching striped bass and can be passionate and vocal about how to manage the striper resources. Instead of infighting to reallocate a relatively small portion of the coastal striper quota from Massachusetts’ commercial fishermen and the public, I suggest that the Stripers Forever and gamefish status crowd, take notice of a much greater issue of huge striped bass and haddock bycatch problems created by the midwater trawl herring and bottom trawl groundfish fleets. I suggest they join with commercial, recreational and whale watching businesses and environmental groups to ask for 100 percent observer coverage on these large trawlers that operate off our Massachusetts coastlines, to document this wasteful bycatch. There is a recent amateur video of this bycatch in the Regal Sword area to the southeast of Chatham. http://www.sportfishermen.com/board/f186/disturbing-video-55702.html This video really doesn’t show how large the area of dead and dying bass is. During September and October the huge bottom and mid-water trawlers working the area from the Regal Sword wreck to the BB buoy are killing TONS of migrating bass annually! We need to ALL work together to get these vessels accountable. Nothing less then 100 percent observer coverage will do! Please join “CHOIR”, Coalition for the Herring Fishery’s, Orderly, Informed and Responsible Long Term Development to ask what you can do. http://www.choircoalition.org/; 508-945-2432; email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Captain Bruce Peters, a 16 th generation Cape Codder is a recreational charter-boat skipper, and commercial fisherman living in Eastham. He can be contacted at email@example.com.