Hi Folks, Perhaps you may have heard about the proposed changes to Massachusetts striped bass fishing, sponsored by Falmouth state rep Matt Patrick and Stripers Forever. In addition to attending the committee hearing to voice my opposition i have written my state senators and representatives to voice my opposition. It is amazing to me that many folks will sign on to support some legislation or ideas without understanding the full ramifications of what will happen if enacted. Here is a letter I recently sent in to my local paper explaining why I would oppose Representative Patrick's Bill.
Note: This bill has been sent back by the Committee for "further study" and will not pass as written.
Dear Cape Codder Editor,
As a 16th generation Cape Codder, commercial striper fisherman, & recreational charter boat captain, I oppose Barnstable Representative Matt Patrick’s new Striped Bass bill. He supports Stripers Forever, a Maine based recreational fishing group that seeks to eliminate commercial striper fishing. They argue that the economic value of the striped bass is worth more as a recreational only fishery, commercial fishers are harvesting too many breeding sized fish, and that the current fishery management process is a failure. Their bill, besides eliminating the sale of all wild caught stripers in Massachusetts, proposes to reduce the daily catch of recreationally caught striped bass from 2 daily to 1 fish per day, and reduces the minimum size from the current 28” to a range limit of one fish between 20” to 26” OR one fish over 40”. They base these biological recommendations upon a Stripers Forever membership survey (SF website 12-2009) of 906 members, 69% of which feel fishing is “worse” or “much worse.”
Here are a few striper facts.
1. According to a table; “Removals by Fishery Component, 2006” by the Atlantic States Marine Fishery Commission’s Striped Bass Technical Committee, the recreational sector caught 79% (4,846,876 fish) of the stripers in 2006, leaving 21% (1,071,240 fish) to be sold into the markets by the commercial sector. This 21% is what the restaurants and tourists buy in the local markets.
2. The Massachusetts commercial harvest is limited to an annual quota of a set amount of pounds. Fishermen and buyers are constantly reporting their sales and purchases to ensure the quota is not exceeded. If it is over-harvested, the amount over is deducted from the next year’s allocation.
3. Female striped bass mature between the ages of 5 to 7 years, at a size range of 24 to 30”. Massachusetts uses the current 28” size limit to ensure that at least 80% of these 6 year old fish are of spawning age and size before they are allowed to be harvested. Even at the maximum size of the proposed Patrick/Stripers Forever bill of 20” to 26” size limit, less than 20% of female stripers would be mature enough to spawn before they are harvested !
4. Lastly, the ASMFC’s latest report (2009) on the Status of the Striped Bass biomass, states “the striped bass stock complex is not overfished and overfishing is not occurring. The SCA model estimates a low fishing mortality rate (F), stable spawning and total biomass, and a slight increase in population numbers following a recent four year decline.”
This striper fishing bill (H796) will NOT conserve striped bass, as it proposes to harvest them before they are of spawning size. This bill also will imperil and penalize the summer charter boat and tourist industry and cost Cape Cod and Barnstable County jobs and revenue. Although many of the SF survey respondents reported not being able to catch a legal 28” bass, those of us fishing in Cape Cod Bay and the waters around Chatham, have a hard time finding anything smaller than that! Their proposed changes would ruin Cape Cod as a recreational striper fishing destination. In addition their proposal fails to consider water temperature increases, seal population, lack of inshore bait supply as reasons for their reported declines in fishing success. It is my opinion that we should not be managing this fishery with political methods, based solely upon limited anecdotal evidence reported by an out of state based fishing club. What is more important though, and is missing from any dialog, is that these fish belong to ALL residents of the Commonwealth, (even the "non-fishing public") and not just to those with fly rods and center console fishing boats. If the resource is declared “healthy and not overfished,” and there is enough stripers for the recreational sector to accidentally kill (discard) from their efforts, dead and unused, an amount double the entire commercial quota, (2,072,334 fish) then surely there is enough for our Moms, neighbors and friends to go buy a fresh bass fillet at the market.
Capt. Bruce Peters Eastham, MA