GAMEFISH STATUS BILL(S)
Folks, here we go again, as Stripers Forever has reintroduced their rewritten and resubmitted gamefish status bills in the Massachusetts state legislation process. This process involves a hearing through the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture, and was held on February 28, 2012 at the State House. These very same proposed bills were submitted last year at this time via Rep Matt Patrick and were not brought forward as bills. These proposals were sponsored this year by Senators Steven Brewer, of Worcester, Hamden, Hampshire & Franklin district, Richard Moore, of Worcester & Norfolk district, and James Timilty of Bristol & Norfolk district. They are cosponsored in the House by Reps Thomas Stanley of Ninth Middlesex district, and Vincent Pedone of Worcester. OK, before I get into my reasons why I do not support the proposed bills again, I have one question......IF THE PROPOSED BILLS CONCERNING A PARTICULAR FISHERY MANAGEMENT ARE SO GREAT, WHY ARE THEY BEING 100% PROPOSED BY LANDLOCKED LEGISLATORS ?
In a nutshell, their proposals would ;
Eliminate ALL commercial harvest of striped bass in Massachusetts Require now available commercial quota to be set aside for conservation purposes Require DMF director to use “best efforts “ to ensure commercial quota not lost to other states Reduce recreational catch limit to 1 fish per day Reduce minimum size limit of 28” to allow taking of one 20” to 26” fish or 1 fish over 40” Require MADMF to manage fish with economic benefit as a consideration, and prevention of overfishing and generate reports to 5 separate committees. Require MADEP to initiate “long term test program” to test fish for contaminants, with focus on “maximum impact” of safety to public and label fish products for sale in Commonwealth
I realize some of my customers may be for Stripers Forever and Gamefish Status for Striped Bass, and my published opinion may cost me a few clients. Perhaps once you read my rational for not supporting their positions, you may be inclined to look at it another way. The harvest of striped bass is managed federally through the ASMFC, with allocations distributed throughout the striper’s range according to historical use. Much federal data and science is collected and analyzed before quotas and harvest data is recommended. Currently the science and data says the striped bass is NOT being over harvested and overfishing is NOT happening. The recreational quota is off from what is has taken in previous years, but still harvests over 5 times the amount of static quota the commercial sector is allowed. As one that earns a significant portion of my wages from the pursuit of catching striped bass, I would not want any overfishing or unsustainable harvest of this critical resource. Additionally I would not support any practice leading to less than conservative affect on this resource. That said, lets go over the proposed SF bills and what they would do.
Elimination of commercial harvest denies the majority of the members of the Commonwealth access to this natural resource and awards it solely to a select group of individuals. Remember the commercial harvester is providing to the open market. The little old couple, down the street or on the corner has the same right to these fish as does the fly fisher or center console sport fisherman. The argument that the economic value of sport fishing trumps all commercial use, disregards the value of the resource belonging to all members of Commonwealth. This theory also erroneously assumes economics will increase if commercial fishing is stopped. Yet it is probable that the slot limit and one fish bag limit factors of their proposals will decrease interest in Striped Bass fishing in Massachusetts. Setting aside the now denied MA commercial quota for “conservative” purposes will result in the unused quota being redistributed to other eastern seaboard states. Reducing the recreational bag limit to one fish will decrease interest in charter fishing to a limited degree. I think this proposal is reasonable IF the science says reductions in the recreational harvest are in order. Reducing the current 28” minimum size to a slot limit of 20” to 26” is a FOOLISH PROPOSAL ! The reason MADMF used a 28” size limit is to ensure that 80% of striped bass of that size had spawned at least once before their harvest. Reducing the bag limit to the smaller slot will be short sighted and allow the inshore marsh and estuary anglers more harvestable fish, at the expense of promulgating the species. In addition, the charter boat industry operating in Cape Cod Bay, Nantucket Sound and the ocean would be devastated by this short sighted proposal. I did not catch more than 5 stripers in my entire season between 20 and 26 inches ! Cape cod Bay anglers do not see these small fish either. This proposal would do away with Charter fishing ! ( Not a great economic benefit !) Requiring MA officials to study and report on testing for contaminants and measuring economic benefit for regulatory purposes is redundant and adds an unnecessary layer of beaurocracy to state fisheries management.
There are factors here to be watchful of. The harvest recreationally is down, of that there is no question. Beach fishing has been off. Sand eels are located further offshore than in previous years. Menhaden and herring stocks are being commercially over harvested and local abundance is not what it was. Water temperatures are higher than the norms in the inshore areas. Grey Seal populations have exploded and no studies are being conducted to learn of the impacts of these predators. Recreational hook mortality is estimated at 8% overall, and is much higher with chunk bait methods or warmer, less oxygenated waters. The recreational discard mortality numbers are almost equal (just under) to the entire commercial harvest quota in numbers, yet there still remains no effective limit to this sector’s harvest except for the daily bag limit. Many things could be accomplished with cooperation from the recreational fishers with knowledgeable commercial fishermen. Yet it seemed it took Stripers Forever 3 years to finally support anti mid water trawler ideas, as they are solely focused on only one position - to eliminate commercial striped bass fishing. Its my opinion that they might get a lot more support if they weren’t so one sided and actually proposed legislation that saves fish, instead of taking smaller pre-spawn fish and the big trophy too !
Good Fishing to You,
Capt Bruce & “Marilyn S”