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Striped Bass: Bad Precedent and a Call to Action

This time of year it’s easy to miss news that’s important to the angling community; after all, we’re out enjoying the summer weather and the fishing. But events in the mid-Atlantic are worth noting.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC)—the federal board tasked with managing fisheries along the Atlantic coast—implemented restrictions on fluke/summer flounder to ease pressure on a species that has seen better days. New Jersey thought the ASMFC’s cuts were too deep and would hurt the state’s commercial and recreational fisheries, so the state came up with its own plan. New Jersey’s convoluted argument was that, despite allowing the harvest of more fish, it’s plan would achieve the same conservation goal. The ASMFC disagreed and hit New Jersey with a moratorium.

Good news, right?

Well, New Jersey appealed the decision to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, who decided to overrule the ASMCF (and every other member state) and let New Jersey have its way. Hey, New Jersey was fighting for its citizens and that’s their job, but the implications of Commerce’s decision are dire, setting a dangerous precedent.

While far from perfect, the ASMFC’s advantage as a fisheries management body is that it fosters cooperative uniformity, which is vital to protecting migratory species especially. After all, what good does it do for one state to place harvest restrictions on a species if neighboring states don’t follow suit?

Of course, this is a critical issue for striped bass conservation. It is highly likely that the Commerce Department’s ruling on fluke in New Jersey is has emboldened Maryland—a state that has a long history of trying to get around striped bass conservation regulations using all sorts of wild theories and arguments—to revive its efforts to liberalize quotas.

For anglers who have the perspective of history, we’re seeing conditions today that are eerily similar to those that precipitated the collapse of the wild striped bass population in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. That disaster prompted a moratorium on commercial and recreational fishing. No one wants to see history repeat itself, but for conservation to prevail, we must increase protections on the striped bass harvest.

Of course, Stripers Forever believes the best long-term solution is for striped bass to be protected and managed as a game fish, but we dangerously close to returning to the days when selfish greed drove striped bass to the brink.

Conservation-minded anglers have the ability to do something, but it requires that we speak as one. Collectively our voice would be—should be—strong. When tens of thousands of voting constituents speak up, it makes a difference. If you agree with Stripers Forever that game fish is the best policy for protecting striped bass for the overwhelming public benefit and future of the fishery, won’t you join us? Membership is free.

Stripers Forever is an all-volunteer organization. We don’t collect dues and 100% of the money we raise from donations and our annual auction goes to the fight for striped bass conservation. All we ask is that you get involved.

Make it a game fish.

Kevin McKay
MaineFlyFish.com, Owner

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