Here’s what really happened at the ASMFC Meeting and what it means for 2020 Striper Regulations

*In depth summary of the meeting can be found here. Much of my info here came from Ken Perotte’s piece.

There’s lots of confusion surrounding the decisions made by the ASMFC board at the meeting last night, and it all seems to be focused around two words: conservation equivalency.

Regardless of this mysterious “conversation equivalency” designation, the good news is that Option 2 and sub option 2A-2 was passed, which calls for equal percent reduction coastwide, and a slot limit regulation of 1 fish per day 28″ to 35″. Not ideal of course, and not what the public wanted (public comment was 4 to 1 in favor of the 1 @ 35″ option). But a passing of option 2 shows the states and representatives are serious about the conservation of the species. The circle hook option was passed unanimously.

It seemed that with the passing of option 2 and the slot limit, this would be the rule of the law along the entire coast (except for Maryland, who is now 1 fish at 18″). I did notice, however, while listening in, that some states, particularly New Jersey, seemed adamant to determine and define “conservation equivalency.” This conservation equivalency was granted prior to the vote.

This is where things got confusing. Conservation equivalency essentially allow states to dictate their own regulations, so long as they meet the required 18% reduction. If this is the case, why even have the initial vote? Who is going to hold states accountable who either don’t meet the minimum reduction percentage or just flat out refuse to?

Seem weird to you? It seems to me that this “conservation equivalency” is merely a tactic for states that don’t agree with option 2 to skirt these approved coastwide regulations.

Here’s what happens now. “Any state,” Perotte says, “deviating from a board-selected option for recreational fisheries in the ocean region or Chesapeake Bay needs to submit a state–specific analysis using state–specific data that demonstrates their proposal meets at least the required reduction in total recreational removals” (Perotte). Proposals are due by November 30th and will be approved at the February meeting.

Early indications, however, are that all of the states represented who voted to pass option 2, (11 states and advisory boards), will enact the new regulations for 2020.

I’m split here. I know we all wanted the 1 at 35″ option. This has worked to rebound this fishery before. The slot option will certainly put pressure on those important 2011 and 2015 year class of stripers.

But the slot option has positives as well. Bigger breeders will all be released under the new regulations. After listening to the meeting, it was clear that all representatives agreed that the striped bass need saving, in some fashion or another.

“It’s better than nothing” I keep hearing. Which is undoutedly true. But it’s sad knowing that there was a better option on the table and it was passed over. Regardless, we’re on the right track.

Billy Mitchell

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