18 Sep Draft Addendum IV to Amendment 6 – Public Hearing Recap
While the turnout at the Draft Addendum IV to Amendment 6 – Public Hearing was commensurate with the population in Rhody and the mix of recreational, for hire and commercial was typical of the other ASFMC Public Hearings the overall sentiment had more “two fish” advocates than I would have anticipated based on the other meetings held in other states.
For Hire Fleet – Some Surprises
The Rhode Island Charter Boat Association took a similar position to other Party Boat Associations and that is the three year phase in and Option B7 (one fish 28-34″ and one fish above 36″). It is easy to understand when you realize that many of their Captains (members) believe they are selling fish and not a fishing experience. Two fish is more fish than one fish. One of the Captains accurately pointed out (just as the Massachusetts Captains did at an earlier meeting) that as other species “are either all gone or over regulated they need to fish for striped bass”. I couldn’t help; but think he was making the point for the most conservative approach now so that striped bass don’t go the route of his previous targets and “are either all gone or over regulated”. It’s a free country.
Captain Charlie Donilon spoke for the more conservative “one year, one fish” recognizing that it was wise to “take your medicine now” and ere on the side of caution. Charlie also referenced the fact that all the options presented had only a 50% chance of meeting the minimum target. Said another way we are just as likely to be revisiting this topic in three years as not. After three years go by with the two fish bag limit we will be in a deeper hole and a moratorium is the only remaining option. Charlie does a lot of interesting charters in addition to sport fishing including lighthouse tours and shark cage diving. Sounds like a sustainable business model to me! Learn more at snappacharters.com
Five Charter Captains from Block Island wrote one letter advocating for immediate implementation, one fish at 32 inches. The most conservative option available and they fish the last best remaining striper water every day.
Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association – A Head Scratcher
The biggest disappointment of the night came from the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association. A group that does at lot of good for recreational anglers in RI; but this time they seemed tone deaf. Their Legislative Committee vote to support one year implementation and then same slot as the Charter Boat Association. They argued the marginal difference between 28% reduction (Option B7) from 2013 harvest vs the 31% reduction (Option B3) was negligible, While on face that is true it ignores the fact that the likelihood of success in reaching the minimum threshold is only 50% to begin with makes every step away from a conservative approach that much more worrisome. RISAA claims 30 Affiliate Clubs and I haven’t heard a surfcaster yet that share’s their view. I wondered if the likes of Narragansett Surfcasters, Newport Saltwater Fishing Club and Rhody Fly Rodders and other shorebound clubs knew of this vote. RISAA has a strong presence and this time I think the shore fisherman got the short end of the stick. Very disappointing.
Recreational Anglers – One Year, One Fish @ 32 Preferred
The bulk of the recreational anglers who attended seemed to be surfcasters (rather than boat fisherman) and as such those most effected by the depleted striper stocks. Mike Laptew “The Diving Fisherman” confirmed the lack of bass in what used to be proven fishing grounds. No survey and extrapolation needed. Mike can see the decline. There is good discussion on striped-bass.com to hear a wider variety of perspectives on the meeting from the surfcasters point of view.
My sense is that while 1 year and 1 @ 32 is preferred it would be simpler to educate and enforce if the limit was cut in half from the current 2 @ 28 to 1 @ 28. The unfortunate choice of the RISAA Legislative Committee will complicate the effort to get a one year and one fish option. Those concerned with the health of the striped bass stock have more work to do. Three more years with a two fish harvest as RISAA advocates could well leave us in a more dire situation three years from now when this topic is revisited. We need to write letters to the ASFMC and be sure the voice of recreational anglers in Rhode Island is heard loud and clear.