20 Feb The Time for Striped Bass Conservation is Now
“Americans have “symbols” which they rally around and which signify some part of the quality of life we all seek, The striped bass is such a symbol” – Senator John Chaffee in 1980
His leadership in striped bass conservation reversed the decline in striped bass, created an economic boom that benefited the entire region and gained the Ocean State national acclaim.
Many recognize the striped bass fishing is “not what is used to be” and graph of the data suggests we are on the cusp of over fishing. Since the success of the spawn is out of our control and in light of the documented decline the Feds have mandated a 25% harvest reduction for both recreational and commercial fisherman.
Now Rhody has Three Options
There are now three options available for consideration in Rhode Island. All have a >50% likelihood of accomplishing the desired reduction (that is a lot like a coin flip).
Option 1: One fish greater than 28 inches for all of recreational fisherman
Option 2 One fish at 28 inches for all shore and private boat recreational fisherman and two fish greater than 32 inches for the for hire fleet (charter boat)
Option 2B: One fish at 28 inches for all shore and private boat recreational fisherman and two fish greater than 32 inches for the for hire fleet (charter boat) with the stipulation that the Captain and Mate can not possess any fish while on a charter.
Neighboring Massachusetts and Connecticut are recommending Option 1. Regional consistency has been an emphasis of ASMFC because it results in improved data accuracy and enforcement efficiency. It is already hard enough to determine how many fish are in the ocean so the less variables the better. Rhody needs to follow suit.
Why the Most Conservative Option is Best for the Striped Bass
Given the 50/50 odds of success the more conservative and least complicate Option 1 is the right choice at this time:
1) Any two fish option complicates data collection and compromises already thin enforcement resources. These are two puzzle pieces that need to be tight given the odds
2) A charter boat is just another way for rec anglers to get to the fish and is no different than a kayak or a pair of waders. No need for separate rules. To treat one subset of recreational fishing differently is to export a Rhode Island resource against the desire of the majority for the benefit of a of a few for those who can afford it. That is just not right.
3) Because you fish under the regs of the state whose waters you are in then Option 1 is the best way to protect the female breeders that congregate around Block Island. The “two fish” options have the additional consequence of encouraging out of state boats to motor to Block and return to their home port with no benefit to Rhody.
4) The true size of the black market for striped bass is real wild card. While not the best way Option 1 will mitigate the black market sale of striped bass by reducing the possession limit for rec anglers. This can only improve the data accuracy and will benefit the legitimate commercial fisherman who deserve a level playing field.
Here is what you can do:
If you are a member of RISAA please take this survey.
If you really give a damn then send an email to Janet Coit the Director of DEM and be sure to copy Peter Duhamel before 2/25. Also, please share this blog post with anyone else you know who loves striped bass.
Thanks for participating.