Three weeks ago, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and its Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board voted to approve an emergency measure to lower the maximum striped bass size to 31 inches. The current “slot” regulation in New York allows anglers to keep one bass between 28 and 35 inches in length per day.
The vote meant that Atlantic Coast States (including New York), will have to enact new recreational striped bass regulations, with a coastwide slot of one fish at 28 to 31 inches in length. The new measure needs to be implemented by July 2. Massachusetts had already implemented the reduced slot as of Friday.
However, there has been pushback from local political representatives on the reduced slot for the highly-prized striper before the New York Department of Environmental Conservation moves forward with a formal ruling.
In a letter sent last Thursday to Basil Seggos, commissioner of the D.E.C., Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. and State Senator Anthony H. Palumbo wrote that, “We are asking that before any emergency measures are adopted by the D.E.C., a careful review is done based on input from our local fishermen and captains. As you are well aware, our fishing industry is already struggling with difficult quotas, the high cost of fuel, the high property and docking costs in our area among other challenges. We are hopeful that you will put any plans on hold until all stakeholders are brought to the table and have the opportunity to share their input and concerns.”
The reduced slot size was in response to the magnitude of the 2022 recreational harvest, which was nearly double that of 2021, and new projections indicating that the stock has a very low chance of rebuilding if the higher 2022 fishing mortality rate continues. According to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, the 31-inch size restriction is designed to reduce the harvesting of the 2015 year-class of bass, the last strong year-class, which was a significant factor in the recreational fishery’s increased harvest of the popular fish in 2022.
The fisheries commission’s plan seeks to rebuild the striped bass population by 2029; updated projections show that the probability of rebuilding the stock by then dropped from 97.5 percent to 15 percent.
According to the approved motion by the board, the emergency action states that “jurisdictions are required to implement compliant measures as soon as possible and no later than July 2, 2023.” The emergency action will be in place for 180 days and may be extended for up to a year at the October meeting of the fisheries commission.
“We are being told by our recreational fishermen and boat captains that this rule change will greatly raise the mortality rate of striped bass causing an increase in catch-and-release deaths,” Mr. Thiele and Mr. Palumbo wrote in their letter. “This will obviously have the reverse effect on efforts to increase the stock. Additionally, we have been informed that the for-hire industry utilizes less than 5 percent of the striped bass stock”.
The letter added that: “The economy of our region is driven by the agricultural and fishing industries. The rich history of our fishermen is a legacy that attracts many tourists and enthusiasts to our area. It will become extremely difficult to encourage would-be customers to use charter and party boats with such a narrow window of striped bass possession.”