Maryland’s recreational boating and fishing community sent a letter to state authorities criticizing pending striped bass regulations that anglers say disproportionately restricts recreational anglers’ access to the fish.
Groups including the American Sportfishing Association sent a letter to Maryland Natural Resources secretary Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio on Wednesday regarding the pending 2020 striped bass regulations expressing concern over the lack of public input in the department’s management process.
“As leaders in conservation, we’re actively working to restore the iconic striped bass stock, even when that means reducing the number of fish recreational anglers are allowed to catch,” said ASA president Glenn Hughes in a statement.
“Unfortunately, Maryland has decided to disproportionally restrict recreational anglers’ access to the striped bass fishery through unequal harvest reductions, closure of the April catch and release season and lack of input when decisions are made,” said Hughes. “As the leading voice for tackle manufacturers, tackle shops, boat dealers and marinas, we need the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to recognize recreational fishing’s large economic footprint in Maryland and treat recreational anglers as equal players to help restore the iconic striped bass fishery.”
Recreational anglers realize that in order to ensure the health and abundance of striped bass, immediate and difficult decisions must be made now, said the letter.
“However, Maryland’s current preferred conservation equivalency options unfairly place the vast majority of the burden on the private recreational fishery and may not contain measures necessary to bring on-the-water results to end overfishing and begin rebuilding the striped bass population,” said Hughes.
On Oct. 30, members of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission voted to reduce striped bass removals by 18 percent in the recreational and commercial fisheries from North Carolina to Maine.
The commission encouraged the states to share the reductions in harvest evenly between commercial and recreational sectors. However, Maryland has chosen to place the cuts almost entirely on the recreational sector and then unfairly target anglers fishing from their own boats more than charter/for-hire boats, according to the statement.
Only Option number 1 provides an equitable distribution of the harvest reduction across the recreational sector and the best opportunity to end overfishing and begin rebuilding the striped bass population, the anglers said in their letter.
Of Maryland’s proposals, both Option number 2 and Option 3 seek to reallocate fish away from the private angler to the charter/for-hire fleet by allowing charter boat anglers to retain two fish per person while private anglers are limited to one fish.
The organizations calling for Option number 1 and a transparent public process include: American Sportfishing Association, BoatU.S., Center for Sportfishing Policy, Coastal Conservation Association, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Marine Retailers Association of the Americas, Marine Trades Association of Maryland, and National Marine Manufacturers Association.