Sportfishing and boating community calls for reductions of striped bass harvests

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A coalition of recreational fishing and boating organizations wrote to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission on Wednesday urging commissioners to end overfishing and begin rebuilding striped bass populations by implementing an 18 percent harvest reduction for the recreational and commercial fisheries.

In the letter, the American Sportfishing Association, BoatUS, Center for Sportfishing Policy, Coastal Conservation Association, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Marine Retailers Association of the Americas, National Marine Manufacturers Association and Recreational Fishing Alliance offer support for the reduction to ensure a healthy future for this economically important fishery.

The group also supports implementing the mandatory use of circle hooks when fishing with bait across all states and jurisdictions to reduce mortality. The effectiveness of non-offset circle hooks has been proven through more than a decade of mandatory use in the Gulf of Mexico reef fish fisheries.

The ASMFC will make its decision on Oct. 30.

“Atlantic striped bass management has been successful under cooperative, state-based management through the ASMFC,” said Chris Horton, fisheries program director for the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, in a statement. “We’re at a critical point in that management endeavor that requires further reductions in harvest, across the board, to ensure the flexible, state-based management model continues to be successful in managing striped bass for today and tomorrow’s recreational anglers.”

“Striped bass are one of the most sought after sport fish along the Atlantic coast, and its recreational fishery is a significant contributor to the East Coast economy,” said Mike Waine, Atlantic fisheries policy director for the American Sportfishing Association. “As the striped bass population has decreased, we stand behind ASMFC to make the right decision to end overfishing and return the striped bass population to a healthy status.”

The ASMFC is an Interstate compact ratified by the states and approved by the U.S. Congress in 1942 to jointly manage shared migratory fishery resources. ASMFC manages the striped bass stock from North Carolina to Maine.

The fishery has been a success story for angler conservationists after it was brought back from the brink in the 1980s due to overfishing, according to the coalition.

While the stock is significantly healthier than it was in the ’80s, recent declining trends in the population are concerning, the group said. Reducing the amount of Atlantic striped bass removed by recreational and commercial fishermen is necessary to rebuild the stock to a healthy status.