Maryland striped bass regulations place undue burden on recreational anglers
By Jeff Crane, Edmonston and Glenn Hughes
Nov 18, 2019 | 6:00 AM
The Seine Survey program is dated back to the 1960s. Scientist haul seine nets into the shallow waters of the James River to catch smaller fish such as the Stripped Bass.
Maryland is home for each of us. We know firsthand that the state has some of the best striped bass fishing in the country and our local economy benefits annually with nearly $820 million added to our Gross Domestic Product from striped bass alone. However, both man-made and environmental challenges have hampered the striped bass population from Maine to North Carolina, and it is time to act.
On Oct. 30, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), the interstate body charged with jointly managing the Atlantic coast’s shared migratory fishery resources, voted to reduce striped bass removals by 18% in the recreational and commercial fisheries. States must submit their plans by Nov. 29, detailing how they will achieve the 18% reduction in 2020 if they are not using the preferred measures urged by ASMFC.
America’s sportfishing and boating community is on record in favor of the reduction, recognizing that tough management decisions must be made for the benefit of our shared public resources. ASMFC encouraged all states to share the reductions evenly between the commercial and recreational sectors, and Maryland should not be the exception.
Maryland’s recreational anglers stand ready to work with state leaders to conserve and rebuild the iconic striped bass fishery. However, Maryland’s current proposal places the vast majority of the burden on the recreational fishery and may not contain measures likely to bring on-the-water results and turn the tide for the striped bass population. We are strong supporters of state management of fishery resources, but heavy-handed regulations on one sector over the other without a thorough, transparent process is not a fair accounting of the contributions the recreational fishing and boating industry brings to the state of Maryland.
In 2016, the Maryland recreational striped bass fishery (private anglers and charter boats) supported 10,193 jobs and contributed $802 million to state GDP. That’s 97% of the economic value of the fishery. Maryland anglers — all 744,236 of us — care about resource conservation. Furthermore, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources receives millions of dollars annually from fishing license sales as well as the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund, which is fueled by excise taxes paid on recreational fishing equipment and motorboat fuel taxes. Within the state, these funds are used for natural resource management, education programs and conservation efforts benefiting species like striped bass.
Good stewardship of public fishery resources uses many tools in the fishery management toolbox. Maryland anglers are already helping striped bass populations by their use of circle hooks. ASMFC voted to require anglers to use circle hooks when fishing with bait beginning in 2021. The effectiveness of circle hooks as a conservation measure has been proven through more than a decade of mandatory use in the Gulf of Mexico reef fish fishery because they are designed to hook fish in the mouth and avoid “gut hooking.” We encourage continuity in this gear regulation.
Businesses dependent on recreational fishing can better prepare for 2020 and beyond with certainty in regulations. Now is the time for a fair, deliberate, inclusive process. Our hope is that our state leaders will step back, take a methodical and transparent approach, and invite stakeholders to the table to let some sunshine into this process.
Conservation of Maryland’s official state fish is important to local anglers like us and the many small businesses which rely on recreational fishing in our great state.