Recreational fishing and boating groups call for fair treatment in restrictions to end overfishing
Alexandria, Va. – Wednesday, organizations representing Maryland’s angling and boating community sent a letter to Maryland's Secretary of Natural Resources Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio regarding the pending 2020 striped bass regulations and expressed 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 American Sportfishing Association President Glenn Hughes. “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. 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.”
In its letter, the coalition stated: “We realize that in order to ensure the health and abundance of striped bass in the future, immediate and difficult management decisions must be made now. 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.”
On October 30, members of 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 from North Carolina to Maine. ASMFC 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.
Of the management options on the table, the groups support only Option #1, the coast-wide, ASMFC preferred management option of one fish at 18 inches for the recreational sector in the Chesapeake Bay. Only Option #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. Of Maryland’s proposals, both Option #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.
Furthermore, earlier this year, stakeholders overwhelmingly opposed the closure of catch and release fishing (including no targeting) in March and April because the approach was based on catch data with a high degree of uncertainty. Despite broad opposition, Maryland moved forward with an April closure which will have a negative economic impact with little benefit to the striped bass population because release mortality during those cold weather months is low.
Maryland’s anglers contribute millions of dollars to the economy and conservation:
- In 2016, Maryland’s 744,236 recreational striped bass anglers supported 10,193 jobs and contributed $802 million to state GDP, which represents 97% of the total economic value of the commercial and recreational striped bass fishery, combined.
- In 2019, Maryland received $12,613,037 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. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
The organizations calling for Option #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.
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The American Sportfishing Association (ASA) is the sportfishing industry's trade association committed to representing the interests of the sportfishing and boating industries as well as the entire sportfishing community. We give the industry and anglers a unified voice when emerging laws and policies could significantly affect sportfishing business or sportfishing itself. ASA invests in long-term ventures to ensure the industry will remain strong and prosperous, as well as safeguard and promote the enduring economic, conservation and social values of sportfishing in America. ASA also gives America's 49 million anglers a voice in policy decisions that affect their ability to sustainably fish on our nation's waterways through Keep America Fishing, our national angler advocacy campaign. America's anglers generate nearly $50 billion in retail sales with a $125 billion impact on the nation's economy creating employment for 800,000 people.
Jared Pfliger, Communications Manager
American Sportfishing Association