March 18, 2024

DFA and MCBA File Lawsuit in U.S. District Court of MD Regarding Recent Striped Bass Mandate

Delmarva Fisheries Association Inc. and Maryland Charter Boat Association Challenge Unwarranted Striped Bass Fishing

March 8th, 2024

DFA and MCBA have filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for Maryland challenging a recent mandate from the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) that its 15 member states, including Maryland, reduce recreational fishing limits for Striped Bass (also known as Rockfish) by more than 50 percent.

Under the rules scheduled to take effect on May 1, 2024, per day catch for recreational fishers (including those using charter boats) would drop from two fish to one fish. Commercial fishers who harvest striped bass for sale to processors for consumers would face an additional 7% reduction in harvest limits.

The ASMFC approval of these new size and harvest limits occurred despite its own admissions that Striped Bass stock is “not being overfished” and that neither the Atlantic Ocean nor the Chesapeake Bay represent a “Fish Habitat of Concern” for Striped Bass. The approval also ignored warnings from of the Maryland ASMFC representative that these changes “will put people out of business.”

The DFA and MCBA lawsuit on behalf of their respective members maintains the ASMFC mandate violates the U.S.
Constitution, federal law, the Maryland Constitution, and Maryland law going back to its chartering in 1632. This new mandate also violates common sense.

Watermen, waterwomen, and charter boat captains continuously observe and monitor the Striped Bass population in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. They are the most knowledgeable about and first to notice any Striped Bass number declines if or when they may occur. They also have the most to lose if that happens. Their livelihood depends on sustainable harvesting numbers. They have not observed such declines as evidenced by the following sworn depositions in the DFA and MCBA lawsuit:

 I have been a waterman for over 40 years, The availability of Striped Bass across the Chesapeake Bay is abundant and has been for the for at least the last 3-5 years.
 I have been around the seafood business my entire life and I truly believe there are more rockfish in the bay today than there has been in my lifetime.
 As the owner and operator of a charter fishing business for over 20 years the availability of rock fish across the Chesapeake waters where I operate has never been more plentiful.

Since these observations and others like them were ignored when the ASMFC approved the new striped bass size and harvest mandates, DFA and MCBA decided it was necessary to pursue a legal challenge along with other actions. DFA Chair Captain Rob Newberry said recently that DFA and MCBA are counting on Governor Wes Moore to intervene based on his promise that “No one in Maryland will be left behind.” will apply to watermen, waterwomen, charter boat captains and all who whose livelihood depends in large part on reasonable regulations on harvesting Striped Bass.

Newberry also said we are reaching out to local governments, destination marketing organizations, chambers of commerce, businesses of all sizes, restaurants and lodging providers who need to help ensure the commercial fishing and charter boat industry not only survives but thrives going forward. Newberry noted DFA and MCBA have already received letters of support from the Commissioners of Kent County and the Mayor of Rock Hall. More are anticipated. Newberry observed “Watermen, waterwomen and charter boat operators already face a huge and growing number of obstacles in their world.

For them and for all Marylanders it will be a tragedy of epic proportions if this mandate stands. It could mark the beginning of the end of the historic and unique lifestyle of watermen, waterwomen, and charter boat captains in Maryland; many of whom have worked on the Chesapeake Bay all their life and in many
instances, so have their parents, grandparents, siblings, and children.”

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