March 18, 2024

Striped Bass restrictions from ASMFC sees local push back, as MDNR works to give some relief for watermen

Reported by WMDT 
March 13, 2024

MARYLAND – Dorchester County joined Queen Annes, and Talbot counties in calling for a reversal of a decision from the Atlantic States Marine Fishing Council (ASMFC), that imposed a one fish limit, 7 percent commercial reduction, and creel limit on striped bass in the Chesapeake Bay.

The counties say the decision, which Maryland MDNR voted against, did not give the watermen time to adjust their season and will see negative commercial impacts for the region.

“It’s more than just telling the recreational fishermen, hey, your slot size is going to be smaller and you have a little less time. It affects the commercial aspect of the charter boats and the watermen of Dorchester County,” said Dorchester County Council President Michael Pfeffer.

Pfeffer tells 47ABC he wants to see the regulation timing pushed back by MDNR to allow for relief, but MDNR says that is something they already requested from the ASMFC and were overruled.

Delmarva Fisheries President Captain Robert T Newberry says the department must appeal the decision from ASMFC.

“If they voted against the decision, then the next step must be to appeal, that or be non-compliant for a period as we see in New Jersey, take it in front of the Fishery Management Review Board and see if you’re justified in your appeal or just go out of compliance and roll the dice,” Newberry said.

However, the decision to appeal does not lie solely with MDNR, but with two other members of a regulatory board comprised of a proxy for Delegate Dana Stein, as well as the Maryland Watermens Association.

All three must be unanimous in their decision to appeal, but MDNR’s representative on the board, Director of Tidal and Coastal Management at DNR Mike Luisi said that was not the case.

“In this case, there is a split within the ranks of those people sitting at the table representing Maryland as to how to move forward. the appeal was not something that we could move forward with,” Luisi said.

However despite this Luisi says they are looking to give some relief to the industry, by offering an incentive to comply with the state’s electronic recording of the fish caught on board the charter boats, allowing a captain and first mate of the vessel to take an additional fish each.

“If there are six people on the boat, they might be able to bring home eight fish instead of six fish, it’s not 12 but it’s 8,” Luisi said.

Luisi also explains that with the timing of the meeting in May for ASMFC to determine compliance, the season would not be allowed to begin during a period of no compliance, unlike in New Jersey.

He tells us non-compliance is not an option, as it could lead to a total shutdown of commercial fishing and more restrictive limits once the ban is lifted.

In 2019 Virginia suffered a total shutdown of their menhaden fishing and saw more restrictive regulations when the moratorium was lifted in the following year.

“A finding of noncompliance by the state of Maryland could lead to a complete 100% full-on moratorium on striped bass fishing, both recreationally and commercially for the entire for everyone in the entire state of Maryland,” Luisi said.

In a statement to 47ABC the ASMFC Communications Director Tina Berger said “Striped bass continue to be over-fished despite a series of management changes to decrease fishery removals since 2020. The latest measures build upon the 2023 emergency action and aim to reduce fishing mortality and support stock rebuilding by 2029.”

Newberry says the Delmarva Fisheries have filed a lawsuit against ASMFC, citing a constitutional challenge in the ability of the 12 states that voted for the restriction to negatively impact Maryland Congress, calling for an injunction on the restrictions until the suit is heard.

The season is set to begin May 16th.

Stay Connected - DFA Social Media