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A look at what occurred at the October meeting of the ASMFC’s Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board and regulation changes implemented for 2020 and beyond.
By Toby Lapinski  |  October 31, 2019
A big item of discussion at the October meeting of the Atlantic States Striped Bass Management Board was, once again, release mortality. Tis is being addressed, in part, via the implantation of circle hook requirements beginning in 2021.

As I write this we are a little more than 12 hours removed from the conclusion of the Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board’s (Board) presentation at the 78th Annual Meeting of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) in New Hampshire. As expected, the meeting exceeded its allotted timeframe and at times experienced heated and emotional debate. While there were many other topics to be discussed at this weeks meetings, none was as highly anticipated as this.

Immediately following the meeting I turned to social media to see what was being said and how anglers were reacting, and it didn’t take long for my blood to begin to boil. False statements were being presented as fact, and incomplete information was being rampantly disseminated by those who either didn’t attend the meeting or didn’t understand what had just taken place. I can’t begin to count how many people posted one thing, were then questioned on the subject of their post, and then proceeded to say how they didn’t know, they were just passing along what so-and-so said. This is my problem with social media, but now is neither the time nor the place to go down that wormhole; back to the subject of striped bass.

As reported by The Fisherman Magazine both in print and online, in response to the release of the Atlantic striped bass benchmark stock assessment which found the resource to be overfished and overfishing is occurring back in May, the Board proceeded to approve Draft Addendum VI to Amendment 6 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Striped Bass for public comment in August. From there public hearings were held from Maine to Virginia in August, September and October, and the debate regarding the status of striped bass and its future began again, culminating in the October 30 Board meeting. What follows are the results of said meeting, how things will proceed going forward and what this means to you, the striped bass angler.

Option 2 passed for equal percent reduction between recreational and commercial sectors

This means that both recreational and commercial sectors will take an 18% reduction in total removals relative to 2017 levels to reduce F to the target in 2020 where the desired percent reduction is applied equally (proportionally) to both the commercial and recreational sectors.

Sub-option 2-A2 passed for a 1-fish slot of 28-35 inches for the ocean with conservation equivalency required to meet the 18% reduction

This means that in the ocean (outside the Chesapeake Bay) anglers may harvest 1 fish per day that falls between the range of 28 and 35 inches, and any fish below or above this range must be released. States may submit conservation equivalency (CE) measures for review by the Technical Committee (TC) so long as they meet the 18% reduction. Timeline for implementation noted below.

Sub-option 2-B1 passed, 1 fish at 18-inch minimum for Chesapeake Bay with conservation equivalency required to meet the 18% reduction

This means that inside the Chesapeake Bay, anglers may harvest 1 fish per day so long as it exceeds the 18-inch minimum length, and states may submit CE measures for review by the TC so long as they meet the 18% reduction. Timeline for implementation noted below.

Option B passed, requiring mandatory use of circle hooks when using bait for striped bass

This means that any angler who uses live or dead natural bait when targeting striped bass must use inline, non-offset circle hooks as defined by the ASMFC. Timeline for implementation noted below.

States must submit implementation plans for new regulations by November 30, 2019 with the Board
States must implement circle hook requirements by January 1, 2021
All other provisions of Addendum VI must be implemented by April 1, 2020

This means that any state which seeks to deviate from the slot limit allowing for harvest of fish between 28 and 35 inches must provide their CE measures to the Board by November 30 for review by the TC. As noted above, these measures must, at minimum, meet the 18% reduction in harvest. Circle hooks will be required, beginning in 2021, when anglers are seeking striped bass and using any sort of live or dead natural bait. The delay was set to allow time for angler education, to allow time for retailers to adjust inventory and for states to establish an implementation plan. Implementation of 2020 regulations, after review of any CE measures, will go into effect no later than April 1, 2020, to ensure that new regulations are effective once the striped bass fishery gets under way in the ocean and Chesapeake Bay.