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Following the October 30, 2019 Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission's decision on striped bass, the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council meeting on November 7, 2019 should lean heavy towards the striper front.
By Jim Hutchinson  |  November 4, 2019
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The New Jersey governor's appointee to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), Tom Fote, addresses the public at a 2017 meeting of the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council.

On October 30, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) took its much anticipated action on striped bass measures for 2020, voting in favor of an 18% harvest reduction applied to commercial and recreational sectors across the board for 2020.

In terms of regulatory controls on the recreational fishing community for meeting that goal, ASMFC states voted 12-1 in favor of a one fish bag and 28- to 35-inch coastwide slot limit for 2020 for the ocean fishery.

That however comes with a rather significant catch; because the particular size and bag limit options presented will statistically impact some states differently than others in terms of overall percentage reduction, the ASMFC decision also allows states to devise their own “conservationally equivalent” measures, so long as they meet an 18% reduction in harvest from the 2017 as approved by ASMFC.

“New Jersey technical people informed me and the other two commissioners on the Thursday before the meeting that proposed Striped Bass Addendum options would not mean a 18% reduction but over a 40% reduction to New Jersey’s 2017 catch,” said Tom Fote, the New Jersey governor’s appointee to the ASMFC, adding “Some states would actually take a greater reduction, others would take very little reduction."

“The states realizing that these were not fair and equitable options voted to change the Addendum to allow all the states to use conservation equivalence and take 18% reduction on their state’s 2017 catch,” Fote said, explaining how the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council and state officials would now be tasked with devising options to meet an 18% reduction.

State proposals for meeting the 18% reduction through conservation equivalency or simply adopting the 28- to 35-inch coastal slot limit are due back to the ASMFC by November 30 for review by the ASMFC technical committee. ASMFC is expected to take final action on all proposals at their February meeting, with new regulations required to be in place by April 1, 2020.

This Thursday, November 7th, the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council will meet at 5 p.m. at the Galloway Township branch of the Atlantic County Library at 306 East Jimmie Leeds Road in Galloway, NJ 08205, at which point further discussion on striped bass requirements will undoubtedly take place with the public. Those anglers who wish to weigh in on a final decision by the state by November 30 are encouraged to attend.

Also approved by the ASMFC at their October meeting in New Hampshire was a new restriction which requires anglers who are fishing clams, bunker, eels, worms, herring and/or other natural baits for striped bass to use a circle hook to help reduce mortality rates of released fish. In an effort to give retailers a chance to make the needed changes to stock, that requirement will not take effect until January 1, 2021.

According to the ASMFC, the mortality rate on released stripers is 9% - that means nearly 1 of every 10 striped bass set free will die. Yet studies show the use of circle hooks when bait fishing for striped bass can reduce the mortality rate by as much as 80%. In an effort to help further reduce mortality rate in the striped bass fishery, The Fisherman Magazine recently launched a “3R” campaign in print to promote initiatives to Release properly, Reduce mortality and Rebuild striped bass.

While New Jersey has gamefish protection on striped bass and no market sale or commercial harvest allowed, a portion of the commercial quota in New Jersey is used by the Division of Fish and Wildlife for administering the “striped bass bonus permit” in the Garden State. While less than 10% of the overall commercial quota is used each year in the administration of the striped bass bonus program according to state figures, the total commercial quota will still be required to be cut back 18% to meet ASMFC requirements.

See the full ASMFC write-up from The Fisherman, "Striper Wars: Regulation Update."

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