During the August 2 summer meeting of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), the Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board (Board) met to review the draft Fishery Management Plan (FMP) Review and state compliance for fishing year 2021, provide guidance to the Technical Committee (TC) on responding to the 2022 assessment if a reduction is needed to achieve stock rebuilding, and consider next steps for Draft Addendum I to Amendment 7 regarding commercial quota transfers.
In other words, the Board discussed and considered actions which may be taken based on results from 2021 striped bass harvest coastwide and how that all relates to the previously approved Amendment 7 to the striped bass management plan towards rebuilding the striped bass stock.
In 2021, total striped bass removals were estimated at 5.1 million fish, which is about the same as removals in 2020. Commercial harvest accounted for 12% of total striped bass removals in 2021, commercial dead discards accounted for less than 2%, recreational harvest accounted for 36%, and recreational release mortality accounted for 50%.
Based on annual state compliance reports, the Plan Review Team determined that all states in 2021 implemented a management and monitoring program consistent with the provisions of the FMP, with three inconsistencies. The Board did not raise any discussion or action regarding those inconsistencies, and approved the FMP Review and state compliance reports for fishing year 2021.
The Board received a TC report requesting Board guidance on responding to the 2022 stock assessment if a reduction is needed. The 2022 stock assessment update is currently in progress with results expected in October. If that assessment indicates there is a less than 50% chance of rebuilding the stock by 2029 and at least a 5% reduction in removals is needed to achieve rebuilding, then the Board may adjust management measures. The Board agreed that if a reduction is needed based on the TC report, a vote on final measures would occur at a special Atlantic Striped Bass Board meeting via webinar to be scheduled for December 2022.
Regarding existing conservation equivalency (CE) programs, the Board supported using the current set of 2021 management measures and resulting level of 2021 removals as the starting point for calculating the potential reduction. The TC would develop a new set of management measures that would achieve the required reduction relative to the 2021 commercial quotas and 2021 recreational size limits/bag limits/seasons. The Board requested the TC develop options for two methods of splitting the reduction between the commercial and recreational sectors: (1) an equal percent reduction for both sectors and (2) a different percent reduction for each sector weighted based on proportion of total removals.
To achieve any reduction in the recreational sector, the Board requested options for the ocean that would either shrink or shift the current ocean slot limit. Additionally, the Board noted seasonal closure options could be considered if adjusting the slot limit does not achieve the required reduction; any ocean seasonal closure options would be no-harvest closures with flexibility for states to select closure dates. For Chesapeake Bay recreational options, the Board requested options for a baywide slot limit or maximum size limit, as well as options for seasonal closures, including Chesapeake Bay state-specific seasonal closure options.
The Board also considered next steps to consider allowing voluntary commercial quota transfers in the ocean region between jurisdictions that have commercial quota. The Board will consider a revised draft addendum on the quota transfer addendum for public comment at either the 2022 Annual Meeting in October or the 2023 Winter Meeting.
For more information, contact Emilie Franke, Fishery Management Plan Coordinator, at EFranke@asmfc.org or 703-842-0740. Visit ASMFC.org for additional information.