As I was finishing up the September issue I was left with a few items to complete the package, tops on the list was the Editor’s Log. When this happens I often look back at past years to see what I wrote about in a given month, and when I looked to the September 2019 log something jumped right out at me.
Sacrifice For Change, the 2019 Editor’s Log here in New England, was centered on the subject of the proposal by the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) to increase striped bass commercial fishing days from 2 to 4 per week due to the projected inability to fill the annual quota. I went on to point out some of the public comments submitted to the DMF in opposition of the increase, and low and behold they are the very same items being discussed here today, 12 months later in 2020, as the commercial striped bass quota is not going to be met. Heck, in years past it was often long filled by mid-August, but as of August 1, just prior to the proposal being announced, it was at a meager 25%. Specifically proposed by the DMF was the following:
DMF is proposing to add open fishing days to the 2020 commercial striped bass season. Beginning on September 1, 2020 Tuesdays and Thursdays will be added to the commercial fishery. This will allow commercial fishing four days per week (Mondays – Thursdays). Then, effective October 2, 2020, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays will be added to the commercial fishery. This will allow commercial fishing seven days per week.
In-season adjustments to commercial fishing limits for the late summer and fall period is a routine action by DMF. The purpose of proposed actions is to provide active commercial fishermen with additional access to these quota managed fisheries during the fall. This will let these businesses fish around worsening seasonal weather, which typically has a limiting impact on commercial fishing effort. They will also allow for commercial fishermen to have greater access to remaining quotas. As of August 1, 2020 approximately 25% of the state’s 735,240 pound 2020 striped bass quota has been taken.
Quota managed commercial species in Massachusetts include black sea bass, bluefish, dogfish, fluke, horseshoe crab, menhaden, scup, striped bass, and tautog, and the daily quota updates can be found online at https://www.mass.gov/service-details/current-commercial-fishing-quotas-and-landings. As of the middle of August, on the 18th of the month, the striped bass landings had increased to 266,377 pounds which is just 30.8% of the year’s quota.
Much like last year, I am in opposition to the opening of additional days to fill the year’s commercial quota. This isn’t meant as an attack on the commercial fishing industry as I do not put the blame of the status of the striped bass stock on their backs. Instead my reasoning is quite simple and applies to all user groups as I oppose any and all increases in harvest to any species when it’s not doing well. And before you try calling me out for semantics, I know that by increasing the fishable days there is no increase in quota as that is a static number going into the season, but by adding days you add to the harvest that might have otherwise been made had the days not been opened.
In 2019 the proposal to increase commercial fishing days failed, and by the close of the season just 586,128 pounds of the 869,813-pound quota (67.4%) was harvested. I anticipate there will be similar opposition this go-round to squash the proposal once again as well. Perhaps going forward the way in which the annual quota is calculated and managed year to year needs to be reevaluated as until striped bass stocks (hopefully) rebound, I’ll be writing the very same Editor’s Log come September 2021.