The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) was formed in the 1940’s to bring Atlantic coastal states together for fisheries management through cooperation (see About Us at ASMFC.org). “An Interstate Compact, ratified by the states and approved by the U.S. Congress in 1942, acknowledged the necessity of the states joining forces to manage their shared migratory fishery resources and affirmed the states’ commitment to cooperative stewardship in promoting and protecting Atlantic coastal fishery resources,” the ASMFC website states.
ASMFC is funded through a combination of member dues along with state and federal grants. Annual state dues are based on the value of each state’s commercial fishing landings and number of saltwater recreational trips, but the majority of federal funding is received through NOAA Fisheries to implement the Atlantic Coastal Fisheries Cooperative Management Act of 1993 while carrying out mandates of the Interjurisdictional Fisheries Act of 1986.
Theoretically non-partisan and unbiased, ASMFC manages Atlantic Coastal fisheries in a “one state/one vote” concept whereby each is represented by three individuals who cast a single vote each among 15 coastal states from Maine to Florida; one state rep is an administrator from that state’s fisheries agency, another is appointed by the governor, and a third is a state legislator who typically sends a proxy. When it’s time to vote, the three state reps confer to put forth the state’s single vote. Bottom line, the decisions made on coastal fisheries management, from American shad and bunker, to striped bass and tautog, are made with the Atlantic Coast in mind.
I received a regular email update (Atlantic Coast Fisheries News) from the ASMFC Communications Team on August 26th which contained an interesting section called What We’re Reading featuring links to various online articles that ASMFC staff finds interesting in their daily work. You tell me if these stories are in any way related to bunker, shad, stripers or tautog. There’s a Wildlife Conservation Society story about statues at the Central Park Zoo in New York City, an appeal by Ocean Conservancy about COVID-19’s effect on marine sciences with instructions on “writing to your representatives” and a link to something called The Revelator about “The 10 Hottest Climate Change Books of Summer.”
ASMFC staff suggests an article from the NY Times entitled “Why Some Tropical Fish Are Gettin’ Squiggly With It” and another from the British tabloid The Guardian about visiting California’s Monterey Bay aquarium via the web. There’s also a piece from the Canadian based publication Hakai about British Columbia fish farming, as well as a Mother Jones hit piece through a Seattle based non-profit called Grist about President Trump, Kanye West and the greater sage-grouse.
Now some would think that ASMFC staffers would be reading national, regional or local fishing magazines and websites to get a better handle on what Atlantic coastal fishermen are thinking, saying and experiencing. Cooperatively speaking, I know more than a few local newspapers along the Atlantic seaboard that cover commercial and recreational fishing, so it’s a reasonable assumption to think ASMFC staff might find this information relevant in their daily work.
Every once in a while there’s a movement afoot to defund the ASMFC in order to redirect state tax dollars and federal grants back into local fishing communities where they might make the most impact. The public sector bureaucrats always fight back, arguing in defense of their diligent work while warning of the doom and gloom that would result should their jobs ever be rendered obsolete.
But from a private sector perspective, if you run a widget factory and learn your staff spends a good portion of their work day catching up on the NY Times best seller list or reading up on the indigenous people of Bolivia as spotlighted in the September 3 edition of Atlantic Coast Fisheries News, what exactly would you do?
I know how I’d cast my single vote.