Maryland Fishermen File Suit Over ASMFC Striper Decision - The Fisherman

Maryland Fishermen File Suit Over ASMFC Striper Decision

Two Maryland fishing groups have filed suit challenging new striped bass harvest limits imposed on charter fishing businesses and watermen, arguing that they are “illegal, unnecessary and improperly premised.”

In the complaint filed March 8 in the U.S. District Court of Maryland, the Delmarva Fisheries Association and Maryland Charter Boat Association and two of their members contend that the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) violated federal and state law and constitutions in ordering harvest reductions. They warned that consumers would pay more to buy striped bass in markets and restaurants, while the state’s 377 licensed charter fishing outfits could suffer losses of 50 to 65%, forcing many out of business.

“Since the lawsuit was filed there has been an outpouring of support from those who understand this mandate has already had and will have a devastating impact far beyond watermen and charter boat captains,” said Capt. Rob Newberry of the Delmarva Fisheries Association.

In a letter published by the Chesterton Spy newspaper, Capt. Newberry said others impacted negatively by the new striped bass regulations include Eastern Shore hotels, motels, restaurants, businesses, and charter boat tourism. He went on to cite the Rural Counties Coalition of the Maryland Association of Counties also expressing concerns, noting “These regulations will affect local small business models that operate in the charter boat and commercial fishing industries as well. Rural counties along Maryland’s shoreline depend on these industries and oppose these changes, as they will dramatically affect economic development and the livelihood of small business owners. Many of Maryland’s waterfront businesses will undoubtedly bear financial losses due to the restrictions.”

The lawsuit asserts that there is “no scientific or rational basis” for the new harvest reductions and asks the federal court to set aside the ordered harvest reductions either completely or as they apply to the groups suing.  Maryland and New Jersey had opposed the reduction but were outvoted by the rest of ASMFC membership, which went on to vote in reducing the commercial catch quota by 7%, a compromise from a reduction twice that large urged by many recreational fishing and conservation groups.

According to an article in the Southern Maryland Chronicle, Brian Hardman, president of the Maryland Charter Boat Association, had called on Maryland fisheries regulators to defy the ASMFC’s order, but Maryland Department of Natural Resources officials said refusal to comply could result in swift imposition of a federal fishing moratorium in the state.

DNR took steps of its own beyond the commission’s directive to curtail recreational fishing for striped bass during the spring spawning season and said it intends to impose further limits for the summer, when hot weather increases the risk of fish dying even if released after being hooked.