Mrac Votes on Striped Bass Options - The Fisherman

Mrac Votes on Striped Bass Options

A special meeting of the Marine Resources Advisory Council (MRAC) was held on Tuesday, October 22nd at the Department of Conservation’s Marine Resources headquarters in East Setauket. The Council is made up of representatives from the commercial and recreation sector. The purpose of the meeting was to allow MRAC members to review Draft Addendum VI to Amendment Six to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Striped Bass and allow them to vote on their recommendation to DEC.

Also to be considered were the results of the DEC’s recent striped bass survey. Striped bass were the agenda for this special meeting and while members of the public were allowed to attend, they were not permitted to provide any input or comment. As a result, the meeting was lightly at- tended, with most stakeholders already having expressed their opinions through public hearings, letters or emails to ASMFC and DEC, or Option by responding to the DEC’s survey. The results of the survey, which drew approximately 1,450 respondents, seemed to have more influence on most of the council member’s votes than the public hearings or individual emails and letters. Among those respondents, 74 were party boat anglers, 107 fish aboard charter boats and 1269 were private anglers fishing aboard their own boats or in the surf.

Option One

Among the more revealing survey results were those concerning Options One’s harvest reductions. Option 1, which called for status quo and no reduction in harvest, was selected by an amazing number of 581 respondents. Regardless of the number here, there is no way ASMFC would approve status quo given the status of the fishery. Option 2 which calls for an equal 18% reduction for recreational and commercial was the choice of 752 respondents, Option 3 with a split of 20% for recreational and 1.8% for commercial met the approval of only 133 respondents. MRAC split their vote with 5 members for 18/18 and 5 for the 20/1.8 split.

Options Two and Three

These options, concerning size and an assortment of slot options, probably drew the most concern of recreational stakeholders. While the 35-inch minimum drew the most favorable response at Long Island’s public hearing and in follow-up responses, it ranked second to the 28” to 35” slot in the DEC Survey. When all was said and done, Council members voted 6 to 4 to support the 32 to 40-inch slot, after failing to break a 5 to 5 tie on the 35-inch minimum size limit. The 28 to 35-inch slot was defeated 7 to 3. Following are the options and the numbers of survey respondents supporting those options:

Option 2

2-A1: 35” min = 166
2-A2: 28”to 35”slot = 281
2-A3: 30”to 38”slot = 68
2-A4: 32”to 40”slot = 35
Other = 83
Option 3
3-A1: 36” minimum = 24
3-A2: 28”to 34”slot = 55
3-A3: 30”to 37”slot = 7
3-A4: 32”to 40”slot = 9
Other = 12

Circle Hooks

The topic of requiring circle hooks for bait fishing for striped bass was also included in the survey

with three options – No Change; Require the use of circle hooks; Require educating anglers on the benefits of circle hooks. Requiring circle hooks was favored by 849 respondents, while 402 opted for mandatory education on the use of circle hooks. Only 271 were in favor of no change. MRAC voted to support the circle hook requirement at their September meeting.

It should be noted that the options voted on by MRAC serve as recommendations to DEC and are not a done deal. There will be further discussions at the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) meeting on October 30, and then more discussions at the state level before our 2020 striped bass regulations are finalized.

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