The possible transfer of striped bass quota between states had been on my radar, but I really did not pay enough attention to it. Because of past failed efforts to do this, I felt it would not get much traction. That may not be the case.
My previous coverage of the latest striped bass juvenile indexes and how they fit into the overall health and management of this important species assumed that the existing management measures would remain in place. However, some states want to change that assumption and that change could impact the rebuilding of the stock.
Possible Striped Bass Quota Transfers Between States
Just before Thanksgiving, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission issued Draft Addendum I to Amendment 7 to the Atlantic Striped Bass Interstate Fishery Management Plan. This addendum considers allowing voluntary transfers of striped bass ocean commercial quota between states that have ocean quota. This issue had been set aside during the development of Amendment 7.
While there was not a substantial pushback on this during the Amendment 7 discussions, there was also not a great deal of support for it. Also, when this previously came up in 2014, there was a lot of negative comment received by the ASMFC. Then during consideration of Draft Addendum IV to Amendment 6, the Technical Committee raised concerns that transfers had the potential to increase harvest at a time when harvest reductions were needed because the stock was still rebuilding. So transfers were not considered.
It seems as though the State of Delaware felt that the issue had simply been moved to the parking lot for future discussion. Draft Addendum 1 is the future and the future is now. Since this Addendum is a single issue, it seems to be moving along relatively quickly.
Initially, this Addendum was structured so that Delaware was the only state that might meet all the requirements. In other words, it was a way for them to get more quota without a full re-allocation process. That is no longer the case. It would allow for the voluntary transfer of commercial quota in the ocean region between states that have ocean quota.
Quota would be transferred in pounds, but since there are a wide range of sizes in different states this may not have an equal impact on the fish across all states. These transfers would likely increase the commercial mortality for striped bass, when stability of existing measures is needed.
Make Your Voice Heard on the Striped Bass Fishery
With the current favorable outcome of the Striped Bass Stock assessment released in October, some will push for allowing this kind of transfer. Yes, things are moving in the right direction. But striped bass are still under a rebuilding plan and in order to make that work the target mortality should not be exceeded. In the past, one of the main objections to this kind of transfer was that the stock was under a rebuilding plan. That objection is still true today.
So, what to do? ASMFC is holding hearings all along the East coast. Information on how to participate can be found at this list of public hearings.
Let’s keep it simple. There are 5 options (A, B, C, D, E) being put forward. Option A is status quo or no transfer. That is, IMHO, the preferred option. Another possibility or fallback position is Option E. This would allow some discretion for transfers, but would not allow approval of transfers when the stock is in a rebuilding plan.
Sportfishing’s collective response has made a difference in getting to where we are today with Amendment 7. So we need to be heard again. As they say at Nike, “Just do it.”