Jim Hutchinson Jr.. editor of The Fisherman, submitted the following summery today:

On Monday, March 14, 2022, the New Jersey Dept. of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) & Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) will co-host a virtual public hearing starting at 6 p.m. to gather public input on the Atlantic Striped Bass Draft Amendment 7.  The meeting is expected to last two hours.

A 2019 stock assessment concluded that striped bass is overfished and experiencing overfishing.  In 2020, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) implemented an 18% reduction in the fishery to end overfishing and begin rebuilding the striper (these included new slot fish regulations to protect larger spawning class fish, plus the circle hook bait restriction to lower release mortality rates).  A new striped bass stock assessment will be undertaken later this year.

Fishery managers believe we are currently exceeding our fishing mortality target for striped bass, and thus cannot rebuild spawning stock biomass (SSB) until that issue is addressed.  In response, ASMFC initiated Amendment 7 to the Fishery Management Plan (FMP) which considers several management measures to help rebuild SSB back to mid 1990’s level.

The last time a new plan amendment to the Atlantic Striped Bass FMP was adopted was in 2003 (Amendment 6). Since then, ASMFC said their understanding of the striped bass fishery has changed considerably, and results from the 2018 Benchmark Stock Assessment have led managers to discuss a number of prominent issues facing striped bass management.

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Among the potential management options being discussed at the virtual public hearing are time and area closures (a minimum of two weeks during the spring or fall season when New Jersey has the most directed trips) to help reduce the overall fishing mortality (F).  The potential closures being discussed are aimed primarily at reducing the mortality rate on released stripers, thus any potential closure would be aimed at targeting restrictions and not exclusively harvest, meaning there would be no “catch and release” striper fishing either.

Also in the Amendment 7 suite of proposed options are public comment options which address a rebuilding plan for striped bass and use of “conservation equivalency” on a state-by-state level are a series a potential management triggers aimed at growing the SSB level.  A highly complex part of the current Amendment 7 debate, these management triggers are like “trip wires” to determine when regulators are required to take corrective management action.

Some of the “triggers” currently used are based on different combinations of F and SSB, where others are based on levels of striped bass recruitment that being young of the year (YOY) stripers leaving the spawning areas each year.

American Sportfishing Association’s (ASA) guide to Amendment 7 and their official selection of management options.

Official public hearings are now underway along the Atlantic Coast, some in-person and most in virtual form.  

Stakeholders can provide input by attending one of the upcoming public hearings, with New Jersey and Pennsylvania scheduled for Monday, March 14.  Comments are due back to comments@asmfc.org by April 15, 2022.

Register at https://register.gotowebinar.com/rt/6557659292797688075

Friday’s forecast is for south winds at just 5-10 knots.

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