fisheries

Jenny Junker

If you fish, then you have surely noticed: there just aren't as many striped bass around as there were eight or ten years ago. And the most recent stock assessment by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission confirms this fact. While it asserts that overfishing is not yet occurring, the science indicates that the spawning biomass of striped bass has been steadily declining and is now approaching a critical level.

What's to be done? To protect striped bass, regulators are considering cutting back on the recreational allowance. The three approaches under consideration are 1) a 25% cutback in the 2015 harvest, or: 2) a "3-year plan" that calls only for a 17% cut the first year and no cuts the following 2 years, or 3) a 3-year plan calling for a 7% cut each year for 3 consecutive years starting in 2015. Within these 3 approaches, "specific options to be considered include bag, size, slot and trophy size limits for the recreational fishery and quota reductions for the commercial fishery."

What does that mean for the recreational angler? In Massachusetts, the current limit is two bass per day with a 28-inch minimum. It seems likely that this limit will be reduced, perhaps to one bass at 28-inches, or one bass at 32-inches.

The good news is that striped bass are considered one of the better managed species in the fishery. Because they spawn in inshore waters, scientists have been able to amass good data on their habitats and spawning stock. And this proposed intervention seems to be coming enough in advance to head-off a major stock collapse like what was seen in the 1980s, when keeper-sized bass became scarce along the Massachusetts coast. 

As the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission weighs its options, it is seeking public input. Two public hearings are being held in our region, both on Tuesday, September 2nd. Here the location details:

September 2 at 10 AM
Nantucket Community Room
4 Fairgrounds Road
Nantucket, Massachusetts

September 2 at 6 PMMassachusetts Maritime AcademyAdmiral’s Hall, 101 Academy DriveBuzzards Bay, Massachusetts  

Written public comment will be accepted until 5:00 PM (EST) on September 30, 2014 and should be forwarded to Mike Waine, ASMFC, 1050 N. Highland St., Suite 200 A-N, Arlington, VA 22201; 703.842.0741 (FAX) or mwaine@asmfc.org.

Bad news about New England’s cod fishery is nothing new, but it’s taken on a new urgency in the past few years.

Could Cape Cod's namesake and Massachusetts' state symbol be making its exit?
NOAA Photo Library

New England's cod fishermen are struggling with drastically reduced catch allowances. A new report says the fish are disappearing anyway.

A slightly reduced reproduction of James Prosek's watercolor of a swordfish features in the Ocean Fishes exhibit at Woods Hole Historical Museum through July 31st, 2014.
Jennifer Gaines / Woods Hole Historical Museum

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An aptly named fishing boat in New Bedford Harbor.
animaltourism.com / flickr

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Thanks to those who've taken our Long Haul poll. You've reminded us that, for all our differences, we agree on some fundamental issues in fisheries.

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J.J.

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Weir fishing has a long history involving few technological changes.
Heather Goldstone / WCAI

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1. Don't Fix What Ain't Broke

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Rhode Island fisherman Joel Hovanesian points to the bumper sticker he says he created.
Heather Goldstone / WCAI

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National Marine Fisheries Service: Destroying Fishermen and Their Communities Since 1976.

At the heart of all contemporary fishing stories - right next to the fishermen, themselves - are the regulations that constrain fishermen's activities.

Steve Junker / WCAI

These are challenging times for New England’s fisheries: there’s a history of overfishing to overcome; climate change is impacting habitat; many fishermen don’t trust the science which attempts to quantify the fish stocks; and government regulators, who rely on the science, are hard-pressed to chart a path forward to a sustainable fishery.

NOAA's fishery service can't catch a break. The agency is facing two lawsuits - one claiming its groundfish regulations are too harsh, and one claiming they're too lax.

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