By Tom Schlichter
An important side note that came out of the ASMFC striped bass public comment meeting on Sept. 16 was the concern over poaching expressed by recreational anglers. Several speakers said they believed large numbers of bass were being caught, kept and sold illegally, and that loss of these fish was not accounted for in mortality figures used to estimate the current striper population.
At the meeting, ASMFC Fishery Management Plan Coordinator Mike Waine confirmed there is no procedure for factoring poaching into current population estimates unless an event is cited and documented by law enforcement officials. The undocumented illegal harvest has led many recreational anglers to favor regulations even more restrictive than required by law, such as bumping the size limit upwards from its current 28 inches to 30 or 32 inches while reducing the take to one fish per angler each day.
During the discussion, state Sen. Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore) promised New York State Department of Environmental Conservation would look into the poaching problem in New York waters. If that promise holds true and eventually results in some kind of estimated poaching numbers being considered in the management of our striper stocks, that may be the most important point to come from this specific meeting. Ultimately, noted Waine, strengthening penalties and enhancing enforcement to deter illegal harvest is probably the best way to address the issue.
It should be noted that ASMFC, in 2013, did take a significant step in that direction by implementing a mandatory commercial tagging program to track fish through the marketplace and recommended increasing penalties for illegal harvest. But significant poaching still persists and needs to be addressed.
If you have yet to add your voice to the chorus of recreational anglers commenting on Draft Addendum IV to Amendment 6 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Striped Bass, you must do so by 5 p.m. on Tuesday. Send e-mails to Mike Waine, Fishery Management Plan Coordinator, at email@example.com. To view the striped bass management proposals, go to www.asmfc.org.