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Atlantic Striped Bass Management Update & Meeting Recap

During the January 26th meeting of Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (Commission), the Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board (Board) voted to put forth Draft Amendment 7 to the cooperative interstate fisheries management plan (FMP) for Atlantic striped bass.  The Draft Amendment will be available on or before February 4, at which point public comment will extend until April 15.

Member states on the Board including Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina, along with D.C., the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Potomac River Fisheries Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service debated several topics to be included – or even excluded – from the new amendment.  The next step in the process is for Commission staff to work with member states to schedule public hearings along the Striper Coast over the next several months to review.

In February of 2021, the Board approved for public comment the Public Information Document (PID) for Draft Amendment 7. As the first step in the amendment process, the PID was a broad scoping document seeking public input on a number of important issues facing striped bass management. After the PID public comment period that included 11 virtual public hearings and more than 3,000 submitted comments, the Board approved a number of issues for development in Draft Amendment 7 including recreational release mortality, conservation equivalency, management triggers, and measures to protect the 2015 year class.

Any subsequent action following public comment this winter will come when the ASMFC reconvenes for their official spring meeting slated for May 2-5, 2022 at the Westin Crystal City in Arlington, VA.

The first Interstate FMP for Atlantic Striped Bass came in 1981, with the very first Amendments 1 and 2 in 1984 providing recommendations on how to sustainably manage the resource. Amendment 3 in 1985 was the first plan under the Atlantic Striped Bass Conservation Act of 1984 to include mandatory conservation measures designed to the 1982 year class, the first modestly-sized cohort for nearly a decade.  That particular amendment to the FMP contained a mechanism to relax fishery regulations based on a juvenile abundance index triggered by the recruitment of the 1989 year class and leading to the implementation of Amendment 4 in 1989 aimed at rebuilding the striped bass resource.  In 1995 with adoption of Amendment 5, the Commission declared Atlantic coastal striped bass stocks fully recovered.

Currently, striped bass is managed through Amendment 6 of 2003 which introduced a new set of biological reference points based on female spawning stock biomass, or SSB.  As of the terminal year 2017, female SSB was estimated at 151 million pounds, which is below the SSB threshold of 202 million pounds.

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