Saturday, November 4, 2023

11.04.23 And in other news....

      So while I am sulking in my no-bass-since-September-19th-ass there's some other things happening in New Jersey related to fishing and striped bass. There has been a lot of controversy the past year and a half regarding wind farms off of our coast. It really came to a head when whales and dolphins started to wash up on the NJ/NY beaches in higher than normal numbers. There was also a lot of pushback from the fishing and environmental communities. Well this week Orsted cancelled two wind farm projects which were scheduled off the Atlantic City coast. Now that's not to say wind farms are dead in New Jersey as there are other companies and plots of ocean land that have leased out. Personally, speaking to my brother who is a Union ironworker, he tells me this is a big blow to all of the trades in Ne Jersey as they had been making plans on how to train, supply man/woman power, and safety for these huge projects.      

     I've been watching and waiting for Frank Pallon'es shoe to drop regarding beach replenishment along the New Jersey shore. These projects are usually awarded in the summer and have a December to January start date. I don't know if he's been stuck in Washington but the beaches are looking, well real good, but a little skinny these days. I said it yesterday. With each storm/swell/tide/moon the shitty donor sand taken from the oceans bottom and pumped up onto the beach moves and takes away habitat and structure for the marine life. While it temporarily appeases the locals and the Pallonies it winds up just going back into the water, forming large bars with no breaks, or winds up at the False Hook where is has to be dredged out, like it is now. Stay tuned, it's coming. In 2015 the Star Ledger reported New Jersey has spent over a billion dollars for sand pumping, not beach infrastructure, and that total has been added to in the past eight years. 

     And finally in striped bass news. The Addendum II draft has been released this week. What does that mean to you? Well let me stumble through it. So the ASMFC is responsible for striped bass management. They also manage other fisheries. You know my opinion of the ASMFC and fisheries management. It a joke. A joke driven by money and politics. But anyway. 

     The ASMFC and the various boards, like the striped bass management board, hold meetings and they come up with plans to "manage" things when certain triggers are, well, triggered. Be it a poor year of recruitment, increased mortality, or a reduction in the amount of spawning striped bass (SSB). In the 

meetings they discuss both the recreational and commercial fisheries. They also break it down by the states to set quotas for each state and then CE (conservation equivalency). So, in New Jersey, where we have a Gamefish status for striped bass, hey that's a joke isn't it, our commercial quota, we have no commercial fishery, has been "shifted" over to our recreational side in the Bonus Tag Program. Some say that it's better to have that program, where the amount of fish harvested is far below what a commercial fishery would take in New Jersey waters. Early this year there was the suggestion by the ASMFC that quota transfer between states be allowed.....which was the dumbest idea I've heard in a long time. 

     So, again, I'm gonna fumble through this as I am no expert or even a novice. So there was Amendment VI (6) which was formulated in 2003 to help protect striped bass, which was in a really good way at the time. But now they have determined, based on the 2019 stock assessment that striped bass are overfished but that overfishing is not occurring. WTF does that mean? 

     To determine if the striped bass are overfished you have to look at the spawning striped bass numbers, or SSB. They determine that 200 million pounds of spawning striped bass (SSB) is a healthy number for the biomass. Say they determine that 100 million pounds of SSB are swimming around, that would make the fishery overfished. 

     To determine of overfishing is occurring they look at the fishing mortality rate. Say they set the threshold at 2.0 and it comes back at 2.8, meaning more fish are killed and removed from the biomass, then overfishing is occurring. While I can't find concrete evidence that the fishery has been determined that overfishing is occurring, it sure looks like it to me. 

     In the fall 2022 the ASMFC came up with a plan to "rebuild" the SSB, again spawning striped bass, by 2029. They felt they, or we, had a 78% chance of reaching that goal. So that happened and then in early 2023 during the winter meetings they adopted Amendment VII (7) which included five triggers regarding striped bass which would have to have them jump into action. 

     Well some triggers were hit and in the spring of 2023 we saw that action in the form of an emergency action tightening the slot down to 28-31". The EA was supposed to end in October 2023 but it has been extended. 

     So, that brings us to Addendum II of Amendment VII (7). Right now it is a draft and will be open for public comment through December 22, 2023. What it means for you is the chance to have a voice and tell the powers that be which option you believe will help save the striped bass. In the draft they talk about changing harvest regulations, commercial fisheries numbers, and the total mess of management of the Chesapeake Bay fishery. 

      Here are the coast wide options you can choose from,

And what those options should mean is that by choosing said option one can predict how much of a reduction in fishing mortality that could "possibly" occur. Remember, this is all being done to protect the 2015 year class of fish, which we are hammering down on this weekend, as that class year of fish have replaced the cows that were crashing big bunker over the last two weeks. 

     You can read the entire Addendum VII (7) draft HERE. What has people all cranked up already is how they have offered a different size limit for the private vessel/shore anglers VERSUS the for hire fleet. For hire, meaning head boats, those that carry 15 or more passengers. Their slot would be from 28-33" rather than the 28-31". Dividing people keeps them further away from solving issues collectively. 

     In the end we know this. The continued killing of striped bass will not help the stock rebuild. I think the plan of a 2029 SSB rebuild, once calculated at 78%, is now down to less than 50% is the mortality rate seen in 2022 continues into 2024. 

     And while the New York Bight fishing has been, well just about incredible, this fall, like right now, know this is a just a small percentage of the area where striped could be. There are just a few, yes huge, pods of striped bass in the bio mass, and right now they are camped around the bays, rivers, and ocean along New Jersey and New York. Yes, there's a lot of fish, but don't be fooled by what you see right in front of you right this second. 

     So, what can you at least do? Review the options above and choose one and defend your reasoning. 
Then type up an email or letter and fire it off to the ASMFC. Each letter is made part of the public record and recorded. If you want to take it a step further the public comment meetings are held for each state that you can attend virtually or in person. Funny, how NJ and Pa have glommed their meetings together and only by Zoom. That will be held November 15th. I have and we'll attend it.