The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board has approved Addendum III to Amendment 6 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Striped Bass. The Addendum establishes a mandatory commercial tagging program for all states and jurisdictions with commercial striped bass fisheries and recommends increasing penalties for illegally harvested fish. The tagging program includes requirements for timely catch reporting, increased accounting of unused tags, improved standardization of tag type, and the use of biological metrics for determining state/jurisdiction tag quantity. These measures are intended to prevent commercial striped bass quota overage and the illegal harvest of striped bass. Both undermine the sustainability of striped bass populations, as well as reduce the economic opportunities of commercial and recreational fishermen who legally participate in the fishery.
The Addendum responds to recommendations of the Interstate Watershed Task Force (IWTF). The IWTF conducted a multi-year, multi-jurisdictional investigation on illegal commercial striped bass harvest within Chesapeake Bay, resulting in over $1.6 million dollars in fines against 19 individuals and three corporations for more than one million pounds of striped bass harvested illegally. The investigation revealed some current control measures for regulating the harvest of striped bass were ineffective or inadequately designed to maximize compliance. The investigation also found that greater accountability of wholesalers was necessary. All public comment received on the Addendum was in favor of the mandatory tagging program and, in addition, the program was supported by NOAA Fisheries and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
All states and jurisdictions, with the exception of Massachusetts and North Carolina, are required to implement Addendum III’s measures by the opening of their respective 2013 commercial fishing seasons. North Carolina was granted an extension due to the timing of its season (North Carolina’s fishery opens December 1st), while Massachusetts lacks an established commercial tagging program and needs additional time to develop its program. Both states will be required to implement their program by Jan. 1, 2014.