Pallone Voices Concerns About the Future of the Striped Bass Fishery
Washington D.C. --- U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), the ranking Democrat of the House Subcommittee on Fisheries Conservation, Wildlife, and Oceans, today raised concerns on the future of the Atlantic striped bass fishery and expressed his apprehension about reopening the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to commercial fishing. The New Jersey congressman voiced his concerns at a subcommittee hearing today on the reauthorization of the Atlantic Striped Bass Conservation Act (H.R. 3883).
In the early 1980s, Atlantic striped bass stocks declined as much as 77 percent. To recover the fishery, Atlantic states implemented a moratorium on the commercial fishery and placed strict catch limits on the recreational fishery. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are currently exploring the possibility of reopening EEZ to commercial striped bass fishing, an action Pallone opposes. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is preparing their Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the possible effects of opening the EEZ, a statement that is required whenever a major federal fishing initiative is proposed.
"The Atlantic striped bass is a valuable resource along the Atlantic coast and is very important to the recreational anglers of New Jersey," Pallone said. "I'm hopeful the final NMFS statement will conclude that opening the EEZ will be detrimental to the fishery and, therefore, the agency will oppose such an action."
Pallone said NMFS should support funding studies that establish measures to minimize by-catch, a main cause of mortality to striped bass. John Dunnigan, Director of the Office of Sustainable Fisheries at NMFS, could not give Pallone a commitment that such studies would take place, but the New Jersey congressman said he would press the issue in the future. \
"The conservation and management programs that have brought this fishery back from the crash of the 1980s must continue," Pallone continued. "However, we also need to fund more research on the commercial by-catch of striped bass and improve the Marine Recreational Fishery Statistics Survey (MRFSS)."
Following up on a subcommittee hearing last week on MRFSS, Pallone today questioned Vince O'Shea, Executive Director of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) on the use of the MRFSS survey. O'Shea noted that a large portion of the recreational fishery continues to not be sampled. Pallone responded that this was a strong indication that the MRFSS survey needs improvement.
Recreational anglers have said they would like to see improvements made to the survey, noting that it over estimates recreational fishing efforts and is used to estimate fishing quotas, something the survey was not intended to do. Pallone indicated that only some of the money that goes towards implementing the survey is funded by a partnership between federal and state governments called the Atlantic Coastal Cooperative Statistics Program (ACCSP). Pallone said this program, as well as similar programs, need more funding in order to identify the status and actual effects of the recreational fishery.
O'Shea and Pallone both agree that the MRFSS needs to be improved, and that more money is needed in order to implement it effectively and create legitimate data that can be used to look at trends in the recreational fishery.
"Knowing the importance of striped bass to recreational anglers, I will insist that funding for the MRFSS be well above the President's budget request. "Understanding commercial, as well as the recreational fisheries will help us to better manage and conserve the striped bass resource for the future," Pallone concluded.