TESTIMONY ON H.R. 393
THE JERSEY COAST ANGLERS ASSOCIATION
AUGUST 20 1991
COMMITTEE ON MERCHANTMARINE AND FISHERIES
SUBCOMMITTEE ONFISHERIERS AND WILDLIFE CONSERVATION
TOMSRIVER, NEW JERSEY 08753
COMMISSIONERTO ATLANTIC STATES MARINE FISHERIES COMMISSION
PRESIDENTOF JERSEY COAST ANGLERS ASSOCIATION
The Jersey Coast Anglers Association would like to thank theChairman, Congressman Gerry Studds, and Merchant Marine andFisheries Committee for conducting this Field Hearing on H.R. 393in Belmar, N.J. The J.C.A.A. would like to thank CongressmanFrank Pallone for sponsoring this bill and requesting thishearing in New Jersey. We also would like to thank CongressmanJames Saxton for being the original cosponsor and CongressmanBill Hughes and the entire New Jersey Congressional Delegationfor being cosponsors of H.R. 393. This bill would make stripedbass a no sale fish along the entire east coast and would protectthe native stock from commercial harvest.
The J.C.A.A. is comprised of over 67 fishing clubs andorganizations with a membership of over 25,000 anglers. ThisAssociation was formed to enhance the sport of angling for allpersons and for the preservation and protection of the naturalresources. The J.C.A.A. also contains three environmentalorganizations, the American Littoral Society, Natural ResourcesProtective Association, and Clean Ocean Action.
Striped Bass has a unique history in the United States. Duringa 1614 voyage to New England, Captain John Smith of Virginiawrote," There are such Multitudes (of Striped Bass) that Ihave seen stopped in the river close adjoining my house with asande at one tide so many as will loade a ship of a 100tonnes." In 1634, William Wood wrote about Striped Basssaying, "The bass is one of the best fishes in the countryand although men are soon wearied with other fish, yet they arenever with bass. It is a delicate, fine, fast fish having a bonein its head which contains a saucerful of marrow sweet and good,pleasant to the pallat and wholesome to stomach."(referenceFrank Woolner and Henry Lyman 1983, Striped Bass Fishing) In 1639a general court order of the Massachusetts Bay Colony prohibitedthe use of Striped Bass as a fertilizer. (Reference: B.L. Gordon,1977, The Secret Lives of Fishes, Grosset and Dunlop, NY) Thiswas probably the first in a series of attempts by the states topreserve the Striped Bass.
The first organized marine angling clubs in this country cameafter the civil war and the fish they organized around wasStriped Bass. These clubs had membership lists which included themost prominent members of the political and business community ofthe day. These clubs built piers out into the ocean and fishedfrom them. They would have men chumming with lobsters so theStriped Bass would be drawn in and thus enabled their members tocatch great numbers of Striped Bass. Imagine now using lobstersto chum for Bass?
The Striped Bass has been important since colonial times andis still of great importance today. Congress and the statescontinue to spend many dollars on research in attempts to restorethe stocks of Striped Bass and to investigate their life cycle.On the east coast, no fish receives more research dollars thanStriped Bass.
California made Striped Bass a no sale fish in 1936 and the restof the west coast soon followed suit. Their original stock ofStriped Bass came from the Navesink River in the early 1900's andquickly became of great economic and recreational importance.Although these states have salmon, steelhead and many otherimportant native species, Striped Bass was their first no salefish.
The J.C.A.A. is currently leading the battle to make Striped Bassa no sale or game fish on the east coast. This battle has beengoing on for over 60 years in New Jersey and many other states.In 1939 New Jersey decided that you could not have a directed netfishery for Striped Bass and in 1952 you were no longer allowedeven a bycatch of Striped Bass in your nets. Governor Jim Floriofinally completed the process in New Jersey by signing theStriped Bass No-sale Bill at the J.C.A.A. meeting on February26,1991. New Jersey is not the first state to do this. Inaddition to the states on the west coast, Connecticut, SouthCarolina, Maine, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Washington D.C.have already made the sale of native caught Striped Bass illegal.
I will cover three of the many reasons J.C.A.A. feels that itis necessary to make Striped Bass a No-sale fish:
A. Management issues
- The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission prematurely opened the fishery using questionable data. They opened the fishery based on the Maryland Young Of The Year index that they stated was 25.2 in 1989. One brand new site was responsible for raising the index from 14.2 to the 25.2 needed to open the fishery. The entire recreational community representing millions of anglers from Maine to Georgia asked the Commission not to open the fishery. Recreational fishermen said that the 1989 data might be just an exception and that the site skewed the index. We recommended we just wait another year to make sure the data was correct. Instead the Commission listened to the interests of the commercial states and opened up the fishery. The Y.O.Y. Index for 1990 was 2.1, the fourth lowest in history. The index for 1991 looks as if it's going to be lower than a 5. The Striped Bass Technical Committee is now looking at the possibility of revising the 1989 index because they think it was too high. The three year index must be at least 24 to open the fishery. If the technical committee reduces the 1989 index to 14.2 and we add the 1990 index (2.1) and the 1991 index (which is estimated at less than 5), we will not have the 24 or the running three year average of 8 to open the fishery. The 1988 index was 2.7. In last four years we had only one good index despite one of the largest and most protected spawning masses ever on the spawning grounds. Yet the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is not only keeping the fishery open but allowing for the increase of at least 400,000 pounds of harvest in 1992.
- In addition to opening the fishery using questionable data they established inappropriate size limits. Fisheries' management usually establishes the minimum size for a species at the sexual maturity of the female to make sure the females have a chance to spawn at least once. This was not the case with striped bass. Instead they looked at market size. Evidence is in a document of the Maryland Department of Tidewater Fisheries titled Striped Bass in Maryland Tidewater by Rome J. Mansueti and Edgar H. Hollis, February 1963. Page eight of this document states "Most of the commercial fishing in the Chesapeake Bay is geared for pansize (12-16T.L.) fish weighing about a pound or so. Gillnets are rigidly sized selective;3-1/2 stretch mesh catches fish that weigh about one pound;4-1/2 - 2 pound fish; and 5 inch-3 pound. The relatively small sizes of the panfish are tailored to consumer tastes. Servings of fish for family, restaurant and institutional consumption are general based on 1/3 to 1/2 pound of edible fish per person. A whole Striped Bass weighing about 1 pound or so will dress to an edible portion of about 1/2 pound (or about 45% of the weight). As a result, the fishing rate for them is high and the younger age groups are harvested quickly." The Virginia commercial fishery in 1988 managed to land 167,000 pounds of 24 inch or larger fish in a very short season. Their 1990 proposal called for 211,000 pounds which could have been taken with size limit of over 24 inches instead they pushed as other states did to get 18 inch fish for their commercial fishery. They knew full well that at that size none of females had a chance to spawn at least once even at 24 inches and only 15% of the females have reached sexual maturity. The commercial fishery had received what they the wanted, the filet size fish for the blue plate special. The votes for these proposals seemed to be the states with strong commercial fisheries out voting the states with no commercial fishery. Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New York kept their recreational size at 36 inches at the request of the recreational fisherman so that less fish would be kept and more females would reach sexual maturity. At the same time Rhode Island, New York, Delaware, Maryland, Potomac River and Virginia all asked for 18 inch fish for their commercial fisheries and most of them received this size limit. All of the directors of these states voted for the smaller size limit. The Striped Bass Technical Committee is now expressing grave concern over the amount of fish being taken with these size limits and will be studying this data very carefully.
- The third factor in the management plan is how states distribute the commercial allocation. Striped Bass is a public resource and if we are going to allow for its harvest then all members of the public should have an equal opportunity to harvest the resource. This is not the case. Some of the public are being allowed to harvest a greater proportion of the resource just because they have a commercial license. Maryland is a prime example. Their commercial fishermen are allowed over 700 fish apiece under the commercial license and are still allowed to keep fish under the recreational allocation. The recreational sector is only allowed 1 fish for every 7 anglers. This is true in any state that has a commercial and recreational fishery. It seems that money and greed take over where fishery's management should have prevailed. The only way to make sure this will not happen in the future is to make Striped Bass a No-sale fish.
- Decisions regarding opening the fishery, size limits and allocations are all made at A.S.M.F.C. meetings that do not encourage public participation. In fact it is extremely difficult if not impossible for members of the public to testify or even attend these meetings. Anglers are frustrated by their inability to attend or speak at these meetings and have grown disenchanted with the process that is designed to protect Striped Bass. My own experience prior to becoming a commissioner, or even as a commissioner encouraging public participation, has been intensely frustrating. As an example, the Striped Bass Technical Committee meeting in September will be held in Portland, Maine, making it financially impossible for most of the public and many of the commissioners and state directors to attend. The public has no confidence in decisions made without input. Verbatim minutes are not available even to commissioners though we are required to vote on these recommendations at a later date. The only way to guarantee the survival of striped bass is to take it out of the commercial market so there is no financial reason to influence the management plan. Then decisions can be made based on the best interest of the resource rather than the financial interest of commercial fishermen.
B. Habitat issues
- There are abundant studies done by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Maryland Division of Natural Resources, the Virginia Division of Natural Resources and many agencies in other states that show that environmental factors greatly effect the production of Striped Bass. P.C.B.s and other chemical pollutants have long been suspected as one of the reasons that Striped Bass eggs do not mature into fingerlings. In addition these pollutants effect the sexual maturity of the fish both male and female, significantly reducing reproduction. For these reasons, current large numbers of mature Striped Bass are unable to produce the expected number of young.
- Acid rain is another factor which effects those young that are produced. Maryland DNR has research that shows a fraction increase in acidity in any river will kill all the young fingerlings. Runoff from farms also contributes to the increased acidity and the destruction of the fingerlings. Since there is no immediate solution to the problems caused by acid rain and runoff, Striped Bass stocks will continue to be in danger for at least the immediate future.
- Habitat loss is another important issue. Over the past two hundred years we have continued to infringe on the wetlands that are the nurseries for Striped Bass. We have also polluted or dammed rivers that are principal spawning grounds. As an example, the Susquehanna River was once a productive spawning area for Striped Bass. The construction of a dam that cut off access by the fish to the spawning grounds has eliminated this river's contribution. Power plants constructed on spawning grounds have intakes that suck in the fry or reduce the waterflow and reduce the productivity of these areas as spawning grounds.
C. Economic issues
- Numerous studies done by the Sports Fishing Institute and other agencies have proven Striped Bass contribute more to the economy as a recreational fish than as a commercial catch. Striped Bass caught commercially contribute to the economy only once. The catch and release practice of most recreational fishermen assures that Striped Bass continue to produce economic value over and over again. My wife, the financial expert, claims that any striped bass we have ever eaten cost approximately one thousand dollars a pound. And most recreational fishermen have the tackle to prove this claim.
- In New Jersey, aquaculture is providing Striped Bass for restaurants and individual consumers. Aquaculture can provide a clean fish of the desired size to meet public demand without effecting native Striped Bass in any state once Striped Bass is made a gamefish. This business also generates jobs and money. The enclosed article from the Boston Globe discusses the benefits of aquaculture.
The Jersey Coast Anglers Association is committed to makingStriped Bass a gamefish or-no sale fish coast wide. Our successin New Jersey gives us hope that other states will come torealize that the only way to prevent the destruction of StripedBass is gamefish status. However, the time consuming process ofstate by state gamefish or no-sale legislation will delay thelong range recovery of Striped Bass. Right now the current stocksof Striped Bass can support neither a commercial nor arecreational fishery. The only way to insure a viable fishery inthe future is to eliminate the pressure of a commercial fisheryon native stocks. The recreational fishermen have proven by theirpatience and restraint that they will not endanger the species.We have opposed any efforts that would reduce the stocks and havefought against both commercial and recreational easing ofregulations. Enclosed you will find additional articles fromnewspapers and magazines supporting gamefish or no-sale statusfor Striped Bass.
Thomas P Fote
President Jersey Coast Anglers Assn.
22 Cruiser Court
Toms River, New Jersey, 08753
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