Fluke, Sea Bass and Striped Bass Regulatory Update

by Paul Haertel
(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association March 2019 Newsletter)

Fluke - We are cautiously optimistic that we will be able to liberalize our regulations slightly. New Jersey under fished its quota for 2018 and the overall coast wide quota was previously set to rise slightly for 2019. However, there will be a joint meeting of the ASMFC and MAFMC on 3/6 and 3/7 when new specifications are expected to be set after the latest stock assessment is reviewed. Hopefully, the new specifications will allow us to liberalize. I may be getting ahead of myself but I am hoping that if we are allowed to liberalize, that this will be accomplished by adding days to the end of the season to further close the gap between when fluke season ends and sea bass season begins. Perhaps a couple days could be added to the beginning of the season as well to placate the back-bay fishermen, particularly those in southern NJ. I doubt that we will be able to liberalize enough to reduce the size limit or increase the bag limit because that would likely result in a much shorter season. For those who may be interested in a slot limit, it is simply not going to happen this year because it would drastically reduce the season length.

Sea Bass - At the ASMFC meeting on 2/5, the Scup, Summer Flounder, and Sea Bass Management Board approved status quo measures for sea bass this year. All states or regions will be allowed to have the same regulations as in 2018. States or regions do have the right to propose something different as long as it is conservationally equivalent but I doubt if NJ will change anything.

Striped Bass - The ASMFC Striped Bass Board met on 2/6 but the new stock assessment was not yet available due to the recent government shutdown. However, the preliminary results are poor. The spawning stock biomass is approaching the threshold and the stock is over fished and over fishing is occurring. The board will review the new assessment at their May meeting. At that time there will most likely be a debate as to whether to adjust the reference points so that further restrictions will not have to be mandated or to take corrective action to increase the spawning stock biomass. The board did approve tasking the technical committee with creating at least one example of what the coastwide regulations might look like in order to bring the spawning stock biomass back up towards its target. The possibility of a new addendum will be discussed at this meeting as well and, if approved, it would be ready for public comment in October. Should that be the route the board chooses to take, we may be forced to have more stringent regulations through an increase in size limit or by establishing seasons. Under this scenario we could have new regulations in 2020 or the board could decide to create an entire new amendment which might take even longer. Regardless, though, there will be no mandated regulatory changes this year.

Lastly, the Board voted to draft a letter to NOAA opposing the opening of striper fishing in the Block Island Transit Zone (BITZ) but they will not send it until after they review the new stock assessment in May. The BITZ is an area of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) where boats are allowed to pass through to get back to the mainland while in possession of striped bass they caught near Block Island. The possession of striped bass is prohibited in any other area of the EEZ and even targeting them anywhere in the EEZ is prohibited. JCAA strongly supports this conservation measure and applauds the board for drafting their letter.

[News Contents] [Top]