(submitted on September 30, 2014)
Dear Mr. Waine & ASMFC Commissioners:
I am the owner and publisher of On The Water Media, which includes On The Water Magazine, On The Water TV, The Striper Cup tournament, and the StriperFest celebration. I am also the Northeast representative of the American Sportfishing Association.
On The Water magazine was launched on Cape Cod in 1996, not coincidentally at the same time that the striper fishery was declared rebuilt. There is no doubt that the striped bass is the iconic sportfish of the Northeast, and that my business, like so many-other fishing- and tourism-related businesses in our region, depends upon the existence of the world-class striper fishery we have enjoyed for the past two decades.
The success of our Striper Cup tournament and StriperFest celebration is proof that there is a huge community of Northeast fishermen who care deeply about the future of striped bass and are willing to accept more conservative regulations to maintain a high-quality fishery.
The Striper Cup tournament rules allow for only 1 fish at 36 inches per week and encourage anglers to release fish while they look for their “fish of a lifetime” with a growing number of catch-and-release prizes. Fishermen have embraced these rules, and as a result, in 2014 only 500 fish were weighed in by over 4,000 participants fishing over the five-month tournament.
The season-end celebration of the Striper Cup, the 2014 StriperFest, was held on Cape Cod on September 27. Over 5,000 striper-obsessed fishermen and their families came together to celebrate striped bass fishing in a festival atmosphere while checking out displays and demos by our sponsors, which included Yamaha, Striper Boats, Quantum and Van Staal reels, Lowrance/Simrad electronics, SpiderWire, Sebile Lures, The Black Dog, Costa Del Mar sunglasses and others.
The StriperFest is a tangible example of the undeniable value and economic power of a healthy and viable recreational striped bass fishery. I want the Striped Bass Management Board to think of the economic importance of an abundant striped bass stock when they sit down on October 29th to vote on Addendum IV.
The fact that the striped bass population has steadily declined in recent years is not news to most striper fishermen. We have been hearing from our readers for several years about the decline in the quality of the fishery, and the overwhelming majority of striped bass fishermen support a reduction in the striper harvest for both commercial and recreational anglers to help reverse this decline.
The manufacturers and retailers of lures, reels rods, surf-fishing gear, light-tackle gear, fly-fishing gear, and boats that were designed and produced with striped bass in mind, not to mention all the advertising revenue such companies produce, will continue to suffer if striped bass are not returned to abundance. Then, there are all restaurants, hotels, and associated tourism businesses in coastal towns that depend on money from visiting fishermen. Without an abundant and accessible striped bass resource, it’s only a matter of time before people stop making such trips. The more fish that are in the water, the more people will fish, and the better related businesses will do.
That is why I urge the ASMFC to implement management scenario Option B, a 25% reduction in total harvest, in one year.
Re-writing Amendment 6 to allow for a 3-year rebuilding timeframe to reduce social and economic impacts is irresponsible and fails to meet the stated objectives of conserving the 2011 year class and conserving large spawning fish. It also ignores the significant social and economic impacts of delaying the rebuilding of the striper fishery include significant negative effects on the recreational fishing and tourism businesses of the Northeast.