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Striped Bass Fishermen Want Their Voices Heard
Published in the Asbury Park Press 5/15/05

by John Geiser

(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association June 2005 Newsletter)

Striped bass fishermen who want to make the striper the exclusive property of recreational anglers have launched what is probably their most intensive campaign thus far.

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-NJ, has introduced legislation in the House of Representatives to prohibit the commercial harvesting of Atlantic coast stripers. Pallone, the ranking Democrat on the House Subcommittee on Fisheries and Oceans, introduced the measure last week. The bill would prohibit the commercial harvesting of bass not only in estuarine and state waters, but in the exclusive economic zone as well. "The Atlantic striped bass is a valuable resource along the Atlantic coast, and is one of the most important fisheries for recreational anglers in New Jersey," he said. New Jersey is one of only six states along the East Coast that already classify striped bass as a game fish-only species.

A study on the economics of recreational and commercial striped bass fishing released earlier this year concluded that if commercial fishing for striped bass were eliminated "future harvest levels would produce greater returns for coastal economies and the national economy" since "fish captured by the recreational sector are far more valuable on a per pound basis than when harvested commercially."

The report found that recreational fishermen harvested 22.9 million pounds of striped bass, 3.2 times higher than the 7 million pounds harvested commercially. This produces a substantial difference in retail sales of $2,412,284,999 from recreational fishermen compared to only $43,115,704 from commercial fishermen.

The report was prepared by Southwick Associates in Fernandina Beach, Fla., for Stripers Forever, a national organization that supports the elimination of all commercial fishing for striped bass.

Commercial fishermen argue that the fish-eating general public, those who enjoy dining on striped bass but do not fish, would be deprived of a share of a national resource. This argument is sound and logical only to the point where allocation is not a problem. The new state law that prohibits anglers from harvesting a single fish between 28 and less than 34 inches proves there is a big problem.

If there are not enough striped bass for the recreational sector to harvest one fish from 24 inches up, then the Southwick report's findings kick in. The economic, social and recreational benefits have to be weighed.

Obviously New Jersey non-fishermen are not concerned about their loss at the restaurant table. There is no public outcry, no campaign, no lobbying effort, not even op-ed pieces about not being able to buy striped bass in New Jersey, but there are literally tens of thousands of complaints about anglers not being able to harvest a fish from 28 to less than 34 inches.

Adding the 7 million commercial pounds to the recreational side's quota would presumably enable anglers to harvest one fish from 24 inches up, and the benefits would be substantial.

Paul Haertel of the Berkeley Striper Club said the organization will hold its second annual spring bass tournament from June 3 to June 12 to benefit Stripers Forever. Stripers Forever is a relatively new internet group that has been waging its game fish-only status for stripers along the entire East Coast.

The tournament is open to all waters of Monmouth and Ocean counties. The entry fee is $20 per person for the shore and surf division, and $30 per person for the boat division.

There will be seven place awards for both the boat and shore-surf divisions, first through third prizes for bluefish and first and second prizes for weakfish. There is a guaranteed pot of $2,500 in the shore-surf division regardless of the number of entrants.

The boat division will have a pot of $2,500 based on 100 entrants. There will be an 85 percent payout of the entry fees; so prize values will increase if there are over 100 entrants, decrease if there are fewer than 100. Registration can be made and weigh-ins recorded at the following places: Alex's, Bahrs' Landing, Betty and Nick's, Bruce and Pat's, Eastern Dock Outfitters, Grizz's, Fishermen's Headquarters, Murphy's Hook House and Scott's.

Further information may be obtained by telephoning Haertel at (973) 943-8201.

You can get further information on our tournament
on this web-site by going to the tournament page. You can also e-mail me at [email protected] or go to www.berkeleystriperclub.org
 

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I have a problem with telling one group of people (in this case commercial fishermen) that they cannot fish for something but I can. If a stock is healthy why can't we all partake of the fishery to some degree?

I do understand the arguments that this is the "one" fish some people would like to see as a "sport fish", but it seems like things rarely stop with just "one" thing, and inevitably blossom into "this one too, and that one also" etc.

I have heard the arguments that there are many species that are not caught recreationally, so they are the "commercial" species, but more often than not that's because recreationals either have no desire or no real means of catching those particular species.

Perhaps I am overreacting, but it just rubs me the wrong way way someone says "I can have it ALL but you cannot have ANY." Seems to me if we do our job right we should all have access to the various species. For management and business purposes I understand the need for quotas and share etc., but is it really necessary to have ALL of something and deny others an opportunity to fish for a given species as well?

Also, I don't feel that just because there is not an "outcry" from the non-fishing public that it somehow gives the green light to deny both the commercial fishermen the business and the individual the ability to buy those fish harvested. If bass were on their way out, farm raised was the only way to sustain a market etc. etc., but we are not in either of those situations. If the biologists give us a specified amount of fish that can be harvested each year, what is the impetus to have it all come from just one group and push the other group out entirely other than greed or selfishness? I'm not saying those are the reasons, I'm asking the question because I cannot think of another reason. Those who want it just for the sport may not be greedy per se, but to me it seems a little selfish to keep something for yourself and deny other the ability to partake in the same fishery in at least a limited way (again, not all fisheries are equal and I understand why, I'm talking about SOME participation, not necessarily EQUAL participation)

Just my feelings on the whole gamefish subject.

[ 05-30-2005, 05:29 PM: Message edited by: CaptTB ]
 
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