It’s easy to see why New Jersey is nicknamed “the Garden State:” It’s from all the bullshit.
The manure was flying even before Thursday night’s “public” comment (say the P-word with your tongue planted firmly in cheek) session for the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council.
Tony Friedrich of the American Saltwater Guides Association wrote a scathing summary that outlines the (Corrupt? Rigged? Incompetent? All of the above?) outrageous behavior of the Council. You can read it here.
Fish are considered stupid because they have small brains. However, all stupidity is not limited to small-brained creatures.
If you don’t know who Charles Witek is, don’t feel bad. (I didn’t know who he was before last year.) So. Charles Witek is a very good friend of striped bass. He’s articulate, knowledgeable, and — well, heck, you can find all that out for yourself when you read his excellent essay, “But…Aren’t Those The ASMFC’s Most Important Jobs?”
It it, Witek takes a quick look at a recent survey of ASMFC commissioners. As Charles says, it turns out that the commissioners, “think that the Commission is least successful in managing rebuilt stocks, ending overfishing, and having commissioners cooperate with one another to manage fisheries. But aren’t those three things the whole point?”
Captain John McMurray (NY), to whom I gave high marks as I listened to the chaos of the webinar, has put together a wonderful synopsis of Tuesday’s meeting. John had the advantage (or as some wags might suggest, disadvantage) of being there, witnessing, and participating in the entire process. This is a must-read, folks. You can find it here.
In the meantime, if you fish for stripers in Rhode Island, please send an email to RI commissioner Jason McNamee asking to reconsider voting in favor of the 28″-35″ slot limit. Ask for your comment to be entered into the public record. They’re meeting on it this Monday! I’d like to see a roll call of everyone who sends an email in the comments section.
It wasn’t as bad as I’d feared. It wasn’t as good as I’d hoped. Welcome to the wonderful world of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission winter meetings. Yesterday’s focus was on discussing and formalizing each state’s Conservation Equivalency proposals. Almost 24 hours later, here are three big takeaways.
Settle in for a cup of tea. This might take a while.
The ASMFC is structurally and procedurally bloated. An efficient organization this is not. The webinar was audio only, so it made a helter-skelter meeting like this one even more challenging to follow. At times it was like watching a Bergman film — you try your best to keep up but you’re never really sure what’s going on. And I’m not the only one who saw it that way — the chairman of the meeting described it, and I’ll quote, as “chaotic.” Maybe it’s just as well that the meeting wasn’t video broadcast — surely you could lump the ASMFC Winter 2020 CE decisions along with laws and sausages as things you should never see being made.
My reaction to some states’ CE proposals can best be summed up by Otto, who so eloquently stated: “Disappointed!!!” (That includes you, Rhode Island.)
Beware of rogue states within the ASMFC. North Korea, Iran, Syria, Sudan, and…New Jersey? Let’s not forget Maryland, who along with New Jersey have some rather — ahem — creative ideas on how to best conserve and restore our rapidly dwindling stocks of striped bass. Remember in “A Fish Called Wanda,” when Wanda reminds Otto that the central message of Buddhism is not “Every man for himself?” Someone should point out to Maryland and New Jersey that the ASMFC mission is not, “Kill as many striped bass as you can under the cloak of conservation.” Nope, those emperors don’t have new clothes. They’re wearing the same crappy, poorly camouflaged outfits they’ve been sporting for years. Kudos to those who saw through their charades, like…
Some ASMFC Commissioners get it. If a state’s CE proposal fails to achieve target results, that state should be held accountable, right? High fives to those commissioners who called out certain CE proposals, effectively telling those states to behave and eat its broccoli. Apologies in advance to those I missed, but here are a few of the people who fought the good fight yesterday: Justin Davis (CT). Capt. John McMurray (NY). Ritchie White (NH). Pat Keliher (ME). Again, these are only a few of the people I could positively identify. A very sincere thank you to all of you who are trying to save our stripers. If you’re reading this, why not take a few minutes to send them an email of thanks and support. You can find that list here.
Is anybody there? Does anybody care? Some commissioners clearly do.Especially those who understand that killing this fish now doesn’t bode well for the future.
For those of you who don’t know Addendum VI from King George VI, my apologies. Well, maybe not. This is important. Even if striped bass aren’t your thing, what follows is a good, quick read. And we could really use the support of all conservation-minded anglers. It’s from the ASGA blog. The last paragraph is probably the most important. You can read it here.
I wanted to take a 24-hour grace period before I responded to yesterday’s disappointing session. It’s dicey trying to predict outcomes when nature is one of the variables, so I’ll just stick to what I know to be true.
The ASMFC manages stripers as individual state playthings rather than a shared coastal resource. This is, after all, a migratory species. If you watched the live feed or heard some of the commissioners speak, you know that this group is infected by special interests. It’s discouraging to see that some states, like Maryland and New Jersey, believe their agenda is more important than that of other states — or the fishery as a whole — and maddening that other states don’t call them on it. States’ agendas rule rather than the good of the fishery. Unacceptable.
When it comes to conservation, the ASMFC is incapable of forward thinking. John Adams once said, “Facts are stubborn things,” and the fact is that the ASMFC has an abysmal track record when it comes to managing fishing stocks. In their decades of existence, they have never rebuilt and successfully maintained a single stock. Of the 26 stocks they currently manage, 17 are overfished, depleted, or “condition unknown.” That doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. What’s more, it points to incompetence. So yesterday’s choice of Sub-Option 2-A2, 1 fish 28-35″ slot, is compelling evidence that they are managing not for the future but for right now. Want further proof? A moratorium was never even on the table. The closest choice to a hedged bet was the 1@35″ slot, similar to the most recent rebuilding tool of 1@36″, which was successfully implemented last time we did this. But the ASMFC would rather go to the casino and roll the dice than invest in a conservative, fundamentally sound plan with a proven track record of good returns.
The vote of the active, conservation-minded majority doesn’t matter to the ASMFC. The ASMFC constructed a Potemkin’s Village of inclusion with public hearings in its member states, and continued the sham by inviting public email comments. While the response level was disappointing — about 1,000 people — the result was nothing short of a mandate: Sub-Option 2-A1, 1@35″. Incredibly, this vast majority directive was wantonly ignored. So, we get it, ASMFC. You really don’t give a shit what we think.
Search the parks in all the cities, you’ll find no statues of committees.
The ASMFC will decide on the Striped Bass Addendum VI options tomorrow, Wednesday October 30 beginning at 2:45pm. The meeting will be broadcast online. To register to listen in, click here.
Now, to our voices. The ASMFC received 5,500 public responses. 4,500 of those were form letters. Absolutely useless! What a waste. Could we not have taken 15 more minutes to compose an original thought to try to save our stripers? Nearly 900 people attended hearings in ASMFC states. (Thanks to all who came out!)
The most telling stat is that of nearly 1,000 individual comments, too many people did not take a specific stand on the primary or sub options. Very disappointing. Apathetic or positionless responses do us little good. But, I try to be optimistic: of the individual responses and public hearing comments, the vast majority — decisively — voted for Primary Option 2, equal % reductions. The vast majority — decisively — voted for 2A1, 1@35″. The vast majority — decisively — voted for 2B-1, 1@18″ Chesapeake.
So now it’s in the hands of the ASMFC. Will they take a leadership position? Or will it be business as usual? We’ll know tomorrow.