By Gene Mueller
I have no idea where or how the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission gets the figures and data that determine what commercial and recreational fishermen can catch and how much, but there's some quirky news coming out of its D.C. offices.
For starters, an ASMFC 2009 Atlantic striped bass (rockfish) stock assessment update said the "resource remains in good condition." The ASMFC also said estimated fishing mortality rates in 2008 were below estimated targets in the three primary stock areas: the Hudson River, Delaware River and the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.
"The striped bass stock complex is determined to be not overfished with overfishing not occurring," the ASMFC said in a redundant, bureaucratic manner that ought to make all pencil pushers proud.
What bothers me greatly is the commission's continuous dumping on recreational anglers. In 2008, the ASMFC said, recreational anglers hooked more than 2.2 million striped bass weighing 12,310 metric tons. It also said recreational catches have ranged from a low of 336 metric tons in 1989 to a high of 13,814 in 2006. Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York sport fishermen saw an increase, but the rest of the coastal Atlantic states experienced a decline.
Here we go again. Have you ever been asked how many stripers you caught and how much each of them weighed? I haven't. Neither has anyone in my large circle of fishing friends and acquaintances. Don't we count? So how does the ASMFC get these precise figures?
Now do you really want to be upset? Here it goes: "Landings from the commercial striped bass fishery have been consistently lower than the recreational catch," the commission said.
Take that, you dirty recreational guys. Those wonderful pillars of the community, the white-booted watermen who always honestly report their catches - they do, don't they? - have trapped steadily increasing numbers of rockfish in their gill nets, pound nets, seines and other gear, but they've been consistently lower than those caught by sport fishermen. Yeah, right. And I have some swampland I want to sell you.
"Although spawning stock and total biomass have remained relatively stable over the last several years, stock abundance declined from 2004 to 2007 with a small increase in 2008," the ASMFC said.
The red drum (also known as channel bass or redfish), another popular sport fish, appears to be abundant, according to the fisheries commission. The ASMFC is talking about an abundance of young fish for the northern (New Jersey to North Carolina) and southern (South Carolina to Florida) stock complexes, which apparently have remained stable since 2000. The commission said overfishing is not occurring.
More detailed stock assessment descriptions will be made available by mid-December. I can hardly wait.