ATLANTIC STRIPED BASS CONSERVATION ACT
What does it do?
In response to declines in commercial striped bass harvest and the perceived decline in production of juvenile striped bass in the late 1970's, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) prepared a coastwide management plan for striped bass along the Atlantic Coast, in 1981. Congress passed legislation, the Atlantic Striped Bass Conservation Act, in 1984 and 1988, with amendments in 1986, and 1991, enabling Federal imposition of a moratorium on striped bass fishing in states which failed to comply with the ASMFC Fishery Management Plan. Coastal states have the principal management jurisdiction over Atlantic striped bass, through the ASMFC plan. However, the Act directs the Secretary of Commerce to promulgate regulations on striped bass fishing in the EEZ (federal waters). Regulations are to ensure the effectiveness of state regulations or a Federal moratorium on striped bass fishing within the coastal waters of a state will be imposed.
Why was it Needed?
In passing the Striped Bass Act, in 1984, Congress FOUND the following:
(1) Atlantic striped bass are of historic commercial and recreational importance
and economic benefit to the Atlantic coastal States and to the Nation.
(2) As a consequence of increased fishing pressure, environmental pollution, the loss and alteration of habitat, and the inadequacy of fishery conservation and management practices and controls, certain stocks of Atlantic striped bass have been severely reduced in number.
(3) Because no single government entity has full management authority throughout the range of the Atlantic striped bass, the harvesting and conservation of these fish have been subject to diverse, inconsistent, and intermittent State regulation that has been detrimental to the long-term maintenance of stocks of the species and to the interests of fishermen and the Nation as a whole.
(4) It is in the national interest to implement effective procedures and measures to provide for effective interjurisdictional conservation and management of this species.
The PURPOSE of the Act is to: support and encourage the development, implementation, and enforcement of effective interstate action regarding the conservation and management of the Atlantic striped bass.
Who is Involved?
Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission
The Commission was formed by the fifteen Atlantic coast states more than fifty years ago to assist in managing and conserving their shared coastal fishery resources. With the recognition that fish do not adhere to political boundaries, the states formed an Interstate Compact, which was approved by the U.S. Congress and signed by the President in 1942. The states have found that their mutual interest in sustaining healthy coastal fishery resources is best achieved by working together cooperatively, in collaboration with the federal government. Through this approach, the states uphold their collective fisheries management responsibilities in a cost-effective, timely and responsive fashion.
Each state is represented by three Commissioners, which include: the director for the state's marine fisheries management agency; a state legislator; and an individual knowledgeable in fisheries appointed by the state governor. These Commissioners participate in deliberations in the Commission's five main policy arenas: interstate fisheries management, research and statistics, habitat conservation, sport fish restoration, and law enforcement.
Through the Interstate Fisheries Management Program (ISFMP), Commissioners determine management strategies which the states implement through fishing regulations. The ISFMP operates under the direction of the ISFMP Policy Board and the striped bass management board. The ISFMP Policy Board, comprised of Commissioners from the fifteen member states and representatives of the District of Columbia, the Potomac River Fisheries Commission, the National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, oversees the program and meets at least bi-annually to establish and monitor the direction of the program.
The striped bass management board, also comprised of Commissioners and federal agency representatives, considers and approves the development and implementation of the striped bass fishery management plan, including the integration of scientific information, proposed management measures, and considerations for habitat conservation and the management of protected species/fishery interactions.
In 1985, the Commission became responsible for determining whether each coastal state had adopted all regulatory measures necessary to fully implement fishery management requirements of the Atantic Striped Bass Fishery Management Plan. The Commision must also determine if each state is satisfactorily enforcing implementation of the Plan. The Commission must notify the Secretaries of Commerce and Interior immediately of any state which it determines is not satisfactorily implementing or enforcing requirements of the Plan.
U.S. Departments of Commerce and the Interior ResponsibilitiesOnce they had received notice from the Commission that a coastal State has not taken implementation or enforcement actions, the Secretaries determine jointly, within thirty days, whether that coastal State is in compliance with the Plan and, if the State is not in compliance, the Secretaries declare a moratorium on fishing for Atlantic striped bass within the coastal waters of that coastal State. In making this determination, the Secretaries consider and review the comments of the Commission and that coastal State in question. When a moratoruim is declared, it is unlawful for any person-
(1) to engage in fishing for Atlantic striped bass within the moratorium area;
(2) to land, or attempt to land, Atlantic Striped bass that are caught, taken or harvested in violation of paragraph (1);
(3) to land lawfully harvested Atlantic Striped bass within the boundaries of a coastal State when a moratorium applies to that State; or
(4) to fail to return to the water Atlantic striped bass to which the moratorium applies that are caught incidental to harvesting that occurs in the course of commercial or recreational fish catching activities, regardless of the physical condition of the striped bass when caught.
The Departments of Commerce and Interior also jointly conduct annual surveys of the Atlantic striped bass fisheries. These surveys include recreational and commercial striped bass landings in the coastal states and other fishery-dependent and fishery-independent information, and are published in the Federal Register.
Under the Atlantic Striped Bass Conservation Act, the Secretary of Commerce regulates fishing for Atlantic striped bass in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ), consistent with the national standards set forth in the Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act. Regulations are to:
(1) ensure the effectiveness of State regulations or a Federal moratorium on fishing for Atlantic Striped bass within the coastal waters of a coastal State; and
(2) achieve conservation and management goals for the Atlantic striped bass resource.
In preparing regulations for the EEZ the Secretary consults with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, the appropriate Regional Fishery Management Councils, and each affected Federal, State, and local government entity. When the Atlantic Striped Bass Conservation Act was reauthorized in 1991, the Anadromous Fish Conservation Act was also amended to include scientific studies of the anadromous stocks of Atlantic striped bass. Under these provisions, the Department of Commerce cooperates with States and non-Federal interests in conducting studies which include:
(1) estimates of recruitment, spawning potential, mortality rates, and stock composition.
(2) investigations of factors affecting abundance of striped bass, including analyses of the extent and causes of mortality at successive life stages; and
(3) monitoring population abundance and age and sex composition of striped bass stocks on fishery-dependent and fishery-independent data.
Additional surveys have been designated at various times, over the years, to address special areas of concern for the striped bass population.
For information, contact:
National Marine Fisheries Service
Office Sustainable Fisheries, State-Federal Program
1315 East-West Highway
Silver Spring, MD 20910