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Fish, Shmish, You Call That Fishing?

February 14, 2011

Dr. Louis Daniel, Director
North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries
3441 Arendell Street
Morehead City, NC 28557

Dear Dr. Daniel,

By now you know well that many people are justifiably upset by the wasteful netting practices of the North Carolina commercial bass fishermen, and you can count me among them. The videos and photos are proof that North Carolina is not managing its share of our commonly held striped bass stocks in a professional way. This is bad fishing and bad species management. It is not sustainable, and it damages the sustainable tourism and recreational fisheries up and down the entire coast. Those coastal tourism and recreational fisheries are worth far more annually than the short-term catches by the commercial industry.

To make the situation worse, many people are disturbed by the image of a NC MFC board member (Mikey Daniels) voting to extend his own commercial season. This is bad government, plain and simple. It is hard to understand how in this day and age we have an industry regulating itself, as your commercial fishing industry does. Your current arrangement creates an obvious conflict of interest between the regulators and the beneficiaries of regulation, and it should end.
Additionally, striped bass depend to a great extent on bunker (menhaden), and after viewing the recent ASMFC graph on that species, it is clear that Omega Protein is unsustainably harvesting more than that species can withstand, as well. That too impacts the striped bass population.
I respectfully request that:
a) North Carolina change the way its striped bass are commercially harvested, going from net to hand-held hook and line and requiring gentle catch and release practices for fish under 28 inches, with a set number of fish over 28 inches and no culling allowed;
b) North Carolina reduce the commercial harvest amounts for both striped bass and bunker;
c) North Carolina change its fisheries management, and put self-interested parties like Mikey Daniels on an advisory board, with only impartial scientists making the final decision about seasons and limits, based on what is scientifically sustainable.
Thank you for considering my comments. I can be reached at (717) 232-8335, if someone from your staff would like to speak to me further.

Josh First
cc: John Arway; Curt Schroder; ASMFC;
Gene Kray; CCA


February 24, 2011

Hon. Joe Martens, Acting Commissioner
New York State DEC
625 Broadway
Albany, NY 12233-1011

Dear Commissioner Martens,

This letter’s purpose is to express my strong opposition to recent proposals that would allow any trawl fishery at all for striped bass in New York, and also to express my concern about the declining populations of striped bass and menhaden, upon which so many other fish depend, including striped bass.

Several reasons account for my opposition to netting striped bass: 1) The size of the bass population is declining, 2) the menhaden (bunker) population is staggeringly low due to Omega Protein’s rapacious over-fishing, 3) recent striped bass breeding success has been low, meaning that fewer young fish are “in the pipeline” for both recreational and commercial fishing, and 4) commercial netting results in culling and a tremendous waste of striped bass and “bycatch.” These are all conditions similar to the 1980s, when the striped bass population crashed. Additionally, by all appearances striped bass are not being managed sustainably by any state, and North Carolina’s enormous bass-kills in early 2011 support concerns that present commercial quotas are impacting far more fish than previously believed.

Given these conditions, this should be a time when responsible resource managers take a step back, and consider ways to increase the bass population. Ways to stabilize or increase the population include increasing recreational and commercial size limits (presently 28 inches) even just an inch or two, eliminating or dramatically decreasing commercial harvest amounts and seasons, and switching commercial harvesting to a hand-held hook and line operation only, with no culling allowed. Implementing all or some of these methods will benefit a species that generates much more economic development as a recreational fish than it does as an over-harvested commercial fish.

Treated responsibly, striped bass generate sustainable, renewable economic development year after year. Treated irresponsibly, with only short-term commercial quotas getting serious consideration, the bass will be exterminated, and many coastal communities will see their otherwise-stable tourist revenues diminish substantially. And the commercial fishermen, who have behaved in egregiously greedy and wasteful ways, will also be out of luck. They, too, need your help; they need to be saved from themselves.

Please stop the unsustainable commercial race for the last dregs of a dwindling migratory species, and help keep it as a recreational and economic mainstay along our coast. Incidentally, I fish extensively around New York City as well as New Jersey, and I have similarly urged Pennsylvania’s representatives to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to eliminate or greatly reduce commercial harvests of striped bass, or at the very least eliminate all netting and try different ways of allowing a hand-held hook and line commercial fishery, which when combined with lower daily limits could then convert recreational fishermen into a more sustainable commercial function. Thank you for considering my comments.

Yours Truly,

Josh First

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