Fishermen up and down the Atlantic coast must pay attention if they care about striped bass. This species has its fair share of problems stemming especially from a reduced food supply and overfishing. Those challenges are not going away.
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, a regulatory body comprised of representatives from 15 coastal states, is considering adopting a new plan to guide striped bass management. The Commission is looking at 10 main management topics, but most important is its consideration of biological reference points, the goalposts used to evaluate the status of the striped bass population and indicate when management action is needed.
Unfortunately, instead of doing what is necessary to rebuild striped bass, some regulators have suggested redefining what recovery looks like, effectively making their jobs easier at the expense of the striped bass population and long-term angling opportunities.
The current baseline for striped bass recovery is set off population numbers from 1995, the year that scientists and regulators declared striped bass recovered from decades of overfishing. That led to solid fishing and relatively healthy stocks during the late 90s and early 2000s. But, for the last decade, the warning signs of a declining stock have been apparent. Too much harvest, poor reproduction, and little recruitment meant poor fishing.
The Commission has been slow to act, avoiding not-so-hard decisions for much harder decisions down the road.
A 2018 stock assessment confirmed striped bass were officially overfished, so the Commission finally reduced the number of fish being kept by both commercial harvesters and recreational anglers in 2020. New regulations included required use of circle hooks to reduce release mortality and a slot limit aimed at protecting larger fish, which lay the most eggs, as is necessary to repopulate the species. At the same time, the Commission changed the way it manages menhaden, the food source for striped bass, and then reduced the industrial menhaden harvest by 10 percent.
Normally, stock assessments would show if these changes were making a difference. But 2020 was hardly normal. Due to COVID-19, stock assessments did not happen. We do not know the impacts of the reduction in striper limits. The one piece of information we did get in 2020 was not good. The Maryland Young of the Year Study shows that 2019 and 2020 were terrible spawning years, and the juvenile population is low.
The TRCP and its conservation allies, including the American Sportfishing Association and the Coastal Conservation Association, agree that it doesn’t make sense to change the baseline for recovery. We don’t have enough recent data to make a science-based change to how we measure population health. And what little data we do have indicates that weakening the biological reference points could be detrimental to the striped bass population and recreational fishing economy.
The Commission is collecting public comments on the changes to biological reference points and several other provisions that directly relate to striped bass management. Our recommendations for each topic are listed here. These other issues matter little, though, if regulators are going to move the goalposts for recovery.
So how can you get involved? The Commission is holding virtual hearings in all coastal states starting March 8. It’s critical for the public to weigh in on how they would like the fishery to be managed going forward.
TRCP Expands its Team to Strengthen Conservation, Access, and Habitat
The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership adds six new staff members
The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership is proud to announce the hiring of six new staff members in its Washington D.C. and Denver offices to advance its mission of guaranteeing all Americans quality places to hunt and fish.
“By investing in top talent, the TRCP will bolster our vision of uniting and amplifying our partners’ voices to advance America’s legacy of conservation, habitat, and access,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “We welcome all of these individuals to the team and thank our board and donors for making it possible to expand our reach and capacity. Together, these new team members will expand our outreach to Hispanic and other underserved communities, strengthen our work on climate and public lands policies, amplify conservation messages to a digital audience, and maintain the highest standards for transparency and financial accountability.”
Jon Holst, Colorado Field Representative
Jon brings to the TRCP 27 years of experience working on wildlife conservation and federal public land policy issues in both the public and private sector. As Colorado Field Representative, Jon will be implementing public education and advocacy campaigns in the state of Colorado to conserve big-game migration corridors; stop the sale or transfer of federal public lands; and support federal and state programs that enhance access, funding, and habitat conservation.
Lise Robinson, Director of Finance
Lise brings 19 years of experience in nonprofit finance, accounting, administrative, and operations management to the TRCP. As Finance Director, she will be responsible for overseeing the entire organization’s accounting and finance functions. In this critical role, she will be responsible for ensuring transparency and accuracy in all financial reporting, while also maintaining the organization’s top charity ratings.
Jared Romero, Director of Strategic Partnerships
Jared’s background in conservation ranges from boots on the ground as a wildland firefighter to a researcher studying ecological toxicology, and an educator and administrator. As TRCP’s Director of Strategic Partnerships, Jared will build relationships to expand hunting and fishing opportunities for underserved communities. He will also work cooperatively with regional and national organizations that serve people of color to advance our shared conservation goals.
Tara Schultz, Digital Coordinator
Tara’s background in digital communications makes her a great fit to help TRCP advance our numerous conservation campaigns in a digital world. As Digital Coordinator, Tara will be responsible for maintaining TRCP’s social media channels, website, and digital communications.
Tiffany Turner, Director of Climate Solutions
Tiffany brings more than 15 years of experience in environmental health and sustainability to the TRCP as Director of Climate Solutions. In this role, Tiffany will be responsible for ensuring that the voices of America’s hunters and anglers, and the needs of fish and wildlife, are a meaningful part of the climate policy discussion. She will also develop and implement comprehensive advocacy and communications strategies, including building diverse coalitions, to advance land- and water-based climate policies.
Mandy Zalmanek, Development and Operations Associate
Mandy’s background in donor engagement, event planning, and operational administration will support the TRCP as we grow our fundraising and operational capacity. As Development and Operations Associate, Mandy will support all departments to ensure they are achieving their strategic goals.
New poll shows strong support for wildlife crossings and continued collaboration between stakeholders on this key conservation priority
In Montana, state and federal agencies as well as conservation organizations and landowner groups have been working to identify opportunities for collaboration between landowners, sportsmen and women, scientists, agency officials, and other stakeholders to conserve important habitat and migration routes.
A new survey of 500 registered voters in the Treasure State—commissioned by the Pew Charitable Trusts and conducted by the research firms FM3 and New Bridge Strategy—shows that broad sections of the public strongly support this important work.
The survey found that 88% of Montana respondents favor the adoption of strategies and actions that conserve wildlife migration routes, while 86% also agree with improving coordination between federal land management agencies and local stakeholders to prioritize conservation of migration routes on public lands.
The report also highlighted robust support in Montana for specific actions to ensure the continued functionality of migration routes.
87% endorse providing incentives to private landowners, such as ranchers, who voluntarily agree to conserve migration routes on their land as wildlife habitat.
88% support construction of wildlife crossing structures—such as over- or underpasses—to help animals cross major highways where they intersect with known migration routes.
75% approve a requirement that construction of new housing developments and associated roads and infrastructure avoid wildlife migration routes.
Furthermore, the survey showed that an overwhelming majority of Montanans place a high value on their state’s wildlife resources: 88% of respondents see wildlife as important to their quality of life in Montana, while 83% see wildlife as important to Montana’s economy.
Thankfully, Montana has a strong tradition of landowners, conservation groups, and state and federal agencies coming together to achieve shared priorities, particularly when it comes to conserving and improving fish and wildlife habitat. In 2020, various stakeholders worked with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks to develop a strategy for conserving habitat essential to wildlife migration and movement.
For sportsmen and women, it is encouraging to know that a majority of Montanans share concern about one of the most significant threats to its mule deer, elk, and antelope herds. This widespread support should be motivation for state officials, private landowners, and conservation professionals to continue to find common ground and address cooperatively the challenges faced by various stakeholders.
Six Ways Congress Can Create Jobs and Safeguard Habitat
Conservation works for hunters, anglers, and the American economy
After COVID hit the United States, people flocked to mountains, rivers, lakes, and trails to escape the four walls of our homes and clear our heads. These outdoor places provided respite and improved the wellbeing of millions of Americans.
Unfortunately, it’s our economy that needs a breath of fresh air now. Following the economic downturn of the past year, Congress should make bold investments to create jobs, rebuild our economy, and improve the health of our communities.
Our natural resources can once again bring our nation together, if Congress seizes the opportunity to invest in them. As policymakers search for ways to stimulate the economy, they need look no further than our lands and waters. That’s why hunters and anglers are joining a diverse coalition of conservationists and outdoor enthusiasts to ensure that Congress considers fish and wildlife habitat as part of the solution to the many challenges we face.
The six policy proposals that we have put forward will put Americans back to work, combat climate change, and enhance our outdoor recreation opportunities. Here’s what Congress should do to let conservation work for America.
Strengthen America’s coastlines and restore iconic ecosystems.
Our coastal wetlands, marshes, river systems, and floodplains serve an outsized role in minimizing the impacts of extreme weather events. Restoring these landscapes will not only ensure the functionality of important coastal ecosystems for years to come, it will also enhance natural flood buffers, protect critical infrastructure and communities, improve water quality, and support economic growth.
In the Gulf of Mexico, wildlife tourism alone supports $19 billion in annual spending and supports over half a million jobs, but the region is also incredibly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The Mississippi River Delta has lost more than 2,000 square miles of land since the 1930s and continues to lose the equivalent of a football field worth of wetlands every 100 minutes.
Congress should support the conservation and restoration of these systems by funding publicly vetted coastal or watershed restoration plans. Congress should also create a new program to fund coastal restoration and fisheries management initiatives, like those that were supported by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
Prioritize wetlands restoration.
The North American Wetlands Conservation Act has proven to be our nation’s most effective program for protecting, restoring, and enhancing wetlands and waterfowl habitat. Since 1990, the program has provided flood control, protected water quality, improved ecosystem function, and secured recreational access on more than 30 million acres of wetlands. The partnership model established in this legislation generates roughly 7,500 jobs and supports over $200 million in salaries annually. We strongly encourage Congress to fully fund this program.
Invest in our nation’s private lands.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture administers a suite of voluntary conservation programs that provide value to rural America beyond their well-known ecological benefits. Incentives offered through the Conservation Reserve Program, Regional Conservation Partnership Program, Environmental Quality Incentives Program, and the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program optimize farm and forestry operations, improve fish and wildlife habitat, and add value at a time when the agricultural economy needs it most.
These initiatives help agricultural producers, hunters, and anglers but require significant investment to ensure they remain effective in protecting soil, water, wildlife, and landowners’ bottom lines. We urge Congress to double its investment and significantly grow enrollment in Farm Bill conservation programs, so we can address natural resource challenges—like habitat loss and climate change—and provide landowners with the technical and financial assistance they need.
Use habitat to improve the resilience of transportation infrastructure.
With over 4 million miles of public roads in the U.S., the scope of repairs needed to support our aging transportation infrastructure seems daunting. We encourage Congress to pass a highway bill that creates a new competitive grant program aimed at enhancing the resilience of these critical transportation systems. This kind of dedicated funding is necessary to prioritize the use and restoration of natural infrastructure—natural systems, like wetlands and dunes, that can mitigate threats to our roadways, like flooding from powerful storm surge.
Incorporating natural infrastructure approaches and relocating vulnerable assets out of flood-prone areas can increase the resilience of our communities. These projects would provide quality jobs and pay dividends to local taxpayers.
Invest in pre-disaster mitigation.
When communities experience major disasters, their resources are drained as they rebuild. That’s why we need an infusion of cash to not only help them pick up the pieces, but also to prepare for future catastrophic weather events.
Administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Building Resilient Infrastructure in Communities Program provides communities with matching funds to identify existing infrastructure vulnerabilities and develop innovative, nature-based solutions that lessen the impacts of future disasters to life and property. These pre-disaster mitigation grant projects reduce risk and increase habitat for the fish and wildlife we love to pursue. We encourage Congress to set aside 15 percent of funds for nature-based approaches to reducing disaster risk.
Invest in sustainable water systems.
From water quality issues in the East to water quantity issues in the West, we need thoughtful approaches to watershed management that are based in local needs. These solutions are not one size fits all, but several key initiatives can prop up our most valuable resource—the water that powers our lives and outdoor recreation opportunities.
The Clean Water State Revolving Fund is a proven tool to help communities overcome challenges to water quality and infrastructure. Since its inception, the Fund has provided communities, many of them disadvantaged, with over $110 billion in financing for estuary protection, wastewater control, and water treatment.
Like the rest of America’s infrastructure, Western water delivery systems are aging and struggling to adequately keep pace with the needs of growing communities and economies. The WaterSMART Drought Response and Cooperative Watershed Management programs help develop local watershed management programs to address this challenge. WaterSMART grants help to improve water delivery, efficiency, and reliability and reduce conflicts over water-use in the West.
Congress should support and increase investments in these water initiatives to put Americans back to work—and back out on our kayaks and driftboats.
How You Can Help
The TRCP will continue to offer sportsmen and women a chance to engage in our #ConservationWorksforAmerica campaign in 2021. Take action now and urge decision-makers to put people back to work through conservation.
In the last two years, policymakers have committed to significant investments in conservation, infrastructure, and reversing climate change. Hunters and anglers continue to be vocal about the opportunity to create conservation jobs, restore habitat, and boost fish and wildlife populations. Support solutions now.