ASMFC is a Complete Train-Wreck

Excerpts from a blog post by Capt. John McMurray on February 10, 2014


Photo by Capt. John McMurray

Photo by Capt. John McMurray


Now, let’s talk about “the bad”, and what happened with striped bass.

Based on a recently completed striped bass stock assessment, which indicated that lower fishing mortality reference points were more appropriate for this fishery, last October ASMFC unanimously voted to draft two separate addenda.  One which would propose adoption of the new lower fishing mortality reference points, and one which would provide a range of alternatives that would get us there.  You can find more info on this (as well as an explanation of what these reference points actually are) in a blog I did on this meeting:  ASMFC MOVES ON STRIPED BASS.


Yet, that’s not what happened at last week’s meeting.  What should have been a short “best available science” discussion, then a vote, didn’t take place. The Management Board instead decided to delay consideration of the draft addendum until the May meeting.  Why?  I’m still trying to figure that one out.  As far as I can tell, a majority of the Management Board simply felt that it was more efficient for both addenda to be considered at the same time.  The Board wouldn’t have to take public comment twice, etc…  I don’t really get the rationale, as the discussion pretty much took the opposite tack (that we needed two separate addenda and have two separate discussions) than it did in October…  But I don’t get a lot of stuff that happens around that table.

I’m trying really hard to believe that this was just a decision based on efficiency, but because delaying/avoiding conservation action is endemic at ASMFC, I can’t help but think it was intentional.  I’m guessing the discussion in May, when the adoption of the new fishing mortality reference points is combined with the “how we get there” stuff, is going to be a complete shit-show, and this very well may jam up the process.  That said, the Board was very clear in saying that this would not delay action in 2015, which was the target specified back in October, so I don’t know.  It may be that some are banking on better young-of-the-year numbers coming out this fall, which could allow Commissioners to argue that everything is just fine with stripers because a new good year-class is coming up through the ranks.  But I’m pretty sure they won’t have those numbers by May.  Whatever the case, if you don’t separate the two topics it’s entirely reasonable to believe that folks may dig in their heels and try to kill the whole thing.  The ASMFC’s ability to avoid doing the right thing is often extraordinary.  I hope I’m wrong on all of this, but I have to admit, I’m throwing my hands up here.  I guess we’ll see.


I suppose the point of all this is that it’s becoming more and more apparent that ASMFC is a complete train-wreck.    Below is a list of species they’ve failed on.

  • American eel, depleted
  •  American shad, depleted
  •  Atlantic sturgeon depleted
  •  Atlantic menhaden, overfishing occurring
  •  Horse shoe crab, decreased abundance
  •  Northern shrimp, depleted
  •  River herring, depleted
  •  Tautog (blackfish), overfished
  •  Weakfish, depleted
  •  Winter flounder, overfished

Striped bass, everything is fine (and we all know that’s not the case)

Do they not understand, or do they simply not care?