The Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review Committee conducted a hearing Monday as the last stop for the emergency regulation authorizing the trophy striped bass season proposed for May 11-27.
The AELR Committee, a standing committee composed of nine members of the Maryland Senate and nine members of the House of Delegates, must approve or disapprove emergency regulations submitted for approval.
About 40 charter boat captains and watermen lined up with the Department of Natural Resources for the regulation.
Opposing the regulation was Sen. Gerald Winegrad, D-Anne Arundel; the Maryland Saltwater Sportsfishermen's Association; the Chesapeake Bay Foundation; and Al Goetz, one of Maryland's three Atlantic States Marine Fisheries commissioners.
The DNR pulled out all of the stops. Secretary TorreyBrown introduced the regulation, and was followed by Assistant Secretary Jim Peck and director of fisheries, Pete Jensen. You could tell right away that this was not going to be a cakewalk by the questions from the committee.
Sen. Mary Boergers, D-Montgomery County, thought all of the rigamarole just to catch a fish was unrealistic. Another lawmaker was concerned about mother rockfish being caught. Closer to the situation at hand were questions on cost to the state to administer the trophy season and how it would be monitored.
Jim Gilford,representing the Striped Bass Advisory Board, testified that the board supported the trophy season by a vote of 8-2. The two opposing votes came from the MSSA and Bill Goldsboro, chairman of the SBAB and representing the CBF.
Several others spoke in favor of the bill, andthen the committee chairman opened testimony to those opposing the bill. Winegrad opened with an emotional plea covering many facets of the rockfish situation. He made a major effort to kill this year's trophy fishery season.
MSSA appeared in opposition to the spring fishery. However, its statement was positive, and said:
"First and foremost, it is our opinion the DNR is following the recommendations of the striped Bass Advisory Board which voted 8-to-2 in favor of a spring trophy fishery. Since our representative has spent many hours on this committee and even though our viewpoint did not prevail, we respect the process.
"We would further deem it in appropriate to participate in good faith on the Striped Bass Advisory Board, and then if the board's views don't represent our views, take action to undermine the implementation of the recommendations.
"The only exception to this would be if there was compelling biological evidence that the action would jeopardize the recovery of the striped bass, and in our opinion the proposed trophy striped bass season doesn't fall into this category."
This took guts and could represent major fence-mending between the MSSA and the other striped-bass user groups (commercial fishermen and charter boat captains).
MSSA attacked commercial fishermen with legislation earlier this year. Both bills are now believeddead.
Many charter captains supported the commercial fishermen, because they felt that once the netters were gone, charter captains would be the next MSSA target. Monday's MSSA statement may be a major peace initiative and, if sincere, could open a new age of cooperation.
When the last opponent had testified, the committee chairman called for a vote. The final vote was 6-5 in favor of the regulation.
The approval of the regulation for the spring trophy fishery is contingent on ASMFC approval. The last remaining hurdle is ASMFC Policy Board approval, which the DNR anticipates receiving early next week.
Bob Spore is a Coast Guard-licensed charter boat captain from Pasadena. His Outdoors column appears every Friday and Sunday in the Anne Arundel County Sun.