More Rockfish Mayhem As The Dnr Slips In A Ringer


May 12, 1991|By Capt.Bob Spore

The following is part of the text of a DNR press release:

"The Maryland Department of Natural Resources will hold a public meeting on proposals for the 1991-1992 fall and winter striped bass fishery . . . in the basement conference room at the Department of Agriculture, on Harry Truman Parkway, in Annapolis, May 15, at 6:00 p.m. The agendawill focus on the fall and winter striped bass fishery for commercial, recreational, and charter boat fishermen. DNR's fisheries personnel will brief the public on the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission's procedures and present the Striped Bass Advisory Board's recommendation and alternatives for the striped bass season as summarizedon the accompanying chart."

The press release went on to give the board's recommendations. What the release didn't mention was the time and effort expended by theboard to hammer out the best deal each representative could get for his constituency and how positions and differing views mellowed over the weeks and months.

Although not always in total agreement, board members understood the problems of the other striped bass user groups. In some cases, board members went out of their way to find mutually agreeable solutions. Most of the votes taken on the final recommendations were close to unanimous, with possibly one or two dissentingvotes.

I'm proud of the work done by the Striped Bass Advisory Board. I don't totally agree with the outcome, but I support its recommendations. Too bad the DNR is notwilling to do the same.

It came to light through the above press release that the DNR has slipped in an alternative recommendation that would alter the fall charter boat fishery. Two senior DNR political appointees, who never are held accountable, convinced DNR Secretary Torrey Brown to include the recommendation in the proposed regulation.

The board's recommendation, as outlined in the press release, is:

* Quotas/allocations: Same as last year's -- 42.5 percent commercial, 42.5 percent recreational, 15 percent charter. Quota will be 750,000 pounds unless the ASMFC approves an increase to 1.1 million pounds.

* Commercial fishery: Combinegill nets/pound nets/haul seines; eliminate fyke nets as approved gear; move pound net season to September (it was in November in 1990); move ocean net season to December (formerly in January in 1991); place commercial hook and line season in December; establish individual fishermen allocations; reallocate unused individual allocations; 40-fishing-day season for gill nets January through February. The same gear restrictions are to apply as in 1991, and all other rules arethe same as last year's.

* Charter fishery: two fish a day creel limit; 31-day season, unless the allocation is reached before 31 days.

* Recreational fishery: a 17-day season from Oct. 11 to 27; two fish (18-inch minimum) per season per angler; tag system, two per season to each angler; same general rules as last year's (for example, no gaffs, daylight only); after 17-day season, calculate fish caught; open season for remaining quota -- one fish per angler per day -- until remaining quota is caught.

The alternative recommendation, apparently thrown in at the last minute, affects charter and recreational fishermen. It calls for: a 16-day season from Oct. 12 to 27; two fish (18-inch minimum) per season per angler; tag system, two to each angler; same general rules as last year's; after 16-day season, calculate fishcaught; open season for remaining quota; two fish per angler per daystarting Nov. 9.

To me, the travesty is that the politically appointed DNR representatives thought so little of the Striped Bass Advisory Board's work that they included their own alternative recommendation on Wednesday's agenda without even telling the board members.

A board member I interviewed was appalled to discover that the board's work had been undermined by DNR managers.

If this is to be the DNR's attitude, I believe we should forget about DNR striped bass management and revert to the ASMFC's striped bass guidelines. Anglers will get more fish and have less bureaucracy to contend with.

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