Hearings begin next week on legislation that would make striped bass an exclusively recreational fish in state waters.
The Massachusetts Striped Bass Conservation Bill, 796, filed a year ago by Falmouth state representative Matthew Patrick, has been debated among recreational and commercial fishermen for months.
As well as prohibiting the commercial harvesting of striped bass in these waters, to increase the numbers of fish, the act proposes new restrictions on recreational fishermen. Recreational fishermen would be limited to one fish per day, instead of two [bigger than 28 inches] as regulations are written now.
Fishermen would be allowed to keep the largest fish they caught, so long as it was over 40 inches. Or they’d be allowed to keep a fish anywhere from 20 inches to 26 inches in length. The slot limit is intended to protect the large females, considered the future of the recovery.
The hearing will be held Thursday by the Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. Sen. Robert O’Leary and Rep. Tim Madden, who represent the Vineyard, sit on the committee. A number of bills will be heard. The meeting begins at 11 a.m. in room A-2.
Warren Doty, cochairman of the Dukes County/Martha’s Vineyard Fishermen’s Association, said he and other Island fishermen plan to attend and speak against the legislation.
“This is about allocation and not about conservation,” Mr. Doty said. “We have a good conservation plan in place. Some part of the fishing should be allocated to commercial fishermen. At the moment they have 20 per cent of the fish landed ... already a small share. We do not need to eliminate our share.”
Each summer a small fleet of rod and reel fishermen pursue the striped bass to sell to fishmarkets and restaurants.
The legislation stems from a growing concern about declining striped bass numbers. Last year, Mr. Patrick told the Gazette that recreational fishermen are concerned about seeing fewer fish in these waters. Only recreational fishing for striped bass is allowed in Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Washington D.C. and South Carolina.