Commercial Fishing for Striped Bass on the Chesapeake (May 15, 2014)
The Southern Maryland Chapter of the MSSA for their meeting at the Solomon’s firehouse on May 15 enjoyed an excellent presentation by Michael Luisi, Director, Estuarine and Marine Fisheries Division, Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Mr. Luisi discussed the commercial striped bass fishery in Maryland. His talk touched upon the gear used, the seasons, and perhaps most important to the sport fishing members of the MSSA how catch numbers are allocated. It was informative that 56.5% of the striper allocation for the state is allocated to the recreational anglers (both individual fishermen and charter captains) while 42.5% is allocated to the commercial fishery.
The three most common methods for capturing fish in the commercial fishery are pound nets, gill nets, and hook and line. It was pointed out that the location of pound nets is highly regulated by the DNR and that the number and location must be approved prior to their installation. Fishermen evidently need a specific license or permit for each method but their allocation of fish may be caught by any method.
Maryland has recently changed its method of managing the commercial fishery. In the past it was essentially a “tournament” fishery with fishermen fishing on days when DNR opened the fishery for as many fish as they could catch. DNR would then shut down the fishery when the monthly limit was being approached. This method of allocation caused commercial fishermen to fish on days when the weather was abysmal, did not allow them to manage their allocations against market conditions, and caused a significant amount of work for DNR fishery managers. The new method allocates a specific share of the total to a given license holder. They can fish at any time the season is open to catch their allocation. The duration of the season is known in advance, and when a fisherman has caught his allocation he must stop fishing or purchase additional allocation from another license holder. This method of fisheries management is known as catch share. A specific fisherman’s catch share can be leased to another fisherman or sold outright. There is a limit as to the total percentage of the total allocation that a fisherman can own.
Finally Mr. Luisi pointed out that Maryland is moving towards an electronic check in system for commercial fishermen. The system will utilize a smart phone app where the fisherman will report when he is leaving the pier, a “hail out”, and where he intends to fish. When he is finished fishing he will “hail in” to report that they are finished, what their approximate catch is in pounds, and where they are taking it to check in. Fisherman caught fishing without checking in before they start will be heavily fined. DNR is excited about this as it will provide up to date information on the amount of fish caught and also allow them to better target enforcement resources.
Phil Zalesak requested more help at the various fish camps he manages, and he especially asked for boat captains to volunteer to take campers fishing on their boats.
Finally, Clint Slocum, who will be a senior next year at St. Mary’s College of Maryland was introduced. A biology and biochemistry major with over a 3.8 grade point average, he has received two one-year MSSA scholarships. He gave a short talk about his field of study and mentioned his specific interest in the impact of aquatic plants and plants near the shoreline on water quality. He will be working as an intern this summer on a study of water quality in the Narragansett Bay with support of a highly competitive grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Michael Luisi introduces himself and talks about his background at the beginning of his talk on commercial fishing in Maryland.
Members look on as Mr. Luisi begins his talk.
Mr. Luisi discusses how allocation is determined while discussing a chart on fish biomass in the Chesapeake.
Members of the audience look on as Mr. Luisi presents.
Fisherman Phil discusses the upcoming Greenwell fish camps and his need for additional “boat captains."
Clint Slocum, a junior at St. Mary’s college and MSSA scholarship recipient tells the audience a little about himself and his interest in aquatic vegetation and how it relates to water quality.