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MD DNR Seeking Public Input on changes to commercial striped bass fishery
Monday, March 9, 2015

During this past license renewal period, 1,042 of the 1,098 eligible watermen declared their intent to participate in the 2015 striped bass fishing season. Fifty-six eligible watermen did not declare during the renewal period or designated late declaration period. It is the understanding of the Department that some of these 56 individuals are still interested in declaring for the 2015 license year. The reasons for not declaring vary, and do not meet the current regulatory criteria which would allow the Department to approve. Therefore, these individuals will not be able to participate in the 2015 commercial striped bass fishing season unless there is a change in regulation.

Regulations ( enacted in 2003 require commercial striped bass fishermen to declare their intent to participate in the upcoming fishing season during their annual license renewal period in August. A late declaration request can be submitted for the Department consideration from September 1 to 14. After September 14, the Department can only approve an individual's late declaration request if they can provide documentation of a physical or mental incapacity that prevented them from declaring.

This declaration time period is needed in order for the Department to provide the industry with the required information prior to the start of the fishing season on January 1 (e.g. assign quota allocations, prepare and distribute permit cards, order and deliver tags).

Recommended Solution
Provide another opportunity for these 56 individuals to declare their intent to participate in the 2015 commercial striped bass fishery. To allow for this exception, the Department would have to propose an emergency regulation. If the emergency is approved, these individuals would be required to declare their intent at a DNR regional service center and pay the required fees. This timeline would allow for them to participate in the fishery when it reopens in June.

The Department is considering moving forward with an emergency action to remove the requirement that an individual must provide proof of physical or mental incapacity if they miss the deadline for declaring their intent to participate in the striped bass fishery. There will be a 30 day time period in which the 56 individuals will be able to declare their intent to participate in the striped bass fishery. The Department will request that the emergency be effective and therefore the declaration period will occur from April 8, 2015 through May 8, 2015. The Tidal Fisheries Advisory Commission's Striped Bass Industry Workgroup (TFAC SBWG) reviewed this scoping idea and had mixed opinions.

Possible changes to the declaration period for future license years will be further discussed with the TFAC SBWG and scoped at a later date.

It is important to note that there is a risk to this option. Since the available 2015 quota has already been fully allocated to those individuals who met the declaration requirements, we will have to "over allocate" to provide quota to any of the 56 individuals who would take advantage of this additional declaration period. By over allocating, Maryland runs the risk of exceeding its annual commercial quota. If this happens, the Department will be required to deduct the overage from a future year's quota. We believe this is a low and acceptable level of risk because: 1) we do not expect all of the 56 individuals to declare; 2) if all 56 do declare, the over allocation will be 41,000 pounds or <3% of our annual quota; and 3) the recent performance of this fishery has not harvested the fully allocated quota (95% in 2014) suggesting there will be some uncaught quota which can account for this over allocation.
Feedback is due by COB, Thursday March 12, 2015. If you would like to submit written comment, please email: fisheriespubliccomment.dnr@maryland.gov

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