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Atlantic - NOAA Reopens Scoping on Striped Bass Fishing in the EEZ; Public Invited to Comment
NOAA Fisheries Service is seeking additional public comments on a preliminary draft analysis document containing Federal management options to open the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) to striped bass fishing, as recommended by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC). The stock of Atlantic striped bass, once overfished, was declared fully rebuilt in 1995. New regulations were later established to allow limited fishing in state waters. Under the current closure of the EEZ-- the zone of federal waters that extends from 3 to 200 miles offshore-- any striped bass caught there must be discarded. The fish are often dead when thrown back. Reopening the EEZ could reduce waste by allowing some of the discarded catches of striped bass to be landed and counted toward quotas.
NOAA first announced that it was considering proposed rulemaking to reopen striped bass harvest in the EEZ during 2003. After reviewing comments from the public, NOAA decided to further evaluate the potential impacts of this proposal. Public scoping meetings were held in nine Atlantic coast states. In 2004, the ASMFC Striped Bass Technical Committee prepared a new stock assessment. However, members of the Technical Committee did not feel the assessment was an accurate representation of stock status. Given the uncertainty, NOAA decided to delay the analysis of new management options until the 2005 stock assessment became available.
Due to the significant time that has passed since the initial scoping hearings in 2003, together with widespread public interest in this matter, NOAA Fisheries is now seeking additional public comments on management options that could open the EEZ to the harvest of Atlantic striped bass. Comments may be sent to: Striped-Bass.Comments@noaa.gov. Please include the following in the subject line: Striped Bass Scoping. The deadline for public comments is May 24, 2006.