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New striped bass quotas weighed

Fisheries managers are crunching the numbers on a series of options to help restore the breeding population of striped bass, as recreational fishermen debate whether one fish or two will suffice as a daily quota.

At a meeting last month of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, fisheries managers voted to set a recreational quota of one striped bass per day at a minimum 28 inches, a measure aimed at reducing next year's overall harvest by 25 percent or more. But the commission also voted to permit a carve-out known as a conservation equivalency, allowing states to adjust the rules to reach the same 25 percent reduction but through equivalent limits. Commercial boats also will see a 25 percent reduction in their harvest.

The conservation equivalency option has encouraged some fishing interests to propose restoring the two-fish daily minimum that for-hire sport-fishing boats now follow. Some are proposing increasing the minimum size for keeper striped bass to 33 inches from the current 28 inches, or the creation of a specified "slot" size that would allow two fish to be taken in a range of 28 inches to 36 inches.

Jim Gilmore, head of the marine resources bureau of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, said fisheries managers will take public input before hammering out the final rules next February.

At a meeting last night of the Marine Resources Advisory Council, a group of local fishing interests that makes recommendations to state regulators, members voted to explore the implications of a two-fish daily limit for recreational anglers.

Supporters of the two-fish rule argued that other states, including Rhode Island and New Jersey, would find ways to maintain a two-fish daily limit, and New York would be disadvantaged if it shifted to one.

"New York State should be trying to get the best deal for their fishermen," said Neil Delanoy, a party boat captain out of Captree, echoing the sentiments of numerous for-hire sport fishing boats.

But others spoke passionately about the need for a one-fish daily limit to preserve a dwindling resource.

Council member Bob Danielson called a return to a two-fish limit "reckless." Another member, Charles Witek, noted that even the one-fish option had only a 50 percent chance of restoring the stock to target levels. "One fish is the way to go to protect the stock," he said.

Ross Squire, a surf-caster from Centerport, called the council's decision to explore the two-fish option "a bit of an insult" to the overwhelming number of anglers who attended previous hearings and want to see a one-fish daily limit. He has been advocating for one-fish-at-32-inch limit and has encouraged other anglers to pledge the same.

Montauk charter boat captain Steve Witthuhn said he would support a one-fish daily limit. "Let's think of the fish first and we'll work it out," he said. "I think people will go fishing anyway."

The new measures will be in place at the start of next year's season, which opens April 15.

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