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Atlantic Striped Bass Conservation Act

Atlantic Striped Bass Conservation Act -- P.L. 98-613, approved October 31, 1984, (98 Stat. 3187, 16 U.S.C. 1851) recognized the commercial and recreational importance, as well as the interjurisdictional nature, of striped bass, and established a unique State-based, Federally backed management scheme. The original Act required the Secretary of Commerce to impose a moratorium on fishing for striped bass in any state that, according to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), with confirmation by the Secretary, is not in compliance with the Commission's Plan for Striped Bass. Secretaries of Commerce and Interior were to review the ASMFC Plan and make recommendation to the House and Senate Committees and the Commission by March 31, 1985.

16 U.S.C. § 1851 note, October 31, 1984, as amended 1986, 1988, 1991 and 1993.

Overview. This Act recognizes the commercial and recreational importance of Atlantic striped bass and establishes a consistent management scheme for its conservation. Coastal states that fail to adhere to the required management plan are subject to a striped bass fishing moratorium enforced by the federal government. The Act also requires an annual survey of striped bass fisheries in the coastal states.

Findings / Policy. Congress found: Atlantic striped bass have historic importance and economic benefit to the Atlantic coastal states and the nation; certain stocks of Atlantic striped bass are severely reduced in number due to increased fishing pressure, pollution, loss and alteration of habitat, and inadequate fishery conservation practices; because no single governmental entity has full management authority for the fish, state regulation has been inconsistent and intermittent, resulting in harm to their long-term maintenance; effective interjurisdictional species conservation and management is in the national interest. The purpose of the Act is to support and encourage the development, implementation and enforcement of effective interstate conservation and management of the Atlantic striped bass. § 1851 note (§ 2).

Selected Definitions. Coastal States: Pennsylvania; states bordering the Atlantic north of South Carolina; District of Columbia; Potomac River Fisheries Commission. Commission: Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. Plan: Interstate Fisheries Management Plan for Striped Bass prepared by the Commission, dated October 1, 1981 and all amendments related to striped bass fishing. Secretaries: Secretary of Commerce and Secretary of the Interior. § 1851 note (§ 3).

Plan Compliance and Moratorium. The Commission must determine at least annually whether each coastal state has adopted all regulatory measures necessary to implement the Plan, and whether each coastal state's enforcement of the Plan is satisfactory. The Commission must notify the Secretaries of any negative determination. If the Secretaries jointly determine that a coastal state is not in compliance with the Plan, they must declare a moratorium on fishing for Atlantic striped bass within the coastal waters of that state.

During a moratorium, it is unlawful to: catch, take or harvest Atlantic striped bass, or attempt to do so, within the restricted area; land or attempt to land Atlantic striped bass taken in violation of the moratorium; land lawfully harvested Atlantic striped bass within the boundaries of a coastal state under moratorium; fail to return to the water Atlantic striped bass to which the moratorium applies that are caught incidental to commercial or recreational harvesting. Violation of these prohibitions is subject to civil penalty imposed by the Secretaries. Vessels used in violation, along with fish taken, are subject to forfeiture to the federal government.

The Secretaries are responsible for enforcing moratoriums declared under this Act. By agreement, to enforce the Act the Secretaries may use personnel and facilities of federal agencies and coastal state agencies, and enforcement authorities provided in the Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act. § 1851 note (§§ 4 and 5).

Annual Survey. The Secretaries must conduct a comprehensive annual survey of the Atlantic striped bass fisheries. The survey, to be published in the Federal Register, must include a compilation and assessment of the recreational and commercial landings of the species in the coastal states. § 1851 note (§ 6).

Appropriations Authorized. Congress authorized appropriations necessary to carry out the Act for fiscal years 1986-1994. The Secretaries may use appropriated funds to support financially the Commission's functions under this Act. § 1851 note (§ 7).


The original act authorized appropriations as necessary for 18 months, and required the Commission to monitor State enforcement of the Plan and report to the Secretaries of the Interior and Commerce biennially. It provided for penalties and forfeitures for violations of any moratorium, and provided that the Act would be effective through March 31, 1986. Finally, it authorized the appropriation of $200,000 for each of FY 1986 and 1987 to be apportioned equally to the States of Maryland and Virginia for propagation of Chesapeake Bay striped bass. Public Law 99-432, approved October 1, 1986 (100 Stat. 990) amended the Act to provide that the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Commerce must jointly make the determination necessary to impose a moratorium, and it required the Commission to make annual determinations of compliance and enforcement beginning in December 1987. It also amended the definition of "coastal waters" to include the waters of the District of Columbia and waters under the jurisdiction of the Potomac River Fisheries Commission, amended the definition of "coastal state" to include the District of Columbia and the Potomac River Fisheries Commission, extended the authorization of appropriations through FY 1988, and extended the effective period of the Act through September 30, 1988. Public Law 100-589 (102 Stat. 2984), approved November 3, 1988, extended the authorization of appropriations through FY 1991, and extended the effective period of the Act through September 30, 1991. It also provided that the Commission may make a determination of non-compliance at any time; required a study and report by November 3, 1991, on Albemarle Sound-Roanoke River (NC) stocks of striped bass; and required the Secretary of Commerce to regulate fishing for striped bass in the Exclusive Economic Zone. Public Law 102-130 (105 Stat. 626), approved October 17, 1991, extended the authorization of appropriations through fiscal year 1994 and extended the effective period of the operative provisions through September 30, 1994. It amended the Act to allow the Secretaries to enter into cooperative agreements with the ASMFC for the purpose of providing financial assistance to the ASMFC for carrying out its functions under this Act. It deleted the requirement that the Regional Fishery Management Councils prepare an Atlantic striped bass fishery management plan, deleted the Act's sunset provision regarding the regulation of fishing in Federal waters, and added clarification of enforcement authority. This Act also amended the striped bass study contained in the Anadromous Fish Conservation Act. (See that entry.) Public Law 104-208 (110 Stat. 3009), approved September 30, 1996, directed the Secretary of Commerce to regulate fishing for Atlantic Striped bass in the exclusive economic zone.

Public Law 105-146 (111 Stat. 2672), approved December 16, 1997, includes language which directs the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to determine if states have adopted adequate regulatory measures to implement the management plan for striped bass, and whether state enforcement of the plan is satisfactory. The Commission is to notify the Secretary of Commerce immediately of any negative determination. The legislation provides the Secretaries of Commerce and Interior the option of imposing a moratorium on fishing for striped bass in those states which do not comply with the Act. The 1997 amendments direct that studies of striped bass populations, including stock assessments and socio-economic studies, continue, but repeals Albemarle Sound-Roanoke River Study in North Carolina. Also, the amendments authorize appropriations through the year 2000. Finally, the Act establishes new requirements for regulation of striped bass protection in the exclusive economic zone, repealing P.L. 104-208.






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