On October 29, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) elected Department of Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher for a two-year term as chair.
“It is both a great honor and huge responsibility to be trusted to lead the Commission for the next two years. I am humbled by my fellow Commissioners’ confidence in me,” said Keliher in a press release. “As Chair, I will be working with ASMFC leadership to shape the course of interstate fisheries management for more than just the Pine Tree State and will ensure substantial resources are devoted to issues of equal importance in the fisheries of the Mid- and South Atlantic states. I look forward to bolstering the Commission’s relationship with NOAA Fisheries and Congress to ensure mutual cooperation.”
The ASMFC had its birth more than 75 years ago at a time when East Coast fishermen were worried. Their harvests of valuable fish, such as lobster, striped bass and sturgeon, had dropped alarmingly. Even landings of flounder, a staple along the coast, had declined, from 6 million to 2 million pounds in a four-year period. So in 1937, East Coast states gathered together for the Eastern States Conservation Conference to discuss what to do about their shared fish stocks.
After that first gathering and several more, the states decided to come together through an Interstate Compact in order to cooperatively take care of important fish stocks. The Compact was signed into law by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1942 resulting in creation of the ASMFC.
Today ASMFC coordinates the conservation and management of 27 nearshore fish species. Each state (Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida) has three seats on the Commission, assigned to the director of the state’s marine fisheries management agency, a state legislator, and an individual appointed by the state’s governor to represent stakeholder interests. The ASMFC focuses on interstate fisheries management, fisheries science, habitat conservation, and law enforcement.
Each species under ASMFC authority has a board, a technical committee and an advisory committee to oversee its management. Once a fishery management plan is developed and adopted, the individual states must ensure that their fishery management regulations conform to those of the plan. When authority for managing lobster stocks was moved from the New England Fishery Management Council in the mid 1990s to ASMFC, for example, states with lobster fisheries amended their state regulations to follow those of ASMFC’s lobster management plan. Most recently ASMFC approved an amendment to its striped bass management plan, requiring member states to reduce commercial quotas by 18%. States were required to submit implementation plans by November 30, 2019 for review by the Technical Committee and approval by the Board in February 2020.
The Commission also has a variety of scientific boards addressing topics as varied as aquaculture development to fishing gear technology. In addition, ASMFC coordinates the Atlantic Coastal Cooperative Statistics Program (ACCSP). The ACCSP produces timely, accurate marine fishery statistics and integrates them into a single data system for use by state agencies and fishermen.
Stocks Managed by the ASMFC:
Atlantic Striped Bass
Black Sea Bass
Jonah Crab Northern Shrimp
Shad & River Herring