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PA Bulletin, Doc. No. 24-18



Temporary Change to Fishing Regulations; 58 Pa. Code § 61.2. Delaware River, West Branch Delaware River and Estuary

[54 Pa.B. 69]
[Saturday, January 6, 2024]

 The Executive Director of the Fish and Boat Commission (Commission), acting under the authority of 58 Pa. Code § 65.25 (relating to temporary changes to fishing regulations), has taken immediate action to amend 58 Pa. Code § 61.2 (relating to Delaware River, West Branch Delaware River and River Estuary). The Executive Director has amended this section to reduce the maximum legal harvestable length in the striped bass slot limit from less than 35 inches to less than 31 inches from the Commonwealth line upstream to Calhoun Street Bridge (Delaware Estuary) from January 1 through March 31 and June 1 through December 31 and from the Calhoun Street Bridge upstream (Delaware River) year-round. Daily limits, seasons and gear restrictions will remain the same. These actions are being taken to meet the requirements of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC).

 At its May 2023 quarterly meeting, the ASMFC's Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board, which includes the Commonwealth as a member, approved an emergency action to implement a 31-inch maximum size limit for Atlantic striped bass recreational fisheries, effective immediately for no less than 180 days (October 28, 2023). The Executive Director, acting under the authority of 58 Pa. Code § 65.25, took immediate action to amend 58 Pa. Code § 61.2 to comply with this emergency action. These temporary modifications effected under this authority will expire on January 1, 2024. At its August 2023 quarterly meeting, the ASMFC's Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board extended the May emergency action through October 28, 2024, unless sooner replaced by Draft Addendum II to Amendment 7 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Striped Bass.

 As outlined in the ASMFC's Interstate Fisheries Management Program Charter, a management board can take emergency action to address circumstances under which public health, the conservation of coastal fishery resources or attainment of fishery management objectives has been placed at substantial risk by unanticipated changes in the ecosystem, the stock or the fishery. These actions respond to the unprecedented magnitude of 2022 recreational harvest, which was nearly double that of 2021 and to new stock rebuilding projections which estimate the probability of the rebuilding the spawning stock to its biomass target by 2029 at less than 15% if the higher 2022 fishing mortality rate continues in subsequent years. Previous projections under the lower 2021 fishing mortality rate estimated the rebuilding probability at 97%. Additionally, the ASMFC implemented the emergency 31-inch maximum size limit through October 28, 2024, to reduce harvest of the strong 2015-year class. Jurisdictions are required to implement the measure so that continuity in regulations are maintained through this time period. The ASMFC may extend the emergency action for one more additional period of up to 1 year at a future meeting. The temporary change to 58 Pa. Code § 61.2 is designed to meet this objective.

 To address the coast-wide regulation directed by the ASMFC, the Commission's Executive Director has taken immediate action to make the following modifications to fishing regulation:

§ 61.2. Delaware River, West Branch Delaware River and River Estuary.

*  *  *  *  *

 (e) The following seasons, sizes and creel limits apply to the Delaware River, West Branch Delaware River and Delaware River tributaries from the mouths of the tributaries upstream to the limit of the tidal influence and the Lehigh River from its mouth upstream to the first dam in Easton, Pennsylvania:

*  *  *  *  *
From Pennsylvania line upstream to Calhoun Street Bridge: January 1 until March 31 and June 1 until December 31.28 to less than [35] 31 inches1
April 1 through May 3121 to less than 24 inches2
From Calhoun Street Bridge upstream: open year-round 28 to less than [35] 31 inches1
*  *  *  *  *

 The Executive Director will cause these temporary modifications to fishing regulations to be posted in the vicinity of the regulated waters, and the modified regulations will be fully effective and enforceable when so posted. These temporary modifications will remain in effect until January 1 of the following year or 6 months after they are effected, whichever comes later unless the Commission shall by then, by appropriate action, have approved the designation or redesignation of waters or shall have approved the revision to the regulation in question.

Executive Director

[Pa.B. Doc. No. 24-18. Filed for public inspection January 5, 2024, 9:00 a.m.]

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