February 22, 2012 – Captain Todd MacGregor, a sport fishing guide and a commercial hook and line fisherman based out of Fairhaven, MA, recently wrote a letter to the Massachusetts Legislature commenting on proposed restrictions on commercial and recreational striped bass fishing. One proposal would eliminate the commercial fishing of striped bass entirely, and reduce recreational catch. His letter is reprinted below.
My name is Capt. Todd MacGregor and I am a sport fishing guide and commercial hook and line fisherman. I reside in and fish out of Fairhaven, MA. I have been working as a sport fishing guide since 1984 and I also sell fish, including Striped bass, to allow me to make a portion of my living. I am well known to the Commonwealth’s DMF as I had the striped bass tagging contract from 2000-2002 in which the Commonwealth hired me to take the Scientists out fishing to tag Stripers.
Commercial Striped bass fishing and working as a fishing guide helped put me through college in the ‘80’s. Without the sale of fish back then, it would have been a lot more difficult for me to attend and excel in higher education. I will also tell you that running this small business at a young age taught me how to run a business and allowed me to excel professionally in the industrial equipment market. I later served as a naval officer and have been a successful businessman in various engineered equipment businesses.
I run one of the more successful and long running charter fishing businesses on the south coast. My business has taken up to 115 charters in one season, has a long established web site, corporate sponsors including fishing tackle, marine electronics, and fuel manufacturers and a 1000+ person customer list. I believe that I am not only highly qualified to speak on behalf of the economics of charter fishing but also to the health of the striped bass stocks and the importance of sustaining the commercial striped bass fishery.
Tradition: Commercial Striped Bass fishing, in the Commonwealth, dates back more than 375 years. In fact, a tax on the sales of fish, including Striped Bass, was utilized to build the first public schools in Massachusetts. This fishery has long been sustainable and important to the costal economy. Traditionally, striped bass fishing, along with other small boat hook and line and hand gear operations, has been the gateway for many young people, including myself at one time, to enter the fishing business and contribute to the local economy and community. Very simply, by eliminating the commercial striped bass fishing, the Commonwealth would eliminate one more way that a young person can make an income to help better their life and community.
We already have a huge issue with young, intelligent, aggressive and entrepreneurial people leaving the Commonwealth and settling in and paying taxes in other states. We do not need to contribute to this problem.
Personal Impact: I have started a new business in 2009 as a manufacturer’s representative for some lines of industrial equipment. I easily could have left the Commonwealth and started this business elsewhere. In fact, I was offered a partnership in an industrial pump distributorship in FL. I chose to stay here and start another business that now employs 4 people in MA & NY.
I basically did not earn a paycheck for the 1st year. I started this new business knowing that I had fishing to fall back on in the summer months to make enough income to at least pay the mortgage. Banning the commercial striped bass fishery would kill my new business and probably force me to leave the Commonwealth to find better opportunities elsewhere.
Any changes to the 2 striped bass per day on the recreational limit will KILL my long standing charter business. PERIOD. We compete with the RI and NY charter boats. I currently have many charters booked for 2012. I have customers coming to the Commonwealth from NY, CA, WA, NC, FL and IL all to spend money here instead of other states.
Please “Don’t snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.” Striped bass conservation in the Commonwealth, and coast-wide, has worked and this is why we have an awesome, sustainable fishery!
Economic Impact: The Game fish Status advocates contend that banning the sale of striped bass would bring more dollars into the waterfront economies because more sport fisherman will spend more money on charter trips and tackle. This argument is totally false. I have been charter fishing for over 25 seasons and can tell you that the last 4 years were the worst ever. My business went from 110-115 charter per season down to only 35 last year. The only reason I made a small profit was due to the sale of fish, especially Striped Bass. Overall, there never were and there will never be enough charter trips to support the many fishing guides along the coast. We need the sale of Striped bass not only to supplement our incomes but also to help offset the cost of charters. Selling fish is one of the ways I attempt to keep the charter price lower to keep this within reach of the average person.
Health of the Striped Bass Stocks: In aggregate, the striped bass stocks are very healthy. In the spring, tens of millions of bass transit the south-coast waters and we will catch in excess of 50 fish on many of the 6 hr. charters. It is true that the second half of the last 2 season has not offered particularly good fishing in the South-coast area. This is due to bait movement and weather patterns and is not due to a lack in the number of fish. Striped Bass, and every other predator, go where the food is. The food (bait fish) has been well offshore. 2010 was the first time I ever accidently caught a bass. I did this while trolling for school tuna 30 miles off shore in 120 feet of water. There is no reason to ban the sale of Striped bass because there are plenty of fish.
It is also important to note that the recreational sector takes 8-12 times more fish than the commercial sector in both numbers of fish and aggregate pounds landed. I find it very odd that a small, radical faction of the recreational user group wants to ban the commercial sales of striped bass. I guess that they just want all the fish for themselves. Unfortunately, most of these people possess little fishing talent and simply are not able or willing to put in the long hours and effort to achieve any level of success. Instead, they persist to whine and complain and attempt to use the legislative process to achieve their poorly conceived and unnecessary goals.
In closing, the Massachusetts Recreational and Commercial fishery is a tightly regulated and environmentally benign fishery that is a proven success from both the economic and conservational perspectives. The Commercial Striped bass fishery must be maintained.
MAC-ATAC Sportfishing, Inc.
Capt. Todd MacGregor