The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has announced that it will withdraw proposed regulations to reopen a commercial yellow perch fishery in the Choptank and Nanticoke Rivers and a recreational fishery in the Nanticoke after reviewing responses received during the public comment period. In addition, the Department announced that it will work with stakeholder groups to review the Maryland Yellow Perch Fishery Management Plan to determine the feasibility of incorporating management ideas expressed during the public process.

“Despite the convincing science that shows these rivers can support both commercial and recreational fisheries, we have listened to the public input and have elected to withdraw the proposed regulations,” said Secretary C. Ronald Franks. “After hearing the public’s concerns and weighing all of the factors, we decided to reconvene all of the stakeholder groups to review the long term strategy in the current yellow perch management plan.”

The yellow perch plan was adopted in 2002 with input from a diverse group of stakeholders representing recreational and commercial yellow perch fishermen. Stock abundance, decision rules, stock management targets and the needs of recreational and commercial yellow perch fishermen were considered in preparing the plan.

The Choptank yellow perch recreational fishery was reopened in 1992. Slot limits for the statewide yellow perch commercial fishery and a 9-inch limit for the recreational fishery were implemented in 2000.

The proposal for reopening the Eastern Shore fisheries would have been the first modification of the yellow perch fishery under the 2002 management plan. The proposal was based upon the work of DNR biologists who have been sampling the Choptank River since 1988 and the Nanticoke River since 1999. The extensive database was augmented by information provided through cooperation of commercial fishermen, recreational anglers that surveyed yellow perch spawning streams, and the Natural Resources Police who provided creel survey information and field observations. The success of the healthy yellow perch fishery in the Upper Chesapeake Bay had also provided a great deal of information on potentials for growth and reproduction and the effects of a well regulated fishery.

Public involvement in this recent regulation process included two public meetings to inform the public on stock conditions in the two rivers and two public hearings to receive public comment on the proposal.  DNR received extensive correspondence during the comment period, which provided the Department with invaluable information and perspectives.

“I am very pleased by the volume of public input that we received in this process,” said Secretary Franks. “It is wonderful to see the commitment of Maryland anglers and watermen to being involved in the policy making process in fisheries management.”

The decision by DNR illustrates the importance of a process that encourages the public to provide constructive comment and to assist in the formulation of policies and regulations.  As part of the decision, DNR officials considered social and economic factors, and, as always, scientific factors upon which the original proposal was based. 

The process ultimately resulted in a final decision to review the statewide management plan and a regulatory outcome that is reflective of stakeholder values and concerns. DNR anticipates that final recommendatio