Striped bass are a cultural icon of the northeast and an important fish for both recreational and commercial fishermen. They neared extinction during a population crash in the 80's only to be saved by strict regulation and a shutdown of the commercial fishery. The cycle looks ready to repeat itself if action is not taken now. Today we have the opportunity to prevent repeating the cycle while preserving the thousands of jobs in both the recreational and commercial fishery.
Over the past decade striped bass numbers have been declining and have dipped dramatically since 2009 due to poor spawning and overfishing. The ASMFC, the body that manages the striped bass fishery, has presented a plan to reduce the pressure on these fish over the next three years but by then it may be too little too late. Recovery in the 80's had fewer challenges that it does today. The forage fish stripers depend on are overfished, a disease called mycobacteriosis is having uncertain effects on the survivability of young stripers and pollution and oxygen free dead zones in the crucial Chesapeake bay nurseries are killing many more.
The saving grace for striped bass is the 2011 year class along with a few older ones that have survived the pollution and dead zones of the Chesapeake bay. These older stripers are of current commercial and recreational keeper size and are being fished hard. The larger reproducing fish that make up the SSB or spawning stock biomass, will continue to decrease until the 2011 class can reach spawning age in a few years. We must further protect these fish by eliminating current rules allowing the taking of juveniles in the Chesapeake Bay. Here is a quote from the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission striped bass website:"Although the stock is not overfished, female SSB has continued to decline since 2004 and is estimated at 128 million pounds just above the SSB threshold of 127 million pounds, and below the SSB target of 159 million pounds (Figure 2). Additionally, total fishing mortality is estimated at 0.20, a value that is between the proposed new fishing mortality threshold (0.219) and fishing mortality target (0.18)."
This means if the trend continues the stock numbers will force the commission to act. The striped bass generates billions of dollars to the economy when stocks are healthy. When they decline as they have been, thousands of jobs and hundreds of small tackle businesses will be lost along with the taxes and ripple effect dollars that go with them. Please help protect this vitally important species.