Striped bass is arguably the single most important saltwater fishery to the U.S. recreational fishing industry. While the stock is significantly healthier than it was when a moratorium was enacted in the 1980s, recent downward trends in the fishery are cause for concern. In response to a recent stock assessment, as well as concerns raised by the recreational fishing community over declines in the stock, managers recently approved a 25 percent reduction in striped bass fishing mortality.
The Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) approved implementation plans and conservation equivalency proposals for all 15 states and jurisdictions regarding 2015 striped bass regulations. In October, the Commission approved Addendum IV, which requires harvest reduction measures of 25 percent from 2013 levels for the coastal fishery and 20.5 percent from 2012 levels for the Chesapeake Bay fishery. The state implementation plans reflect a wide range of options to achieve the reduction benchmarks, including bag limits, size limits, slot limits and/or trophy regulations. The Board recommended neighboring states and jurisdictions work together to implement consistent management measures, especially on shared water bodies. Final measures for implementing Addendum IV must be in place by the beginning of the 2015 fishing seasons.
In acknowledgement of the significance of striped bass to the sportfishing industry and in accordance with sound fisheries management and conservation, ASA supports the reduction in fishing mortality. While the stock is significantly healthier than it was when the moratorium was enacted in the 1980s, recent declining trends in the fishery are cause for concern. Many factors influence the health of the stock, including environmental conditions, disease and forage availability, though fishing mortality clearly has an impact on the stock. Harvest levels need to be reduced to allow the stock to improve quickly before conditions worsen and rebuilding becomes even more difficult.
The 2013 Atlantic striped bass benchmark assessment indicates the resource is not overfished or experiencing overfishing relative to the proposed new reference points. However, recent trends indicate some cause for concern. Although the stock is not overfished, female spawning stock biomass (i.e., the population capable of reproducing, and one of the most important metrics used by managers to determine current and future health of the population) has continued to decline since 2004. It is estimated at 128 million pounds, just above the “threshold” of 127 million pounds, and below the “target” of 159 million pounds. 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).
In response to the results of the 2013 benchmark assessment, the ASMFC – the entity in charge of regional management of striped bass – developed Draft Addendum IV, which proposes the adoption of the new fishing mortality reference points and a range of commercial and recreational management measures to reduce fishing mortality to at least the target, with a proposed implementation date of January 2015. Draft Addendum IV was released for public comment in August and comments were due by September 30, 2014.
In a move overwhelmingly supported by the recreational fishing industry, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission approved implementing a 25 percent striped bass harvest reduction for coastal states for both the commercial and recreational fishing sectors within one year. To achieve the 25 percent reduction, the commission supported reducing the coast-wide recreational bag limit from two fish to one fish while keeping the size limit at 28 inches. However, through conservation equivalency measures, individual states can meet the 25 percent reduction by implementing alternative regulations, including bag limits, size limits, slot limits and/or trophy regulations.
The Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board of ASMFC approved implementation plans and conservation equivalency proposals for all 15 states and jurisdictions regarding 2015 striped bass regulations. The Board recommended neighboring states and jurisdictions work together to implement consistent management measures, especially on shared water bodies. Final measures for implementing Addendum IV must be in place by the beginning of the 2015 fishing seasons.