The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) proposes to open federal waters to commercial and recreational striped bass fishing.
Whether to allow commercial and recreational fishing for striped bass to resume in federal waters in the Exclusive Economic Zone or EEZ. The U.S. EEZ was declared by Presidential Order in 1983. This area includes the sea floor extending 200 nautical miles away from all U.S. possessions and trust territories.
To keep federal waters closed to all striped bass fishing to preserve the gains made in past decades in recovering the striped bass population on the east coast. The striped bass stock has only recently become a sustained resource. The EEZ protects that portion of the population from commercial harvesting pressure. Furthermore, the science of assessing the striped bass stock is not completely accurate. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Technical Committee is now revamping its assessment process. The Committee’s benchmark assessment will not be available until 2007. ASA believes that now is not the time to change the status of fishing in the EEZ.
Twenty five years ago, the Atlantic Striped Bass population had diminished from one that was once noted for its great abundance to the point that its viability was threatened. Striped bass fishing was curtailed or severely limited on the Atlantic Coast in both state and federal waters. As a result, total biomass of the striped bass has increased eight times from 20 million pounds to over 160 million pounds. During this time, striped bass fishing has been limited to state waters only. Also, during this rebuilding, striped bass returned to its preeminence as a sought after recreational species. Over three million anglers from Maine to North Carolina targeted striped bass in 2003. The economic impact of this fishing was over $6.5 billion.
The National Marine Fisheries Service has proposed four options for striped bass in the EEZ. Only Option 4 would maintain the closure of the EEZ. ASA opposes the reopening of the EEZ to striped bass fishing. The reopening is primarily a benefit to the commercial industry and would have no benefit for the recreational sector. The NMFS analysis of the proposed opening concludes that few recreational anglers would avail themselves of striped bass fishing in the EEZ. Access to the EEZ requires going further from shore which increases costs and risks for recreational anglers. The current limits are well accepted and allow adequate striped bass fishing in the state waters.