Aiming to rebuild the East Coast’s striped bass population, an Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) panel yesterday approved an update to its fisheries management plan. The action, known as Addendum II, was designed to reduce striped bass mortality through changes in recreational and commercial fisheries for all Atlantic Coast states. This follows an ASMFC emergency action last year that decreased the maximum size limit in the recreational fishery to 31 inches.
Notably, the final version of the plan approved by ASMFC includes:
- Recreational fishery changes, including the following:
- In the Chesapeake Bay, a one-fish limit and a slot limit only allowing fish between 19 inches and 24 inches to be kept;
- For fisheries along the Atlantic Coast, a one-fish limit and a slot limit only allowing fish between 28 inches and 31 inches to be kept;
- A 7 percent reduction in the commercial harvest quotas;
- The ability for the Board to quickly implement new conservation measures if the upcoming stock assessment shows the need for such action; and,
- Both the commercial and recreational measures in the Addendum must be implemented by May 1, 2024.
The Atlantic striped bass population has struggled in recent years due to a several factors, including fishing above sustainable levels, water quality and habitat challenges, and climate change.
Poor striped bass reproduction is also a major concern. Last year, surveys in key nursery areas along much of the Atlantic Coast showed low numbers of juvenile striped bass. This indicates that there will be fewer large fish in the future for reproduction of the species, as well as fewer fish for anglers to catch.
The 2023 survey of juvenile striped bass in the Chesapeake Bay showed numbers far below average in Maryland for the fifth year in a row, as well as below average numbers in Virginia. Surveys last year in New York’s Hudson River, another striped bass nursery area, showed juvenile striped bass numbers near an all-time low since the survey began in the mid-1980s.
CBF Maryland Executive Director Allison Colden issued the following statement.
“The low numbers of young striped bass were an alarm bell for immediate action. From the Chesapeake to the Hudson, last year’s scarcity of juvenile striped bass mean spawning fish will be rare in years to come. To ensure a viable fishery in the future, enough of today’s large striped bass must survive to reproduce.
“The ASMFC’s striped bass fisheries management plan update takes important action toward achieving the fishing rate target in 2024. This is a critical step to ensuring rebuilding of the population by 2029 remains on track.
“The recreational fishery reductions are expected to achieve necessary striped bass population levels. But the Board stopped short of implementing the recommended 14.5 percent reduction for commercial fisheries, opting instead to reduce commercial quotas by 7 percent.
“It is now up to East Coast states to institute additional limits to protect spawning striped bass and limit fishing during the hottest months when fish are most vulnerable. Moving quickly to implement the new ASMFC management measures, as well as adopting additional summer fishery closures currently being considered by Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources, are the most important next steps.”