Conserving the Striped Bass
Striped bass is a popular gamefish and the nation's largest marine recreational fishery, contributing significantly to coastal economies along the Atlantic coast. While the Atlantic striped bass fishery has shown a tremendous recovery since the 1980s, numerous reports have noted decreased catches over the last several years and the fishery is currently threatened by several factors. Despite these concerns, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) proposed an addendum to their current management plan, which will allow for a significant increase in the commercial harvest of striped bass in state waters. The addendum, which could have negatively impacted the striped bass fishery as well as the businesses and communities that depend on it, was rejected on November 9, 2010. In federal waters, striped bass has gamefish status and cannot be caught for commercial sale.
In May 2010, the ASMFC proposed an addendum to their current striped bass management plan, which would increase commercial harvest of the species by 20 to 50 percent. This increase has been proposed at a time when several factors indicate that the population is declining. This addendum pertains to striped bass caught in state waters only; striped bass were declared a gamefish in federal waters by Executive Order in 2007.
While the striped bass fishery has shown a tremendous recovery since collapsing in the 1980s, numerous reports have noted decreased catches over the last several years. In addition, the ASMFC's Striped Bass Technical Committee recently issued a report which predicts a steady decline of the number of adult striped bass through the year 2015. At a time when striped bass are currently threatened by several factors, including poaching and the deadly disease Mycobacteriosis, the ASMFC should take a cautious approach to management, and not subject the fishery to heightened pressure that it may not be able to support.
During the comment period on the draft addendum, anglers submitted comments on the proposed increase in commercial striped bass quotas through the KeepAmericaFishing™ Action Center. On November 9, 2010, the ASMFC rejected the proposed increase in commercial striped bass harvest with a vote of 11 to 3.
President Signs Order to Protect Striped Bass and Red Drum
On October 20, 2007, with the vast expanse of the Chesapeake Bay as his backdrop, President George W. Bush signed an Executive Order establishing gamefish status for striped bass and red drum in federal waters, taking another step forward in conserving two of the most popular gamefish in the United States.
In his remarks, the President highlighted the economic importance that America's 40 million anglers have on the nation's economy and acknowledged the recreational, economic and environmental benefits that conserving these two species will have and on current and future generations of Americans.
This Executive Order directs the Commerce and Interior Departments to put regulations in place to establish gamefish status for red drum and striped bass in federal waters. In his remarks, the President made it clear that he also supports improving the quality of data available for managing our fish stocks. The President said, 'We're going to count on the people who really care about the fish stocks to get good, solid, sound information so we can do a better job not only today, but tomorrow, in making sure our fisheries are strong.'
Due to intense overfishing, both striped bass and red drum were nearly decimated in the 1970s and into the 1980s. This decline led to a drive by recreational anglers to curtail the harvest of these species by imposing federal moratoriums on commercial and recreational striped bass and red drum fishing in federal waters. The President's Executive Order bans the commercial sale of red drum and striped bass caught in federal waters. A number of states already prohibit the sale of these fish caught in state waters.