Why it matters: With an estimated 7.5 million anglers who pursue Atlantic striped bass, it is the most economically and culturally important recreational fish species from North Carolina to Maine. It is vitally important to communities along the mid and upper Atlantic Seaboard that striped bass are sustainably managed for abundance and access by the angling public. Unfortunately, a recent stock assessment determined the fishery has been overfished and is currently undergoing overfishing. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is weighing a new draft management amendment that seeks to rebuild the stock and provide better striped bass fishing opportunities along the entire Atlantic Coast.
On April 12, CSF and members of the recreational fishing community submitted comments on Draft Amendment 7 to the Atlantic Striped Bass Interstate Fishery Management Plan. Amendment 7 will address challenges with the management of Atlantic striped bass through a comprehensive update of the current management strategy that has failed to account for recent declines in stock abundance.
According to a 2018 benchmark stock assessment, Atlantic striped bass were determined to be both overfished and undergoing overfishing. In response, the ASMFC implemented temporary measures through Addendum VI to Amendment 6 (the most recent amendment to the plan that was implemented in 2003) in 2019. Addendum VI called for management actions, either coastwide or through individual state conservation equivalencies, to reduce striped bass mortality by 18% from 2017 levels. CSF, along with several partners in the angling community, supported the reduction.
The status and understanding of the striped bass fishery have changed considerably since implementation of Amendment 6 in 2003. Amendment 7 will replace the current management approach under Amendment 6 and focuses on four key areas: management triggers, recreational release mortality, the stock rebuilding plan, and conservation equivalency.
Unfortunately, recreational release mortality constitutes a significant portion of the annual fishing mortality. Even though only 9% of fish released alive are estimated to die following release, the total number of fish estimated to be caught recreationally each year is substantial. For these reasons, and given the current condition of the stock, the recreational fishing community supported a more precautionary approach to management, in addition to management triggers that result in a timelier response when the stock is underperforming.
While the current stock of Atlantic striped bass is in better shape than when moratoriums on harvest were implemented in the 1980’s, a new management plan is necessary to reverse recent declines in population abundance and ensure we have a robust, sustainable striped bass fishery tomorrow and for future generations.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?