As Atlantic Striped Bass Struggle, the ASMFC Has A Plan to Help

  • The last amendment to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Striped Bass was in 2003, but status and understanding of the striped bass stock and fishery has changed considerably since then.
  • A 2018 benchmark stock assessment determined that the fishery has been overfished since 2013, which prompted the adoption of addendum 6 to the previous amendment to end overfishing in 2019 and begin developing a new amendment to end overfishing and rebuild the stock.
  • A draft of amendment 7 was recently released for public review and comment, with a final decision on a new path forward for rebuilding this iconic fishery expected by the end of the year.

Why it matters: With an estimated 7.5 million anglers who pursue Atlantic striped bass, it is the most economically and culturally important 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 to provide access for the angling public. While many factors can influence population abundance other than fishing mortality, it is clear that fishing-related mortality, including post-release mortality, needs to be reduced in order to allow the population to rebuild.

On February 4, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) released Draft Amendment 7 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Striped Bass (Amendment). This highly anticipated Amendment by anglers along the Atlantic Seaboard looks to make some hard decisions to begin rebuilding the striped bass stock that has suffered from poor recruitment and high fishing-related mortality in recent years.

A 2018 Benchmark stock assessment found that the Atlantic striped bass stock has been overfished since 2013 and was undergoing overfishing in 2017. In order to end overfishing as soon as possible, the ASMFC implemented temporary measures through Addendum VI to Amendment VI in 2019. Addendum VI called for management actions, either coast-wide or through individual state conservation equivalencies, to reduce striped bass mortality by 18% from 2017 levels. The new draft Amendment 7 looks to build on the momentum of Addendum VI to end overfishing since 2019 by achieving additional reductions in fishing pressure, as well as reformulating management “triggers” that would prompt further action if the stock does not respond favorably.

While a fairly detailed and complex Amendment, the intent is to address four primary areas within the management plan: management triggers, recreational release mortality, stock rebuilding plan, and conservation equivalency. This Amendment includes several measures which could carry social and economic impacts, including the implementation of seasonal closures. While tough decisions will need to be made, fishing mortality, including mortality from fish that die after being caught and released, needs to be reduced.

The Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation will continue to stay engaged throughout the process and work to ensure that we can rebuild this iconic fishery for today and future generations of recreational anglers.

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