Atlantic Striped Bass Management Seems Headed in Right Direction

  • A 2018 stock assessment for Atlantic striped bass determined the fishery has been overfished since 2013, which prompted the adoption of an addendum to the previous amendment to end overfishing in 2019 and begin developing a new amendment (Amendment 7) to end overfishing and rebuild the stock.
  • Amendment 7 to the Atlantic Striped Bass Interstate Fishery Management Plan was adopted by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission on May 4, 2022, putting in place a management strategy that should be more responsive to changes in the stock abundance than in years past.
  • The recently completed 2022 stock assessment indicates that the management of Atlantic striped bass is heading in the right direction. Though still considered overfished because the number of spawning females remains below a certain threshold, the number of striped bass that were removed in recent years has been low enough to allow the population to rebuild.

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. Before the 2022 stock assessment, recent assessments determined the fishery was overfished and undergoing overfishing, resulting in the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission implementing a new management amendment for striped bass earlier this year. Fortunately, the latest assessment indicated the number of fish harvested and the number of dead discards is below the target levels necessary to rebuild the stock, signaling that, for now, the fishery is no longer experiencing overfishing.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) Striped Bass Management Board reviewed the results of the 2022 Atlantic Striped Bass Stock Assessment Update at last week’s ASMFC meeting in Long Branch, New Jersey. While the fishery is still considered overfished, there was good news in that recent landings data through 2021 indicated that overfishing is not occurring and further reductions in catch is not necessary at this time.

“Overfished” for striped bass is when the spawning stock biomass (SSB), which is the estimated total weight of spawning-sized females in the population, is below the threshold of 188 million pounds. The 2022 assessment indicated that striped bass SSB is currently at 143 million pounds. Ideally, the goal is to get the SSB to the target of 235 million pounds for a healthy and robust fishery.

“Overfishing” for striped bass is when the annual rate at which fish are removed, both through harvest and dead discards, is above the threshold rate of 0.20, or 20% of the population. The 2022 assessment found that since the last assessment, the rate of removals had dropped to 0.14, well below the threshold to be considered overfishing, and even below the target level of 0.17. At this rate, there is better than a 75% chance the population will be rebuilt by the deadline of 2029, indicating management is moving in the right direction. Estimates of striped bass removals in 2022 were not complete by last week’s meeting, but when available, they will be evaluated to ensure the removals remain at sustainable levels.

In May of this year, the CSF supported Amendment 7 to the Atlantic Striped Bass Interstate Fishery Management Plan was passed by the ASMFC, which put in place a new management strategy that allows managers to be more responsive to changes in the population. With a nimbler management approach in the future, hopefully, overfishing can continue to be kept in check and the population continues to rebuild as planned.

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