The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) Striped Bass Management Board exercised a seldom-used emergency action intended to reduce fishing mortality in the striped bass fishery with the goal of increasing the chances of rebuilding the population to the biomass target by 2029. The emergency action will implement a 31-inch maximum size limit across the entire recreational fishery (in the Chesapeake Bay and along the coast) with states tasked with implementing the change by July 2, 2023. The minimum size limit, bag limit, seasons and gear restrictions will remain unchanged. The Board also initiated Addendum II which will consider a more thorough management change using the formal public input process for implementation in 2024.
The Massachusetts delegation led the emergency action after population projections showed significant rebuilding headwinds stemming from four consecutive years of recruitment failure in Chesapeake Bay and an increase in fishing mortality in 2022.
Striped bass are extremely important to coastal communities along the Atlantic and the entire fishing economy, estimated to generate $7.8 billion annually in economic output. The sportfishing industry values long-term fishery sustainability while allowing for reasonable recreational fishing opportunities. We encourage the states and ASMFC to work with sportfishing industry leaders on a communication plan to ensure a mid-year management change in 2023 will have the intended conservation benefits across the entire recreational fishery.
“The Board has signaled they are prepared to act conservatively on striped bass to ensure rebuilding,” said Mike Waine, Atlantic Fisheries Policy Director for the American Sportfishing Association. “Hopefully taking emergency action now will pay dividends later so we can avoid the further use of short-term changes in regulations, and instead focus on longstanding and predictable management measures to provide stability to the most important and valuable fishery in the mid-Atlantic and New England regions.”
“Controlling coast-wide fishing mortality is the key to rebuilding striped bass abundance to levels the public expects and deserves,” said David Sikorski, Executive Director of CCA Maryland and Maryland’s legislative appointee to the striped bass management board. “It is also important to recognize, however, that striper recruitment issues related to successive poor spawns, coupled with an expanding blue catfish population in Chesapeake Bay will continue to complicate the longer-term trajectory of this iconic fishery.”
“No doubt there are a lot of factors at play that drive striped bass abundance overtime, but fishing mortality is the only thing we can address directly in the striped bass management plan,” said Chris Horton, Senior Director of Fisheries Policy for the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, “While the increase in recreational removals in 2022 could actually be a good sign, based on recent stock assessments and the current status of the stock given the information we have available today, it is not surprising the ASMFC is erring on the side of caution and reducing mortality without reducing access to the fishery.”
“The TRCP appreciates the Board taking action to increase the possibility of rebuilding the coastwide striper stock by 2029,” says Whit Fosburgh, President and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Active management to decrease fishing mortality, along with full consideration of the need for a healthy forage fish base and mitigation of impacts from interactions with invasive species, are all crucial elements to improving the chances of long-term stability of striped bass stocks.”