At the annual meeting of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASFMC) on November 7, the commission’s Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board reviewed results of the 2022 Atlantic Striped Bass Stock Assessment Update which indicates the resource is no longer experiencing overfishing but remains overfished relative to the updated biological reference points.
Female spawning stock biomass (SSB) in 2021 was estimated at 143 million pounds, which is below the SSB threshold of 188 million pounds and below the SSB target of 235 million pounds. Since SSB is not yet at or above the target numbers, the striped bass population remains in an “overfished” state and still going through a rebuilding period.
However, because the total fishing mortality in 2021 was estimated at 0.14 – which is below the updated fishing mortality threshold of 0.20 and below the updated fishing mortality target of 0.17 – the latest stock assessment update indicates that there is no “overfishing” taking place, which means no further reductions in striped bass harvest are warranted at this time.
The 2022 Assessment Update also included short-term projections to determine the probability of SSB being at or above the SSB target by 2029, which is the stock rebuilding deadline. Under the current fishing mortality rate, there is a 78.6% chance the stock will be rebuilt by 2029, indicating a reduction in catch is not necessary at this time. According to the ASMFC, the projections and the updated fishing mortality reference points took into account the period of low recruitment the stock has experienced in recent years.
“This 2022 assessment was the first check-in point for progress toward stock rebuilding by 2029,” said Board Chair Marty Gary with the Potomac River Fisheries Commission. “It is extremely important that we continue to monitor fishery removals and conduct regular stock assessments to keep evaluating rebuilding progress and stay on track.”
The next stock assessment update is scheduled for 2024, and the Board will review the 2022 removals as soon as the data are available to evaluate whether catch remains at sustainable levels.
Recreational catch, effort, and length frequency data for use in stock assessments are obtained from the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) for 1982-2021. MRIP uses surveys to estimate how many fishing trips recreational anglers take every year and how many fish per trip they catch. According to ASMFC, the vast majority (85-90%) of the annual catch by recreational fishermen in most years is released alive, and the assessment assumes, based on previous studies, that 9% of the fish that are released alive die as a result of being caught.
The number of released fish peaked in 2006 at 53.5 million fish, 4.8 million of which were assumed to have died. Total numbers of releases have declined to a low of 16.4 million releases (1.5 million of which died) in 2011 after a series of weak year classes. Live releases have rebounded somewhat since then, with 28.7 million fish released in 2021, 2.6 million of which were assumed to have died.
From 2018-2021, ASMFC assumes that roughly 50% of total striped bass removals by the recreational fishing community are from release mortalities. Learn more at ASFMC.org.