The latest stock assessment of wild striped bass by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) clearly shows that too many stripers are being killed by fishermen to maintain the commission’s recommended target spawning stock biomass, according to Stripers Forever.

“Since early in the 2000’s, ASMFC managers have consistently refused to reduce striped bass fishing mortality, and the result has been a steep decline in the spawning stock,” says Brad Burns, president of Stripers Forever, a conservation organization that advocates sustainable management of stripers on the Atlantic coast. “The number of sexually mature female striped bass has slumped badly and there has been a steady drop in the number of young stripers born in the Chesapeake Bay (see accompanying graph) which is the major nursery for Atlantic Coast striped bass. For anglers from Maine to South Carolina, this translates to a decline of approximately 90 percent in the coast-wide recreational catch of wild stripers since 2006.”

The poor fishing has caused a serious drop in the number of trips taken by anglers and a corresponding downturn in fishing tackle, boating and guiding businesses along the coast. “The ASMFC does not understand how to manage a fishery in which the real value is based on living fish,” says Burns. “When you consider that the commercial striped bass catch – valued at only a very small percentage of the recreational fishery – has continued unabated, it’s obvious that the ASMFC managers are throwing away dollars to gather dimes.”

At the ASMFC annual meeting in October, Paul Diodati, the Director of Fisheries in Massachusetts, offered a plan to significantly cut the recreational and commercial catches of striped bass coast-wide. Predictably, the ASMFC board voted not to do that and instead directed its technical committee members to develop other options to reduce striper mortality — but to delay any action until 2015.

“Stripers Forever feels strongly that waiting until 2015 could well be too little, too late,” says Burns. “Catch reductions are needed now all along the Atlantic coast.”

Striper anglers and other conservationists can help pursue that objective by joining Stripers Forever at Membership is free. The organization works essentially through the web and email and its ultimate goal is to have the wild striped bass managed as a game fish in all the Atlantic coastal states.

For more information contract Brad Burns at [email protected]