The recreational catch of wild striped bass on the Atlantic Coast has dropped 65 percent in the past seven years according to the National Marine Fishery Service (NMFS), a precipitous decline that is mirrored in the 2013 membership fishing survey just tallied by Stripers Forever.
“The NMFS numbers, including stripers caught and kept and those released alive, show a decline from 26 million fish in 2006 to about 9 million in 2013,” says Brad Burns, president of Stripers Forever, a conservation organization that advocates sustainable management of stripers on the Atlantic Coast by giving them game fish only status. “The great majority of the 1000-plus angling members from Maine to South Carolina who responded to our 2013 survey – the most comprehensive look available at how anglers feel about the health and the management of the striped bass resource – said that their striper fishing got progressively ‘worse’ or ‘much worse’ over the past five years and that the fish they did catch were smaller.
“Poor fishing means fewer fishing trips and the socio-economic loss to the U.S. economy is significant,” Burns said. “Most of the professional fishing guides who responded to the survey agreed that the lack of fish continues to hurt their business.”
The Atlantic States Marine Fishery Commission (ASMFC, which manages striped bass, finally agreed last November to seek ways to reduce striper mortality coast wide, but no progress has been made to date. To compound the problem, Virginia and Maryland have again caved to pressure from commercial interests and plan to increase the Chesapeake Bay striper harvest by 16 percent this year.
“That decision is based on the fact that the 2011 young-of- the-year class of stripers – the one decent year class spawned recently in the Chesapeake Bay – will be 18 inches in length this spring and legal to catch,” says Burns. “It’s the same ‘get-them-while-we-can’ maximum yield approach that has greatly reduced and in some cases totally ruined many of our nation’s fisheries over the past 50 years.”
To view the full results of the Stripers Forever survey, go to www.stripersforever.org and click Recent News on the right side of the home page.