The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission voted this week to develop management options for reducing fishing pressure on striped bass beginning with the 2015 season. The action by the 15-state commission came in response to a new assessment of the coastal striper stock, presented at the ASMFC’s Annual Meeting October 29 on St. Simons Island, Georgia.
Although the stock report concluded that striped bass are not overfished and that overfishing is not occurring, it did show a dramatic decline in adult fish in recent years and projects that the breeding population is on course to cross the overfished threshold in the near future.
“The ASMFC did the right thing, responding to anglers’ concerns about the future of striped bass, concerns that are backed up by troubling trends in the science,” said Wild Oceans president Ken Hinman, who attended the meeting.
An addendum to the Interstate Striped Bass Fishery Management Plan will explore a range of measures to reduce fishing mortality to the plan’s target level. A draft will be presented to the ASMFC at its spring 2014 meeting.
Some members of the Striped Bass Management Board argued for immediate action to reduce the current recreational bag limit from 2 fish of at least 28 inches to only 1 fish, with an equivalent reduction on the commercial side. But a majority supported a more deliberate process that will allow them to consider all the options, after the board’s technical advisors determine how much of a cut in fishing mortality is needed to reach the target and what percentage would come from changes in the bag limit, size limit or season.
In related action, the commission’s Menhaden Management Board met on October 28 and heard updates on: state implementation of measures that took effect this year to rebuild the Atlantic menhaden population; progress toward a new stock assessment next year; and, new studies looking at the nutritional status of predators like striped bass as an indicator of adequate supplies of menhaden.