A coalition of Atlantic coast states has decided not to place new restrictions on fishing for striped bass, a popular sport fish and icon of the Chesapeake Bay and East Coast. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission voted 9-6 yesterday not to reduce the harvest of "stripers" by 50 percent next year. The commission is set to vote later today on a proposal to impose restrictions on the industrial harvest of a smaller fish, menhaden, that striped bass and other larger species need for food. Stay tuned for that decision.
UPDATE: Conservationists late Wednesday applauded a decision by the commission to set new limits on fishing for menhaden, which have been overfished 32 out of the past 54 years. The population of menhaden has fallen to its lowest size on record. “If striped bass could speak, they’d be hooting and hollering,” said CBF President Will Baker.
In regards to striped bass, Bill Goldsborough, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Fisheries Director appointed by Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley to the fisheries commission, said he voted with the rest of the state delegation in support of the decision to defer action on restricting the catch of stripers until a future scientific survey can be performed.
Goldsborough and other conservationists continue to urge precautionary management to prevent a decline in the striped bass population. But a recent assessment found excellent spawning season of "stripers" in the Bay this past spring, and numbers of the fishes continue to be above goals set by biologists.
"There are warning signs for striped bass, but the biggest warning sign is that Chesapeake stripers are not getting enough to eat," Goldsborough said in an email this morning. "So, I think the best thing we can do for striped bass is to leave more menhaden in the water" as food for the larger fish, Goldsborough said.
This means a continued importance of managing menhaden wisely, not only for the benefit of striped bass, but also for a variety of other menhaden-eating fish and birds in the Chesapeake Bay.
By Tom Pelton
Chesapeake Bay Foundation