In an effort to reverse the decline of the striped bass population, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board recently voted to adopt numerous changes to the striped bass fishery management plan, known as Amendment 7.
Adult female striped bass numbers, widely used to gauge the overall health of the population, have fallen approximately 40 percent from 2013 to 2017. In addition, recruitment in the Chesapeake Bay has been below average for the past three years.
Amendment 7 is a comprehensive update of the striped bass fishery management plan that will guide decisions in the coming years. The ASMFC adopted the following important updates to the plan:
- The update maintains two important management triggers that require corrective ASMFC action, if population estimates indicate unsustainable fishing rates or low adult female numbers.
- The update includes a ban on the use of gaffs, an often-lethal method of removing fish from the water.
- The use of conservation equivalency will be limited in times of low population size and will require additional buffers to account for uncertainty and risk associated with its use.
- A new stock assessment of the striped bass population is expected later this year, and action taken in this document allows ASMFC to act quickly if additional harvest reductions are required based on the results.
However, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) is concerned about the following:
- The ASMFC did not adopt a measure that would require states to educate anglers about “careful catch” methods that reduce the number of fish that die after being released.
- The ASMFC did not include a measure that would ensure protection of spawning areas along the coast.
- The ASMFC adopted a deferred management option, which could slow down changes in the future needed to protect the striped bass population.
CBF Senior Regional Ecosystem Scientist Chris Moore issued the following statement.
"These updates to the fishery management plan are crucial to ASMFC’s work to improve the health of the striped bass population in the Chesapeake region. Despite several significant missed opportunities, the Board adopted many important measures to spur additional action before striped bass numbers decline further. We hope these actions will help to quickly rebuild the striped bass population to healthy levels."