Assessment of the Striped Bass Population Likely to Result in Tightened Regulations

Aug 29, 2014

Credit Jenny Junker

If you fish, then you have surely noticed: there just aren't as many striped bass around as there were eight or ten years ago. And the most recent stock assessment by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission confirms this fact. While it asserts that overfishing is not yet occurring, the science indicates that the spawning biomass of striped bass has been steadily declining and is now approaching a critical level.

What's to be done? To protect striped bass, regulators are considering cutting back on the recreational allowance. The three approaches under consideration are 1) a 25% cutback in the 2015 harvest, or: 2) a "3-year plan" that calls only for a 17% cut the first year and no cuts the following 2 years, or 3) a 3-year plan calling for a 7% cut each year for 3 consecutive years starting in 2015. Within these 3 approaches, "specific options to be considered include bag, size, slot and trophy size limits for the recreational fishery and quota reductions for the commercial fishery."

What does that mean for the recreational angler? In Massachusetts, the current limit is two bass per day with a 28-inch minimum. It seems likely that this limit will be reduced, perhaps to one bass at 28-inches, or one bass at 32-inches.

The good news is that striped bass are considered one of the better managed species in the fishery. Because they spawn in inshore waters, scientists have been able to amass good data on their habitats and spawning stock. And this proposed intervention seems to be coming enough in advance to head-off a major stock collapse like what was seen in the 1980s, when keeper-sized bass became scarce along the Massachusetts coast. 

As the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission weighs its options, it is seeking public input. Two public hearings are being held in our region, both on Tuesday, September 2nd. Here the location details:

September 2 at 10 AM
Nantucket Community Room
4 Fairgrounds Road
Nantucket, Massachusetts

September 2 at 6 PMMassachusetts Maritime AcademyAdmiral’s Hall, 101 Academy DriveBuzzards Bay, Massachusetts  

Written public comment will be accepted until 5:00 PM (EST) on September 30, 2014 and should be forwarded to Mike Waine, ASMFC, 1050 N. Highland St., Suite 200 A-N, Arlington, VA 22201; 703.842.0741 (FAX) or

So that's important. But what about this week's Fishing Roundup? Don't worry! The web version of my conversation with Kevin Blinkoff, of On The Water magazine, has a full roundup of action. Included this week: news on giant bluefin tuna (800lbs giant!), as well as yellowfin tuna, and bigeye tuna. Also, bluefish are tearing up local waters - from snappers to big hungry 32" beasts. And then (isn't this a great moment in the season?) - bonito reports are picking up. On Monday bonito were reported at the Hooter Buoy in such numbers that anglers reported getting tired of catching them (!) and going off to look for something else to fish. (Sigh. Where was I?) Bonito have been reported this week inshore as well, on the west side of Buzzards Bay up in Westport.  The full roundup is posted in the audio above. The first part is a discussion of the possible changes to the striper regulations. The week's action begins at 4:34. Give it a listen.  

 Correction. An earlier version of this post mistakenly conflated the two different 3-year plans as "a more gradual 3-year reduction, beginning with a 17%  cut in the catch in 2015, and adding a 7% cut each of the next two years." This has been corrected above.