SOME GOOD NEWS

July 7, 2011 - I thought we would take a break from our regular weekly report and make saltwater anglers aware of some important developments in the striped bass conservation front. It is very likely that the state of Massachusetts will institute some progressive measures in the hope of maintaining a healthy striped bass population. The entire publication can be viewed at www.mass.gov/dfwe/dmf/publications/omfnq1211.pdf

"A growing number of anglers and watermen have been voicing their concerns about the status of the Atlantic striped bass resource. Their worries were heeded this spring when the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) voted to consider changes to the management of striped bass that would reduce fishing mortality by up to 40% and further protect spawning fish when they are concentrated and vulnerable. An addendum to the management plan will be developed this year; if approved, it will be implemented throughout the species' range for the 2012 fishing year."

"The Massachusetts delegation to the ASMFC not only supported, but also made, the approved motion in order to take a proactive and prudent step to respond to the resource and fishery conditions currently being witnessed."

"The action should be viewed as a precautionary move because none of the multiple triggers in the interstate management plan that can prompt management action in response to deteriorating stock status has been met. According to the last coastwide stock assessment completed in 2009, the striped bass stock is not overfished or experiencing overfishing. The biomass of reproductively mature females in the population was estimated to be 148% of the target in 2008 (and hence even further above the threshold level). Similarly, fishing mortality was estimated to be at least 30% below the target (and even further below the threshold). That said, it is clear that the stock has been declining for several years."

"By 2008, estimated stock abundance declined 25% from the peak in size in 2004. That peak can be attributed to the addition of exceptionally strong yearclasses of striped bass to the population in 1993, 1996, 2001, and 2003 from the Chesapeake Bay (the major spawning area), interspersed with average years of juvenile recruitment. Several productive years in the 1990s and early 2000s in the Hudson River and Delaware Bay (the other spawning areas along the coast) also helped. Those years of great spawning success are a tribute to the management program protecting adequate numbers of mature fish and their essential habitat in addition to factors beyond managers' control such as spring rainfall levels that can heavily influence larval survival. The recent decline in abundance is in large part due to reduced juvenile production in the Chesapeake Bay. For the last seven years, the Chesapeake hasn't produced a particularly strong year class; in fact, the majority of the young of the year (YOY) production during this period has been below average. This has created a void in the age distribution of 2 to 6 year olds. Striped bass take on average six years to grow to the 28" recreational minimum size, and eight years on average to reach the 34" commercial minimum size. It should also be noted that only one year class born recently in the Chesapeake was poor enough to qualify as a "recruitment failure". Under the management plan it takes three consecutive years of recruitment failure to trigger management action."

Good fishing and safe wading,
JB

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