Is it Time for Recreational Anglers to Act?


Striped Bass

This article in Forbes Magazine calls for recreational anglers to limit their catch.

… And now, it seems, these fish, valued by both recreational and commercial fishermen, are in some serious danger…again. Back in the 1970s, thanks mainly to overharvesting, the striped bass population crashed to the point of near no-return. Thanks to the efforts of fishermen’s groups and the U.S. Congress (gasp!) in the late 1970s, the stocks recovered from a low of just under 5 million to 56 million in 2006. The economic impact of the striped bass recreational fishery is believed to be $6.5 billion.


That’s the good news. The bad news is that we seem to heading back toward those dark days in the 1970s again. And this time, the government agencies have decided to do nothing… Stripers Forever, says there has been “a decline of approximately 90 percent in the coast-wide recreational catch of wild stripers since 2006.”

Ninety percent decline, but ASMFC sees no immediate problems, and decides to wait.

But the government agency in charge of managing stocks of striped bass sees no immediate threat. Though the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), in most recent stock status, found the striped bass to be in a continual decline since 2004 and well below its spawning target levels, the agency has decided to wait until 2015 to address the problem, which Burns says will be “too little, too late.”


To be sure, some changes are needed on the commercial striped bass fishery side. Paul Diodati, the Massachusetts Director of Fisheries, has suggested a 38% reduction in the commercial harvest.


But with the government set on inaction, it’s time for recreational anglers to step up and take their own measures. After all, much of the overfishing is from the recreational side of the equation. Stripers Forever says there are currently 10,000 commercial striped bass fishermen. There are 3 million recreational striped bass fisherman, and they take 60% of the harvest. The bag limit in many states is two fish a day of over 28 inches. Diodati has also suggested that the harvest be cut to one fish a day for recreational anglers, which seems very sensible.


But we can’t wait around for government regulations this time. For the next two years, all recreational anglers should consider limiting their catches to one keeper a day at a minimum (all catch-and-release would be better, in my opinion). This means self-imposed limits for anglers who fish from charter boats and from jetties and the beach. But it also means limits for those who go out on so-called “party boats.” Not to pick on party boat captains (these guys are operating within the rules—most of the time, anyway), but these boats seem to me to be a big part of the problem. The fishing from these boats, filled with 25 to 100 anglers all taking their two-fish-a-day limit, is just not sustainable. These captains have to know somewhere in their hearts that what they are doing is similar to the actions of the commercial fishermen who eventually fished cod out to the point of near extinction. Catching and killing that many striped bass on every trip is just not in their long term self-interest.