Rebuilding the Striped Bass Fishery on the Atlantic Coast

Life history, including information on the habitat, growth, feeding, and reproduction of a species, is important because it affects how a fishery is managed. Science based fishery management works.

Since being rebuilt in 1995, Atlantic striped bass has served as a model for successful fisheries management. Striped bass, or rockfish as they are commonly known, are a long lived species (up to 30 years of age) and are commonly found from Maine through North Carolina.

Commercial harvest peaked at almost 15 million pounds in 1973, however overfishing and poor environmental conditions led to the collapse of the fishery in the 1980s, with a low of 3.5 million pounds landed in 1983 (ASMFC, 2011b).

In 1984, the Atlantic Striped Bass Conservation Act was established so that coastal states had the necessary tools to cooperatively and more effectively conserve and manage striped bass stocks. Through a stringent management program started in 1985, many states closed their commercial fisheries and the population began to rebuild. In 1995 Atlantic coastal striped bass stocks were declared fully recovered (ASMFC, 2008).

Striped bass has increasingly become a more important recreational fish. With the declaration of a restored status, harvest increased from 12.6 million pounds in 1995 to a record of 29.3 million pounds in 2006 (ASMFC, 2011b).

Atlantic striped bass are managed by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC). The Commission closely monitors the health of this stock to ensure that past conditions are not repeated. The management program includes target and threshold biological reference points and sets regulations to achieve these targets including size limits and quotas. The most recent stock assessment was completed in 2009 and shows the stock to be not overfished and overfishing not occurring (ASMFC, 2011d).

striped bass landings

Striped bass landings. Source: ASMFC 2009 Stock Assessment Report for Atlantic Striped Bass (ASMFC, 2011b)

striped bass

Striped bass. Credit: NOAA

For more information:

Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission information on striped bass