Federal Regulators Debate Catch Reduction As Striped Bass Drop

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — First it was another season of fewer crabs, now it’s striped bass. The population is still strong in Maryland waters, but other states are seeing a decline.

Alex DeMetrick reports that’s opened the door to new catch restrictions.

Because they breed in the Chesapeake, striped bass, also called rockfish, concentrate in Maryland. But elsewhere:

“Up in New England, for example, they see fewer and fewer fish. So we’ve had a decline in the stock for the last ten years now,” said William Goldsborough, Chesapeake Bay Foundation scientist.

And that decline has the Atlantic States Fisheries Commission considering a reduction in the catch.

“Right now, the model shows that a 30 percent reduction would bring the fishing mortality back to the target level in one year,” said Tom O’Connell, Department of Natural Resources Fisheries.

Which would hit Maryland’s sort fishing industry hard, and commercial watermen harder.

“If you had a 30 percent reduction, it will make a large imprint on the amount of fish we’re able to catch with our pound nets and gill nets,” said waterman Russel Dize.

To ease the blow, Maryland’s commission members are pushing to reduce the catch by ten percent for three years.

“I wouldn’t call it a crisis,” said Goldsborough.

That’s because surveys found the overall stock numbers in the bay are still good, and a large spawn a few years ago should bring more striped bass to other East Coast states as fish mature.

It’s a balancing act, trying to protect the most fish while causing the least amount of economic pain.

“There’s some sectors that are willing to take that reduction and others sectors that are not,” O’Connell said.

But a reduction of some sort is on the horizon.

The commission will reduce catch limits this coming fall.

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