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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Stripers Forever members ? at the urging of commercial fishing interests, managers have allowed the harvest of striped bass to grow far too large. Additionally they have focused at least the coastal portion of the harvest on large, breeding age fish. The result has been a wide spread reduction in the quality of the fishery, and a marked decrease in the total biomass of large stripers in the ocean. The effects are very likely far more serious than poor fishing, though that is bad enough. We have pasted in below an important article from our website that explains the effects of directing the fishery harvest at large, older fish. It is available as a word attachment on the bulletin board of our website.


Harvesting the Wrong Fish

Stripers Forever has warned of the dangers to the striped bass population created by current management practices, which put far too much pressure on large, breeding age fish. Important scientific reports, like one by Conover and Munch from the July 2002 issue of Science Magazine, validate our concerns. Conover and Munch cite the findings of their own experiments which show that genetic changes can take place within only a few generations when the larger fish in a population are unduly pressured. Conover and Munch also point out that these genetic changes may well be irreversible, even if fishery management tactics are later corrected.

The current ASMFC-endorsed size limits for the coastal fishery that focus on large, mature fish could be altering the long-term ability of striped bass to grow to their historical size and reproductive potential. We have prepared a summary of the Conover/Munch report combined with a little history showing how the ASMFC arrived at the management plan currently in place. PDF files of the scientific reports that we quote from are available at the Stripers Forever website www.stripersforever.org under Articles and Research.

Initially, high minimum-size regulations were used to rebuild the striped bass population after its collapse in the late 1970?s. At that time, fishing for stripers had become so unproductive that very few fishermen made the effort. Virtually all the fish caught were very large, mature specimens. When the ASMFC finally became serious about saving striped bass, the only option was to essentially stop all harvest ? and Maryland did just that. A historically high minimum size was adopted all along the Atlantic coast and gradually increased to 36 inches (at the time, it was thought that virtually all female striped bass of that size had spawned at least once).

As the fishery started to rebuild, a deal was struck - in our view to accommodate commercial interests. Called the split reference point, it essentially gave the Chesapeake Bay net fishing interests the right to harvest smaller striped bass while the coastal commercial fishery got the larger fish that the pin hookers wanted. As the population of striped bass grew, many more fishermen were attracted to the fishery. The harvest of striped bass is a fixed quota in Chesapeake Bay; officially, catches hover right around the quota, which turns out to be a number at the high end of the historic average of commercial landings. Due to widespread poaching, actual commercial catches everywhere are now well above even the official quotas. This is common knowledge, as evidenced by many arrests and convictions involving poachers with large illegal catches in possession. No estimates of this black market catch are made or counted against the commercial quota.

The coastal fishery, in terms of both recreational and commercial effort, has grown enormously since the 1980?s. The harvest is focused entirely on striped bass over 28 inches in size, and in some states the commercial size limit is even higher than that. The result is that the fishing mortality rates on these sexually mature fish have grown to well
above the ASMFC target numbers, and appear to be increasing dramatically. Many knowledgeable conservationists feel that even the target numbers are set far too high.

Because of this over exploitation, the spawning stock biomass ? the total weight of all the spawning age stripers in the population ? has been dropping for five or six years and is back to mid 1990?s levels. This is very dangerous, according to fishery scientists, because stripers are a very long-lived species. Longevity is nature?s way of insuring that the striped bass population survives the inevitable bad spawning seasons.

Some folks might think that if we wait until these fish are at least 28 inches in size ? forgetting for a second the extensive Chesapeake Bay net fishery on smaller stripers ? that we can just cut them down like a crop of corn. Isn?t it okay to remove most of the larger fish if we leave the fish less than 28 inches in size relatively undisturbed?

The answer is no, and here is why. While some female striped bass do spawn as early as five years of age, at 24 inches or so in length, these small fish carry very few eggs compared to a 45-inch striped bass that carries literally millions of eggs. The eggs in the bigger, more mature fish, in addition to being greater in number, are also larger in individual size, and therefore produce more robust fry, with better survivability, than do eggs from the smaller, younger spawners. In fact, two studies done specifically on striped bass by Monteleone and Houde, and another by Zastrow, show that the eggs of older striped bass spawners were superior in eight measures including hatchability, fry length at two different points in time, mouth gape, weight of fry, and weight of egg and its oil globule.

Setting an arbitrary measure like a 28-inch minimum size, coupled with a high fishing mortality, tends to kill a very high percentage of the genetically superior, faster growing striped bass. Since these fish are larger at an earlier age, they spend more time as legal targets for fishermen to kill; and being typically strong, aggressive specimens, they are more likely to take a bait or lure and be caught by rod and line anglers. The studies cited suggest that killing these superior stripers results in a potentially irreversible population of smaller, less robust fish. Couple this with the reduced spawning stock biomass we discussed earlier and you have a much lower quality fishery and a striper population that is easily collapsed by a few years of poor spawning success.

The comparatively large numbers of 50-pound stripers being caught today are certainly welcome, but it is a mistake to view these big fish as proof of the success of the current striped bass management scheme. These 15 to 20 year old fish were born in years when striped bass fishing mortality was nearly zero, and the fish were then well protected until they were fairly large specimens.

The sensible approach to striped bass management, according to Conover and Munch, would set a maximum rather than a minimum harvest size and apply it throughout the population. Faster growing stripers would pass more quickly than others through the gauntlet of vulnerability, and truly large, genetically superior specimens would therefore receive more protection than inferior fish.

In a conservation column in the September 2005 issue of Saltwater Sportsman Magazine, Rip Cunningham wrote the following: ?Does this mean that all fisheries should move to slot limits? Perhaps not, but it does indicate that all of the near-shore, high abundance fisheries that are of concern to recreational/personal-use anglers should be moving toward slot limit management??.

Managing the wild striped bass as a game fish by using this scientifically valid approach makes a lot more sense for the future of the resource than the current commercially-oriented system which manages stripers with the same minimum size, maximum yield ?logic? that has destroyed the ground fish populations of the North Atlantic.

Brad Burns and Duncan Barnes for Stripers Forever
 

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Why do these birds keep pointing there finger at us. I can see that this news letter is gonna have to be addressed.
 

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I think they keep pointing it a comms because they are an easy target. Especially trawlers & longliners. Ocean rapers.

a slot limit, say 24-38" would keep the REC guys from keeping fat 50" females and the sort.

It worked for Redfish down south.
 

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I say this as a member of the striper's forever.....but I'm beginning to wonder about the data and conclusions they use. It's amazing to me that every month they find some "new" data to support their cause.
 

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I guess I just get concerned to see those long reaching conclusions. Do I believe commercials cause problems to the fisheries? Yes. Do I believe we as recs cause problems? Yes. But, most of all I think the illegal commercial fishing does the most damage. SF seems to have too much tunnel vision to see beyond their goals. (which I still support at least partially).
 

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Originally posted by The Reckoning:
I say this as a member of the striper's forever.....but I'm beginning to wonder about the data and conclusions they use. It's amazing to me that every month they find some "new" data to support their cause.
I don't support SF's goals but the science of what a standard size limit does to fish populations is very real. One study on spearing showed that by continuing to remove the larger fish, the population produced smaller average fish in as little as 4 generations. Studies have shown similiar result on cod and other species.

That's not really a commercial fishing issue though. It applies to both sectors. Managers are realizing that to have a healthy population you need to remove some fish of all sizes. I think different slot type limits will take hold in many fisheries in the years to come. Both comm and rec.
 

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I'm wondering if the bonus tag should be changed to a trophy tag. Let the 2 fish daily limit be 1 fish between 24" and 30" + 1 fish between 30" and 38", then issue 1 or 2 cards to anglers in the program for 38" or larger specimens each year as a reward for the information they provide if they return their annual logs. I think certain states do this for popular game fish (Florida with tarpon? you may need a stamp to keep one?). Just like the cards are now, you get no replacement after using one. Just another opinion from someone who has too much time to think about this stuff at work.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
ulackfocus------BINGO--right on the money but won't happen because NJ fishermen are too greedy
Worked for Redfish
 

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I'm with you Bucktail. Too many guys interested in the meat instead of the fun. How soon they forget the bad old days when just catching a couple was a big event. Saltwater fishermen have to learn like the freshwater bass fishermen. You can't take everything you catch. If you have to justfy what you catch by what it costs per pound, then you should buy your fish at the store and take up a less expensive hobby. Have seen it with the drum. Guys brining in a lot of drum and not knowing what to do with them but saying it is okay because it is the legal limit. I love eating striper, but enjoy catching them more than eating them. If I had to give up one or the other it would be the eating. Stripers are hammered along the entire coast all season long and along their entire migrator path. Each anglers individual catch doesn't seem like much, but collectively it is a lot of fish.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I also remember "fishermen??" questioning the data back in the 80's ,they questioned and questioned UNTIL the fish were gone and we had a closure.
We can begin questioning again ,but watch how fast the tackle shops start crying when the bass bite slows down as it has in uppper New England
 

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Striped Bass are the backbone of my business. Most of my customers keep very few fish and I am very careful unhooking and make sure fish is fully revived when released. For most charterboats, good striped bass fishing is the only fishing that makes their season profitable. Weather isn't that big a factor and you can run trips back to back without beating yourself to death like the Canyon trips. Years ago it used to be weakfishing in the spring, but those days are long gone. Bucktail, you are right. Bait and Tackle, Marinas and anyone associated with fishing have become dependant upon good striper fishing. It is a big economic boom to everyone associated with it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
In total numbers I think there are more recreational fisherman who are overly greedy .
I also think on a percentage basis more legal commercial guys are interested in saving fish for another year than exist today in recreational fisherman.
Sad as that may seem it is my opinion and I'm on the water almost everyday
 

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Having rished on the Hudson River spawningstock for the last 15 years Those findings I can support. The last two years there has been an absence of large female spawners in the Hudson River. It is in my opinion that it is not in the best interest of the biomass to target the fish over 36 inches. The findings are correct when they say the amount of eggs deposited are far greater. That is an obvious observation. Between the tournaments and the nettings that fishery is being destroyed. I was told that the state set a seine net and gathered over 400 bass with one pull. I asked how many large females were caught. The answer was none. When I posed the question about a slot limit of fish under 36 inches I was told the Hudson River valley needed those large
fish because of the ecomonic value of that fishery. Even though the limit is one fish over 18 inches the targeted fish is over 40 inches and that is your large spawning females. The state of New York should be ashamed of what they have allowed to happen to the 2nd largest spawning estuary on the east coast. Its time to create the slot limit. Look at what has happened along the Jersey coast for the past two seasons. Allowing three fish over 28 inches will only hurt the larger spawning fish. If we complain about taking a fish home to eat there is no reason to kill three large fish and we know that occurs when the regs allow it. After the discussion with a Mid Atlantic council member and the ASMFC member I realize that commercial interest drive the regs. I don't only mean the commercial fihermen, but those who gain economic value from recs fishing.
I have met the enemy and it is us.
 

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Originally posted by BUCKTAIL WILLIE:
In total numbers I think there are more recreational fisherman who are overly greedy .
First of all there are lies, damn lies, and statistics. "More % of comm versus % of recreationals"? What an irrelevant unprovable mouth full of junk. Recr's outnumber commercial 200 or more to 1.

I also think on a percentage basis more legal commercial guys are interested in saving fish for another year than exist today in recreational fisherman. Based on WHAT? This is a junk observation and complete BS in my opinion.

I disagree with the wholeSF premise that recreationals or "pin "fisherman as SF refers to us, are whacking fish inorder to sell them. I don't know anybody whole sells stripers, not a single person or fish. "Greedy" fisherman? That's ajoke. I enjoy releasing fish, I have for years, and I know it's catching on with others.

I have ONLY been catching larger fish (over 36") for the most part the past few years. The fish seem to be getting bigger to me, and more abundant. Should I be releasing all (instead of 80%) of my catch and go looking for those slot fish to beat up on?
 

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Michael Cinquemani's "Night Tides", the story of Billy the Greek. Loved the book but I was puzzled when I read this...BTG was quoted: "It is extremely rare to find viable roe in fifty-pound plus fish, and I've never personally caught anything over fifty-eight pounds with live roe. I've personally caught over a hundred fish over fifty pounds and I've observed many hundreds that were caught commercially in that category. Not ten percent of all these fish contain living roe"..
 
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