The estimated catch of wild striped bass by recreational fishermen during the spring migration along the Atlantic Coast has declined by more than 75 percent over the past four years.
"In 2006, according to statistics compiled by the National Marine Fishery Service, anglers caught nearly 11 million stripers during the first six months of the year," says Brad Burns, president of Stripers Forever. "The recreational catch during this time in 2010 is only 2.6 million stripers. The recreational harvest is much smaller than that since a large percentage of stripers caught by anglers are released.
Stripers Forever is a non-profit conservation organization with 17,000-plus members who fish for stripers from Maine to North Carolina. The organization advocates game fish status to help conserve wild striped bass throughout their Atlantic Coast range.
"Angler success is now back at the low levels in existence before the recovery of wild striped bass began in the early 1990s," Burns says. "Stripers Forever members up and down the coast report that stripers are becoming increasingly scarce, which does not bode well for the resource or for the economy. In 2003, studies showed that recreational striped bass fishing had economic impacts totaling $6.9 billion and provided more than 68,000 full-time equivalent jobs."
Burns says the exact reasons for the decline in striped bass are being widely debated, but the commercial targeting of prime breeding female fish is certainly a major problem. So too is the decline since the early 2000s in the number of juvenile stripers in the Chesapeake Bay where most of the migratory striped bass on the Atlantic Coast are spawned -- a strong indication that fishing for striped bass will not get better any time soon.