The 2008 Young of the Year (YOY) index, an annual measurement of the number of juvenile striped bass taken in haul seines in the Maryland portion of the Chesapeake Bay, is one of the lowest recorded since 1990.
"Striped bass born in the Chesapeake Bay make up a very high percentage of all the stripers that migrate up the Atlantic Coast every year," says Brad Burns, president of Stripers Forever, an internet-based advocacy organization seeking game fish status for the wild striper. "So the fact that this year's YOY came in at 3.2 compared to the long term average of 11.7 indicates that the coastal striped bass population is not as 'fully recovered' as some fishery biologists would have us believe."
The graph below clearly shows that three of the best four YOY indexes ever recorded occurred between 1993 and 2001. Yet in the past seven years, only one year (2003) has scored significantly above the long term average while three other years are reminiscent of the population crash of the 1980's.
"To compound the situation, the recent stock assessment released by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) also shows a steady decline in the population of spawning age striped bass," says Burns. "The problem is that the current catch levels and quotas are based on a theoretical abundance of fish that most fishermen simply aren't finding. Despite the clear downtrend in striped bass population numbers and the low replacement rate, the fishery managers are still not pushing for reductions in catch quotas."
Stripers Forever is working to eliminate the commercial harvest of wild striped bass so that the resource can be managed for the 3 million-plus recreational striper fishermen from Maine to North Carolina. For further information, please go to www.stripersforever.com