Saturday, January 22, 2011

Commercial Discards Decimate Stripers Off North Carolina

DMF releases statement about striped bass trawler slaughter on the Outer Banks

Imagine this as far as the eye can see, washing up on your beach.
Huge masses of floating dead stripped bass have been recently observed in the wake of commercial  trawlers off the shores of North Carolina, leading to suspicions that the fish were caught, rejected and dumped overboard by the fishermen.  This happens every few years, when the commercial fishery fishes close to shore, where recreational fisherman can observe the results.  This year North Carolina's Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) investigated, and determined that, yes indeed, the kills were likely the result of commercial discards.

This tragedy is a testament to the singlemindedness of the commercial fisherman.  With a quota of 480,480 lbs of Atlantic Ocean stripers for NC, apparently they can catch enough more than enough fish to permit them to throw back the smaller ones and keep the more valuable larger fish.  Moreover, the state have a minimum size limit of 28 inches (mandated by AMFSC I believe) which requires them to throw back anything less than 28.

Fisheries quotas for stripped bass are based on the estimated mortality of fish from commercial and recreational fisherman, both those kept and discarded.  I can't help thinking that this massive by kill is not being properly accounted for in those statistics (if DMF just acknowledged that commercial fishing MIGHT be involved).  If they were properly accounted for, North Carolina's allotment of the harvest might be substantially reduced, and the fishermen encouraged fishing methods that produce less by catch.

The Atlantic Striped Bass being slaughtered in North Carolina now, are on the their great annual migration, which will bring many of  them into the Cheapeake in early spring to gorge on shad and herring and to spawn, on their way to points further north, as far as Maine, where they will summer in the ocean.  At each step in the migration, commercial and recreational fisherman get a shot at them, and current management of stripers seems to consist largely of arguments between states as to how much each "deserves".

These fish cross state lines, and need some consistent management, not a "who gets 'em first, gets the most" approach, that we seem to have now.

Hat tip to Bill Curry, via Facebook.


  1. not much that can be done about this without some sort of government interference

  2. Larger fish have more toxins, point this out loudly and publicly and it may put a damper on this.

  3. Anonymous - It's not like fishing is not heavily regulated now; it's merely regulated inefficiently (and often just plain wrongly).

    A conservative does not deny the need of government to regulate many things; he/she would prefer that such regulation be efficient and the minimum required to achieve that goal. We would also stipulate that not all goals of regulations are necessarily legitimate.

    Another example occurs in the banking industry. The left insists that the current economic crisis is caused by too little government regulation. It's hard to imagine an business in the US as closely regulated as banking. To the extent that regulation had any role in the the banking crisis it is that bad government regulations have caused inappropriate incentives for the banks (for example, putting poorer people into houses they were ultimately not able to pay off).

    For fisheries management, the "ultimate goal" of fisheries tends to be attainment of the "maximum sustainable yield", by allocating the number or poundage of fish caught to a number at which increased fishing will actually cause a decrease in catch. I think this goal puts too great a pressure on populations threatened by essentially random weather, climate, and biological variations.