On Tuesday the Striped Bass Board of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) accepted an updated stock assessment by its Technical Committee (TC), which finds the population looks promising enough that no additional harvest cuts will needed to be made. (Different conservationists have, at times, called for a striped bass fishing moratorium).
The bad news first: The stock assessment finds that in 2021, the rockfish stock was still overfished but no longer actively experiencing overfishing. The female spawning stock biomass was estimated to be 143 million pounds, below the 188-million-pound threshold at which fishery managers must take action. However, ASMFC’s committee notes that the female spawning stock has, at least, been trending modestly upward for the past three years.
These graphs shared by ASMFC shows that while the stock is still low, the mortality rate has notably improved, well below the “target” (goal) mortality number of 0.17.
The committee estimated total fishing mortality, including both recreational and commercial, at 0.14, well below both the fishing mortality threshold of 0.20 and the goal mortality number.
The committee used the fishing mortality and spawning stock biomass levels from 2021 (and factored in poor recent spawns in the upper Chesapeake) to conservatively project the Atlantic rockfish spawning stock biomass forward through 2030. Under these conditions, it saw a 78.6 percent chance that the stock would be at or above the stock target in 2029, Amendment 7’s rebuilding deadline.
This encouraging result means that no further reductions need to be taken now, so the fishing limits in place under the previous Amendment 6 of the management plan will continue until the Board finds it necessary to take further action.
“This 2022 assessment was the first check-in point for progress toward stock rebuilding by 2029,” said Board Chair Marty Gary with the Potomac River Fisheries Commission. “It is extremely important that we continue to monitor fishery removals and conduct regular stock assessments to keep evaluating rebuilding progress and stay on track.”
The next stock assessment update is scheduled for 2024, and the Board will review the 2022 removals as soon as the data are available to evaluate whether catch remains at sustainable levels. The Striped Bass Board has scheduled the next benchmark stock assessment for 2027.
I presume the reason for the improvement in fishing mortality is largely due to tightening of recreation quotas (in Maryland, the limit went from 2 fish 19 inches or larger to 1 fish 19 inches or larger), with very little change in the commercial fishery). You can thank us later.
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