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1976 1979 1982 1985 1988 1991 1994 1997 2000 Figure 14.2. Changes in ocean size limits, and the proportion of female striped bass aged 8+ in the Hudson River spawning stock.
In the years prior to 1983, few restrictions governed the take of striped bass in state and coastal marine waters. Size limits were minimal. In New York waters, fish as small as 16 inches fork length (FL, equivalent to 40.6 cm enacted in 1939 by New York State) couldbe taken, there existedlimitedseasonal and gear restrictions, and there was no catch limit. The small size limits allowed few striped bass to reach maturity. Females begin to reach maturity at six years of age, with over 97 percent spawning by age eight. These fish are in the size range of 24 to 28 inches (61 to 71 cm; see text box).
In the Chesapeake Bay, the striped bass fishery focused on "pan rock" with fish as small as 12 to 14 inches (30.5 to 35.6 cm) making up most of the harvest. Over the course of roughly 15 years from the 1970s through the early 1980s, few adult spawners returned to the Bay. With the collapse of the Chesapeake stock in the mid 1970s, states realized that it would take a concerted, cooperative effort to restore the Chesapeake population. To achieve this goal, the Emergency Striped Bass Act (part of the Anadromous Fish Conservation Act) was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1979. This new Federal law required all coastal states that harvested striped bass to follow management regulations contained in the newly developed fishery management plan. Management would no longer be by voluntary agreement, but rather by enforced compliance. The enforcement for non-compliance is complete closure of an entire state's fishery for that species. The first striped bass fisheries management plan (FMP) was adopted by ASMFC in 1981.
Over the course of the next fifteen years, management regulations followed an adaptive process, and the FMP was amended six times. The most severe restrictions occurred in Maryland where a moratorium on striped bass fishing was implemented in Chesapeake Bay. Marine commercial fisheries were limited by severely reduced quotas to less than 20 percent of historical harvest levels, and season, size limits, and allowable gears were specified and enforced. Recreational fisheries were limited by size and bag limits, and by seasons. These regulations, especially size limits, were adjusted annu-allyfrom 1984 until 1990, from 24 to up to 38 inches (61 to 96.5 cm), to protect the females from the 1982 year class (young fish produced) of the Chesapeake Bay until most of them spawned at age eight.
The effect of these regulations was startling, not only for the Chesapeake stock, but for other striped bass stocks along the coast. The coastal protective measures immediately protected immature fish of the Hudsonspawning stock of stripedbass. Hudson River striped bass may leave the estuary as early as age one to seasonally utilize the nearshore marine waters. Prior to adoption of the FMP, recreational and commercial fisheries alike exploited these immature bass. Once fish were no longer harvested at 16 inches, the increasing coastal size limits gave refuge to the Hudson's immature and mature population. The effect was the return of greater numbers of older, larger fish each year (Fig. 14.2), which in turn produced ever greater numbers of young.
By 1995, coastwide management targets were being met: striped bass were returning to the rivers to
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