Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The Reviled Striped Bass Success Story

Striped bass are so abundant that they are destined to become reviled as the white-tailed deer of our coastal waters. Striped bass are so abundant that their recovery from severely depleted stocks 20 years ago "is one of the biggest success stories of the trial-and-error history of fisheries management."

So asserts the New London Day in this story by the usually-dependable Judy Benson. So which is it -- is the abundance of striped bass good or bad?

Far from being a success story, the job the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission has done with striped bass shows that we really have no idea what we're doing or what the consequences will be when our experts try to manage the natural world. Everything is connected to everything else, Barry Commoner wrote ages and ages ago (or so it seems). It's a lesson we haven't come close to learning.

As long ago as the mid '90s, commercial shad fishermen on the Hudson were complaining that they couldn't catch shad because there were too many striped bass in the nets. Striped bass are blamed for the disastrous drop in the number of anadromous fish in the Connecticut River. And now they're starting to be considered in the same category as white-tailed deer.

Wisely, the ASMFC members from Connecticut are advocating an increase in the allowable striped bass take by recreational fishermen. It would be nice to know if they had any evidence that an increase in the daily limit would do any appreciable good. Nevertheless considering the problems the striped bass recovery plan has caused, catching more fish on rod and reel is probably a good place to start.


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