Monday, October 16, 2006

Striped Bass Are Overly Abundant But Two Fishermen Are Busted For Catching Too Many

When two men from the New Haven area were arrested on Friday for catching more striped bass than they were allowed, and for catching striped bass that were smaller than the legal size limit, the charges were based on regulations enacted three decades ago to counteract a big drop in the number of striped bass on the East Coast.

The New Haven Register covered the arrests and cited Connecticut DEP spokesman Dennis Schain:

Schain said overfishing and attempts to sell striped bass without a license are an ongoing problem in the state. The DEP stopped commercial fishing of striped bass in the 1970s because of depleted stock. …

Schain said the limits exist to preserve and protect the stock. By taking undersized fish out of the water, it threatens the population, he said.

The truth is, the striped bass stock may no longer need the protection it’s getting and, in fact, other fish probably need protection from striped bass. Here’s what the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission says about striped bass:

Early records recount their abundance as being so great at one time they were used to fertilize fields. Regulations for striped bass have been in place since European settlement of North America. More recently, the Atlantic striped bass management program has enjoyed successes like no other. In a little more than 15 years, the resource has rebuilt from a historic low of about 20 million pounds to an historic high of 160 million pounds. This rebuilding did not occur without hardships. Both commercial and recreational fishermen alike have endured severe harvest restrictions and closures in some cases with the hope of seeing greater benefits in the near future. Fortunately, those sacrifices have paid off and the stock is no longer overfished and overfishing is not occurring.

Striped bass are so abundant now that they are considered to be partly to blame for the population collapse of alewives and blueback herring, two fish that spawn in Connecticut Rivers

The DEP does not expect river herring populations to recover immediately. "We believe that the fishery closure may reduce the threat of further population declines and that it may enable river herring populations to recover more quickly in years when striped bass are less abundant," explained Parker. The local abundance of striped bass cannot be controlled since they are highly migratory and harvest is constrained by a coast-wide management plan.

One of the men arrested, a charter boat captain named T.J. Carlson, admirably took full responsibility:

“There’s no mistaking I was totally in the wrong with it. I’m not happy with myself over it," said Carlson, a part-time charter boat captain ….

What he could have added (but didn’t) is: I’m also not happy that I’m being charged with a crime based on regulations that protect a fish that probably doesn’t need as much protection it’s getting. If our fishing regulations were up-to-date and based on the needs of the ecosystem, there might have been no crime at all.

(By the way, there are four other new posts here since Friday, so keep scrolling and keep reading).


Blogger Sam said...

I think the fact is that any commercial or charter captain ought to know about not keeping shorts. It's pretty unexcusable. I would be careful about saying that "since the Striper has recovered, it's OK to kill them all."

True, the Stripers are even eating baby lobsters, shad, smelts, and those fish now considered at risk. But those populations were getting really low before the Striper even came back. For example, there used to be millions of three kinds of shad that went up the CT River. Locals down by Old Saybrook say there's not enough to even set their nets - not even a few hundred.

9:28 PM  

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