From Catastrophe to Recovery: Stories of Fishery Management Success

Atlantic Striped Bass: An Interjurisdictional Fisheries Management Success Story

Ronald J. Essig, R. Wilson Laney, Max H. Appelman, Fred A. Harris, Roger A. Rulifson, and Kent L. Nelson


Abstract.—The Striped Bass Morone saxatilis is an extremely important commercial and recreational species with a coastal migratory stock in the United States referred to as “Atlantic Striped Bass” managed by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC). Atlantic Striped Bass has four major contributing stocks, including the Chesapeake Bay, which comprises 70–90%, and the Hudson River, the Delaware River, and the Albemarle Sound/Roanoke River (A/R). The collapse of Atlantic Striped Bass in the late 1970s precipitated federal funding and legislation like the Emergency Striped Bass Study for research on causative factors of the decline and potential management recommendations. The 1981 ASMFC Interstate Fishery Management Plan (ISFMP) for Atlantic Striped Bass was nonmandatory and mostly ineffective until the 1984 Atlantic Striped Bass Conservation Act provided regulatory authorities to the ASMFC and the federal government to close fisheries in states out of compliance with ISFMPs. Restrictions and moratoria on harvest imposed in several states reduced mortality, and under favorable environmental conditions and given Striped Bass life history, multiple years of good recruitment occurred. This allowed target thresholds for female spawning stock biomass to be achieved and the ASMFC to declare recoveries of Atlantic Striped Bass stocks from 1995 to 1998. Regulation of river flows was particularly important for the A/R stock recovery, and this stock is presented as a case study. During the 20+ years following recovery, long-term monitoring by states in support of adaptive management was primarily supported by the stable, nonappropriated funding of the Sport Fish Restoration Act. Monitoring includes spawning stock characterization and biomass estimation, juvenile abundance surveys, cooperative coastwide tagging, and harvest data collection. Future issues facing the recovered Atlantic Striped Bass include interspecies effects of relatively high abundance, management of stocks separately instead of as a single coastal stock, and ecosystem-based fisheries management. Key lessons learned in the Atlantic Striped Bass recovery are that high societal value of the species provided the political impetus to create and fund the recovery program, coordination of management and enforcement efforts among all jurisdictions was essential for this migratory species, and fully funded long-term monitoring programs are critical to adaptive population management.