Atlantic Striped Bass (Morone saxatilis)
- Striped bass, once heavily overfished, are now at sustainable population levels following the implementation of strict management controls.
- The U.S. EEZ remains closed to striped bass fishing. In October 2007, striped bass was designated a "gamefish" by Executive Order, prohibiting commercial sale of the species caught in federal waters. Striped bass raised through aquaculture operations will still be available to U.S. consumers in supermarkets and restaurants.
- Striped bass is a good source of low-fat protein and selenium. For more on nutrition, see Nutrition Facts. (USDA)
- About 40 percent of the striped bass sold in the U.S. in 2006 was from capture fisheries; the majority came from aquaculture.
Nutrition Facts Servings
1 Serving Weight 100 g
Total Fat 2.33 g
Total Saturated Fatty Acids 0.507 g
Carbohydrate 0 g
Sugars 0 g
Total Dietary Fiber 0 g
Cholesterol 80 mg
Seleniun 36.5 mcg
Sodium 69 mg
Protein 17.73 g
Researchers aboard the NOAA Oregon II
measuring a striped bass during a tagging survey. Striped bass generally grow up to 59 inches in length.
Did you know?
Striped bass have historically been one of the most important recreational and commercial fish in the region from Maine to North Carolina. They have formed the basis of one of the most important fisheries on the Atlantic coast for centuries.
Striped bass were once so plentiful they were used to fertilize fields; but, because of their value to early settlers, such use was banned by the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1649.
Striped bass were successfully introduced to the Pacific coast by stocking 133 yearling fish in San Francisco Bay in 1879. These fish were seined from the Navesink River, New Jersey, and transported to California by train.
Striped bass are anadromous, meaning they live in the ocean but return to freshwater to spawn.
A researcher participating in a tagging survey aboard the Oregon II
prepares to release a 48.4-pound striped bass. The largest striped bass on record is a 125-pound female caught off North Carolina in 1891.
The amount of female striped bass that can reproduce, called female spawning stock biomass (SSB), has been estimated at 55 million pounds (25,000 metric tons) for 2004. This estimate is well above the recommended biomass threshold of 30.9 million pounds (14,000 metric tons) and the target biomass of 38.6 million pounds (17,500 metric tons). SSB has declined by 9% since 2002 when it peaked at 60.6 million pounds (27,490 metric tons).
Fishing and habitat:
This fishery is mostly recreational and primarily uses hook and line, having very little or no impact on habitat. Commercial fishermen harvest striped bass with a variety of gears including gill nets (the primary gear used), pound nets, haul seines, and hook-and-line. For more information see Fisheries Gear.
A number of different fishing gears are used to catch striped bass - bycatch of other species depends on the type of gear used and how, when, and where striped bass is fished. Data on the commercial fishery's bycatch is collected through at-sea observer programs and vessel logbooks, and data on the recreational fishery's bycatch is collected through angler surveys. Use of the collected bycatch data in monitoring and stock assessment depends on the management of the particular species that is incidentally caught. There are also federal regulations in place to prevent bycatch of protected species.
Striped bass are grown in many aquaculture operations around the United States. In 2005, almost 60 percent of all striped bass sold in the U.S. were grown in aquaculture.
Science and Management
From Maine through North Carolina, Atlantic striped bass is managed through the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Striped Bass, developed by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) in 1981 under the authority of the Striped Bass Conservation Act
. The FMP has been amended six times since 1981. In the mid-1980s, states from North Carolina to Maine implemented strict management measures, resulting in the restored status of the east coast migratory stocks of striped bass by 1995, the most significant recovery documented for a coastal finfish species. In 2003, Amendment 6 to the FMP was developed and implemented to maintain the restored status; improve catch rates, age structure, recruitment, and biomass; and establish a more flexible management program. Amendment 6 completely replaced all previous Commission management plans for Atlantic striped bass. Federal waters (between 3 and 200 miles offshore) currently remain closed to commercial and recreational fishing for striped bass. In state waters, the commercial fishery is currently controlled through state-by-state quotas for coastal fisheries, fishing mortality targets for bay fisheries, minimum size limits, gear restrictions, and seasons; the recreational fishery is managed through bag and size limits and seasons.
Despite the success of the striped bass management program, concerns about the species' health still remain. One disease of particular concern is mycobacteriosis, a slowly progressing bacterial infection that results in a variety of external and internal symptoms including skin lesions, stunted growth, inflammation, tissue destruction, and formation of scar tissue in one or more organs. According to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, over 70 percent of striped bass in the Chesapeake Bay may have this disease. Recovery and mortality rates from this disease are not yet known, but scientists continue to study this issue and monitor the situation. There is also concern regarding the nutritional needs of striped bass. Studies are being conducted evaluating prey availability and what relation, if any, it might have to the prevalence of disease in the striped bass population.
The Striped Bass Tagging Survey
has been completed annually by a NOAA vessel since 1988. Crew capture, measure, and tag healthy adult striped bass in the Atlantic Ocean off North Carolina and Virginia. When commercial or recreational fishermen catch tagged bass, they can return the tag to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Using the data that is acquired on these surveys, like abundance, age, distribution, and migration of striped bass, state and federal agencies can better manage the fishery resource for commercial and recreational fishermen.
Life History and Habitat
Life history, including information on the habitat, growth, feeding, and reproduction of a species, is important because it affects how a fishery is managed. Researchers have determined that female striped bass reach sexual maturity between the ages of 4 and 8. Using this information, managers set the biomass target and threshold for this species based on female spawning stock biomass, the amount of sexually mature females in the striped bass population.
Role in the Ecosystem
- Geographic range: In the Atlantic, from the St. Lawrence River in Canada to St. John's River in Florida. Also found in the Gulf of Mexico from Florida to Louisiana. Striped bass has successfully been introduced in numerous inland lakes and reservoirs and to the Pacific coast where it now occurs from Mexico to British Columbia.
- Habitat: Striped bass larvae and postlarvae drift downstream toward nursery areas located in river deltas and the inland portions of the coastal sounds and estuaries. Juveniles typically remain in estuaries for two to four years and then migrate out to the Atlantic Ocean. Striped bass spend the majority of their adult life in coastal estuaries or the ocean. Important wintering grounds are located from Cape Henry, Virginia, south to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.
- Life span: Striped bass are a long-lived species; they can live up to at least 30 years.
- Food: Striped bass are omnivorous, eating both plants and animals. Larvae and post-larvae feed on microscopic animals in riverine and estuarine areas; adults feed on a variety of invertebrates and fish species, particularly clupeids such as menhaden and river herring.
- Growth rate: Growth rates are variable, depending on a combination of season, location, age, sex, and competition. Growth is more rapid during the second and third years of life, before striped bass reach sexual maturity, than during later years. After age 4, growth may be 2.5 to 3 inches a year until age 8. Starting at age 4, females grow faster than males. Growth occurs between April and October.
- Maximum size: Striped bass generally grow to lengths of up to 59 inches and weights of 55 to 77 pounds. The largest striped bass on record is a 125-pound female caught off North Carolina in 1891.
- Reaches reproductive maturity: Males mature between the ages of 2 and 4; females mature between the ages of 4 and 8.
- Reproduction: Striped bass are anadromous, meaning they live in the ocean but return to freshwater to spawn. Mature female striped bass (>age 4) produce large quantities of eggs, which are fertilized by mature males (>age 2) in riverine spawning areas. While developing, the fertilized eggs drift with the downstream currents and eventually hatch into larvae. The larvae and post-larvae begin feeding on microscopic animals during their downstream journey. After their arrival in the nursery areas, located in river deltas and the inland portions of coastal sounds and estuaries, they mature into juveniles.
- Spawning season: Striped bass typically spawn from April to June, as they migrate into fresh or brackish water.
- Spawning grounds: In fresh or brackish water, with temperatures between 50 to 73 degrees Fahrenheit. In general, the Chesapeake Bay spawning areas produce the majority of coastal migratory striped bass, with significant contributions from the Delaware River and Hudson River stocks.
- Migrations: Generally migrate north and south seasonally and ascend to rivers to spawn in the spring. Males in the Chesapeake Bay may forego coastal migrations and remain within the Bay.
- Predator/prey interactions: Striped bass are omnivorous, preying on a variety of invertebrates and fish species, particularly clupeids such as menhaden and river herring. Predators of small striped bass include bluefish, weakfish, cod and silver hake while adult striped bass have few predators, with the possible exception of seals and sharks.
- Commercial or recreational interest: Both
- Distinguishing characteristics: Striped bass have full bodies with long horizontal black lines.
Striped bass are important predators in coastal and marine ecosystems. As part of an effort to understand ecosystem functioning, a multispecies model is being developed that incorporates predator-prey and competitor interactions among striped bass, Atlantic menhaden, bluefish, and weakfish to help determine forecast species abundance trends and understand the impacts of each fishery on the ecosystem.
There are numerous consumption advisories for striped bass which vary from state to state. They are based upon levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) found in the fish. Most of these consumption advisories are geared toward pregnant women and children. For more information on PCBs in striped bass, go here
Rockfish, Striper, Linesides
Several other species are also marketed as Bass.
Biomass refers to the amount of striped bass in the ocean. Scientists cannot collect and weigh every single fish to determine biomass, so they use models to estimate it instead. These biomass estimates can help determine if a stock is being fished too heavily or if it may be able to tolerate more fishing pressure. Managers can then make appropriate changes in the regulations of the fishery.
Female spawning stock biomass (SSB) has grown steadily since the 1980s when management efforts began to restore the stock, and by 1995, SSB was high enough for the stock to be declared recovered. SSB has continued to increase, peaking at 60.6 million pounds in 2002. While it has decreased from the peak level in 2002, SSB remains well above the threshold level attained in 1995, as well as the target level established by Amendment 6.
Note: Striped bass biomass is presented as spawning stock biomass (SSB) because Amendment 6 to the Striped Bass FMP established a biomass target and threshold based on the sexually mature females in the striped bass population (SSB).
Landings refer to the amount of catch that is brought to land. The most recent year for which both recreational and commercial data are currently available is 2005. Recreational fisheries occur in all 14 states/jurisdictions within the management unit. Total recreational landings in 2004 were 2.5 million fish or 11,874 metric tons (about 26.2 million pounds), almost 20% above the average number of fish landed during 2001 through 2003 and more than twice as many fish as landed in 1995 when the stock was declared restored. Recreational fisheries accounted for 72% (by weight) of the 2004 landings of the Atlantic stocks. Four states, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia, accounted for 70% of recreational striped bass landings between 2000 and 2004.
Commercial fisheries occur in 8 of the 14 states/jurisdictions within the management unit. Total commercial landings in 2005 were 3,572 metric tons (7,875,519 pounds), considerably below such landings of 6,686 metric tons (14,740,500 pounds) landed in 1973. The current minimum size restrictions of 18 inches in Chesapeake Bay and 28 inches along the coast are higher than early 1970s when size restrictions ranged from 12 inches to 24 inches.
Note: The landings presented are domestic commercial and recreational landings.
Biomass and Landings
Are landings and biomass related? Landings are dependent on biomass, management measures in the fishery, and fishing effort. Following the rebuilding of the fishery, the recreational harvest has grown from 2.2 million pounds (998 metric tons) in 1990 to 17.8 million pounds (8,074 metric tons) in 2000. Landings from the coastal recreational fisheries have shown a steady increase due to increased participation and increased availability of striped bass. Commercial fisheries have also benefited with increases in commercial quotas and subsequently greater economic returns.
Biomass from NOAA's Northeast Fisheries Science Center Status of Fishery Resources off the Northeastern U.S. - Striped bass
Landings from NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service Annual Commercial Landings Statistics site
using "BASS, STRIPED" as Species and "ATLANTIC" as State, and NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center Status of Fishery Resources off the Northeastern U.S. - Striped bass
– Steady decline in the abundance of striped bass, particularly in the Chesapeake Bay stock, leading to a number of regulations designed to reverse the decline
– Congress enacts an amendment to the Anadromous Fish Conservation Act specifying that an Emergency Striped Bass Study be undertaken to determine the status of the striped bass stocks and the causes for the decline in the striped bass population; study conducted each year from 1980 through 1994 and findings presented to Congress
– Several states close their state waters to fishing for striped bass
– Congress passes the Atlantic Striped Bass Conservation Act
to enable a federal moratorium on striped bass fishing in states that fail to comply with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) Fishery Management Plan
– Amendment 4 to the ASMFC FMP implemented, addressing the reopening of the fishery during the initial period of stock recovery; as stock status improved, revisions to management measures addressing the changing circumstances are allowed from 1989-1994
– NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) implements a federal ban on the harvest and possession of striped bass in the EEZ to support efforts of the ASMFC and to aid in the recovery of east coast striped bass
– Striped bass declared restored; Amendment 5 adopted, establishing a harvest level that would maintain the spawning stock biomass able to produce self-sustaining spawning stocks in each designated spawning area; also requires extensive monitoring and reporting requirements
– Congress reauthorizes the Atlantic Striped Bass Conservation Act, mandating that the Secretaries of Commerce and the Interior provide biennial reports to Congress and the ASMFC on studies of the Atlantic striped bass resource
– Amendment 6 to ASMFC FMP adopted; commercial components of the Amendment implemented in 2003, recreational implemented in 2004
– Most recent stock assessment indicates that striped bass stocks are at high levels of abundance and are supporting increased landings, primarily in recreational fisheries
– Striped bass is designated a "gamefish" by Executive Order; this status prohibits commercial sale of the species, though individual fish raised through aquaculture operations will still be available to U.S. consumers in supermarkets and restaurants