Offshore Waters to Remain Closed to Striped Bass
After carefully examining a proposal to re-open offshore marine waters in the Atlantic Ocean for striped bass fishing, NOAA has announced it will maintain the 1990 federal closure. NOAA originally closed marine waters between three and 200 miles offshore to recreational and commercial striped bass fisheries in order to support a 1981 rebuilding plan instituted by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. The rebuilding plan was successful and scientists declared striped bass populations fully rebuilt in 1995.
In 2003, the Commission asked NOAA to evaluate available scientific information to determine if the federal fishing ban on striped bass should be lifted. After a stock assessment confirmed that the species is at a sustainable population size and is not being overfished, NOAA issued an options paper in April 2006 outlining potential management strategies to allow striped bass fishing to resume in offshore waters. These strategies included a range of options, from re-opening the fisheries with minimum size and catch limits, to maintaining the federal ban. The majority of people who commented on the options supported a continuation of the federal fishing ban.
NOAA based the decision to maintain the federal closure on a review of trends in the fishery and the species' population. The data show a recent increase in fishing mortality of striped bass and a decrease in female spawners over the past few years. Although the stock as a whole is not being over-harvested, any increased fishing pressure would likely result in overfishing before NOAA and the Commission could respond with new regulations. Since these issues would undermine the long-term conservation of Atlantic striped bass, the agency has determined that offshore waters should remain closed at this time.