Bay Journal

Striped bass reproduction was average this year, surveys show

  • By Karl Blankenship on October 20, 2014
Striped bass play an important role as a top predator in the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem and provide value to numerous commercial and recreational anglers. (©D. Malmquist/VIMS)

Striped bass reproduction in Maryland and Virginia was near the long-term average in 2014 — one of its strongest showings in recent years, scientists reported Monday.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources reported that its juvenile index was 11, slightly below the 61-year average of 11.7

Meanwhile, preliminary juvenile survey results from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science shows an average of about 11 fish per net, slightly higher than the survey’s long-term average of 9.

Both indexes represent the average number of juvenile, or young-of-year, striped bass caught in each 100-foot seine net during surveys conducted in the summer and early fall fall. The VIMS survey is still under way.

Fisheries officials said the results were good news for striped bass.

“These findings reinforce that, although the coastal striped bass population has recently decreased from historically high levels, the spawning stock in the Chesapeake Bay is capable of producing healthy year-classes as defined in the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Striped Bass Management Plan,” DNR Fisheries Service Director Tom O’Connell said in a press release.

  “We will continue to work with our partners along the Atlantic Coast to conservatively manage the striped bass population,” he said.

The coastal striped bass stock has been declining for much of the last decade, primarily because of worse-than-average reproduction. Six of the previous eight years had reproduction that was well below average in Maryland, where most East Coast striped bass are spawned, though 2011 was one of the best years on record.

The resulting decline in striped bass abundance is expected to result in the ASMFC, which regulated catches along the East Coast, imposing new catch limits when it meets next week.

Striped bass are anadromous fish that spend most of their lives in coastal waters before returning to their native rivers to spawn.

They were overfished to historic lows in the late 1970s and 1980s, resulting in a coastwide fishing moratorium in the late 1980s. The stock rapidly rebounded — bolstered by a series of years with high reproduction in the 1990s, propelling the stock to record highs in the early 2000s, before the recent decline began.

In the Maryland young-of year survey, DNR biologists survey 22 sites in the four major spawning systems ─ the Choptank, Nanticoke and Potomac rivers, and the Upper Bay. The crews visit each survey site three times during the summer.

The VIMS Juvenile Striped Bass Seine Survey samples 18 stations in the Rappahannock, York and James river watersheds. Biologists sample each site five times from early July through mid-September of each year.

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About Karl Blankenship

Karl Blankenship is editor of the Bay Journal and Executive Director of Chesapeake Media Service. He has served as editor of the Bay Journal since its inception in 1991. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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