Striped bass spawning slumped in 2016, MD reports
Striped bass had poor spawning this spring in Maryland’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay, state officials report.
The striped bass “young-of-the-year” index, a measure of spawning success, was 2.2 this year, well below the long-term average of 11.7. It was the seventh lowest result tallied since the annual survey began 63 years ago.
The index represents the average number of fish less than 1 year old that were collected in 132 seine hauls through shallow water in 22 locations around the Bay.
Striped bass, also known in the Bay as rockfish, are closely watched because they support a multimillion-dollar recreational and commercial fishing industry. They are widely viewed as one of the bright spots in the 33-year Chesapeake restoration effort, as the population nearly collapsed in the 1980s, but rebounded after a five-year fishing moratorium.
David Blazer, fisheries director for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, called the index “disappointing,” but said it was not a concern unless spawning is poor in multiple consecutive years.
“Very successful spawning years, as recently as 2011 and 2015, should more than compensate for this below-average year-class,” Blazer added. “Nonetheless, the department and our partners will continue to work to maintain a sustainable fishery for our commercial watermen and recreational anglers.”
The DNR seine sampling found that most other anadromous species – fish that return to fresh water to spawn – experienced similarly low reproduction in spring 2016, including American shad, alewife, blueback herring and yellow perch.
Those results suggest that fish reproduction in general could have been affected by environmental factors, the DNR said, such as dry weather and low river flows during the spring spawning season. Fish eggs and larvae are sensitive and often don’t survive in adverse conditions, it noted.
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