I read with great interest Mr. Price's commentary, “Striped bass suffer as overfishing eats away at their prey, menhaden,” in the December Bay Journal. I am a long-term member of the Alliance and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and, although I live in Reedville, it was during my years in Columbia, MD, that I learned to truly appreciate the fragility of the Bay.
Let me reassure your readers that striped bass, or rockfish as we call them locally, are not suffering from the lack of menhaden. Rather, menhaden stocks are alive and well, allowing the fisheries to concentrate on well-developed adult fish while safeguarding breeding stocks and the striper’s prey.
Menhaden resources are managed according to the Atlantic Menhaden Fisheries Management Plan, which meets specific objectives to ensure that menhaden are a sustainable public resource for everyone’s benefit, including the rockfish population’s.
Less known is the fact that stripers swallow menhaden whole, and are only able to do this with the younger fish. These are the fledglings breeding in and coming from the estuaries in the tributary rivers of the Bay, the areas that not only carry young menhaden into the Bay’s waters, but also all of the pollutants being sent from upstream. While there is no certainty of direct linkage between Bay quality and striper disease, neither can menhaden be blamed for skinny, sickly bass.
We would serve the Bay much better if we would concentrate our efforts on the quality of water, and thereby assist the young of all manner of fish to healthy adulthood, than to lay blame from species to species.
Monika R. Smith