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North Carolina Department of Environment Quality

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Marine Fisheries - 04 Striped Bass Atlantic SSR 2015

Marine Fisheries

Striped bass

Striped Bass — 2015

Atlantic Ocean Migratory Stock

Stock Status Viable – The 2013 Atlantic striped bass benchmark assessment indicates the resource is not overfished or experiencing overfishing relative to the proposed new reference points. The assessment includes striped bass from North Carolina through Maine (for N.C. only harvest in the Atlantic Ocean is included). Although the stock is not overfished, female SSB has continued to decline since 2004 and is estimated at 128 million pounds just above the SSB threshold of 127 million pounds, and below the SSB target of 159 million pounds. Additionally, total fishing mortality is estimated at 0.20, a value that is between the proposed new fishing mortality threshold (0.22) and fishing mortality target (0.18). Atlantic striped bass experienced a period of strong recruitment (number of age-1 fish entering the population) from 1993-2003, followed by a period of lower recruitment from 2004-2009 (although not as low as the early 1980s, when the stock was overfished). Projections of female SSB and fishing mortality suggest if the current fishing mortality rate (0.20) is maintained during 2013-2017, the probability of the stock being overfished (SSB less than the SSB threshold) is high and increases until 2015-2016, but declines thereafter. This trend is driven by several years of poor recruitment recently in the stock, with the exception of the strong 2011 year class that matures into the spawning stock in two to three years. Despite recent declines in SSB, the stock is still well above the SSB during the moratorium that was in place in the mid-1980s.
Average Commercial Landings and Value 2005-2014 – 206,567 lbs./$467,630 (quota managed)

2014 Commercial Landings and Value – 0 lbs./$0.00 (quota managed)

Average Recreational Landings 2005-2014 796,641 lbs., 2014 0 lbs.

Average Number of Award Citations* (35 lbs. /45 inches^) 2005-2014* – 195 (releases – 34), 2014* – 1 (releases – 1)

Status of Fishery Management Plan (FMP) Atlantic striped bass are managed through ASMFC Amendment 6 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Striped Bass (February 2003) and its subsequent addenda (Addendum I-IV). The management program includes target and threshold biological reference points and sets regulations aimed at achieving the targets. In response to the results of the 2013 benchmark assessment indicating a steady decline in the spawning stock biomass, the Board approved Addendum IV in October 2014. The Addendum establishes new fishing mortality reference points (F target and threshold). In order to reduce F to a level at or below the new target, the coastal states are required to implement a 25% harvest reduction from 2013 levels, and the while Chesapeake Bay states/jurisdictions are required to implement a 20.5% harvest reduction from 2012 levels. These reductions went into effect January 2015.  For more information about the status of the Atlantic Coastal Migratory Stocks visit the ASMFC website at www.asmfc.org.

Research and Data Needs – Increase accuracy of discard mortality estimates in all sectors of the fishery.

2014 Regulations – Commercial: The annual commercial quota is set at 480,480 lbs. Bag limits are set based on number of participants.  The seasons are opened and closed by proclamation. Recreational: 28 inches total length (TL) minimum size limit, 2 fish daily creel limit.  Reporting requirement for all fish recreationally harvested during May through October, from Ocracoke Inlet to Virginia state line.  No reporting required south of Ocracoke Inlet. As of January 1, 2015 the commercial quota was reduced to 360,360 lbs and the recreational daily creel limit was reduced to 1 fish.

Harvest Season – Opened and closed by proclamation for commercial. Open year round for recreational.

Size and Age at Maturity Males: 12–22 inches/2–4 years; Females: 22–28 inches/5–8 years.

Historical and Current Maximum Age 35 years/35 years.

Juvenile Abundance Index 2005–2014 – Maine – 0.54; Hudson River – 17.00; Delaware River – 1.20; Chesapeake Bay Maryland – 3.91; Chesapeake Bay Virginia – 10.86, 2014 Maine – 0.27 Hudson River – 24.60; Delaware River – 1.65; Chesapeake Bay Maryland – 4.06; Chesapeake Bay Virginia – 11.30.

Habits and Habitats Striped bass are an estuarine species that can be found from Florida to Canada, although the stocks that the ASMFC manages range from Maine to North Carolina. A long-lived species (at least up to 30 years of age), Atlantic migratory striped bass typically spend the majority of their adult life in coastal estuaries or the ocean, migrating north and south seasonally and ascending to rivers to spawn in the spring. Mature females (age six and older) produce large quantities of eggs, which are fertilized by mature males (age two and older) as they are released into riverine spawning areas. While developing, the fertilized eggs drift with the downstream currents and eventually hatch into larvae. After their arrival in the nursery areas, located in river deltas and the inland portions of coastal sounds and estuaries, they mature into juveniles. They remain in coastal sounds and estuaries for two to four years and then join the coastal migratory population in the Atlantic Ocean. In the ocean, fish tend to move north during the summer and south during the winter. Important wintering grounds for the mixed stocks are located from offshore New Jersey to North Carolina. In some years, they may not migrate all the way down into North Carolina waters, or they may be more than 3 miles offshore and unavailable to harvest, as has been the case since 2012. With warming water temperatures in the spring, the mature adult fish migrate to riverine spawning areas to complete their life cycle. The majority of the coastal migratory stock originates in the Chesapeake Bay spawning areas, with significant contributions from the spawning grounds of the Hudson and Delaware Rivers. The Albemarle/Roanoke stock contributes minimally to the coastal migratory stock.

*Includes ASMA, CSMA, and the Atlantic Ocean
^Citation release length requirement increased from 35 inches to 45 inches in 2008

For more information, contact Charlton Godwin at Charlton.Godwin@ncdenr.gov or 800-338-7805 or 252-264–3911.

N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries • 3441 Arendell Street • Morehead City, NC 28557 • 252-726-7021 or 800-682-2632

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