Fishery commission takes step toward reducing striped bass harvest by 17% in Chesapeake, along Atlantic coast

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission said Wednesday that it will require new restrictions on striped bass next year, amid overfishing of the species known in the Chesapeake as rockfish.

The panel, which regulates a striped bass fishery that spans from Maine to North Carolina, launched a study of how a variety of conservation measures could reduce fish deaths by 17 percent. That includes reducing the number of fish that are caught and also the number that die from hook wounds after being caught and released.

Measures states from Maine to North Carolina will be asked to consider include:

» New limits on the minimum size of fish that can legally be caught;

» Possible new rules establishing “slot” limits on striped bass fishing, meaning only fish larger than an undetermined minimum size and smaller than 40 inches long can be legally caught;

» Closure of some portions of striped bass fishing season; and,

» Requirement that special equipment known as circle hooks be used coastwide while fishing with live bait. (The circle hooks already are required in Maryland.)

The commission met Tuesday poised to act amid the steepest decline in the Atlantic striped bass population since the species recovered from the brink of extinction 30 years ago. A recent study found that in 2017, the number of spawning female striped bass along the East Coast was at its lowest level since 1992.

A commission panel is expected to conduct its study over the next few months before presenting it to the interstate agency in August. The recommended fishery reductions would go then to the commission for final approval as early as October.

It would be up to states to decide how exactly to achieve the 17 percent reduction in fish mortality, using one or more of the measures the commission has offered.

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