jps1010

How soon we forget - Striped Bass decline

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Here is an interesting article I wanted to share.  Way back when, they were also scratching their heads trying to figure out what was causing the decline.  At that time they believed pollution may be the main culprit.  I'm not saying that it didn't play a part but by no means was it the cause.  Overfishing was.  It reminds me of the arguments going on now.   The suggested issues may have changed (i.e. climate change, changed migration routes, forage food issues, etc) but the main cause is still the same.

 

 

OUTDOORS; Pollution and Striped Bass

By NELSON BRYANT  JUNE 27, 1981

The New York Times

 

THOSE involved in the recently-launched study to determine the reasons for the decline in East Coast striped bass populations have already come up with one possible cause: the backbones of the fish may have been weakened by toxic chemicals.

Scientists at the United States Fish and Wildlife Service's National Fisheries Research Laboratory at Columbia, Mo., led by Dr. Paul Mehrle, a biochemist, and Dr. Terry Haines, a fisheries biologist, have been studying striped bass. They found that fry and fingerlings from the Hudson River, the Potomac River and the Nanticoke River in Maryland had weaker backbones than those -which contained no significant chemical residues - from the Edonton (N.C.) National Fish Hatchery.

The extent to which a weakened backbone can affect survival is not clear but, as Dr. Mehrle noted, such a condition, in severe cases, would certainly ''reduce the ability of the fish to compete for food, avoid predators, or endure the stresses of migration or reproduction.''

The Columbia scientists found that striped bass from the Hudson had relatively high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), lead and cadmium. Potomac River fish contained lead, zinc, arsenic and selenium, and the Nanticoke stripers arsenic and selenium.

The Hudson stripers' backbones were 42 percent weaker than those of the Edonton hatchery fish and those from the other two rivers were 20 percent weaker.

The backbone-testing procedure is an attempt to come up with a standard measure of health for the fish, and according to Dr. Foster Mayer, chief biologist at the Columbia facility, it appears to be one of the more logical procedures.

The striped bass research at Columbia and elsewhere is being carefully orchestrated. Dr. Geoffrey Laurence, a fisheries biologist at the Narragansett, R.I., laboratory of the National Marine Fisheries Service, said in a telephone interview that the cooperation between the various state and Federal agencies is unprecedented in its depth and coordination and that he expects that academic institutions will soon join in the three-year study.

The money for all of the Narragansett work and most of the work at Columbia is derived from the so-called ''Chafee Amendment'' (after Senator John Chafee of Rhode Island) to the Anadromous Fish Conservation Act, which was re-authorized last year.

As of this writing, funding has been authorized for five additional striper projects (with the Federal share being $244,896) in four states - New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia.

The New York study will include measuring recruitment of juvenile bass, the impact of commercial fishing on stripers in the Hudson estuary, and investigation of morphological characteristics that may identify a bass's river of origin, and an assessment of the area's populations of mature fish.

The other studies include assessments of larval striped bass stocks in Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia waters, and a measure of the fish's abundance in the York, James and Rappahannock Rivers in Virginia. The last-named project will also attempt to define the relationship between year-class strength and the size of commercial landings.

Clearly some of the key questions are: how many stripers do we have along the coast, how much commercial and sport-fishing pressure can they stand and how serious has pollution affected their ability to reproduce and survive.

The striper, like the shad, the alewives and the Atlantic salmon, is an anadromous fish, spawning in fresh or brackish water, living there for up to four months after hatching, then descending to the greater salinity of the estuary for two years or more before moving out to sea. The shad and alewives store less chemical pollution than the striper because their offspring - and to a lesser extent the adults as well - dally less time in a river or its estuary.

Another question being probed in the joint effort between the Narragansett and Columbia laboratories is the relationship between the level of chemical pollution in larvae and their survival rate. The Narragansett laboratory has been monitoring the growth and survival rate of larvae spawned by bass from the same rivers involved in the Columbia study. This includes measuring the natural fats, carbohydrates and protein components which are essential to larval growth. Larvae from the same fish are being sent to Columbia to be analyzed for their chemical pollutant load.

In addition, the Columbia laboratory has the female bass from which the larvae being studied at both laboratories came. To put it another way, the females and the larvae they produced are so identified. This will enable the Columbia people, among other things, to see what correlation, if any, there is between the pollutant load carried by the mother fish and that of the larvae she produced.

Obviously, a splendid start has been made in an effort to sustain viable populations of the most highly-regarded light-tackle marine game fish from Maine to North Carolina.

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Interesting article to this long time Hudson river fisherman. GE is presently trying to claim the river is clean and is trying to discontinue the dredging they are required to provide after many years of polluting. Good not to see the Chesapeake mentioned in the story, although the Potomac was brought up. Here on the northern Hudson (above the GWB) the couple year old keeper slot of 18"-28" is probably the best thing that ever happened. Prior to the slot, possible spawning females traveling north ( fish above 34") were being removed in large numbers during the spring spawn.

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Min length is key, why would managers conclude that removing fish just as they are about to spawn is insanity if your intent is to help the population. Bring back min. 32" then go to 36" when things improve. Ask any body who fished through the crash of stocks how 36" min really turned things around.  :rav:

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I’ve seen tons more fish in my area than I ever have........just no big ones.used to fish 7 days a week growing up and I would be lucky to catch 3 or 4 a week but they were all mid 30” fish or up, now I’ll catch a few shorties every trip just about and rarely get a legal fish. Also don’t even see a fraction of the adult pogies I used to but See clouds of peanuts everywhere, And I haven’t seen a bluefish in 5 years from shore in my neck of Boston harbor(we used to catch so many in the 2000’s we’d rather a rat striper than a 30” blue) I don’t even know what to think about it.

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1 hour ago, jps1010 said:

The suggested issues may have changed (i.e. climate change, changed migration routes, forage food issues, etc) but the main cause is still the same.

 

I think it's right and proper to be suspicious of diversionary arguments by people who want to keep regulations to a minimum, but it would be foolish to dismiss climate change as a major factor in every level of management. Hell, it'll be a life-altering factor for every living thing on this planet for the foreseeable future. I say this as someone (as far as I can tell) 100% aligned with your position on fisheries conservation. 

 

As Charles mentioned in the other thread...pressure exerted by warming should be more incentive for stronger regulations, not less. 

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At some point, they need to dredge the hudson for navigation.  Folks blame GE for the river, but many many other folks including municipalities have dumped pollutants into the river(s).  

 

One thing that is difficult to control and monitor is offshore international water commercial fishing.  These poor fish are likely getting hammered out there in the summer.  

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Overfishing then, overfished since the early 2000s. 

 

Trouble is when that article was written, the Chesapeake Bay could and did support a comeback and the Hudson was in the early stages of clean up. Now the Hudson is cleaner than the Chessy. 

 

There were no dead zones like today. There were warm water refuge in the summer and forage/filter feeders. A lot more bunker, oysters, and sea grass beds than today. Can the Chesapeake support another comeback? Even if the YOY numbers are historic year after year,  can the Chessy sustain them to grow and migrate and contribute to the SSB? 

 

If if so we need a real save the bay. We need the reduction fleet quota cut. We need real oyster restoration. We need sea grass restoration. We need sewage plant upgrades. We need farming and agricultural upgrades/changes. Dare I say commerce and military changes.

 

Most of all we need more fish left in the water. We need laws and enforcement of those laws from arrest to sentencing. We need an ecosystem based approach and arguably a change from the current MSY approach. 

 

How do we pay for it?  That’s a good question. New taxes maybe? Charge the big container shipping industry?  Stimulus from the fed? The Chesapeake Bay watershed spans Va, Md, De, Pa, WV and Ny. It has to be a coordinated effort, should the federal government take the lead? 

 

They have thrown gobs of money at the effort. There has been little to no progress and things have arguably gotten worse. A healthy Chesapeake Bay not only benefits those of us who love bass. Imagine a truly healthy bay that supports commerce, military, and a healthy/sustainable commercial and recreational fisheries. 

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As a 51 yr old, I experienced the decline, the comeback and now the decline again.  Over the last 10 years, I have regularly fished Croton Bay in the spring and Montauk the rest of the year.  There are fish but a tide used to bring 6-10 bass.  The last few summers, I've had to work hard to get one (which I release).  I'm all for better regulations: I want others to fish for striped bass.  The upside is that fluke, porgy and sea bass has been great. 

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3 hours ago, john1234 said:

I’ve seen tons more fish in my area than I ever have........just no big ones.used to fish 7 days a week growing up and I would be lucky to catch 3 or 4 a week but they were all mid 30” fish or up, now I’ll catch a few shorties every trip just about and rarely get a legal fish. Also don’t even see a fraction of the adult pogies I used to but See clouds of peanuts everywhere, And I haven’t seen a bluefish in 5 years from shore in my neck of Boston harbor(we used to catch so many in the 2000’s we’d rather a rat striper than a 30” blue) I don’t even know what to think about it.

And as soon as those fish reach the minimum harvesting size they'll be taken too. If not before :dismay:

 

The world is a different place from when the moratorium and 36" limit seemed trigger a boom in the populations. I'm skeptical that anything will get it back to what happened then. Sad. Such a beautiful resource and game fish that survived so much going against it for so long.

Edited by Rainmaker

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1 min ago, Rainmaker said:

And as soon as those fish reach the minimum harvesting size they'll be taken too.

 

The world is a different place from when the moratorium and 36" limit seemed trigger a boom in the populations. I'm skeptical that anything will get it back to what happened then. Sad. Such a beautiful resource and game fish that survived so much going against it for so long.

I think the best we can do is be the example and teach the youth that are willing to listen about the resource.

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I included this article for comparative purposes.  Nearly 40 years ago we were having similar arguments as we do today when in reality, its not that complicated.  Overfishing was the main cause then as it is now.  I can say that with the upmost certainty having fished the 80s, the resurgence and the decline. 

 

I'm not saying pollution and global warming shouldn't be concerns, they should and they should be addressed but if pollution and global warming were behind this decline, it wouldn't have happened is such a short time frame.  2012 to even up to 2015 weren't bad and in some places it was pretty good.  I fish the south shore of LI and the past three seasons have been abysmal in the waters I fish.  I remember I was on a sand eel bite in 2013 and thought to myself I hope these fish leave because they were getting hammered from the beach and the boats.  That, plus poor YOY recruitment for a number of years, I'm only surprised we didn't get here sooner.  We overfish virtually everything.  E.g. Goliath Grouper were nearly extinct.  They implemented strict laws and years later I hear there are so many of them that they have become a nuisance.  Also, when there were more bass around 10 years ago, they were getting plenty in the Carolinas.

 

Think about it, you have less fishing coming into the mix, poor YOY, but the bags limits don't change for a number of years, what do we think is going to happen.

 

 

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5 hours ago, Rainmaker said:

And as soon as those fish reach the minimum harvesting size they'll be taken too. If not before :dismay:

 

The world is a different place from when the moratorium and 36" limit seemed trigger a boom in the populations. I'm skeptical that anything will get it back to what happened then. Sad. Such a beautiful resource and game fish that survived so much going against it for so long.

It may be a different place but the bottom line is when the fish are taken before they have a chance to breed for a couple of years recovery will never happen. That’s a fact 

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I tend to believe commercial draggers are a large problem as well.    And the dang headboats.  I mean christ plz find another means of revenue. 

 

Ny has a 1 person limit so the boats steam to jersey and slaughter boat fish. 

 

Fall bite in nj on surf was essentially non existent except for some rats. Blame beach replenishment as well for jersey.  

 

Point is something needs to get done

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16 hours ago, jps1010 said:

I included this article for comparative purposes.  Nearly 40 years ago we were having similar arguments as we do today when in reality, its not that complicated.  Overfishing was the main cause then as it is now.  I can say that with the upmost certainty having fished the 80s, the resurgence and the decline. 

 

I'm not saying pollution and global warming shouldn't be concerns, they should and they should be addressed but if pollution and global warming were behind this decline, it wouldn't have happened is such a short time frame.  2012 to even up to 2015 weren't bad and in some places it was pretty good.  I fish the south shore of LI and the past three seasons have been abysmal in the waters I fish.  I remember I was on a sand eel bite in 2013 and thought to myself I hope these fish leave because they were getting hammered from the beach and the boats.  That, plus poor YOY recruitment for a number of years, I'm only surprised we didn't get here sooner.  We overfish virtually everything.  E.g. Goliath Grouper were nearly extinct.  They implemented strict laws and years later I hear there are so many of them that they have become a nuisance.  Also, when there were more bass around 10 years ago, they were getting plenty in the Carolinas.

 

Think about it, you have less fishing coming into the mix, poor YOY, but the bags limits don't change for a number of years, what do we think is going to happen.

 

 

Overfishing is the issue.  The fish can survive weather changes.

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