For the last several years BHA’s New England Chapter has played a leading role in the organization’s advocacy efforts to recover and protect Atlantic Striped Bass, which have been supported by every BHA Chapter from Maine to North Carolina.
In coordination with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (Mass DMF), the New England Chapter is now contributing to the conservation of Striped Bass in a new way – by investing in scientific research that looks to provide striped bass managers at ASMFC with a more accurate understanding of recreational release mortality and angler impacts on the fishery at-large. From 2018-2022 recreational release mortality accounts for around 50% of total striped bass removals – so having an accurate model to predict recreational release mortality is an important priority for future management of the fishery.
Currently, striped bass managers predict recreational release mortality by applying the findings of a 1996 study, which found that 9% of released bass die as a result of angling interactions, to annual estimates of angler effort from up and down the coast. While it’s unreasonable to expect that any data model will be perfect, there is little doubt that a fish’s chances of survival are heavily influenced by fishing methods, fighting and handling practices, and environmental conditions like water temperature – all of which can vary widely based on the angler, location, and time of year.
Back in 2020, Mass DMF embarked on a project to better understand the survival of recreationally-caught striped bass, first by tagging bass with accelerometer transmitters to monitor survival after being caught using various fishing methods. As an extension of this effort, Mass DMF rolled out a citizen science portion of the study that will continue at least through 2024, as well as a partnership with the GotOne app that allows recreational anglers to more easily submit fishing data to the agency.
Now, through funding provided by New England BHA, Mass DMF has opened a Data Portal that allows anglers, fisheries managers, and the interested public to see information as it comes in real-time.
BHA’s approach to protecting and conserving striped bass has been constant for as long as we’ve engaged in the management of the species – and we will continue to advocate for recovery to abundance, and for management policies that ensure that abundance is maintained long-term once that initial goal is achieved. In the case of recreational release mortality, which is one of the largest causes of fishing mortality for striped bass, the best available science today simply isn’t good enough – so New England BHA excited to be supporting the effort to improve our collective understanding so that managers can make more informed decisions in the future.