Members of the federal fisheries board who voted to consider increasing the coastal commercial striped bass harvest had to know they’d just thrown a brick at a hornet’s nest. At its winter meeting the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Striped Bass Management Board approved an addendum that could give commercial fishers a larger quota, igniting an impassioned debate.
It’s not surprising that commercial fishermen and sport anglers would squabble over allocation. Yet, despite the recent coastal stock assessment that found healthy numbers of stripers, this motion is contentious because it comes at a time when rockfish face serious challenges.
Unlike the crash of the early 1980s when overfishing was the obvious culprit, today’s problems are more insidious. Chief among them is mycobacteriosis, a potentially fatal disease that causes Chesapeake stripers to lose body mass and mars them with nasty lesions. Myco was first diagnosed in the bay in 1997, and subsequent studies in Virginia and Maryland found the disease in more than two-thirds of the stripers sampled.