Fish lovers should not expect to find fresh locally caught striped bass on the menu or in the fish market until next summer.
The Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries announced Friday that the the state’s striped bass quota of 869,813 pounds was projected to have been reached on Thursday, August 20 and the season is now closed.
As of Friday, seafood dealers in Massachusetts are prohibited from purchasing or receiving striped bass from any fisherman until the 2016 commercial striped bass fishing season opens. Fishermen are also prohibited from selling or attempting to sell any striped bass in Massachusetts.
“I’ll be out of it tomorrow,” Louis Larsen, owner of The Net Result in Vineyard Haven, said Friday afternoon as customers lined up in front of his glass display case where striped bass sold for $27.50 per pound.
All is not lost for lovers of striped bass. Beginning on August 26, dealers may import sub-legal sized stripers, fish shorter than the state’s 34 inch commercial limit, provided the fish conforms to the minimum size of the state of origin.
There is also the do-it-yourself method of putting fresh striped bass on the table. The recreational season remains open. Fishermen are allowed to keep one striped bass that measures at least 28 inches in total length. Commercial fishermen are required to submit a catch report irrespective of catch no later than September 15, 2015. “Failure to submit these reports for all months of the year may result in the non-renewal of a commercial permit and its regulated fishery permit endorsements in 2016,” DMF said.
In April, DMF announced new measures to protect striped bass that included a reduction in the commercial and recreational bag limits.
The daily bag limit for recreational fishermen was reduced from two fish at 28 inches to one fish at 28 inches. And the commercial quota was reduced by 25 percent.
The reduction was not unexpected. Martha’s Vineyard fishermen have expressed concerns for several years over a steady decline in the abundance and size of one of New England’s most sought-after gamefish. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), a 15-member body responsible for managing fish species and implementing management plans along the East Coast, in October 2014 announced its approval of Addendum IV to Amendment 6 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for Atlantic Striped Bass.
The changes required a 25 percent reduction in the Massachusetts commercial quota and a reduction in the recreational bag limit from two fish per day at 28 inches to one fish at 28 inches, or a similar plan that would result in a 25 percent reduction in the recreational harvest.
According to the ASMFC, the changes in the management plan that has governed striped bass for decades responded to results of the 2013 Atlantic striped bass benchmark assessment, which indicated fishing mortality was above target in 2012, and that female spawning stock biomass “has been steadily declining below the target level since 2006.”
The ASMFC said that while “the stock is not overfished, and overfishing is not occurring,” the number of spawning fish is expected to continue to fall below the set target.