Monitoring Program Shows Promise for Striped Bass in the Bay
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - The initial results of a monitoring program of striped bass hatched this spring in Virginia tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay suggest the bay's most coveted game fish is rebounding from one of the worst juvenile survey results on record.
The Virginia Institute of Marine Science said although the 2013 survey was just average, it tops the 2012 results. The improved results this year "can mitigate the effect of less productive years," VIMS said in a news release Friday.
The bay's striped bass population has recovered from historic lows in the late 1970s and early 1980s, primarily because of fishing bans that were enacted by Virginia, Maryland and Delaware in the late '80s, VIMS said. Stripers, or rockfish as they are more commonly known around the bay, are now considered recovered.
VIMS has monitoring stations in the watersheds of the Rappahannock, York and James rivers to survey juvenile striped bass. Each year, biologists sample each site five times from July through mid-September. They use a 100-foot-long seine net from shore and measure each fish they net before returning it to the water.
This year, the survey recorded more than 10 fish per haul, which is up slightly from the historic average of nine fish and a considerable increase over 2012. In total, 1,615 juvenile striped bass were measured at the 18 stations.
The survey, which began in 1967, provides an important measure of annual and long-term trends in the bay's striped bass population, said Mary Fabrizio, who directs the striper survey at VIMS, which is located on Gloucester Point.
Periods of higher seine hauls can offset down years, such as 2012, she said.
Striped bass recovery in the early 1980s, for instance, was partially attributed to a few strong years in the late 1980s. The VIMS survey provides an important measure of annual and long-term trends in the bay's striper population.
Fabrizio said stripers pay an important role as a top predator in the bay's ecosystem and is a highly valued catch, commercially and recreationally.