The current level of fishing mortality, while below the threshold in 2012, is now forecast to be greater than the prescribed target, which means that too many fish are being killed by fishermen to maintain the target spawning stock biomass.
Striped bass spawning success varies from year to year. But the recent Young of the Year (YOY) spawning numbers are very disturbing. The 2013 YOY count of striped bass spawned in Maryland’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay was below the average of the last 20 years (see graphic below). A year earlier, in 2012, the YOY count was the worst ever. The Hudson River, which is the second largest producer of baby stripers on the Atlantic Coast, has now had three years of poor spawning success. Striped bass are the major predators in their niche, and nature designed them to grow large and to spawn over a long lifetime. Some biologists are greatly concerned that the management concept of focusing harvest on the larger, more mature fish in the population is destabilizing and could lead to long-term spawning disaster.