A campaign has been launched to protect populations of one of America’s most popular sport fish.
The #StripersInOurHands campaign aims to lower catch-and-release mortality rates of striped bass along the East Coast. Keep Fish Wet, Confluence Collective and Soul Fly Outfitters are collaborating on the project to highlight how to safely play, handle and release stripers to improve their chances of survival.
The striped bass population is currently at a 25-year low, according to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC). And it is estimated that the largest proportion of mortality comes from fish that are caught and released but do not survive the experience.
“If our fisheries managers at the ASMFC don’t correct the trajectory, we all stand to lose this iconic resource,” says a campaign statement “ASMFC is in the midst of trying to adjust its own mismanagement of the striped bass stock and rebuild the population through a new plan. Anglers aren’t particularly confident in ASMFC, and with good reason. The commission’s track record is less than stellar.”
The most recent ASMFC assessment estimates that 3.4 million striped bass died from catch and release, the direct result of handling and angling practices, perhaps because they were gill hooked, released in a low oxygen environment or simply kept out of the water too long.
“Businesses like mine up and down the east coast depend on a healthy, abundant striper population,” said Kyle Schaefer of Soul Fly Outfitters. “Proper management and conservation helps to bolster the economy of coastal communities and the abundance of these fish drives access for everyone. ”
Keep Fish Wet is focused on improving the outcome of catch-and-release by using research on how fish respond to capture to determine techniques anglers can use to ensure that released fish survive.
“There is a growing body of science showing anglers can making subtle changes in their behaviour and how they catch and handle fish that can reduce release mortality and make a meaningful impact on the fishery we all care about” said Dr. Andy Danylchuk, Professor of Fish Conservation at UMass Amherst and Science Advisor for Keep Fish Wet.
KFW Executive Director, Sascha Clark, Danylchuk estimated that a 1% decrease in the mortality rate would equate to 250,000 more stripers.
“Let’s take this fishery in our own hands and ensure that each fish we release swims off strong and healthy,” urged Schaefer.