Maryland's Commercial Striped Bass Fishery

BACKGROUND:

Decades ago the supply of striped bass (Morone saxatilis) seemed plentiful. However, advances in fishermen's ability to catch, preserve, and sell fish quickly exceeded the ability of fish stocks to reproduce. In 1973 commercial striped bass harvest was at 5 million pounds, but within a decade the commercial harvest slumped to less than two million pounds. An Emergency Striped Bass Research Study suggested that excessive fishing pressure likely decimated the striped bass stock and precipitated the decline. A moratorium on commercial and recreational fishing for striped bass was imposed in 1984 and reopened in 1990 with small seasons and quota limits. When the striped bass stocks began to recover in 1994, Maryland State law capped the number of commercial licensees able to participate in the commercial striped bass fishery at the current number of participants, 1231. As a migratory species, striped bass are monitored by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), a regulatory agency designed to coordinate the conservation and management of nearshore fishery resources through a joint program with Atlantic coastal states. State and district quotas are set by ASMFC based on sampling data and models. Maryland then further divides their portion of the quota among different gear types assigned to different seasons. Maryland regulatory regimes attempt to reduce overfishing through various types of restrictions: limits on the amount of time during which fishing can occur, lengths of the season, number of fisherman, equipment, the size of the allowable catch, and limits on the amount of fish caught. The adoption of these regulations proved to be a huge step in the restoration of striped bass population.

In 1995 when the striped bass stock was formally declared recovered, ASMFC Amendment V was adopted and replaced the original ASMFC fishery management plan and subsequent amendments. The biological target for determining the stock restored has been defined as "the average spawning stock biomass (SSB) or total weight of sexually mature striped bass females observed between 1960 and 1972. The goal of Amendment V is: "to perpetuate the stock of striped bass so as to allow a commercial and recreational harvest consistent with the long term maintenance of a self-sustaining spawning stock and provide for the restoration and maintenance of essential habitat."

Commercial Permit

SO HOW DO I GET A COMMERCIAL STRIPED BASS PERMIT?

The commercial fishery is currently capped at 1231 licensees. Each licensee is required to declare his/her intent to harvest striped bass each year in order to remain on the list of eligible fishermen. The declaration of intent period takes place during the month of August at any DNR regional licensing center. An individual is removed from the striped bass fishery when he/she fails to declare intent for two consecutive years or fails to renew his/her commercial finfish license. The Department monitors licensees to determine who is currently eligible and maintains a waiting list for non-eligible fishermen who possess a valid license. To enter the striped bass fishery, current finfish license holders need to apply to the waiting list. Applications to the waiting list are added to the list in the order of the date and time the applications are received. If you are a commercial finfish licencee and are interested in applying to the striped bass waiting list please contact Matt Lawrence.