Friday, August 6, 2010
Striped Bass - Fishing Research and Class Observations
I am representing a commercial fisherman in the State of Connecticut and my research is focused on the commercial and non-commercial fishing laws for Striped Bass in CT. It includes debate on making the Federal waters open and available for fishing of Striped Bass by both recreational and commercial fishermen.
Connecticut and Striped Bass Regulations:
1) Looking at the short, 250-mile shoreline of CT, there does not seem to be a lot of area that is in range of the federal sea waters. Most of the shoreline has been cut off from the Atlantic Ocean by the Long Island sound. Hence, the long island sound is the primary fishing zone in Connecticut for fishes like the Striped Bass.
(Source: Kent Memorial Library, Kent, CT)
2) Connecticut only allows recreational fishing and no commercial fishing at all for Striped Bass. The limit set for recreational anglers is of 28 inches minimum for size and a maximum of 2 fish per day for quantity. The quota that has been set to the total amount of Striped Bass caught in a year and landed in Connecticut is of about 23,750 pounds of fish. The number is pretty low in comparison to states such as MA or NY which top over a million pounds per year.
3) There are about 3 million recreational anglers from the coast of Maine to North Carolina who make about 11 million fishing trips per year in the Atlantic States. About 30% of the sea-shore fishing trips and about 50% of the boat fishing trips are made for catching stripers and recreational fishing of the stripers generates a total of about $2.41 billion in revenues.
4) Striped Bass is a pelagic game fish i.e. it is a highly migratory fish. It lives in the salt waters and breeds in freshwater. In CT, striped bass mainly breed in the Connecticut river waters and after they become larger, they move from the freshwater to the salt waters of the Long Island Sound. There has been some research stating that the food for the fish in the Connecticut river has been declining and that there is not enough food for the fish population to grow and sustain itself.
Proposed Change: The US FED is considering the allowance of fishing for striped bass in the Federal waters that start from 3 miles offshore. As it is banned currently, neither the recreational or commercial fishermen are allowed to catch fish in the Federal waters and are only restricted to the state waters. The constituency, the recreational anglers, and also the commercial anglers will have varied and different views on the matter.
CT constituency view: As the state of Connecticut has a shoreline that is mostly exposed to only the waters of the Long Island Sound, and not any of the Federal sea waters, the constituency would probably not want to support the FED's proposed change. As the sea water fishing will get legal, the fish in the long island sound would probably reduce due to the higher numbers being caught in the sea waters and less migration of fish in the long island sound.
However, 80% of the fishermen are shoreline fishermen and do not have the resources to get a boat and fish in the sea. Even the people who fish on boats incur costs of travelling further into the sea. Hence, if the quota is unaffected they may decide to fish from their previous areas itself. This could keep the fish numbers the same in the sound, and the state from being indifferent towards the policy change.
Personal (Commercial Angler) View: CT does not allow commercial fishing of the striped bass. I would draft a proposal to the state in order to allow the commercial fishing in the state as well as increase the quota size considering the proposed change. I believe that banning the commercial fishing in the state does not really prevent or protect the fish. It has merely lead to an increase in the percentage of the recreational anglers who fulfill the quota that has been taken away from the commercial fishermen. Even though the quota set for CT is very small, in the past years there have been reports that show that it was not exhausted completely as in comparison to some other states like NY, NJ, and MA which went a little over-limit at times. This suggests that the state's fishing industry is not very popular for recreational purpose and hence, the addition of the commercial fisheries may be beneficial economically.
However, considering the fact that the striped bass was an endangered species and can be on the verge of extinction again, it would not be in the political interest to draft for an increase of the quota size as well as allowance of commercial striped bass fishing in CT. It would be very unlikely for the draft to be accepted as well. In this scenario, I would be completely indifferent towards the fishing of the striped bass in the Federal waters. This would mainly be due to the same effects on the fish population as before and after the law change. The Federal change would still result in the same numbers of the fish being killed per year as due to no change in the quotas. Therefore, it would not really matter to me as a commercial fisherman if the FED kept their ban or removed their ban on the striped bass fishing in the federal waters. It may not even be cost-effective for a commercial fishery to go to the FED waters for fishing of striped bass when it is easily available in state waters.
Some other thoughts (neutral perspective): As I was researching, I discovered that the landing numbers of the fish in CT declined over the last 8 years from about 1000 fish a day to about 200 fish a day. This may be due to a variety of reasons including lesser fishermen who fish over the years, lesser presence of bigger fish, higher release rates, etc. However, I think it is linked to the high mortality rates as per the decline in the presence of food for the Striped Bass and also the diminished quality of the water in the Connecticut River which is the primary breeding area for Striped Bass in Connecticut. In order to prove it there need to be further experiments and research conducted on the matter.
I believe that if anglers do substitute towards fishing in the federal waters, it may increase the net amount of fish that exist near the coast (irrespective of the 80% coastal fishermen). As a result, there may be more breeding activity in the fresh water areas of the Connecticut river and possibly result in higher growth rates and fewer mortality rates. This hypothesis of mine may lead to the population still improving. However, numerous tests and research needs to be conducted to prove the latter.
Striped Bass - Aug 5 Class Dissection Observations
After the simulation - 'Casting Blame', which took all of the first half of the classroom, Prof. Bruce decided to show us the inside of a Striped Bass which we had spent a lot of time researching. It was the first time I was going to see a fish which was 18ft long and 4 ft wide (approx.) to be cut into pieces and exposed in front of me. To my luck, the fish did not smell as I had expected it to before and I could tolerate being in the room without puking out in front of everyone, spoiling their appetite alongside.
I stood up on a chair to get a clear view of the fish and also to avoid being very close to it. The fish had a very hard top head area, probably the skull and then was followed by soft, slimy skin all the way to its back fin. It has 2 fins protruding out from the top, one from the lower side bottom, and one from under. The fish was silver and had 5 horizontal thick black lines running across its body from the gill sack to the back fin.
When, professor started cutting the fish, we discovered that the backbone of the fish ran across its body, right in the top middle area. After, dissecting the fish from one side, I saw that it was organized around the black lines horizontally. There were some thick black layers on the top and bottom corners which probably were the hard skin layers full with some metals etc.
As prof. Bruce finished the dissection of one side and some students tried their hands on the other, there were long striped chunks of meat that were left. The skin was cut of from the chunks and left behind were stripes of fat of the fish. Some of it was red as it was filled with blood and some was cream white as there was no blood in it. Then we went on and cut open the stomach of the fish. We discovered that there was a crab in it suggesting that the fish had eaten a crab before it got caught. The crab was greenish in color and hence, could be identified as a green crab or an Asian shore crab maybe.
Then prof. Bruce took the fat to cut it out into pieces and give it to students to further experiment their cooking skills with it at home. He also made some sushi and let students taste the fish with certain condiments. I heard people talking about the good taste and how they had never had such good fish before. Some seemed very eager and excited to cook it and eat the fish at home.
We ended the day at that moment and I headed back home thinking about the upcoming whale watch. I was really excited about it as I had never done it before and would be a lifetime experience, not that the fish was anything less.
1) Prof. Bruce Berman's Class Presentation Highlights and Figures
2) Whittaker , Maureen. "ASMFC Hearing of Draft Addendum 2". Interstate Fishery Managament Plan for Striped Bass. State of Connecticut: Department of Environmental Protection, 2010.
3) "Inland and Marine Fishing". Angler's Guide. State of Connecticut: Dept. of Environmental Protection, 2010.
4) "Fishery Management Report No. 41 - Amendment 6". Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Striped Bass. ATLANTIC STATES MARINE FISHERIES COMMISSION, 2003.
5) "DEP: Current Recreational Marine Fisheries Regulations". State of Connecticut - Department of Environmental Protection. August 4, 2010
6) "Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection". State of Connecticut. August 4, 2010
7) "Connecticut River Coordinate's Office: Migratory Fish Ranges". US Fish & Wildlife Service. August 5, 2010
8) "Connecticut River Coordinate's Office: Historic Fish Counts". US Fish & Wildlife Service. August 5, 2010
9) "Connecticut River Coordinate's Office: Striped Bass Program". US Fish & Wildlife Service. August 5, 2010