For a period of about six weeks, beginning on July 12, a few thousand Massachusetts fishermen will head out on the water in pursuit of striped bass.
However the commercial striped bass season has come under fire recently, largely due to concerns over the health of the overall striped bass stock. The concern is understandable, as the economic value of the striped bass extends deep into various industries here on Cape Cod.
Tackle shops, charter businesses, restaurants, seafood wholesalers as well as commercial fishermen all benefit from the striped bass' seasonal presence in the waters surrounding the Cape. Yet recently there has been growing concern over the number of juvenile stripers, which has dwindled according to observations made by many fishermen.
The reasons behind the supposed decline in numbers of the smaller, younger members of the striped bass population are not clear. Even so many peole are quick to blame the commercial striped bass fishery.
However, the recreational fishery is not getting off the hook either.
According to a recent ASMFC striped bass stock assessment (2007), recreational fishermen harvested approximately 2,774,542 bass. Estimated dead recreational discards (fish released that end up dying) were 2,072,334. 4.8 million striped bass were killed by the recreational sector, stated the report.
The commercial harvest was 1,049,587 fish. Estimated commercial discards were 216,753 striped bass.
So in conclusion, according to the ASMFC, recreational fishermen killed over 4 million more fish that year than commercial fishermen.
The impact that both groups have on our striped bass population is undeniable.
Commercial fishermen, some of which rely heavily upong striped bass as a form of income, and some who do not, should be held accountable.
Recreational fishermen, some of which keep bass for tablefare, and even those who release bass to fight another day, should be held accountable.
If any changes are to be made over the upcoming years to how we mange striped bass, it only makes sense that both groups should be willing to make a sacrafice.