The Maryland DNR has just announced this year’s Young of the Year (YOY) index, a measurement of the number of young striped bass born each spring in the Maryland portion of Chesapeake Bay. The index was measured at 3.2 – being the average number of fish taken in each haul of the seine – which compares to the long term average of 11.7. Maryland biologists assert that this is no cause for alarm since there is a long history of variability among year-classes. Still the graph below shows that 4 of the best 5 YOY indexes ever recorded occurred in the past 15 years yet only one year in the last seven (2003) has been significantly above the long term average, while three have been alarmingly lower. This is hardly the sign of the fully recovered fishery being trumpeted by fishery managers. The mega spawning years of 1989, 1993,1996, and 2001 haven’t been remotely approached in the last 7 years. Those big years should have produced an abundance in the spawning stock biomass, yet the recent stock assessment released by the ASFMC confirms that this too is declining. Today’s catch levels and quotas are based on a theoretical abundance of fish from the 90s. The problem is that this abundance seems to be mostly theoretical. Despite the clear downtrend in the population numbers and the distressingly low replacement rate, absolutely no one is talking about reductions in quotas. It is certainly cause for concern.
Contribution by Stripers Forever Photo by Rene Braun