Hakai Magazine –
In 1639, the Massachusetts Bay Colony passed a law banning the use of striped bass as fertilizer. Settlers thought the fish was more valuable as a commercial good. But a lot has changed since then. The latest stock assessment shows that striped bass are overfished. Striper, as they’re often called, are in decline, and with them, their value as a commercial and recreational resource. Striped bass are facing a watershed moment—the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), the regional organization responsible for assessing and managing fish stocks, is proposing changes to the fish’s management. Once again, Massachusetts residents are being forced to rethink the best way to use the vaunted fish.
The nonprofit group Stripers Forever believes it has the answer to this long-running dilemma. Stripers Forever wants the striped bass to be a game fish and nothing more. It thinks the fish should be managed as a recreational fishery and the commercial harvest closed. Dean Clark, Stripers Forever’s Massachusetts cochair, says this would benefit the economy and the fish. When you manage a species for a recreational market, he says, “your goal is abundance and quality. The more fish, the bigger the fish, the more people are going to fish for them—therefore the more value you get from them.”