Worried by recent declines in the numbers of Maryland's state fish, Atlantic states fisheries regulators are weighing slashing the annual striped bass catch by up to one-third next year all along the East Coast and in the Chesapeake Bay.
The proposal, to be aired Tuesday before the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, comes six months after a study found the striped bass population verging on being overfished and the number of spawning female fish likely to slip to unsustainable levels soon if no action is taken.
"We're thrilled," said Tony Friedrich, executive director of Coastal Conservation Association Maryland, which has long pressed regulators to curtail the catch. "I don't know anyone who doesn't think the stock is in trouble."
A catch reduction of that size would hit Maryland's watermen hard, though, especially since their mainstay of crabbing appears likely to be poor again this year, based on a recent survey.
"It's called being regulated out of business," said Robert T. Brown Sr., president of the Maryland Watermen's Association. He contended that "there's no shortage of fish."