Rockfish recovery continuing

November 11, 2001|By NEWSDAY

NEW YORK - People on the East Coast caught more rockfish last year - 4.68 million fish - than they had since 1982.

In doing so, the coast's recreational and commercial fishermen met the harvest target set by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, according to the latest stock assessment on rockfish, which are also called striped bass.

The report also indicates that the striper population increased slightly to an estimated 45.6 million fish, after declining in each of the four previous years.

The stock is not growing as it did from 1982 to 1997, but it is sustaining itself at robust levels despite fishing pressure that is higher than ever.

This is generally good news for fishermen and for fisheries managers. Gordon Colvin, marine resources chief for the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, called the report "pretty encouraging."

One new trend asserted itself last year. Fishermen took many more younger fish, those aged 3 to 8. This is probably linked to the management decisions made in 1999 to protect older fish, those aged 8 to 13.

These bigger, heavier stripers are targeted more often by trophy-seeking fishermen but these fish also produce more eggs and so are key to the future of the stock.

Colvin said it's not clear whether the shift to younger fish will be a problem. Continuing studies in several states are showing that an adequate number of 1- and 2-year-old fish are present in major, historical production areas such as the Chesapeake Bay.

Newsday is a Tribune Publishing Co. newspaper.

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