Us Fish & Wildlife Maryland office
Section 7 of the Anadromous Fish Conservation Act (Emergency Striped Bass Study). The Act instructed the Secretaries of the Interior and Commerce to develop studies to assess the size of the migratory stock, investigate the causes of the decline, calculate its economic importance and recommend measures for restoration. Between 1985 and 1990, while beginning to address these issues, a fishing moratorium was imposed by the coastal states from North Carolina to Maine to protect the remaining wild striped bass stocks.
In 1985, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in cooperation with the National Marine Fisheries Service, state agencies, and universities, developed studies through Section 7 of the Anadromous Fish Conservation Act. Such studies included a coast-wide striped bass tagging program and a hatchery stocking program. These programs were designed to estimate rates of exploitation, mortality rate, migration, and contribution of hatchery-reared fish to wild stocks.
Between 1985 and 1993, more than 9 million tagged hatchery-rearedstriped bass fingerlings were released into the Chesapeake Bay system. Hatchery-reared striped bass were marked with an internal binary coded wire tag,
which is a tiny micro-encoded piece of wire that commercial and/ or recreational fishermen cannot see but researchers can detect with specialized equipment. These tags are used to gather information on the contribution of hatchery-reared fish to the wild population. For instance, in 1988, hatchery fish comprised close to half of Maryland's young-of the-year striped bass in some rivers. Furthermore, those juvenile striped bass released in the Chesapeake Bay eventually contributed to the coastal population. In fact, tagged hatchery-reared fish, released into the Chesapeake Bay, have been recovered as adults as far north as New Brunswick, Canada, over 1,000 miles from the point of release. Today, as hoped, hatchery fish are far out-numbered by wild fish in the Chesapeake Bay. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources reported that the 1996 young-of-the-year index was the highest since the survey began in 1954. This is particularly impressive given that there were no hatchery releases in 1996.
Besides the hatchery release program, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and cooperating agencies, have tagged more than 448,000 striped bass with external anchor or "spaghetti" tags
since 1985. A central database, managed by the Maryland Fishery Resources Office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, stores coast-wide tagging information and fishery dependent and independent survey data. The information from this database is used to develop appropriate management measures to maintain a sustainable striped bass fishery.
Fishermen have returned more than 80,000 of the external anchor tags. Such tag return data has provided a better understanding of migratory patterns of striped bass. For instance, the tagging program has confirmed that some 1-2 year old striped bass leave bays and estuaries to forage along the coastline. Such movement demonstrates that the fish use a wider range of habitats and are exposed to different mortality pressures then originally believed. Movement of these fish could only be detected with this type of tagging data. Tag returns have also provided information on rates of migration. For example, striped bass are capable of swimming 500 miles in only a month at an average of 16 miles per day.
The success of the striped bass tagging program has assisted in the official restoration of the Chesapeake Bay migratory stock of striped bass in 1995. The program has also encouraged the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to begin similar tagging programs on coastal populations of American shad and Atlantic sturgeon.
If you catch a tagged striped bass, you should cut off the tag and record the date, location, and method of capture. If you are unable to cut off the tag, write down the tag number along with the required information. You should then report the information as soon as possible to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Maryland Fishery Resources Office at 1-800-448-8322. Any person who report tags will receive a certificate of participation and a reward.