The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries’ 2014 Stock Status Report reclassifies the Albemarle/Roanoke striped bass stock from “viable” to “concern,” due to biological factors associated with a declining population.
The agency annually grades the status of important marine finfish, shellfish, shrimp and crabs as viable, recovering, concern, depleted or unknown. The grades serve as a barometer of the overall health of the state’s fishery resources, and they are used to prioritize development of fishery management plans.
While a 2010 stock assessment concludes the stock was not overfished, several population trends have prompted concern about the status of striped bass fishery. Since 2002, the number of young fish entering the population has declined, causing a steady decrease in landings from the peak harvest in 2004. A new Albemarle/Roanoke striped bass stock assessment is scheduled to be approved in August, and reductions in harvest limits likely will be necessary.
Striped bass in North Carolina are managed by the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission and the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, and data collected by both agencies are used to assess the status of the stocks. Amendment 1 to the N.C. Estuarine Striped Bass Fishery Management Plan was approved by both commissions in 2013.
Stocks exhibiting declining landings may be classified as “concern” even if they have an approved stock assessment and fishery management plan, as is the case with the Albemarle/Roanoke striped bass stock.
The stock status of all other species remained the same as the 2013 report.
Bluefish, shrimp and summer flounder stocks remained in the “viable” category. A stock is considered “viable” when it exhibits stable or increasing trends in a number of biological factors associated with healthy fish populations.
Spotted seatrout and southern flounder were still in the “depleted” category and are awaiting the completion of state stock assessments that are underway now. A “depleted” stock is one where the population of spawning females or the entire population is too low. Factors that can contribute to this status include overfishing, poor water quality, habitat loss, larvae survival and disease.
Red drum stocks remained in the “recovering” category, and oyster and blue crab stocks remained in the “concern” category. A “recovering” stock shows marked and consistent improvement in the criteria listed for a “viable” stock, but has not yet reached its target.
Full definitions for the stock status grades can be found at: http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/stock-status-categories-and-definitions.