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Atlantic Striped Bass

Morone saxatilis

Illustration of Atlantic Striped Bass

Also Known As

  • Bass
  • Rockfish
  • Striper
  • Linesider

U.S. wild-caught Atlantic striped bass is a smart seafood choice because it is sustainably managed and responsibly harvested under U.S. regulations.

Population

Significantly below target levels and fishing rate promotes population growth.

Fishing Rate

Reduced to end overfishing. Managers are exploring alternative coast-wide measures to address overfishing. There is a moratorium in federal waters.

Habitat Impacts

Fishing gears used to harvest striped bass have minimal impacts on habitat.

Bycatch

Regulations are in place to minimize bycatch.

  • Availability

    Available both frozen and fresh year-round, depending on the area.

  • Source

    U.S. wild-caught from Maine to North Carolina, and farmed.

  • Taste

    Both wild-caught and farmed striped bass have a slightly sweet flavor.

  • Texture

    Firm, with large flakes.

  • Color

    Light-colored meat.

  • Health Benefits

    Striped bass is a good source of low-fat protein and selenium. Consumption advisories for striped bass vary from state to state.

The U.S. Fishery

Fishery Management

  • The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission manages the striped bass stock, which inhabits all coastal and estuarine areas from Maine through Virginia, and the coastal areas of North Carolina. Estuarine striped bass stocks in North Carolina are managed as non-coastal migratory stocks by the State of North Carolina under the auspices of the Commission.
  • The Atlantic Striped Bass Conservation Act and the Atlantic Coastal Fisheries Cooperative Management Act direct state and federal conservation and management efforts for this population. Both Acts contain provisions to impose a federal moratorium on striped bass fishing in states that fail to comply with the Commission’s management plan. The Secretaries of Commerce and the Interior are required to provide biennial reports to Congress and the Commission on studies of the Atlantic striped bass resource.
  • Managed under the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Striped Bass.
    • Harvest limits are set at a level that will conserve the striped bass spawning stock so the resource can continue to replace harvested fish. Researchers have determined that the minimum age for female striped bass to reproduce is between the ages of 4 and 8 years. Managers set the target population levels for this species based on the size of the female spawning stock.
    • In state waters, the commercial fishery is currently managed with:
      • State-by-state catch quotas that limit the amount of fish that can be caught.
      • Minimum size limits to protect younger striped bass so they can grow, mature, and reproduce.
      • Gear restrictions.
      • Seasonal fishery closures, mainly to protect spawning fish.
      • Bycatch monitoring and research programs.
    • In state waters, the recreational fishery is managed with:
      • Minimum size and bag limits.
      • Seasonal fishery closures.
    • Federal waters (between 3 and 200 miles offshore) remain closed to all commercial and recreational fishing for Atlantic striped bass.

Harvest

  • Commercial fishery:
    • In 2019, commercial landings of striped bass (from state waters) totaled more than 4.08 million pounds and were valued at more than $15 million, according to the NOAA Fisheries commercial fishing landings database. These figures may not match other agency sources of data due to confidential information.
  • Gear types, habitat impacts, and bycatch:
    • Commercial fishermen use gear types that have minimal impact on habitat—gill nets, hook-and-line, pound nets, seines, and trawls.
    • Most striped bass are caught in recreational fisheries, using mainly hook-and-line gear with little or no impact on habitat.
    • Gillnets can incidentally capture protected species, such as sea turtles, large whales (right, humpback, and fin whales), harbor porpoise, dolphins, and Atlantic sturgeon.
    • Federal regulations are in place to prevent bycatch of protected species.
  • Recreational fishery:
    • The recreational harvest of striped bass regularly exceeds the commercial harvest.
    • In 2019, recreational harvest of striped bass totaled more than 23.7 million pounds.

The Science

Population Status

  • According to the 2018 stock assessment, Atlantic striped bass are overfished and subject to overfishing.
  • ASMFC’s Stock Assessment Overview provides a summary of the 2018 benchmark stock assessment for Atlantic striped bass, including an overview of management, the types of data used, and how the data were analyzed.

Location

  • Striped bass live along the East Coast from the St. Lawrence River in Canada to St. John’s River in Florida, and in the Gulf of Mexico from Florida to Louisiana.
  • They were introduced to inland lakes and reservoirs and to the West Coast, where they’re now found from Mexico to British Columbia.

Habitat

  • Striped bass are anadromous (they live in the ocean but return to freshwater to spawn).
  • In the spring, mature striped bass migrate back to fresh or brackish water to spawn.
  • Larvae drift downstream toward their nursery areas in river deltas and the inland portions of the coastal sounds and estuaries.
  • Juveniles typically remain in estuaries for 2 to 4 years and then migrate out to the Atlantic Ocean.
  • Some spend the majority of their adult life in rivers or coastal estuaries.
  • Some spend their adult life in the ocean, migrating north and south seasonally and ascending to rivers to spawn in the spring. Striped bass tagged in the Chesapeake Bay have been caught in Canadian waters.

Physical Description

  • Striped bass have stout bodies with seven to eight continuous horizontal stripes on each side, from their gills to their tail.
  • They are light green, olive, steel blue, black, or brown on top, with a white or silver iridescent underside.

Biology

  • Striped bass have a fairly long life, up to 30 years.
  • Growth depends on where they live.
  • Striped bass can grow up to 5 feet in length and 77 pounds.
  • Males are sexually mature between the ages of 2 and 4 years old.
  • Females are able to reproduce when they are 4 to 8 years old.
  • Females produce large quantities of eggs, which are fertilized by males as they are released.
  • Larval striped bass feed on zooplankton (microscopic animals).
  • Juveniles eat insect larvae, small crustaceans, mayflies, and other larval fish.
  • Adults are piscivorous (fish-eating) and eat almost any kind of small fish as well as several invertebrates, particularly crabs and squid.
  • Bluefish, weakfish, cod, and silver hake prey on small striped bass.
  • Adults have few predators, with the exception of seals and sharks.

Research

  • NOAA Fisheries supports scientific research on striped bass to inform management decisions by state management agencies and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.
  • Scientists conduct research to address concerns about the species’ health. Striped bass seen in the Chesapeake Bay have had lesions associated with the disease mycobacteriosis, a slowly progressing bacterial infection that produces various external and internal symptoms. Researchers are exploring how some striped bass become infected while others do not.
  • Striped bass are important predators in coastal and marine ecosystems. Scientists are developing a multispecies model that incorporates predator–prey and competitor interactions among striped bass, Atlantic menhaden, bluefish, and weakfish to help determine species abundance trends and understand the impacts of each fishery on the ecosystem.

Last updated: 08/17/2020