Announcing Stripers In Our Hands, a new grassroots effort to empower recreational anglers to better protect striped bass. Keep Fish Wet, Confluence Collective, and Soul Fly Outfitters have collaborated to highlight how people can safely play, handle, and release a striper to improve its chances of survival after it swims away.
The striped bass fishery is one of the most popular recreational fisheries in the United States. The most recent ASMFC stock assessment released in 2019 showed that over 41 million fish were caught in the recreational fishery. And as striped bass anglers travel, fish, and shop along the east coast, they inject millions of dollars into local economies.
“Businesses like mine up and down the east coast depend on a healthy, abundant striper population,” said Kyle Schaefer of Soul Fly Outfitters. “Proper management and conservation of the striped bass population helps to bolster the economy of coastal communities and the abundance of these fish drives access for everyone. ”
Currently, striped bass populations are at a 25 year low according to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commision. While commercial harvest has decreased somewhat and the recreational harvest has been declining steadily since 2015, it’s estimated that the largest portion of mortality in the fishery comes from fish that are caught and released but do not survive. This is where recreational anglers have the ability to play a significant role and create positive change.
Scientist quote: “Just saying practice catch-and-release isn’t good enough, since not all fish that are released survive,” said Dr. Andy Danylchuk, Professor of Fish Conservation at UMass Amherst, and Science Advisor for Keep Fish Wet. “Fortunately, there is a growing body of science showing anglers can making subtle changes in their behavior and how they catch and handle fish that can reduce release mortality and make a meaningful impact of the fishery we all care about”
This new open-access campaign provides fishing-related industries and their patrons a resource to steward the fishery. The campaign includes information and training sessions, social media engagement, and other material —all centered on best practices for catch-and-release anglers to protect the striped bass they love to chase.
“If you choose to release a fish and you would like that fish to live and remain healthy, there are some simple science-based steps you can take,” says Sascha Clark Danylchuk, the Executive Director of Keep Fish Wet. The three most important things you can do are to:
- Minimize air exposure
- Avoid dry surfaces
- Release with care
As part of this campaign, the group also collaborated with Maine-based artist and avid angler Bri Dostie to create a free-to-use graphic with custom illustrations that highlight the impacts of catch-and-release, as well as the science-based best practices that can reduce mortality.
“Scientists know a lot about how human interactions affect the fish we catch, but that information doesn’t help anyone if it stays in a journal article behind a paywall,” said Dostie. “We wanted to make sure every angler is empowered with the information they need to protect the fish they care about — and art is one way to share that information more broadly.”
The “Stripers in our Hands” infographic is available as an open resource for guides, fly shops, and other fishing companies to use to help anglers steward the striped bass resource.