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Striped Bass Abundance

Female striped bass spawning stock biomass measured 128 million pounds in 2012.

July 22, 2011

Striped bass are a sought-after commercial and recreational catch and a key predator in the Chesapeake Bay food web. Andrew Turner from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)/Versar explains why the fish is so unique. Learn more about striped bass in the Chesapeake Bay Program’s online Field Guide.

Closed Captions.


The Chesapeake Bay is the primary spawning and nursery habitat for striped bass on the East Coast. Striped bass support one of the most important commercial and recreational fisheries on the Atlantic seaboard.

The striped bass population rebounded from historic lows in the mid-1980s to highs that exceed the population target. Multi-state fishing moratoria in the late 1980s, as well as commercial quotas and recreational harvest limits set in the 1990s, were successful at rebuilding the stock.

Scientists are now concerned about the high prevalence of disease (mycobacteriosis) and whether there are enough prey available to adequately support this predatory fish.


The Atlantic coast target level is a female spawning stock biomass (SSB) of 159 million pounds, which is equal to 125 percent of the 1995 SSB level, with a threshold not to go below 127 million pounds (the 1995 SSB level).

Long-term trend (1982-2012)

Female SSB grew steadily through 2003. It has since declined, and is now just slightly above the threshold. Female SSB increased from 11.4 million pounds in 1982 to 128.4 million pounds in 2012. The lowest level was 9.4 million pounds in 1983 with a peak of 173.2 million pounds in 2003.

Short-term trend (2001-2012)

Female SSB decreased from 152.4 in 2001 to 128.4 million pounds in 2012, with a peak of 173.2 million pounds in 2003.

Change from previous year (2011-2012)

The female SSB was 128.4 million pounds in 2012, a slight decrease from the 2011 estimate of 136.6 million pounds.  Both 2011 and 2012 are less than the 2003 peak of 173.2 million pounds.

Additional Information

Striped Bass Abundance Indicator Data

The Atlantic Coast Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) uses biological reference points (targets and thresholds) based on biomass and fishing mortality rates to assess the stock status. The goal for this indicator is based on the target of 159 million pounds for the female SSB based on the Statistical Catch-at-Age (SCA) model.

The female SSB is a relative measure of mature female (4-15 years old) biomass in millions of pounds. Index values are derived from a simulation model that incorporates striped bass population dynamics plus coastwide fisheries data.

An updated benchmark stock assessment was completed in 2013.

Human Health

Mycobacteria are widespread in aquatic environments. A small fraction of mycobacterial species causes disease in animals and humans. Mycobacterial infections in humans are commonly known as "fish-handler's disease." Although the risk of contracting the disease is generally low (Panek and Bobo 2006), there is the potential for human infection from handling infected striped bass.

To avoid contracting disease, people should:

  1. Return any fish with skin lesions to the water.
  2. Wear gloves when handling striped bass. Take particular care if you have a cut, scrape or abrasion on your hands or arms.
  3. Wash thoroughly with soap and water after coming into contact with fish or open water.

There is no reported evidence that humans can contract mycobacteriosis by consuming cooked fish.

Source of Data

Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC)

410 Severn Avenue / Suite 112
Annapolis, Maryland 21403
Tel: (800) YOUR-BAY / Fax: (410) 267-5777
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