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In response to the original post on this subject, I contacted the NC Dept of Marine Fisheries asking for their input. I got the following email from them, courtesy of one of their fisheries scientists. I followed up with a phone call and found the gentleman to be knowledgeable, concerned and hospitable. You couldn't have asked for a more decent exchange of concerns and ideas. So, for all of your information, the following:

The practice of "culling" or "high grading" you are referring to is something no ethical commercial or recreational fisherman would practice, although I'm sure a few do. The regulations that limit numbers of fish that can be caught on a daily basis rather than by the pounds of fish apply to recreational fisherman as well as commercial in North Carolina, so culling can happen in both sectors.

I believe the practice of culling in this particular fishery to be insignificant, if not non-existent, due to the fact North Carolina regulates the allowable mesh sizes that can be used in the striped bass commercial fishery in the Atlantic Ocean off NC. The gill net mesh sizes that we allow fishermen to use catch fish that are between 32 and 40 inches, but the majority are around 36 inches in length and weigh about 20-21 pounds. So b/c they are all so similar in size, there is no real incentive to continue to set and fish gill net once a commercial fisherman catches his daily limit of fish. It's more cost effective to get your striped bass as quickly as possible and go on to something else or go back to the dock. In addition to this fact, the migratory striped bass stock (the group of fish that migrate in the Atlantic Ocean from Maine to Northeastern NC each year) has not been inside three miles of the NC coast since 2011, so there has been zero harvest of striped bass in the Atlantic ocean off NC by recreational and commercial fishermen in the last 5 years (2012-2016). So any lack of fish, perceived or real, in the VA waters of the Bay is not due to culling by commercial or recreational fishermen in North Carolina.

As for the total absence of rockfish in the Bay the last few years, the data don't show that. I have included a table of recreational harvest and release numbers from VA. This data can be queried by the public at the following website http://www.st.nmfs.noaa.gov/recreational-fisheries/access-data/run-a-data-query/index . There may be localized scarcity in some areas, but overall the striped bass stock is still healthy and abundant. There has indeed been a steady decline in total abundance of the Atlantic striped bass stock since the all-time high in abundance observed in 2004 (Figures below). But this cyclical up and down trend in abundance is natural for populations of animals. Especially long lived animals such as striped bass that can probably live to 40+ years of age. The stock experienced a period of extremely successful spawning in the early through mid-1990s, and then exactly the opposite in the mid-2000s, so abundance has cycled down some in recent years (see page 65 of the attached document for a graph of age-1 abundance through time). There is however adequate spawning stock biomass to produce strong year classes of fish, so spawning success in any given year is now dependent on environmental conditions rather than the number of spawning females. I have attached the most recent stock assessment where you may read all of this information for yourself as well as see commercial and recreational catches and discards by state.

Even though there is still enough spawning stock biomass to produce strong year classes, the 2013 benchmark assessment indicated that the biomass level was approaching the lower range of management targets, therefore reductions in harvest were required. In response to the results of the 2013 benchmark assessment indicating steady decline in the spawning stock biomass, and fishing mortality in between management targets, the ASMFC Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board approved Addendum IV in October 2014. The Addendum established new fishing mortality reference points (F target and threshold). In order to reduce F to a level at or below the new target, the coastal states were required to implement a 25% harvest reduction from 2013 levels, and the Chesapeake Bay states/jurisdictions were required to implement a 20.5% harvest reduction from 2012 levels.

An update to the assessment was completed last year which indicated the resource is not overfished or experiencing overfishing. Although the stock is not overfished, female SSB has continued to decline since 2006 and is estimated at 141 million pounds just above the SSB threshold of 127 million pounds, and below the SSB target of 159 million pounds. Additionally, total fishing mortality is estimated at 0.205, a value that is between the fishing mortality threshold (0.219) and fishing mortality target (0.18). All of this information can be found at http://www.asmfc.org/species/atlantic-striped-bass .

We do have a strong 2011 year class moving through the stock (as evidenced in the 2015 release estimates of over 805,000 fish for VA in the table below), and the 2015 year class appears to be well above average as well. It takes about three years for striped bass to reach 18 inches in length. So hopefully you and the other anglers on "Tidalfish" that are not seeing striped bass in the numbers you would like will see improved angling in the next few years. Also with expected increased stock abundance in the coming years, hopefully the daily harvest limit you experienced before these recent reductions will be put back in place.
 

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nc up grading

I think that they overestimated the VA rockfish release data by about 804,200.
the upgrading of rockfish was done by trawlers and not by grill net fisherman also there were trawlers caught outside the 3 mile limit with over limits and they were also upgrading 2012 or 2013 check va-pilot story no rockfish the next year and on. just like the trout big blue fish 1970s after the trawlers in ches. bay, thanks nc trawlers
 

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Currently There are schools of large striped bass in the Ocean near the triangle wrecks. I hope some come into the Chespeake Bay and spawn./?/

Feeding beneath gannets on mature bunker.

Bob Allen, Hampton VA
 

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Anyone know a way to get link sent to

COMMISSIONER JOHN M.R. BULL
VIRGINIA MARINE RESOURCES COMMISSION

I am sure he has some contacts to help stop this continued ( I am at loss of words for it) Devastation just does not cover it

BTW, I don't blame the commercial guys for doing this as much as the STUPID reg's that allow and seem to Promote such things!
One spring not long ago, several days a week , I watched hundreds of dead rock floating with tide, down the rapp river. The comm's netting croaker there were not allowed to keep them! (They were following the rules set by others)
What a waste!
INSIGNIFICANT BYCATCH MY ARSE!
 
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