Friday, July 07, 2006

Striped Bass Comeback Threatened by Omega-3 Market

From the public radio program Living on Earth (LOE):

The 1980s fight to bring back the striped bass is considered one of the greatest environmental success stories. But, today the species faces a new and potentially devastating threat: the omega-3 market. Dick Russell, author of Striper Wars: An American Fish Story, talked with LOE host Steve Curwood about what it will take to save a species that's already been saved.

The preferred prey of striped bass are menhaden, a small, bony, oily fish that has been present along the Atlantic Coast in huge numbers in the past. Menhaden are being harvested aggressively and ground up into feed for livestock and aquaculture. And, since they are such an oily fish, they are an excellent source of oil for omega-3 dietary supplements. Overfishing of the menhaden in the Chesapeake Bay has led to severe stress for the bass, which are forced to eat less nutritious prey such as blue crab. That stress has contributed to outbreaks of a bacterial infection that causes a chronic wasting disease characterized by lesions and also impacts the internal organs. Nearly 70% of the bass are infected.

In the interview, Russel states "I'm just afraid if they continue to fish menhaden at the levels they have been – which is taking like literally millions of fish, millions of pounds of fish every summer – that not only are the menhaden going to perhaps disappear, but all the striped bass may go, too."

Further Reading:

ASMFC, 2003. 2003 Atlantic striped bass advisory report. ASFMF Striped Bass Technical Committee Report 2003-03. Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, 82 pp.

ASMFC, 2004. Atlantic menhaden stock assessment report for peer review. Stock Assessment Report No. 04-01 (Supplement). Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, 145 pp.

Uphoff, J. H., Jr. 2003. Predator-prey analysis of striped bass and Atlantic menhaden in upper Chesapeake Bay. Fisheries Management & Ecology, 10(5):313-322. [pdf on OhioLINK EJC]

The entire issue of Fisheries Management & Ecology, vol. 10, no. 5, Oct. 2003 is devoted to papers on the striped bass and its population ecology and life history on the Atlantic coast.

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