INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT - Dr. Jorgen Skjeveland

Jorgen Skjeveland is Project Leader for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services in Annapolis, Maryland.


Can you give us a little summation of what happened with striped bass here?

Striped bass in the early part of the 80’s or late 70’s was in real trouble and it was the early 80’s that they were even talking about listing striped bass as an endangered species and now with the current management scheme we have now, it probably is as abundant as it ever has been in history. So it’s been a great big success.

What did it involve to get there? Tell me about some of the regime.

Probably one of the biggest reasons for the comeback of the striped bass has been the moratorium here in the Chesapeake Bay. Restrictive size limits and seasons along the coast have been enforced. And there are still now very restrictive a very tightly controlled size limits and quotas and seasons up and down the coast that keep the fishery doing as well as it is now.

So, it started off with the moratorium is that correct?

It started off with a moratorium here in the Chesapeake Bay and then restrictive seasons and bag limits along the coast.

Would you tell us what the moratorium is?

There was a complete fishing ban for the Chesapeake Bay states and now there is still a quota for the state-for the Bay area.

No one was allowed to fish for striped bass. If you caught one accidentally, you had to let it go. No one was allowed to keep any striped bass at all.

That lasted for about five years. Then it was relaxed with a very tight, short season and then it was declared recovered here in the states. There were very tight bag limits here in the states for a year or two or three.

In the Chesapeake Bay there was a total fishing moratorium, which meant that no one could catch any striped bass. And that lasted for 5 years and then it was relaxed and finally lifted.

Could you tell us the reason why the moratorium was lifted?

The moratorium was lifted because the fish started coming back to spawn and then we had enough offspring that would allow for the stocks to be fished.

What kind of regime is now in effect that is making sure this doesn’t happen all over again?

It is tightly controlled by a fishery management plan by the Atlantic States Marine Fishery Commission and there is a group of scientists from each state that is closely monitoring the fishery with length of size of season, bag limits, size limits and quotas for each state.

That’s just to keep the quota so that there is some sort of control on how much they can catch — the commercial fisherman can only catch so many, when they reach that, they have to shut down.

You guys did the moratorium and now you’ve got these management regimes in. What do you think? What have you done here with striped bass?

Striped bass basically was brought home being listed as an endangered species to being as abundant as it probably ever has been over just a relatively short period of time — less than ten years.

Is this going to be an example for other fisheries?

It could very well be an example for other fisheries, but you’ve got to bite down—especially in the beginning anyway, which is probably going to hurt the fisherman in the short term but help them in the long term.

Part of the regime had to do with the cleaning up of the water. Striped bass have been brought back due to the cleaning up of the water.

Because striped bass being an anadramous fish that spawns in the freshwater tributaries of the bays here, it probably also has been a great help that the last decade or two there has been a great push to clean up the spawning rivers, or to clean up the water that comes into the bay.

Well, one of the things that we are probably the proudest of is that we are part of this turn around. We went from a few years ago almost to being an endangered species to being such a success story.

Do you think any other fisheries, fishery management efforts can take lessons from what happened here?

Yes. I think they can — and also are. I guess I can mention that some of this legislation has extended this sort of system to the rest of the Atlantic Coast to the inland species, the inshore species.

So that is something new that is to be tried again with other species. So we’ll see if it works.

It worked for striped bass and we’re hoping that it could work for the rest of the Atlantic Coast species.

How do you think these recreational fishermen and these commercial fishermen feel about it?

With striped bass, I generally think they did bite it. By the time that the fisheries and the populations of fish were getting so bad that there were still some problems, there was still some opposition to the very severe fishing moratorium. But generally it was fairly well received.

Do you think the fishermen feel like it was successful?

Oh yes. Fishermen do feel like it was successful thing. Especially now when you can go out again and catch fish.

Originally, there was some opposition to it, but I think generally it was well known by everyone that there were serious problems. Now that everyone can go out and catch fish again, I think that everyone feels like it was quite a success story.

Probably the biggest opposition was by the commercial fishermen. However, they did get compensated for not being able to fish.

And so, that sort of softened their opposition to it.