Despite worrying declines in striped bass and lobster stocks, regulators this week deferred any significant action to curb the fisheries. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission did take a step toward restoring menhaden, a bait fish consumed by lobsters, striped bass and nearly all other swimming fish.

But plans to shrink next year’s striped bass harvest on the eastern seaboard by 10 to 40 per cent were postponed instead of put out for public comment now, angering many anglers including Cooper A. Gilkes 3rd of Coop’s Bait and Tackle Shop in Edgartown.

As for lobsters, the commission decided to seek public comment on a proposal for a 10 per cent reduction in fishing effort starting in July of 2013. The option of a five-year moratorium, along with proposed reductions of 50 and 70 per cent, were shelved. A proposal to close the fishery for four months each summer was also rejected, a move Vineyard fishermen declared “fabulous.”

The regional fisheries management organization held its four-day summer meeting in Alexandria, Va., this week. State fisheries officials from up and down the coast met to take regional action on stocks — and striped bass and lobsters are two top items on the list of fish stocks in need of protection.

In both cases, however, fisheries boards for each species took a generally wait-and-see approach, choosing to review new information later this year before taking specific action.

Striped bass fishermen along the eastern seaboard, especially north of Cape Cod, have reported for several years a steady decline in their landings. Commercial and recreational anglers on the Vineyard complain that the striped bass have become harder to find, harder to catch. The state Division of Marine Fisheries reports that from 2006 to 2010 the recreational catch decreased 27 per cent. Reports coastwide indicate the catch has declined 75 per cent since 2006.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission striped bass board met on Monday to review information concerning further water quality degradation in Chesapeake Bay. As most striped bass in the ocean are spawned in the bay, troubles there can have a devastating impact up here. Scientists reported higher levels of a bacterial disease fatal to striped bass called mycobacteriosis. In addition, stocks have been hurt by continued poor spawnings for juvenile striped bass and the discovery last winter of the illegal poaching of ten tons of striped bass in the Chesapeake Bay.

Nevertheless, board members agreed to postpone their decision about what action to take until November, when the ASMFC has its annual meeting in Boston.

Dan McKiernan, a deputy director of the state Division of Marine Fisheries, was as at the meetings this week. On striped bass, he said: “They voted to postpone until the November meeting when they will have the full-blown stock assessment for striped bass.” That report will have better science and give a more complete picture of the health of the population.

Mr. McKiernan said waiting three months would not harm the fishery any more than its current state. When the board makes decisions in the fall, he added, the states can come up with options to canvass at public hearings in the winter. If there were any change in fishing effort it would not happen until next summer.

Right now in Massachusetts recreational fishermen are allowed two 28-inch fish per day. Commercial fishermen are allowed five 34-inch fish on Sundays; 30 fish per day on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays. The season opened on July 12 and it will close when the state quota of 1,061,898 pounds is met. As of yesterday, 59 per cent of the quota has been taken, according to the state Web site.

Mr. McKiernan said Massachusetts is one of the largest commercial harvesters along the coast, so any action taken now would be precautionary. Massachusetts fishermen are harvesting their commercial quota, he said, and many of those fish are being caught in Chatham waters.

Last summer, much of the Massachusetts striped bass commercial quota was taken off Chatham. It has been reported on the waterfront that a number of the Vineyard’s serious rod and reel commercial fishermen are catching their limit by motoring to the waters off Chatham where they can find the fish.

“So the fish are out there,” Mr. McKiernan said.

But Edgartown tackle shop owner Mr. Gilkes said he sees the problem as entirely political. “This is not about commercial fishing. This is not about recreational fishing. This is about the resource. I don’t understand it. They always find an excuse. They say they are going to do something and they don’t do anything,” he said.

Mr. Gilkes vividly recalls when striped bass were eliminated from the annual fall striped bass and bluefish derby in the 1980s because stocks were so low.

“The point is, right now we are seeing a lot of holes, there are no small fish coming through,” Mr. Gilkes said. “It won’t be long, somebody is going to say, ‘We should have moved earlier to protect these fish.’”

According to Robert E. Beal, director of interstate fisheries management program under the ASMFC, postponing the decision by three months is about making a more educated decision. “A three-month delay isn’t a risky maneuver,” he said. “Striped bass is the commission’s primary success story. That is why they are cautionary.”

Regarding lobsters, the board overseeing the lobsters took a politically cautionary step toward reducing fishing effort, asking for public comment on a 10 per cent reduction in the fishing effort starting two years from now.

Last year at this time, the lobster board was urged to consider adopting a five-year moratorium, when scientists reported that the decline in lobster in the waters south of Cape Cod to Virginia was significant enough to prompt concern that there weren’t enough to husband future stocks. Due to warming waters, lobster in these areas was on the verge of collapse, according to the scientists commissioned by the board.

Mr. McKiernan said last year lobster scientists came forward with plenty of evidence to suggest that the decline in these waters was tied not to overfishing but to warming waters: “We think there is an abandonment of the inshore coastal waters. In Buzzards Bay, for example we used to have 15 million pounds of lobsters caught in a year. Now there is under 40,000 pounds.” Lobsters want to be somewhere else. “Long Island Sound has seen similar declines, almost 90 per cent. The lobstermen would like to say that the declines is tied to pesticides. Maybe it is, but it is the warmest habitat,” Mr. McKiernan said.

Of lobstering in these waters, he said: “There are already significant restrictions on this fishery. Fishing levels are already well below. Fishermen are already fishing less. And we aren’t seeing the benefits of a stock responding. This gives us further evidence that the decline of the lobster isn’t due to fishing but due to environmental factors. We think the decline will continue in the years ahead.”

Warren Doty, president of the Martha’s Vineyard/Dukes County Fishermen’s Association, was pleased that regulators rejected the idea of a summer closure for lobstering. Mr. Doty had written a letter on behalf of the local lobstermen asking that the summer closure option not be considered, as that is the most critical time for Island lobstermen to fish for the local need.

Mr. Doty said yesterday: “The lobster decision was fabulous. It took the summer closure off the table. That was very important to us.”

William (Bill) Adler, executive director of the Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association, who sits on the board and was opposed to any restrictions that would harm the fishermen anymore, said yesterday he is pleased by the board’s action. He said that at least the addendum can go out to the public for comment. “A 10 per cent reduction might be doable,” he said, adding that those limitss can be by increasing minimum sizes and limiting the number of traps.

Managing striped bass and the lobsters are entirely different, Mr. McKiernan said. “Striped bass are a quota-based fishery. If we see problems, we can drop the quota and see results. Lobsters have never been quota managed and will never be.”

Mr. McKiernan said the decline in lobsters south of the Cape and the decline of striped bass in Vineyard waters may be tied together too. He speculated that maybe the striped bass have left Vineyard waters for cooler water where there is more bait.

One of the most important forage fish of the ocean, menhaden, got significant help at this week’s meetings in Virginia. The commission’s Atlantic menhaden management board approved an amendment that would set new goals to increase the abundance of the fish.

Menhaden are a favorite fish of striped bass in the Chesapeake and in Vineyard waters. They also are a favorite bait fish for all fishermen, including lobstermen. But menhaden, also called bunker, has been in such decline over the past two decades in Vineyard waters, Island anglers have to ship the fish in as bait.

Mr. Doty said the action regarding menhaden will reduce overfishing and help the striped bass.

“Saving menhaden in the Chesapeake Bay will make a big difference to the health of the striped bass. That is true ecosystem management,” Mr. Doty said. “A lot of people feel that the reduction in striped bass relates to the food available to them in the Chesapeake Bay.”