Sweeping new regulations aimed at increasing the coastwide population of striped bass have been approved by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. The new rules will reduce recreational catch limits by half and commercial quotas by 25 per cent.

At the commission’s 73rd annual meeting held last Wednesday in Mystic, Conn., the Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board, representing 12 coastal states from North Carolina to Maine, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Potomac River Smallmouth Club, voted unanimously to adopt the new rules.

Beginning Jan. 1, the daily recreational catch limit for striped bass will drop from two to one. The 28-inch minimum size limit for both recreational and commercial fisheries will remain the same. The new rules aim to reduce juvenile mortality by 25 per cent in a little more than a year.

The commission’s benchmark stock assessment in 2013 found that the fishing mortality rate in 2012 was above the commision’s target. Juvenile counts have been below average for four of the last five years, and in 2012 the total recreational harvest reached its lowest point in nine years.

The commission said striped bass are not being overfished, but at the same time the number of spawning females are predicted to fall below a cautionary threshold of 127 million pounds in coming years if nothing is done to reverse the trend. In 2012 the coastal spawning stock biomass was estimated at 128 million pounds.

In response to the 2013 assessment, the commission developed a draft addendum to its Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Striped Bass and collected extensive public comment from 19 communities between Maine and North Carolina this summer and fall. Public hearings in Massachusetts were held on Nantucket and the Cape, as well as in Gloucester and Braintree.

ASMFC communications director Tina Berger said between 80 and 100 people attended the meeting on Wednesday, which was one of several during a four-day convention. The meeting lasted about 10 hours and included 29 separate motions related to the new rules. The final addendum was passed unanimously.

“I think that it was a pretty thorough and fair deliberation on the issues,” Ms Berger said. “I don’t think we were even surprised that it went as late as it did. The board has been working on it for more than a year; there are strong feelings up and down the coast on what they’d like to see happen.”

Maryland and Virginia will be required to reduce their harvests by only 20.5 per cent, based on 2012 levels, to account for a 14 per cent harvest reduction in Chesapeake Bay last year. In other states, the reductions are based on 2013 levels.

The two bay states have just over one year to reach their goal, Ms. Berger said, while other states have one year. The time frame for implementing the changes was a topic of debate during the public hearings this year.

In a statement issued Friday, chairman Douglas Grout of New Hampshire praised the management board for making “tough choices” to ensure the long-term health of the striped bass fishery.

“The board struck an important balance in taking immediate action to reduce fishing mortality back to the target while also recognizing the unique characteristics of the Chesapeake Bay fisheries,” he said.

According to the interstate fishery management plan, states may develop alternative proposals, as long as they achieve the same reduction goals. The board will review those proposals at its winter meeting in Alexandria, Va. The full addendum will be available at asmfc.org by mid-November.