A recent stock assessment for the Atlantic striped bass has concluded that stripers are overfished, prompting renewed discussion about management efforts to preserve a stock that is a hallmark of the Vineyard’s robust fishing economy.

The 2018 Atlantic Striped Bass Benchmark Stock Assessment found the fish’s spawning mass, a general indicator of the health of the stock, is 50 million pounds below its 202 million-pound threshold. Although the number is still well above the critically-low stock levels found in the 1980s, scientists from the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) estimate that a 17 per cent reduction in fish taken is needed to maintain a healthy population.

The news comes as the striper season on Martha’s Vineyard is set to begin next month. Experienced Island fishermen who have been taking note of the trends are unlikely to be surprised.

“I think that a lot of fishermen in general would tell you that there are fewer bass being caught,” said Joe El-Deiry, chairman of the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby. “It’s still not where it used to be 10 or 15 years ago.”

The assessment used catch data from recreational and commercial fishermen all along the Eastern seaboard, and then analyzed the information using what’s called a statistical catch-at-age model that can estimate future population and mortality. In response to the findings, the board of ASMFC plans to explore a range of stock management options, including size limits and a coastwide circle hook requirement that will be instituted in 2020.

In-line circle hooks are known to reduce striped bass release mortality because they are more likely to hook onto the fish’s lip rather than its gut or gills. The stock assessment concluded that 48 per cent of striped bass mortalities came from recreational catch and releases, making it the largest cause of mortality for the species.

According to Tina Burger, a spokesman for ASMFC, a number of causes, including fish mortality, have led to the general decline of the species for the past decade.

“It certainly has had a lot to do with fishing pressures, those are generally within parameters,” Ms. Burger said. “The greater issue is the strength of recruitment.”

Recruitment is the term experts use for the estimated number of one-year-old fish, a good indication of the health of the species stock. Although recruitment numbers were strong in the 1990s and early 2000s, the numbers sharply declined between 2005 and 2010, leading to the decline in stock in recent years.

While Ms. Burger said she hoped that mitigation measures currently under discussion by the ASMFC would help, many of the factors determining stock are out of the control of regulators.

“Environmental factors, like salinity and rainfall, are what primarily drives recruitment numbers,” she said.

Ms. Burger and Mr. El-Deiry both said that while the assessment portends poorly for the species, they were confident that it could recover and said the assessment numbers do not indicate a catastrophic collapse in the stock. In the 1980s, biomass numbers dropped below the 50 million-pound mark. Biomass measures today are estimated at 150 million pounds.

“It’s still salvageable,” Mr. El-Deiry said. Although he said the derby has been in discussion with the state and the ASMFC about the potential regulatory changes, he declined to say whether any measures would be taken at this year’s derby. He did indicate that if any changes are made, the derby would follow suit.

“We are aware of what’s going on with the stock, and we are discussing those items in our meetings,” Mr. El-Deiry said.

Ms. Burger said that there’s hope for the species moving forward.

“We certainly have the ability to bring fishing mortality under control,” Ms. Burger said. “There is a lot of positive belief that we could turn this negative trend around.”