|I have been following this Board for a number of years and don't believe that I've every seen a posting on the 30 years of restoration efforts to save the "Gulf Strain - Striped Bass", Morone saxatilis. This is a separate population naturally exists along the northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico from the Suwannee River in Florida west to Lake Pontchartrain in Louisiana.Striped bass in Gulf drainages are considered a separate strain from populations along the Atlantic coast. Characteristics such as the number of lateral line scales and fin rays are used to distinguish Atlantic and Gulf striped bass populations.|
Striped bass are usually considered an anadromous cool water species, meaning that they migrate from saltwater to freshwater to spawn. However, Gulf-strain striped bass are primarily riverine and typically do not make extensive coastal migrations, which are characteristic of striped bass populations along the Atlantic coast. Seaward movements of striped bass in their southern range may be limited because coastal water temperatures of the Gulf region are much warmer than the upstream portions of large rivers. Although it has been hypothesized that Gulf-strain striped bass are more tolerant of higher temperatures than Atlantic striped bass, Gulf-strain striped bass tend to avoid temperatures higher than 25°C (77° F). Thus, striped bass within the southern extent of their range would be more likely to find suitable temperatures within large rivers rather than in the coastal and estaurine waters of the Gulf:
Striped Bass: Restoring a Vanishing Breed
Once common to coastal rivers and estuaries of the northern Gulf of Mexico, striped bass declined and nearly vanished in the 1960s. The Gulf Coast Research Laboratory began turning that decline around in 1967 with a program focused on restoring striped bass (Morone saxatilis) in coastal waters along the Mississippi coast.
Prior to Hurricane Katrina, each year for more than 30 years, GCRL project personnel
Released 100,000 or more juvenile stripers into Mississippi coastal rivers in early summer;
Retained 20,000 or more of the two-inch fish and placed them into the newly emptied tanks for growth to about six inches with tag and release conducted in the fall.
The project supported the development of a Mississippi coastal sport fishery for the species prized for its size, fight, and taste.
The GCRL, in cooperation with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, raised and released more than 14 million striped bass in Mississippi coastal rivers.
Any striper caught in Mississippi coastal rivers and adjacent waters from the late 60s to the present day came from the GCRL project.
Sport fishers were instrumental in providing data on the health, growth and catch location of released fish.
Scientific advances were made in understanding the spawning, culture and life history.
Equipment and techniques for use in rearing and releasing healthy striped bass were developed through the project and remain in use in other coastal states.
Broodstock were maintained for up to 16 years.
On Aug. 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina completely destroyed the striped bass program facilities. The soon-to-be-released six-inch juveniles were lost as well as the broodstock.
Through continued funding from the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service, research is focused on evaluating the standing population of striped bass in Mississippi coastal waters.With a commitment to reestablishing and enhancing the program, personnel have been relocated to the GCRL's Cedar Point expansion site. Equipment lost in the storm is being replaced, and new culture facilities are being planned. Through continued funding from the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service, research is focused on evaluating the standing population of striped bass in Mississippi coastal waters to determine:
the population structure,
the overall health of the fish, and
whether a reproductive population has been established.
New partnerships with local sport fishers and state agencies are being developed in preparation for reestablishing and accelerating the stocking program once culture facilities are restored.