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Coast Guard enforces striped bass laws in Mid-Atlantic

Coast Guard members inspected recreational and commercial vessels for compliance with fishing regulations as well as to identify safety issues to help ensure safer boating, fishing or sports recreation.

BARNEGAT LIGHT NJ (November 2018)(CNBNewsnet)--As anglers head out for Atlantic striped bass across New Jersey and Delaware, the Coast Guard is increasing their presence on the water to enforce laws pertaining to fish and guard against illegal poaching.


Each fall and spring anglers take to the waves to catch striped bass, but what some anglers are unaware of is that they can only legally fish up to three nautical miles from shore for them, and that anything beyond that is against the law and will net them a fine.


“Being that striped bass are a sport fish, they’re highly sought after and the three-nautical mile line is the threshold to preserve the species,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Sherman Baldwin, senior fisheries officer at Coast Guard Station Barnegat Light New Jersey. “Large Atlantic striped bass breeding fish tend to stay outside of that three mile line from shore, and by creating this line that prevents taking, targeting or possessing striped bass over the years, we’ve allowed the species to regain ground since regulations were put in place in the 1980’s.”


The three-mile line protecting the striped bass population was put into place by the Atlantic Striped Bass Conservation Act, which made it illegal to fish for striped bass in federal waters was passed by Congress in 1984 under 50 CFR 697.7(b) to counteract the severe population decline of striped bass at that time.


“Our members are boarding vessels to protect fishing stocks and making sure that future generations will be able to enjoy the same fish we can now,” said Lt. Matthew Kahley, deputy enforcement chief at Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay in Philadelphia. “We board commercial and recreational vessels to ensure that laws are being followed, and at the same time that vessels have the right safety gear aboard.”


During a Living Marine Resources patrol as it’s known in the Coast Guard, members not only ensure fishermen aren’t targeting striped bass outside of the three-mile line, but they’ll also inspect safety gear to ensure that they have the right safety gear aboard in the event of a maritime accident or emergency, said Baldwin.


In addition to three-mile line violations, Coast Guard boarding officers are also inspecting commercial fishing gear for what is known as weak links.


“The Coast Guard and partner agencies such as NOAA are also currently focusing on ensuring commercial fishing gear and tackle is properly labeled and equipped with weak links to prevent accidental whale deaths as part of a nation-wide initiative,” said Kahley. “Weak links allow for marine mammals and endangered species such as Right Whales to break away from the fishing gear in the event of an accidental entanglement.”


Often the public sees the Coast Guard conducting its search and rescue mission role, but protecting fish stock and marine mammals falls under the Coast Guard’s statutory Living Marine Resources mission. This mission helps protect the environment by ensuring domestic and international fisheries laws adhered to, as well as protecting the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone from foreign encroachment up to 200-miles offshore.


For more information on the three-mile line and striped bass regulations, please visit:, and your state wildlife conservation agency to learn more.