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MacArthur Proposes Making The Striped Bass America’s National Fish

A striped bass caught by a customer on Capt. Jack Shea's Rambunctious on Barnegat Bay. (Photo: Capt. Jack Shea)

A striped bass caught by a customer on Capt. Jack Shea’s Rambunctious on Barnegat Bay. (Photo: Capt. Jack Shea)

U.S. Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-3) has introduced legislation that would make the striped bass the national fish of the United States.

MacArthur’s Striped Bass American Heritage Act would formalize the designation, which fishing and boating advocates say could lead to better protection for the species, which is among the nation’s most important fish for recreational anglers.

According to the Recreational Fishing Alliance, which is supporting the legislation, the striped bass is as intertwined with American history as the bald eagle. Striped bass played a pivotal role in providing the pilgrims of Plymouth Colony sustenance as early as 1620, and by 1639 conservation laws were enacted to prevent overharvesting, the RFA said in a statement. Over the years, however, stripers suffered from pollution that ultimately brought about the Clean Water Act, and after the passage of the historic Striped Bass Conservation Act of 1984 the stocks began a road to recovery. Striped bass are now plentiful, and are commonly caught in New Jersey waters.

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“New Jersey has always appreciated the importance of the striped bass, as it is our distinguished state saltwater fish,” MacArthur said. “I am honored to introduce this bill to finally recognize the striped bass as our national fish and enshrine its place in our nation’s cultural heritage.”

The RFA, as well as groups including the National Marine Manufacturers Association, say the designation would ensure a greater level of respect and protection than is currently available under limited fishery management plans designed primarily to maintain the stocks.

Though it’s abundance in New Jersey is paramount to the state’s recreational fishing industry, the species extends to many other areas of the country. The anadromous species lives primarily in salt water but spawns in fresh water, and is found from Maine to Florida and as far west as Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico. Live stripers were shipped to the Pacific coast by train in 1897, and established themselves in California where they continue to be found today. In addition, striped bass have been stocked in rivers, lakes and reservoirs in 20 states where they are prized as game fish. In New Jersey, the species can only be fished by recreational anglers; there is no commercial harvest of striped bass allowed.

“The importance of the striped bass in American history is well established and deserving of the highest recognition,” said Jim Donofrio, RFA’s Executive Director, in a statement. “That’s why we intend to work closely with Congressman MacArthur and other members of the House and Senate to ensure that this truly exceptional species becomes formally designated as America’s national fish.”

MacArthur sits on the House Natural Resources Committee, to which the bill was introduced this week.

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