Coast Guard stepping up efforts stop poaching of Atlantic Striped Bass

Posted at 5:58 PM, Dec 09, 2013
and last updated 2013-12-10 06:23:21-05

Virginia Beach, Va. (WTKR) - The Coast Guard is intensifying efforts to stop poaching of Atlantic Striped Bass off the coast of Virginia this winter.

Currently it is illegal for fishermen, both commercial and recreational, to catch, harvest or even have Atlantic Striped Bass in what is known as the Exclusive Economic Zone.

That zone, known as the EEZ, starts three nautical miles off shore and extends out 200 nautical miles, in what are known as federal waters.

The Atlantic Striped Bass Conservation Act was passed back in 1984 to counteract the severe population drop of the fish.

"Throughout the centuries, they were so overfished because they are so good," explained Master Chief Petty Officer Stephen Atchley, the officer-in-charge of the Coast Guard Cutter Shearwater. "We over-fished them and over-fished them and over-fished them almost to extinction."

"It’s a federally regulated fish – if we don’t conserve that species, it’s not going to be there any longer," explained Maritime Enforcement Specialist Second Class Timothy Grimshaw.

People caught fishing for or with the striped bass within the EEZ are subject to civil fines.

The Coast Guard has established an Atlantic Striped Bass Reporting Hotline at 757-398-6399. They're encouraging the public to call with any suspected poaching activity, including a description, those involved and the time and location of the suspected offense.

"We are trying to ensure that everyone is playing by the rules. So that way when on the weekend when I’m going fishing, I have fish to fish for," explained Atchley.