Commercial trawlers slaughtering thousands of striped bass off the Outer Banks

Sent in by alert SJ reader Kevin Job from VA…thanks pal

Commercial fishermen trawling off of the Outer Banks of North Carolina are slaughtering thousands of striped bass in “culling” operations and tossing them overboard trying to keep larger stripers and remain under their 50 fish limit.

Both recreational anglers and smaller operation commercial fishermen have been aghast at the actions of the trawlers who are wiping out massive schools of stripers and discarding smaller fish to stay under the state 50 fish creel but maximize their profits.

A video of the striper carnage has been posted on You Tube showing some of the thousands of floating dead fish left in the wake of the trawlers. Outer Banks fishermen who are witnessing the fish kill have been taking to message boards and calling authorities to protest this striped bass massacre.

“It’s an atrocity,” said Captain Aaron Kelly, a top striper guide with over 15 years of experience on the Outer Banks. “It’s gone on before but I think this was the first time it was in front of such a large crowd.”

Captain Kelly said that the day before the video was shot he and the members of his charter followed one trawler for five miles leaving a long wake of dead stripers.

“It’s like they have an endless quota,” he said. “Under the actual numbers are so many dead fish. It’s a frightful waste.”

The striper trawling season is not set to close until this Saturday, January 20. The fishery can be closed earlier if a certain quota is reached, but the quota does not count the thousands of dead discards.

Captain JH Miller was on the water the day the video was made and called the scene “disturbing.”

“I’m not anti-commercial fishing in the least bit, but there is no justification for leaving miles and miles of dead fish out there,” said Captain Miller. “These were legal-sized fish just thrown away to die.”

Striped bass have to be 28 inches in size to be kept legally, and all of the charter captains confirmed that among the thousands of dead stripers were many that were over 28 inches and in the 15 pound range and higher.

Captain Ray grew up in the area and has fished the Outer Banks for decades.

“It’s happened before but this year is the worst I’ve ever seen it,” said Captain Ray. “I saw three huge masses of dead stripers from Nags Head to Kitty Hawk. It would be so much simpler if they were allowed a certain amount of pounds and would come in when they caught that many. I have no clue about why they allow this kind of sickening discard.”

Because the trawlers are inside the federal 3 mile limit and not keeping over 50 stripers they may not be technically breaking the law by killing scores of dead fish and throwing them overboard in order to keep netting.

Both Captain Kelly and Captain Ray said the Coast Guard was flying planes and helicopters very low over the area and must have seen the carnage. The Coast Guard has been closely monitoring recreational and smaller commercial fishing boats during the striper season.

Captain Miller said he called the Division of Marine Fisheries hotline for violations today and was told no one was working.

“Even if they are not breaking the law you’d think the Coast Guard could get on for just the pollution like they do the menhaden boats,” said Captain Ray.

The charter captains said that some recreational boats simply gaffed some of the legal stripers and took them aboard to count towards their limits so the fish would not be wasted.

“Commercial fishermen talk about protecting their livelihood all the time,” said Captain Kelly. “But these big stripers they’re throwing out dead, that’s their livelihood right there.”

Continue reading on Commercial trawlers slaughtering thousands of striped bass off the Outer Banks – Charlotte Fish and Wildlife Policy |

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31 comments on “Commercial trawlers slaughtering thousands of striped bass off the Outer Banks

  1. Lou

    Makes me effing sick !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! When they finally wipe all the bass out those freakin ships can rot and these bastards will be whining up a storm ….

  2. Jim H in RI

    Everyone I talk to up in RI say the Striper schoolie population has seen a major drop in the last couple of years. This year has been a bad year for holdovers in the usual places (Providence river etc…).

    Stupid fishery laws and commercial operators that treat the young fish as by-catch won’t help matters.

  3. Rob L

    Captain Miller said he called the Division of Marine Fisheries hotline for violations today and was told no one was working.

    What a joke.

  4. Pingback: a sorry sight for fishermen « Brooklyn Urban Anglers Association

  5. harv

    It just keeps goin on & on. Mayb we need the liberal media. There r groups for every endangeres species. What about our stripers. Its up to u zeno. U have the masses & the power to have a voice but we need your leadership to organize!

  6. Mark M

    Zeno does what he can, but is just another man with a full time job & family. Z does SJ (with alot of help) in what little time he might have left in the day. “Masses & Power”? Z, will be the first to tell you that is not the case and he does not need them to have a voice. There are conservation groups already working on the problem, try to follow those leads. And by the way, we definitely do not need the same group of tree huggers comming to our beaches so they can be shut down for a bunch of piping plovers. Look what happened to Cape Hatteras. It is a delicate situation and alot of politics as usual.

  7. Bob

    We always hear about the fish that recreational anglers release that supposedly die from being caught. I have caught fish that have holes in their mouths from being hooked and have caught the same fish that I released earlier in the day again. I breed tropical fish and have bare handled fish, had them jump out of the tank, finding them almost dead from being out of the water but only had a few die. Most of the fish survived. But once in a trawlers net, that fish IS dead.
    We should push to make it a law that there should be no by-catch from trawlers and longliners. These fish are dead or almost dead. Might as well keep them and be counted into the creel limit and/or added to the commercial total gross weight per speices caught per year.
    I realize that they have to make a living but this sort of fishing is not speices or size selective and kills all the fish in the nets. Unless we push for change in commercial fishing practices, more then the striped bass fishery will be gone.
    Better enforcement of both commercial and recreational fishing as well as changes in commercial fishing methods are needed to safeguard these natural resources.
    For those interested, a book called Cod by Mark Kurlansky is a history lesson about how codfish were almost wiped out.

  8. Mark M

    Bob is totally correct. The bycatch is killing untold amounts of fish. When a fish is pulled from 50ft or deeper, the swim bladder is going to expand and not allow these fish to get deep again, thus the shock kills them slowly. I have seen first hand, the amount of fish thrown overboard by siene net haulers and it is diturbing. Bloody, half alive bass floating everywhere due to fixed amount of bass tags needed to be used for a trip. 36″ is the largest fish allowed for a bass tag, so if these guys are catching 25″ fish and they see a larger one, it does not take to much thinking to know what will happen. This is all legal, yet destructive to the fish stock. What happens to the large ones caught in the net over 36″…they die pure and simple thus reducing larger breeding fish. If I go into what the party boats are doing…..well that’s a different story with the same results.

  9. PearlBomber

    Striped bass can no longer be fished commercially unless more “primitive” aka hand lining and smaller nets, become the standard. The easiest and most fearful analogy I can think of is the American Buffalo. The Indians knew how to manage them, then came long rifles and greed. Lets hope the same outcome never happens to our beloved game fish.

  10. bob jones

    This kind of crap has been going on for years and not only in North Carolina. And not only with Striped Bass. I can remember 40 years ago, the ‘haul seiners’ out in Amagansett using gaffs to stab bluefish and toss them back into the surf because the per pound price for bluefish wasnt high enuf to bother with.
    GREED will always rear it’s ugly head when $ is involved.
    GAMEFISH NOW! may not be the answer, but it can’t hurt.
    Unfortunately, if we achieve gamefish status for Striped Bass, they will only target some other species; with the same techniques.
    I’m always amazed when I go to New Bedford,Ma. & I see the all the trawlers just sitting; not working. That will be our future everywhere, unless radical change happens.
    Farm raised fish just aren’t the same.
    I haven’t kept a bass in over 5 years; but I’m just one person.

  11. bunufish

    What are the names of these Captains and boats, and where are they selling the bass to? If it’s to restaurants or retailers… who are they?


  12. Mark M

    Regarding commercial fishing; this is some news from yesterday about a trawler sinking off Montauk. I know these guys are from a trawler, but we are joined together as fishermen. Everyone survived and that is the important part, we all share similiar dangers in the unknown….just in different ways and that is what bonds us as men.

    A Coast Guard HH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew successfully rescued 4 mariners from the sinking fishing vessel Johanna Lenore, a 76-foot stern trawler, 40 nautical miles south of Montauk, New York, on Tuesday, January 18. Conditions were reported to include 20- to 30-knot winds and 10- to 15-foot seas.
    Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound watchstanders contacted the fishing vessel’s captain after overhearing a radio distress call at approximately 3:00 p.m. stating that the boat was taking on large amounts of water and pumps were unable to keep up with the flooding. The crewmembers donned survival suits and prepared the life raft and EPIRB, while Good Samaritan vessels tried to aid the mariners with dewatering pumps.

    Coast Guard rescue crews arrived on scene and hoisted the mariners to the helicopter at approximately 4:00 p.m. Shortly thereafter, the fishing vessel capsized and sank.

    The rescue crews took the mariners to Coast Guard Station Point Judith, Rhode Island, where emergency medical personnel were waiting to aid the mariners, who were reported to be in stable condition.

  13. supercutter

    This video should be sent to every Politician in every state involved with setting rules regarding fishing. Flood their mail boxs with this horror.

  14. Charles Witek

    Now to open a related can of worms.

    Remember that New York currently permits striped bass to be taken by trawls only as bycatch, although quite a few trawlers ignore the bycatch restriction and intentionally poach fish by directing trawling effort at stripers.

    Early last year, the question of creating a directed trawl fishery in New York was raised at the Marine Resources Advisory Council. That issue has not died, and I expect it to come back to the forefront fairly soon. If it is not killed, we in New York could soon frequently see the same sort of sights recently viewed off North Carolina (in truth, they already happen up here from time to time).

    As Mark M. said, some of us are already focusing on the problem, and trying to cut the proposal off at the knees, before it has time to gain momentum. However, it can be a pretty lonely effort…

    By the way, “gamefish,” whatever its intrinsic virtues, wouldn’t prevent this sort of waste, because the trawls will direct on something else and catch bass along the way (think of how North Carolina fought for and won a 1,000 pound bycatch quota of badly depleted weakfish, arguing that with their trawl and gill net fishery, they’re going to kill them anyway, so they might as well keep them). What are needed are gear restrictions–either permanent or seasonal–and clearly delineated no-trawl zones, such as they already have off Massachusetts–which, ironically, manages to fill the biggest coastal commercial striped bass quota just with hook and line.

  15. Mike

    Zeno, I also put up a link on this on the Surfcaster’s Journal facebook page because I felt like as many people as possible should see this.
    I was disgusted by what is going on.
    If you guys get a chance look at the facebook page. I also included some info on what a worker from the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources said

  16. TRisser

    This is truly disturbing and just hard to believe. I just finished Striper Wars and it highlights these practices from NC to NH before the moratorium. Why can’t people see the death and destruction they are capable when they put the almighty dollar in front of living creatures? I’m not a tree hugger but I do try to think about my kid’s kids when I am in nature and at the market.

  17. Jim Hill

    Emails and letters sent!This has got to stop!This fishery cannot stand the ongoing assult it is being put through!I don’t know how many of you remember the moratorium I do and I don’t want to go back there again!!!

  18. Jim Hill

    Send e-mails or letters to these people:

    Louis Daniel – Director
    Dee Lupton – Deputy Director
    Catherine Blum – Contact
    Morehead City Office – (252) 808-8013 or 1-800-682-2632
    Via E-mail:

    Fisheries Management
    David Taylor
    Morehead City Office – (252) 808-8074 or 1-800-682-2632
    Via E-mail:

    Lead Bioligist: Striped Bass, Central/Southern
    Katy West
    (252) 946-6481[/quote]

    Bizzell, W. Robert

    252-527-1081 (W)
    252-521-1306 (M)

    Copeland, B.J
    Vice Chairman

    919-548-5806 (M)

    Currin, Mac

    919-881-0049 (H,W,F)
    919-906-4549 (M)
    Recreational Industry

    Smith, Jr., Joseph J.

    910-270-3331 (W)
    910-262-2066 (M)
    Commercial Industry

  19. Andy

    The really sad part is they are following the law. I can not believe they are allowed to keep and kill fish until they find a bigger one. Then they discard the others. The trawlers are following the rules, the real tragedy is the people who made and approved these laws and regulations.

  20. Charlie G.

    SB were depleted at one time and it can happen again buy human greed. Gamefish status might be the only answer.

  21. Ronald H Mattson Sr

    If you think it is bad in North Carolina wait till you see the illegal gill nets confiscated in Maryland recently. And especially pay close attention to the fact that there have been 0 arrests so far. Maryland’s DNR has been all over the news recently politicizing their part of this travesity. Unfortunately many illegal gill nets and striped bass were confiscated and no one has been arrested. How many officers does it take to stake out the illegal gill nets and catch these crooks?


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