Congressman Tom MacArthur (R-NJ) has introduced the Striped Bass American Heritage Act, which would designate this iconic species as the United States' "National Fish."
Just as the majestic bald eagle is the avian symbol of our nation for its strength, power, and dominance, the striped bass is a uniquely American fish that has been intertwined with the people, history and heritage of the United States for centuries. It 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. 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.
Now, Congressman MacArthur, who sits on the House Natural Resources Committee, and the Recreational Fishing Alliance believe the time has come to award the striper the same recognition held by the bald eagle.
"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."
Congressman MacArthur's seat on the Committee places him in a key position to shepherd this legislation through the process. The initiative, if successful, will formally designate the striped bass as an official symbol of the United States. It will provide a species that fishermen and naturalists recognize as "all-American" with a status that could ensure greater respect and protection than is currently available under limited fishery management plans designed to merely maintain the stocks.
Thom Dammrich, President of the National Marine Manufacturers Association says, "NMMA is proud to support the American Striped Bass Heritage Act. Fishing and boating are inextricably linked, a fact that unifies boaters and anglers and focuses attention on our collective contributions to conservation. Some of America's most treasured natural resources are its waterways and fisheries resources, and the American Striped Bass is worthy of this special designation as its recovery embodies the American resilience and the conservation ethic of America's boaters and fishermen.
What makes the striped bass special? It's an anadromous species that 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 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.
"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. "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."