Striper Wars: An American Fish Story

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9781559636322: Striper Wars: An American Fish Story

When populations of striped bass began plummeting in the early 1980s, author and fisherman Dick Russell was there to lead an Atlantic coast conservation campaign that resulted in one of the most remarkable wildlife comebacks in the history of fisheries. As any avid fisherman will tell you, the striped bass has long been a favorite at the American dinner table; in fact, we've been feasting on the fish from the time of the Pilgrims. By 1980 that feasting had turned to overfishing by commercial fishing interests. Striper Wars is Dick Russell's inspiring account of the people and events responsible for the successful preservation of one of America's favorite fish and of what has happened since.

Striper Wars is a tale replete with heroes--and some villains--as the struggle to save the striper migrated down the coast from Massachusetts to Maryland. Russell introduces us to a postman at arms against a burly trap-net fisherman, a renowned state governor caving to special interests, and a fishing-tackle maker fighting alongside marine biologists. And he describes how champions of this singular fish blocked power plants and New York's Westway Project that would otherwise compromise its habitat. Unfortunately, those who cheered the triumphant ending to the campaign, as the coastal states enacted measures that enabled the striped bass to make its comeback, have found the peace transitory--there is now a new enemy emerging on the front.

In recent years a chronic bacterial disease has struck more than seventy percent of the striped bass population in the primary spawning waters of the Chesapeake Bay. Malnutrition seems to be a significant factor, brought on by the same overfishing that plagued the bass in the first battle--only this time, the overfishing is devastating menhaden, the silvery little fish upon which the bass feed. Lessons learned during the first conservation battle are being applied here, highlighting a need for a whole new ecosystem-based approach to conserving species.

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About the Author:

Dick Russell, a longtime environmental journalist, is the author of The Man Who Knew Too Much (Carroll & Graf, 2003), Black Genius: And the American Experience (Carroll & Graf, 1999), and Eye of the Whale (Island Press, 2004). He divides his time between Los Angeles and Boston.

Review:

"Striper Wars is the moving story of the decline of the striped bass and the efforts of dedicated conservationists to bring these magnificent fish back from the brink of extinction. We are grateful for his brilliant writing, but the stripers are even more grateful for his efforts on their behalf." (Richard Ellis author of The Empty Ocean and Tiger Bone & Rhino Horn)

"If you fish for striped bass, then Striper Wars should be required reading. Russell's first-hand account of the battles fought to bring this fish back from near extinction are inspiring and, more importantly, enlightening." (David DiBenedetto editor, Salt Water Sportsman)

"This important history is rife with lessons no ocean advocate can afford to miss. I found Striper Wars disturbing, encouraging, maddening, funny and, always, a fabulous read. It succeeds thanks to Russell's photographic recall, his mastery of language and, above all, the fact that no living veteran of these wars carries more battle scars." (Ted Williams Conservation Editor, Fly Rod & Reel, Editor-at-Large, Audubon)

"This book is one of the most amazing fish stories I've ever come across...[Russell] writes vividly, with a splendid sense of drama and, not least, a love of the fish." (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

"Fishermen will doubtless find this a can't-put-down read....And even those who don't practice this pastime will have new respect for a fish of surprising brains and brawn." (The Boston Globe)

"Russell enlivens [the book] with well-drawn portraits of the sometimes-crusty anglers and biologists who fought to bring back these prized game fish and the twisting plot of politics and science." (Los Angeles Times)

"A page-turner of a natural history tale every bit as suspenseful as the best murder mystery." (BioScience)

"A lot of other books tell you how to catch striped bass. This book alone explains why there are stripers in the water to begin with. This is the saga of the greatest, most hard-won fisheries management success story in the world. Read it, and every time your line comes tight, you'll know who to thank. More importantly, you'll know what else needs to be done." (Carl Safina author of Song for the Blue Ocean and Eye of the Albatross)

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