The striped bass has long been a symbol of America’s coastal bounty. During his maiden voyage into the Chesapeake Bay in 1608, Captain John Smith observed of the striped bass, “I myself at the turning of the tyde have seen such multitudes that it seemed to me that one mighte go over their backs drisho’d.” Despite historical accounts of a seemingly limitless resource, even the earliest colonists had the foresight to limit their harvest of striped bass. Most notably, in 1639, the striped bass became the impetus for America’s first fisheries law when the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony banned the practice of fertilizing cornfields with the discarded frames of the fish.
Part II.A of this Note traces the development of coastal fisheries law, both from state and federal perspectives, and explains how migratory fish have historically been subject to conflicting management schemes upon crossing the arbitrary demarcation between state and federal waters. Part II.B details current striped bass legislation and offers insight into the fish’s lifecycle in order to illustrate the unique challenges of managing a species that knows no jurisdictional boundaries. Part II.C describes the federal government’s renewed interest in conserving the striped bass population, exhibited most recently in a 2007 executive order that reiterated the ban on harvesting striped bass in federal waters. Part II.D examines the standards that govern preemption of state law under the Supremacy Clause, with a focus on cases that address the hierarchy of state and federal fisheries regulations. Finally, Part III explains how and why the federal government should preempt state laws that allow the commercial harvest of striped bass in order to prevent another population crash. . .