An American Fish Story
published June 23, 2005
The remarkable story of how one species was brought back from the brink of extinction – only to face new and even more daunting threats…
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.
Only with constant vigilance by concerned citizens, Dick Russell reminds us, can environmental victories be sustained. This particular fish story is a personal one for him, and he follows the striper’s saga today all the way to California, where the fish was introduced in 1879 and where agribusiness now threatens its future. For his conservation work during the 1980s Russell received a citizen’s Chevron Conservation Award.
Anthony Benton Gude – An Artistic Legacy – MidWest Regional Artist
March 15, 2006 – Now in paperback!
|“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.”
~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“Russell’s first-hand account of the battles fought to bring this fish back from near extinction is 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. . . . a fabulous read. [Striper Wars] 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
“I was particularly fond of Striper Wars partly, of course, because of my love of striper fishing, and certainly because of the way you wove all those wonderful characters together, but also because it encompasses all of the aspects of all of our great environmental threats and yet it doesn’t have this far away, helpless quality like modified genes or the energy infrastructure of the world or forests in some foreign land. It’s our fish in our waters, our very own legacy right here.”
—John Passacantando, executive director, Greenpeace USA
“Folks interested in environmental politics should pick up a copy of Striper Wars, Dick Russell’s superb, thorough account of the fight over the last quarter-century to save rockfish (striped bass) from extinction. If there’s one lesson you’ll take away from it, it’s this: Don’t trust the government.”
—Angus Phillips, “Moratoriums for Rockfish, Geese — and Oysters?“
“An excellent and informative writing, Dick Russell’s Striper Wars exposes the consequences to a magnificent species that result from greed, indifference and not heeding recommendations based upon solid scientific evidence. Striper Wars takes readers on the tumultuous chronological pathway of the historical fight to stop the near extinction of one of America’s greatest fish the striped bass. Every fisherman worth his salt would do well to read this history lesson and to understand why the war for the permanent survival of these great fish is not over yet.”
—Leo N. Orsi, Jr., author, Striper Chronicle
“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
“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, author of On the Run: An Angler’s Journey Down the Striper Coast and Editor of 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
Striper Wars: Book Review. Lee Bumsted, The Gulf of Maine Times – Spring, 2006
“Dick Russell writes so enthusiastically about the people who fight to protect stripers because he is one of them…”
Comeback story might not have happy ending after all. John Corrigan, Concord [New Hampshire] Monitor – March 5, 2006
“My friends and I realized that something was wrong. There weren’t any bass around anymore…”
Fighting to Stay Alive. Cheryl Lyn Dybas, BioScience (journal of American Institute of Biological Sciences) – December, 2005
…a page-turner of a natural history tale every bit as suspenseful as the best murder mystery…
Striper Wars, Stephanie Showalter, The National Sea Grant Law Center, October 20, 2005.
Striper Wars is truly an underdog story and Russell has the reader pulling for the striped bass from the very first chapter.
Battling for Bass, Tom Richardson, Offshore Magazine, November, 2005.
Russell provides a revealing look at the messy inner workings of fisheries management…
A Heck of a Fish Story, Murray Carpenter, Northern Sky News, October, 2005.
Russell’s role as an activist not only gives us a front-row seat to the show, it also imbues his writing with passion…
The Fight to Save the Oceans is Just Beginning, Roger Zotti, The Resident (Mystic, CT), Wednesday, September 21, 2005.
Think deeply about Russell’s final words. They’re cautionary. They’re also prophetic….
How the striped bass survived and thrived: A true fish story, Sandy Bauers, Philadelphia Inquirer, September 4, 2005.
This book is one of the most amazing fish stories I’ve ever come across…
Labor of love thrives on the Chesapeake Bay, by Bill Burton, TheCapitol.com, September 1, 2005
This book is a Who’s Who of those who can and should be thanked for saving the rockfish…
An American Fish Story, by Steve Carr, BayWeekly.com, August 11-17, 2005
The striper story is primarily one of salvation…
Fervent ‘Striper’ may catch your fancy, by Rich Barlow, Boston Globe, August 22, 2005
Fishermen will doubtless find this a can’t-put-down read…
Fishing for the Future, by H. Bruce Franklin, American Scientist Online, Volume 93, Number 5 September-October 2005
…perhaps the greatest success story in marine conservation
Up the Creek, by Keith Walters, Stripers Forever, July 24, 2005
Anyone who fishes for stripers … needs to get a copy of Dick Russell’s new book
Fishy politics under water, by Bill Becher, LATimes.com, August 9, 2005
The stripers’ recovery is a great success story, except…
Review: Striper Wars, by Peter Levenda, BlogCritics.org, August 6, 2005
Dick Russell … fell in love with the fish and with catching them all up and down the Atlantic coast.
Fisheries management work never done, by Tom Horton, BaltimoreSun.com, August 5, 2005
On Sept. 11, 1984, Maryland stunned the East Coast fishing community with a long-term ban on catching striped bass, or rockfish. “I knew that day we were going to win,” says Dick Russell…
The fall and rise of a great game fish, by Bob Hutchinson, The Virginian-Pilot & The Ledger-Star, July 31, 2005
Dick Russell could not have picked a more appropriate title for his splendid account…
Striper Wars, by James Drake, The Enterprise, The Recorder, and The Maryland Independent. (Southern Maryland), July, 2005
Striper Wars … is an absolute “must read” for any striped bass fishermen…
‘Striper Wars’… They’ll never end, by Will Barbeau, EastBayRI.com, July 11, 2005
Interest in striped bass fishing is incredible. People pour into the hobby…
Striper Wars by Dick Russell, by Brad Burns and George Watson, Stripers Forever, July 4, 2005
… Dick Russell … is enamored with this fish that symbolizes both the riches of America’s original coastal resources, and the pressures exerted on these resources in a rapidly developing country…