In an effort to keep recreational fishermen from exceeding annual catch limits (ACLs) set for black sea bass in the coming fishing year, members of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council approved an amendment that, if approved by the Secretary of Commerce, will reduce the recreational bag limit for black sea bass from 15 per person/day to 5 per person/day beginning June 1, 2011.
The recreational fishery for black sea bass closed on February 12th of this year after NOAA Fisheries Service projected the recreational allocation of 409,000 pounds had been met. The fishing year for black sea bass in the South Atlantic region is from June 1st through May 31st. The recreational allocation includes both private anglers and for-hire (charter and headboat) landings and represents 57% of the total ACL.
The Council approved Regulatory Amendment 9 to the Snapper Grouper Fishery Management Plan during its meeting in St. Simons Island, GA. In addition to decreasing the bag limit for black sea bass, the amendment also allows that in the future, any unused portion of the ACL may be carried over from one fishing year to the next. However, under the Magnuson-Stevens Act, for stocks listed as overfished, any overages of the current ACL must be deducted from the next fishing year’s ACL. The black sea bass stock is currently listed as overfished and recreational anglers may have exceeded the ACL this past season. NOAA Fisheries Service is responsible for providing the final catch numbers and will do so prior to June 1st.
A new benchmark stock assessment for black sea bass will be completed later this year and the results presented to the Council during its December 5-9, 2011 meeting in Raleigh, NC. The stock is currently in year 5 of a 10 year rebuilding program, and the Council may develop additional management measures based on the updated stock assessment.
Fishermen have repeatedly provided comments to the Council regarding the negative economic impacts of the recreational closure that began in February. Charter and headboat operators rely on black sea bass for their fishing trips during the shallow-water grouper spawning season closure from January through April, an annual recreational vermilion snapper closed season November through March, and the current year-round prohibition on the harvest of red snapper for both commercial and recreational fishermen.
The next meeting of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council is scheduled for June 12-17, 2011 in Key West, FL. Details, including the meeting agenda and briefing book materials will be posted as they become available at www.safmc.net.
source: South Atlantic Fishery Management Council