ASMFC Approves Black Sea Bass Draft Addendum XXX for Public Comment & ASMFC and MAFMC Initiate Bluefish Amendment

ASMFC Approves Black Sea Bass Draft Addendum XXX for Public Comment & ASMFC and MAFMC Initiate Bluefish Amendment

 

Annapolis, MD – The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (Commission) and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) met jointly to establish recreational specifications for black sea bass, scup, and summer flounder; consider approval of Black Sea Bass Draft Addendum XXX for 2018 recreational management; discuss the initiation of a new Bluefish Amendment; and jointly take action on several items related to all four species (detailed below). The Commission’s actions are final and apply to state waters. The Council will forward its federal waters recommendations regarding summer flounder specifications to NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Administrator for final approval. 

black sea bass
black sea bass

Black Sea Bass

As part of the discussion on black sea bass recreational specifications, the Commission approved Draft Addendum XXX to the Black Sea Bass Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for public comment. The Draft Addendum considers alternative regional management approaches for the recreational fishery, including options for regional allocation of the recreational harvest limit (RHL) based on historical harvest and exploitable biomass. A subsequent press release on the document’s availability and the public hearing schedule will be distributed once hearings have been finalized. The Council recommended the following recreational measures for federal waters from February 1-28, 2018: a 12.5” minimum size limit and a 15 fish possession limit. Specifications for the remainder of 2018 fishing season will be determined in February.

The Commission and Council also initiated the development of an addendum/framework to address several recreational management issues. The addendum/framework will consider implementing a conservation equivalency management program for black sea bass similar to that used with summer flounder by allowing state or regional measures to be implemented in both state and federal waters; allow for a summer flounder, scup and black sea bass transit provision in federal waters around Block Island similar to the provision allowed for striped bass; and consider the possible implementation of slot limits in federal waters for summer flounder and black sea bass. This addendum/framework will be developed in 2018 with the goal of implementation prior to the 2019 recreational fishing seasons.

Additionally, the Commission/Council reviewed draft alternatives for an addendum/framework to consider the opening of the Wave 1 recreational fishery in 2019 through a Letter of Authorization. Work on these documents will continue in 2018.

bluefish, delaware, sussex county, spring run, yellow eyed devil, gator bluefish, razor sharp teeth, surf fishing, beach, waves,  atlantic ocean
Spring time Bluefish caught in the surf in Delaware

Bluefish

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The Council and Commission initiated a new amendment to the Bluefish FMP. The intent of the Draft Amendment is to review and possibly revise commercial/recreational allocation of the resource, as well as the distribution of the commercial quota among the states. A Scoping Document will be released sometime in 2018.

 Scup

For scup, Commission and Council maintained status quo recreational management measures in federal waters (e.g., 9-inch minimum size, 50 fish possession limit, and year-round open season). For state waters, the Commission approved the continued use of the regional management approach. Based on interest expressed by fishery managers and stakeholders, the Technical Committee will conduct an analysis on the potential impacts of lowering the size limit for northern region state waters on the 2018 coastwide harvest. The Technical Committee will present this analysis at the Commission’s Winter Meeting in February. 

flounder, delaware, sussex county, indian river bay, rehoboth bay
Matt Adams, my first flounder from the kayak.

Summer Flounder

For summer flounder, the Commission and Council extended the provisions of Addendum XXVIII, allowing for the use of conservation equivalency to achieve, but not exceed, the 2018 summer flounder RHL of 4.42 million pounds. Conservation equivalency allows individual states or multi-state regions to develop customized measures that, in combination, will achieve the coastwide RHL. Further, it was specified that any modifications to state measures in 2018 should result in no more than a 17% liberalization in coastwide harvest relative to the projected 2017 harvest of 3.23 million pounds. This maximum liberalization was set based on continued concern for the stock status of summer flounder. Additionally, information suggests 2017 appears to be an anomalous low year in terms of effort and harvest, raising concern that overages in 2018 may occur under a larger liberalization in regulations if catch and effort rates increase in 2018. In extending the provisions of Addendum XXVIII, the regional delineation for 2018 will be:  (1) Massachusetts (2) Rhode Island (3) Connecticut‐New York, (4) New Jersey, (5) Delaware‐Virginia, and (6) North Carolina. Any state or region wishing to modify its management measures must submit proposals for Technical Committee review in January, and Board consideration in February.

The Commission and Council set non-preferred coastwide measures in the event that state conservation equivalency measures are not approved by NOAA Fisheries. These measures include a 4-fish possession limit, a 19-inch total length minimum size, and an open season of May 15 – September 15. The Council and Board also approved precautionary default measures (i.e., a 2-fish possession limit, a 20-inch total length minimum size, and an open season of July 1 – August 31), which will be implemented in any state or region that does not adopt measures consistent with the conservation equivalency guidelines.

Lastly, work continues on the development of a new Summer Flounder Amendment. The Commission and Council reviewed the latest revisions to the Draft Amendment, including FMP goals and objectives, and commercial alternatives. An updated draft document is scheduled to be released in 2018 for public comment.

 

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