ASMFC and MAFMC Approve Changes to State Allocations of Commercial Black Sea Bass Quota

ASMFC and MAFMC Approve Changes to State Allocations of Commercial Black Sea Bass Quota

(Feb 4, 2020) … The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Management Board (Board) and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) jointly approved several changes to the management program for black sea bass commercial fisheries. These changes include modifying the state allocations of the commercial black sea bass quota, adding the state allocations to the Council’s Fishery Management Plan (FMP), and modifying the regulations for federal in-season closures. The Board adopted the new allocations through Addendum XXXIII to the Summer Flounder, Scup and Black Sea Bass FMP, while the Council recommended these changes through an amendment to its FMP. These actions address significant changes in the distribution of black sea bass that have occurred since the original allocations were implemented under Amendment 13 in 2003 and also account for the historical dependence of the states on the black sea bass fishery.

Under the approved changes, Connecticut’s baseline allocation will increase from 1% to 3% of the coastwide quota to address its disproportionally low allocation compared to the increased availability of black sea bass in state waters. The state allocations will then be calculated by allocating 75% of the coastwide quota according to the new baseline allocations (historical allocations modified to account for Connecticut’s increase to 3%) and 25% to three regions based on the most recent regional biomass distribution information from the stock assessment (see Table 1). The three regions are: 1) Maine-New York, 2) New Jersey, and 3) Delaware-North Carolina. The regional allocations will be distributed among states within a region in proportion to their baseline allocations, except Maine and New Hampshire will each receive 1% of the northern region quota. Because the allocations are based in part on the regional biomass distribution from the stock assessment, they will be adjusted if a new assessment indicates a change to the biomass distribution. The Board and Council committed to reevaluating the approved state allocation system within 5 years.

The Council and Board agreed to add the state allocations to the Council’s FMP. As a result, future modifications to the allocations will require a joint action of the Board and Council. Additionally, they approved a change to the federal regulations such that the entire black sea bass commercial fishery will close in-season for all federally permitted vessels and dealers once landings are projected to exceed the coastwide quota plus an additional buffer of up to 5%. The buffer aims to minimize negative economic impacts of a coastwide closures on states that have not fully harvested their quotas. The Council and Board considered, but did not adopt, changes to the regulations for paybacks of state quota overages; states will only be required to pay back overages of their state quota if the coastwide quota is exceeded.

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Table 1. Revised state allocation percentages of the black sea bass commercial quota based on the most recent regional biomass distribution information.

*These allocations are based on the results of the 2019 Operational Stock Assessment and will be updated if future assessments indicate a change to the biomass distribution.

Addendum XXXIII’s measures are final for state waters (0-3 miles from shore) and become effective January 1, 2022. The Council will submit their amendment to NOAA Fisheries for review, approval, and implementation.

Addendum XXXIII will be available on the Commission website, www.asmfc.org, on the black sea bass webpage by the end of February. Updates on the Council’s amendment will be posted at https://www.mafmc.org/actions/bsb-commercial-allocation.

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