Council plans special meeting via webinar May 13, 2013 to address increase; public comment open
Fishermen eagerly waiting for the black sea bass season to open in offshore waters on June 1, 2013 have an opportunity to comment on management measures that may increase the length of this year's fishing season. The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council is currently accepting public comment on measures to increase the Annual Catch Limit (ACL) for both commercial and recreational fishermen. A recent stock assessment shows that the black sea bass stock in the South Atlantic is no longer undergoing overfishing, is not overfished, and the stock is rebuilt. The proposed increases are based on recommendations from the Council's Scientific and Statistical Committee.
The changes would be implemented through Regulatory Amendment 19 to the Snapper Grouper Fishery Management Plan. The amendment includes two alternatives for increasing the current ACL of 847,000 pounds (all weights are in whole weight). Alternative 2 would allow the ACL to increase to 2,133,000 pounds in 2013. This value is equal to the Acceptable Biological Catch as recommended by the SSC. Under Alternative 2, the ACL would be reduced to 1,992,000 pounds in 2014 and to 1,814,000 pounds in 2015.
Alternative 3 would allow for an increase in the ACL to 1,756,450 pounds in 2013. Because the alternative provides for a buffer between the ABC and ACL that accounts for management uncertainty and the assessment suggests that this level of harvest can be maintained indefinitely, the ACL would remain at that level until modified. The current allocation for black sea bass is 43% commercial and 57% recreational.
The amendment also proposes a seasonal closure (November 1 through April 30) of the commercial black sea bass pot fishery to address possible gear interactions with large whale migration and right whale calving season. The Council will consider public comment before making any decisions.