NOAA Announces 2019 Recreational Measures for Summer Flounder

NOAA Fisheries has announced a final rule to implement conservation equivalency for the 2019 summer flounder recreational fishery. This means that the federal recreational bag limit, minimum fish size, and fishing season are waived, and vessel owners are subject to regulations in the state where they land. A summary of 2019 summer flounder measures by state is available here. Please contact your state for information on summer flounder regulations that apply to you.

Note that black sea bass and scup recreational measures for 2019 are unchanged from 2018.

Questions?

Fishermen: Contact Emily Gilbert, Regional Office, 978-281-9244

Media: Contact Jennifer Goebel, Regional Office, 978-281-9175

Mid-Atlantic Council Takes Final Action on Summer Flounder Commercial Issues Amendment

At their March 2019 meeting, the Mid-Atlantic Council and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission recommended modifications to the current state-by-state commercial allocations for summer flounder. In addition, the Council and Commission approved revised Fishery Management Plan goals and objectives for summer flounder.

Final Action on Summer Flounder Commercial Issues Amendment Postponed Until February 2019

During a joint meeting last week in Annapolis, Maryland, the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) and Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission's Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Board (Board) voted to postpone final action on the Summer Flounder Commercial Issues Amendment until their next joint meeting in February 2019.

The amendment considers several potential changes to the management of the commercial summer flounder fishery and proposes modifications to the fishery management plan goals and objectives for summer flounder.

Discussion during the meeting focused predominantly on options in the amendment that could modify allocations of the commercial summer flounder quota to the states. The current commercial allocations were last modified in 1993 and are perceived by some as outdated given their basis in 1980-1989 landings data. The amendment proposes three sets of alternatives for modifying the current state-by-state allocations. After reviewing public comments on these options, the administrative Commissioner from New York introduced a motion that would have allowed states to submit additional commercial quota allocation options for discussion in February 2019. While some Council and Board members offered support for the motion, others felt that it was too late in the process to introduce new alternatives and that the existing options adequately address the purpose of the amendment. After a lengthy discussion, the motion was defeated due to lack of majority from the Council.

Given the limited time available to discuss the remaining issues addressed in the amendment, the Council and Board voted to postpone final action until their next joint meeting, to be held February 11-14, 2019 in Virginia Beach, VA. Additional information about this action is available at: http://www.mafmc.org/actions/summer-flounder-amendment.

Questions? Contact Kiley Dancy, Fishery Management Specialist, kdancy@mafmc.org, (302) 526-5257.

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NOAA Fisheries Sets 2019 Specifications for Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass

Effective January 1, 2019

NOAA Fisheries sets 2019 catch limits for the summer flounder and black sea bass fisheries and maintains the 2019 scup specifications that were established in 2017.

The summer flounder specifications will result in a 16-percent increase in the recreational harvest limit. Due to commercial overages that occurred in 2017, an accountability measure will be applied to the commercial quota that will result in a commercial quota that is similar to that in place for 2018.

For black sea bass, we are implementing the same specifications that were in place for 2018. We are also reopening the February black sea bass recreational fishery.

The scup specifications for 2019 are identical to those in place for 2018. We are also increasing the incidental possession limit for scup moratorium permit holders using small mesh from April 15-June 15.

A new assessment for summer flounder will be finalized in early 2019; any adjustment to the summer flounder specifications as a result will be taken up by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. Additional information will be sent outlining any changes being implemented mid-year. 

Read the final rule as filed in the Federal Register and the permit holder bulletin posted on our website.

Questions?

Fishermen: Emily Gilbert, (978) 281-9244

Media: Jennifer Goebel, 978-281-9175

Comment Period Open on Proposed Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Commercial Accountability Measure Modifications

NOAA Fisheries proposes to revise the commercial accountability measures applicable to the summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass fisheries when overages are caused by discards. The comment period is open through September 10, 2018.

MAFMC and ASMFC to Hold Public Hearings for Summer Flounder Commercial Issues Amendment

The Council and ASMFC are soliciting public input on a draft amendment to address several potential changes to the management of the commercial summer flounder fishery, as well as modifications to the fishery management plan (FMP) goals and objectives for summer flounder. Ten public hearings will be held between September 10 and September 27. Written comments will be accepted through October 12, 2018.

NOAA Fisheries Announces 2018 Recreational Rules for Summer Flounder, Black Sea Bass, and Scup

May 31, 2018 – The following was released by NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office:

NOAA Fisheries announces management measures for the 2018 summer flounder, black sea bass, and scup recreational fisheries.

Summer Flounder 2018 Recreational Measures

We are continuing “conservation equivalency” for the summer flounder fishery. This means we have waived the federal recreational bag limit, minimum fish size, and fishing season, and fishermen are subject to regulations in the state where they land. Please contact your state for information on summer flounder rules.

Black Sea Bass 2018 Recreational Measures

We are implementing the following recreational black sea bass measures in federal waters:

  • 12.5-inch total length minimum fish size
  • Possession limit of 15 fish per person per trip
  • Open season from May 15-December 31 (please note: there is no longer a closure period from September 22-October 21).

Scup 2018 Recreational Measures

The scup recreational fishery measures are the same as 2017:

  • 9-inch total length minimum size
  • Possession limit of 50 fish per person per trip
  • Open all year

Please keep in mind that if the federal minimum size, possession limit, and/or season differ from the regulations for the state in which you will landing, you must follow the more restrictive regulations.

Read the final rule as filed in the Federal Register today, and the permit holder bulletin available on our website.

Questions? 

 

Click here to view the Environmental Assessment for this action

Recreational Black Sea Bass Fact Sheet: Management Challenges for an Abundant Stock

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Summary

The black sea bass stock from Maine through Cape Hatteras, North Carolina is not overfished and overfishing is not occurring. Abundance has increased and is currently very high, particularly off southern New England. As a result, recreational catches have been relatively high, even under restrictive regulations.

Fishery managers are required to set catch and landings limits to prevent overfishing. Current stock assessment information and catch estimates indicate that catch can’t increase beyond recent levels without an increased risk of overfishing. The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (Commission) are working to improve black sea bass management.

Stock Status

The most recent stock status information comes from the 2016 stock assessment. Spawning stock biomass (i.e. the abundance of mature females and males) was estimated to be 48.9 million pounds in 2015, which is 2.3 times the target spawning stock biomass level. A recent increase in spawning stock biomass was driven by the 2011 “year class” (i.e. the fish spawned in 2011), which was nearly three times the 1989-2015 average.

Recreational Management 

Figure 1. Recreational black sea bass harvest and recreational harvest limits, 2008 to 2018 (click image to expand)

The Council and the Commission cooperatively develop fishery regulations for black sea bass. Annual recreational harvest limits (RHLs) are set based on projections of abundance in future years and are intended to prevent overfishing. Recreational bag limits, fishing seasons, and minimum fish sizes are used to help ensure that recreational harvest does not exceed the RHL each year. Despite best efforts to set appropriate management measures, recreational harvest exceeded the RHL for much of the last decade (Figure 1).

The 2016 stock assessment allowed for a substantial increase in the 2017 and 2018 RHLs, compared to 2016, and brought the RHLs more in line with recent harvest levels (Figure 1). However, the 2018 RHL (3.66 million pounds) is about 15% lower than the 2017 RHL. Biomass projections based on the best available science indicated that spawning stock biomass would decline from 2017 to 2018 due to the declining influence of the large 2011 year class - over time many of those fish died of natural causes (e.g. predation) or were harvested by fishermen. Given this projected decline in abundance, catch and harvest limits must also decrease to prevent overfishing.

Managers use the prior year’s harvest to determine whether regulations should be changed. Recreational fishermen harvested 4.16 million pounds of black sea bass in 2017 – about 14% above the 2018 RHL of 3.66 million pounds. As a result, any increase in harvest in 2018 compared to 2017 would cause the 2018 RHL to be exceeded and would increase the risk of overfishing. Recreational bag limits, fishing seasons, and minimum fish sizes in state and federal waters were modified to allow coastwide recreational harvest to achieve, but not exceed, the 2018 RHL.

Next Steps

  • The Council and Commission are working on several ways to improve fishing opportunities for recreational fishermen while continuing to ensure that overfishing does not occur.
  • Stock Assessment Update: An update to the stock assessment is planned for early 2019. This new information will be used to set catch and landings limits for 2019-2021.
  • February Fishery: The Council and Commission provided states the opportunity to open their recreational black sea bass fisheries in February 2018 and will consider doing so for 2019.
  • Eliminating the Fall Closure: Starting in 2018, there will be no recreational black sea bass fall closure in federal waters for the first time since 2008.
  • Alternative Management Strategies: The Council and Commission are considering the use of conservation equivalency for black sea bass,2 the potential use of slot limits, and recreational transit provisions in Block Island Sound.
  • New Analysis Approaches: The Council and Commission’s Monitoring and Technical Committees continue to improve the way recreational harvest and fishery performance are analyzed and evaluated when developing management measures.

NOAA Fisheries Seeks Comments on Proposed 2018 Recreational Rules for Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass

NOAA Fisheries seeks comments on proposed recreational fishery management measures for the 2018 summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass fisheries. 

NOAA Fisheries Announces the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council Acceptable Biological Catch Omnibus Framework Adjustment

April 10, 2018 – The following was released by NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic Regional Office:

NOAA Fisheries announces three administrative changes to the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s processes in setting catch limits though the Acceptable Biological Catch Omnibus Framework Adjustment:

  1. The Council may now recommend multi-year Acceptable Biological Catch (ABC) limits for Mid-Atlantic fisheries, which may bring greater stability and predictability to the fishing industry;
  2. The Atlantic Bluefish, Tilefish, and Atlantic Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish Fishery Management Plans will now automatically incorporate the best available scientific information in calculating ABCs (as all other Mid-Atlantic management plans do) rather than requiring a separate management action to adopt them; and
  3. New language clarifies the process for setting ABCs for each of the four types of ABC control rules.

To get all the details on these management changes, read the final rule as filed in the Federal Register today. 

Questions? 

  • Fishing Industry Contact: Erin Wilkinson, Headquarters Office, 301-427-8561
  • Media: Jennifer Goebel, Regional Office, 978-281-9175

Reminder: Electronic Reporting Requirements for Party/Charter Vessels with Mid-Atlantic Permits

Beginning Monday, March 12, 2018, all charter and party vessel operators holding a federal permit for species managed by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council will be required to electronically submit Vessel Trip Reports for all trips carrying passengers for hire.

NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office Accepting Fisheries Science Proposals Through April 26

The funding opportunity focuses on links between habitat in the Chesapeake Bay and offshore to the health of black sea bass and summer flounder.