This morning a final rule was filed in the federal register, which will implement an Emergency Closure of the recreational fishery for black sea bass in federal waters, effective Monday, October 5, 2009. The closure applies to all federal waters north of Cape Hatteras, N.C., for 180 days in response to recent landing data that showed recreational fishermen may catch more than double their annual quota by the end of the year.
Landings data and scientific analyses show recreational fishermen have reached their quota and could exceed their 1.14 million pound harvest limit by as much as 84% to 225%, if the fishery is not closed.
An independent body of scientists recently determined that the black sea bass stock has been rebuilt. However, both the scientists and the Science and Statistical Committee of the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, have cautioned against increasing fishing of this stock for several reasons, including the complex and poorly understood reproductive cycle, and limited information on life span and important habitats for this species.
Last year, only about three percent of the 1.8 million recreational fishing trips taken in federal waters caught black sea bass. Up to 147 for-hire recreational charter boats landed black sea bass in 2008 along with other species.