Monday, April 16, 2018

NOAA Seeks Comment on Summer Flounder, Black Sea Bass and Scup Rules

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

  • The 2018 summer flounder recreational harvest limit is 4.42 million lb, an increase from the 2017 harvest limit of 3.77 million lb.
  • The 2018 black sea bass recreational harvest limit is 3.66 million lb, a decrease of nearly 15 percent from the 2017 harvest limit of 4.29 million lb.
  • The 2018 scup recreational harvest limit is 7.37 million lb, an increase from the 2017 harvest limit of 5.50 million lb.

Summer Flounder Proposed Measures

We propose to continue the "conservation equivalency" approach, in which states develop state or regional minimum sizes, possession limits, and fishing seasons that will achieve the necessary level of conservation. Both the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission recommended continuing conservation equivalency.

The management plan requires us to propose non-preferred coastwide and precautionary default minimum fish size limits, possession limits, and seasons.

Proposed coastwide measures:

  • 19-inch minimum fish size
  • Possession limit of 4 fish per person per trip
  • Open season from May 15-September 15

These measures are expected to constrain the overall recreational landings to the 2018 recreational harvest limit. If a jurisdiction’s measures do not achieve the intended conservation, they must implement the precautionary default measures.

Proposed precautionary default measures:

  • 20-inch total length minimum fish size
  • Possession limit of 2 fish per person per trip
  • Open season from July 1-August 31.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission reviewed and approved all state/region proposals for 2018 summer flounder recreational management at its February 2018 meeting, so precautionary default measures are not expected to be necessary.

Black Sea Bass Proposed Measures

The Council recommends extending the current black sea bass recreational season by removing a closure that occurs during September 22 through October 21 and maintaining the current possession limit and minimum size. The following measures would apply to 2018:

  • 12.5-inch total length minimum fish size
  • Possession limit of 15 fish per person per trip
  • Open season from May 15-December 31.

These proposed measures are contingent upon the northern states implementing the required reduction to their state waters measures through the Commission process (Addendum XXX).

If the states do not implement measures that constrain catch to the 2018 recreational harvest limit, the Council recommends:

  • 14-inch total length minimum fish size
  • Possession limit of 5 fish per person per trip
  • Open season from May 15-September 15.

Scup Proposed Measures

We are not proposing any changes to the recreational measures for the 2018 recreational scup fishery. The current measures are expected to keep landings within the 2018 recreational harvest limit.

More Information and How to Comment

Read the proposed rule as published in the Federal Register today, and the Environmental Assessment on the Council’s website.

The comment period is open through April 26.

Submit your comments through the e-rulemaking portal or by mailing: Michael Pentony, Regional Administrator, Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office, 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930.

Questions? 

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

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