Catch Any Black Sea Bass Lately?

Photo Credit: Captain Judy HelmBeen fishing lately? Caught any black sea bass? The answer is likely a resounding “YES”! Catches of black sea bass have been on the rise the past several years and the Council had been hearing from fishermen throughout the region that based  on what they were seeing on the water (and on their hooks!), the fishery had to be recovered. Reports from fishermen indicated that it was difficult to even get a bait to the bottom without snagging a black sea bass on their hooks.

Scientists were able to prove that what fishermen were reporting was indeed true thanks to a recent stock assessment update for black sea bass. The stock assessment upate was conducted by the SouthEast Data Assessment & Review program, known as SEDAR, and the results showed that black sea bass were no longer overfished or undergoing overfishing and the fishery was rebuilt.  A collective HOORAY could be heard from NC to FL from all sectors of the fishery.

So, what does the recovery mean? Now that the black sea bass fishery was rebuilt fishermen began to ask how this might translate into changes in recreational and commercial harvest. To address possible management measures, the Council developed a regulatory amendment (Snapper Grouper Regulatory Amendment 19) in March 2013 that would recommend substantial increases to the annual catch limits for black sea bass for both the commercial and recreational sectors. The increases in harvest would more than double the current annual catch limit of 847,000 pounds (whole weight) to 1,814,000 pounds!

What would be the increase in harvest by sector? Here is a breakdown by sector:

Fishing Year

Commercial ACL

Recreational ACL

2013-2014 780,020 1,033,980
2014-2015 780,020 1,033,980
2015-2016 780,020 1,033,980
2016-2017 755,274 1,001,177
Photo Credit: NC Sea Grant

Photo Credit: NC Sea Grant

In a first ever move, the Council called a special webinar meeting in May 2013 to move forward with approval of the amendment in the hopes that the harvest increases could be put into place during the 2013-2014 fishing year for black sea bass. (The fishing year for the fishery runs from June 1 – May 31 annually.)

The Council approved the amendment in May 2013 and the amendment was approved by the Secretary of Commerce and became effective on September 23, 2013.

To read more about the recovery of one of the South Atlantic’s most valued fish, read the Council’s News Release and this article highlighting the success story.