DMF seeks public comment on regs to reduce black sea bass catch

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New regulations are going into effect for black sea bass.

Striped bass may be the glamour fish of Martha’s Vineyard, but when it comes to table fare, many Island fishermen seek out black sea bass. The seemingly abundant fish is not doing that well, and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is dictating that member states reduce their harvest.

The Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) is seeking public input on potential regulations needed to meet a mandatory harvest reduction of 23 percent compared with the state’s estimated 2015 harvest. The question is how to achieve that reduction.

DMF is presenting a laundry list of nine possible changes that include a mix and match of a reduced season and reduced bag limit for recreational fishermen and charter boats. The current season runs from May 23 to August 7 (97 days), and the possession limit is 8 fish a minimum of 14 inches.

Under one option (option A), the size and bag limit would remain the same, but the season would be May 21 to July 1 (42 days). Under another option (option C), the bag limit would be reduced to 3 fish, but the season would be May 21 to Sept. 5.

In a press release, DMF said, “Enacting regulations that are projected to reduce harvest is relatively straightforward, but accommodating all the various stakeholders is not … In addition, catch rates in recent years have been substantially higher in May and June than the later summer and fall months. Consequently, shortening the season from the front end is projected to achieve more reduction in harvest than cutting the same number of days from the tail end of the season.”

Island fishermen who wish to chime in may submit written comments by March 3 to: David Pierce, DMF Director, 251 Causeway Street, 4th Floor, Boston, MA 02114, or marine.fish@state.ma.us.