The Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) has enacted new regulations, which were informed in part by this winter’s public hearings. The regulations were reviewed and approved by the Marine Fisheries Advisory Commission at its March 15 meeting, and go into effect on April 20.
The most substantive change is an adjustment to the open commercial fishing days for black sea bass. The new open commercial fishing days are Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. Prior to this year, the open fishing days were Sundays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. DMF replaced the Wednesday open fishing day with a Thursday open fishing day to provide nonconsecutive open fishing days in order to spread the supply of fish out over the week.
The move was endorsed by Vineyard fishermen at a March 5 DMF public hearing in Tisbury. The commercial black sea bass season will begin on Tuesday, July 10.
During the inshore small-mesh trawl squid fishery, April 23–June 9, trawlers will be allowed to retain a 50-pound bycatch limit of black sea bass. Prior to this rule change, the retention of black sea bass during this period was prohibited, which resulted in the waste of a valuable catch. Black sea bass landings by trawlers during the squid fishery will be capped at 50,000 pounds. After the end of the inshore squid fishery or once the 50,000 pound cap is reached, the retention and landing of black sea bass by trawlers will be prohibited until the summer fishery opens.
The commercial striped bass fishery will open on Monday, June 25. Open fishing days will remain Mondays and Thursdays, and there have been no changes to the commercial possession and landing limits. However, beginning this year, commercial fishing will be prohibited on July 3, July 4, and Labor Day — if those dates fall on an open fishing day during the commercial fishery.
Two changes to the commercial scup regulations are being enacted to comply with interstate and federal fishery management plans. The first change affects the retention and landing of scup by trawlers using nets with mesh that measures less than 5 inches diamond (“small mesh”). When trawlers are fishing with small mesh during the period of May 1–Sept. 30, they may not possess more than 200 pounds of scup; during the period of Oct. 1–April 30, this scup limit is 1,000 pounds. The second change is an adjustment in the quota management periods for scup. The month of October is being moved from the summer, state-managed quota period to the winter, federally managed quota period. This is being done to improve the utilization of the federal quota. The state quota is not being changed.
DMF is also clarifying the menhaden bycatch allowance to comply with the interstate fishery management plan. This will prohibit large purse seiners — defined as using a net that exceeds 150 fathoms in length or eight fathoms in depth — from taking menhaden under the state’s bycatch allowance provision. This provision allows vessels to continue to retain and land up to 1,000 pounds of menhaden taken as bycatch once 100 percent of the annual menhaden quota is taken, provided the bycatch of menhaden does not exceed 5 percent of the overall catch.
DMF has declared that it is unlawful to use bleach to harvest razor and soft-shell clams. Clam harvesters have been known to spray solutions into clam holes to force the animals to the surface, to make harvest activities more efficient. The change reinforces state laws that prohibit the discharge of contaminants into marine waters.
More information regarding marine fisheries management in Massachusetts can be found at mass.gov/marinefisheries or by calling DMF at 617-626-1520.