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ASMFC/MAFMC APPROVE 2019 CATCH LIMITS

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council set 2019 catch limits for bluefish, scup, sea bass and fluke.
By Jim Hutchinson, Jr.  |  August 26, 2018

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (Commission) and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) reviewed previously approved specifications for scup and established new specifications for black sea bass, bluefish, and summer flounder fisheries.

The Commission also approved Draft Addendum XXXI for public comment and agreed to provide the states the opportunity to open their black sea bass recreational fisheries in February 2019.

Catch and landings limits for the summer flounder, scup, black sea bass, and bluefish fisheries were established for 2019 only. The Commission’s actions are final and apply to state waters. The Council will forward its recommendations for federal waters to NOAA Fisheries’ Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Administrator for final approval.

For summer flounder, the Commission and Council received a data update, including catch, landings, and survey indices through 2017, and stock projections for 2019. Taking into consideration the data update and model-projected increases in spawning stock biomass, the Commission and Council approved, on an interim basis, a commercial quota of 7.72 million pounds and recreational harvest limit of 5.15 million pounds for 2019.

Both the commercial quota and recreational harvest limit represent a 16% increase from 2018 levels, but they could also be modified in early 2019 pending the results of the benchmark stock assessment on summer flounder.

For scup (porgy), the Commission and Council received a data update, including catch, landings, and survey indices through 2017. The update indicates biomass continues to be high, and the 2015 year class appears to be above average. In response, the Commission and Council maintained the previously implemented multi- year specifications set in August 2017. For 2018 and 2019, the commercial quota is 23.98 million pounds and the recreational harvest limit is 7.37 million pounds.

For black sea bass, the Commission and Council received a data update, including catch, landings, and survey indices through 2017. The update indicates biomass continues to be high, and the 2015 year class appears to be above average. The Commission and Council established, on an interim basis, a 3.14 million pound commercial quota and a 3.27 million pound recreational harvest limit for 2019. Both values are a slight increase from those recommended by the Monitoring Committee due to a change in the calculation of discards. However, each represents a slight decrease in 2018 levels and could change in early 2019 pending the results of the upcoming operational stock assessment update.

Both management bodies also approved a February fishery with a management program similar to that used in 2018 for black sea bass. The 2019 wave 1 fishery will be open from February 1-28 with a 15 fish possession limit and a 12.5-inch minimum size limit for states that choose to participate in the fishery. All participating states would be required to adjust their 2019 recreational management measures to account for a wave 1 harvest.

The Commission and Council also approved a 7.71 million pound commercial quota and an 11.62 million pound recreational harvest limit for bluefish in 2019. The final 2019 harvest limits include a transfer of up to 4 million pounds from the recreational to the commercial sector, which generally reflects the distribution of recreational and commercial landings in 2017. According to ASMFC, these numbers will likely change following release of 2018 final Marine Recreational Information Program harvest estimates which can impact how much is transferred from the recreational sector to the commercial sector.

Framework and Addendum XXXI on Conservation Equivalency, Block Island Sound Transit and Slot Limits The Commission and Council jointly approved for public comment alternatives included in the Council’s Framework and Commission’s Draft Addendum XXXI. Both documents propose options for conservation equivalency for black sea bass and summer flounder, and transit provisions for summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass for Block Island Sound. The Council’s Framework also addresses the use of slot limits for all three species in federal waters.

The transit provision options include two alternative transit areas that could apply to recreational fisheries only, or both commercial and recreational fisheries for all three species, depending on the alternatives selected. They could also apply to differences in state and federal seasons, minimum fish sizes, and/or possession limits, depending on the alternatives selected. The Commission will issue a press release on Draft Addendum XXXI’s availability for public comment and scheduled public hearings once the hearings have been finalized.

For more information about summer flounder or scup, contact Kirby Rootes-Murdy, Senior FMP Coordinator, at krootes-murdy@asmfc.org. For more information about black sea bass or bluefish, contact Caitlin Starks, FMP Coordinator, at cstarks@asmfc.org.

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