You’re probably wondering why the question mark in the title above. No, it’s not a mistake. It is because as I write this, Albany has yet to sign off on emergency regulations for sea bass that our Marine Resources staff here on Long Island submitted nearly three weeks prior to the intended season opener of June 23rd. They also requested that the process be accelerated to avoid a repeat of the emergency fluke regulations back in May, when Albany finalized emergency regulations the day before the season opened. It appears the same is likely to happen with sea bass. Since it is late in the day on June 19 as I write this, it’s very likely Albany will go down to the wire again. My bet would be Friday – I hope I’m wrong – but either way, you will have the answer by the time you are reading this. And hopefully, you will have already put some sea bass in your cooler.
Albany doesn’t seem to understand that many anglers need to make their fishing plans in advance, tackle shops need to inventory bait and tackle, and boat captains need to announce sailing schedules in advance of the opening. In fact, some captains had already advertised that they will be sailing for sea bass this past weekend so as not to miss the first weekend of the season. I’ve was told last week that it is okay to get the word out but with the caveat that readers check the marine regulations on the DEC website for confirmation. The new regs were to be posted within hours of Albany signing off on them. The new regulations call for a three fish bag from June 23 to August 31 and a seven fish bag from September 1 to December 31. A 15-inch minimum size limit is in effect throughout the season.
When this whole process started earlier this year, the Northern Region (MA, RI, CT and NY) was looking at a nearly 12-percent reduction in sea bass harvest. At a meeting back on May 3rd, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Summer Flounder, Scup and Black Sea Bass Management Board revised the Northern Region Recreational Management Measures for black sea bass. Upon the direction of the Commission’s Interstate Fisheries Management Program (ISFMP) Policy Board, the Board approved revised 2018 recreational measures for the Northern Region states, including New York.
The action was taken in response to an appeal of the approved 2018 recreational measures under Addendum XXX by the Northern Region states. The appeal argued the Board’s action under Addendum XXX incorrectly applied technical data and was inconsistent with the Summer Flounder, Scup and Black Sea Bass Fishery Management Plan. After reviewing the appeal, Commission leadership agreed there was adequate justification to bring portions of the appeal forward to the ISFMP Policy Board. During the ISFMP Policy Board’s deliberations regarding consideration of the appeal, a potential management program for the 2018 black sea bass recreational fishery was presented to replace the allocations specified in Addendum XXX. The revised management program was developed to meet the needs of the Northern Region without impacting the remaining states, while still constraining harvest to the 2018 recreational harvest limit of 3.66 million pounds. The end result are the new regulations noted above, which I’ve been told actually translate into a two percent increase in harvest allocation.
Still, there is a lot of discontent over what many feel are overly restrictive management measures in the case of black sea bass. It stems from a sea bass fishery that has exceeded its rebuilding target by almost 2-1/2 times, and their obvious abundance throughout the region. So while the revised sea bass regulations for New York anglers are better than those initially proposed, the new regulations are not sitting well with everyone in the recreational community.