Status quo for porgy and bass; jury is still out on fluke. That’s pretty much the essence of the meeting summary as the Mid Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) met from December 10-13, 2018 in Annapolis, MD. And hint of regulatory changes for these three key species will have to wait until both the Council and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) reconvene for February meetings.
Council met jointly with the ASMFC’s Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Board (Board) in December to develop recreational specifications for summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass for 2019.
The Council and ASMFC reviewed recommendations from their Monitoring Committee, Advisory Panel, and staff for 2019 recreational black sea bass management measures. To achieve the 2019 recreational harvest limit of 3.66 million pounds, the Council and Board agreed to maintain status quo recreational management measures in federal waters.
While the Council manages federal waters and a 12.5-inch total length minimum fish size, 15 fish possession limit, and May 15 to December 31 open season, individual states will have the option of reviewing current state regulations to present for review at the ASFMC meeting from February 5-7 in Arlington, VA, where the Board is expected to approve proposals for regulatory measures in state waters.
Individual states once again have the option of opening their recreational black sea bass fisheries in state and federal waters from February 1-28, 2019 with a 12.5 inch minimum fish size and 15 fish bag limit. However, as in 2018, those states that choose that option would be forced to give up available fishing days on sea bass later in the season.
The Council and Board also reviewed recent recreational fishery performance and recommendations for 2019 recreational porgy management measures. To achieve the 2019 recreational harvest limit of 7.37 million pounds, the Council and Board agreed to maintain status quo recreational management measures in federal waters, which includes a 9-inch total length minimum fish size, a 50 fish possession limit, and a year-round open season. The Board voted to continue their regional approach to recreational porgy management in state waters and will review/approve any proposals for state measures during their February 2019 meeting.
Finally on the fluke front, the Council and Board reviewed recreational catch data from 2018 and a planned schedule for reviewing and responding to the recent benchmark stock assessment. This full scale fluke assessment was peer reviewed in November 2018, and the assessment report was expected to be finalized in early 2019.
Be advised however that because of the federal government shutdown to begin the year, the final presentation of current benchmark assessment projects – which includes both fluke and striped bass – planned for February could be impacted.
The Council and Board voted to delay adopting 2019 recreational management measures for fluke until their joint February 2019 meeting in Virginia Beach, VA. That will be held February 11-14 at the Hilton Virginia Beach Oceanfront at 3001 Atlantic Avenue in Virginia Beach, VA.
New Jersey’s Marine Fisheries Council has set March 7 as the date of their regular bimonthly meeting. That will take place starting at 5 p.m. at the Stafford Township Municipal Building at 260 East Bay Avenue in Manahawkin where all issues related to fluke, sea bass and porgies coming out of each of the Virginia meetings this month.