SAFMC considers slashing black sea bass catch limit by nearly 60 percent

The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council is proposing to cut annual catch limits for black sea bass by almost 60 percent at an upcoming meeting in Charleston, SC, even though black sea bass are not overfished or experiencing overfishing.

At a September 3—October 5 meeting, the SAFMC will consider cutting the total black sea bass ACL by 57 percent for 2019 based on a recent stock assessment, which represents a nearly 1 million-pound reduction. Click here for the proposal.

Because only 36 percent of the total black sea bass ACL was landed in 2017, the reduction at least for 2019 may not be impactful, but after that it could have significant impacts.

That’s because the total black sea bass ACL would be cut even further in 2020 and 2021, with the 2021 ACL 63 percent lower than the current ACL.

For 2020 and 2021, based on current landings, the commercial ACL would be met in November and the fishery would close and the recreational fishery would come perilously close to closing, with about 90 percent of the ACLs projected to be landed.

Click here today to submit your comment to the SAFMC. The agenda item to click is "SG Abbreviated Framework 2." 

If that’s not enough, the black sea bass stock assessment and proposed ACLs are based on current Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) landings estimates, which are going to change this fall, up or down, for many species based on a recalibration caused by a change in MRIP survey methods. The SAFMC is scheduled to incorporate these revised MRIP numbers for black sea bass, vermilion snapper, blueline tilefish and red grouper at its meeting in December.

These new MRIP estimates could have very significant impacts on the black sea bass and other fisheries.

As you know, the black sea bass fishery is extremely important commercially and recreationally. The fishery is too important to rush in extreme ACL cuts.

We’ve asked the SAFMC to delay the proposed ACL cut for black sea bass until such time as the recalibrated MRIP landings estimates for black sea bass are available. Click here for our letter.

A delay would allow stakeholders more time to become aware of the proposed adjustments and for better scrutiny of the black sea bass stock assessment.

It’s important the SAFMC hears from fishery stakeholders on this extreme catch reduction.

Click here today and ask the SAFMC to delay any reductions to the black sea bass ACL until the new MRIP estimates are available. The agenda item to click is "SG Abbreviated Framework 2." Please submit your comments no later than October 3rd.

Thank you in advance for your efforts!

Tom Swatzel
Executive Director
Council for Sustainable Fishing

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