For Immediate Release - April 02, 2013

Corrected Notice: Changes to the Commercial Seasons, Trip Limits and Open Fishing Days for Black Sea Bass and Scup

New commercial fishing regulations for black sea bass and scup are now effective. These regulations were approved by the Massachusetts Marine Fisheries Advisory Commission (MFAC) at their March 7, 2013 business meeting. The regulations adjust the times when and quantities of black sea bass and scup that may be lawfully harvested. Commercial fluke limits will remain status quo in 2013. 

Black Sea Bass
Biological and environmental factors have produced a high abundance of black sea bass in the state’s southern waters, particularly during the spring (April – June) when these fish aggregate near-shore to spawn. In recent years, the spring commercial fishery has taken advantage of this abundance and landed most of the annual quota before the end of May; specifically, the 2012 commercial fishery landed 112% (248,463 pounds) of the state’s 221,936 pound annual quota after just 10 open fishing days in May.

The fish caught in the spring are primarily in pre-spawning and spawning condition; the removal of black sea bass during this season may be limiting reproductive potential. Moreover, the elevated abundance and high catch rates in the springtime have precluded fishing opportunities later in the year when the fish are available to a more geographically diverse group of fishermen and the fish’s value is typically 50% higher. High catch rates have also contributed to rampant non-compliance with the commercial fishery’s trip limits.

While the state’s 2013 annual quota will be increased to about 280,000 pounds, the quota remains constrained below historic levels. MarineFisheries expects black sea bass abundance and availability will be similar in 2013 to what it has been in recent years. In order to minimize the above mentioned negative impacts of the spring fishery, the directed fishery will now begin on August 6. However, to accommodate weir fishermen, who can only target these fish during the late spring months, a 10,000 lb set-aside has been established; any set-aside not harvested by weir fishermen will roll back into the general quota for the directed summer season. These adjustments are described in the table below: 

Commercial Black Sea Bass Fishery Limits

GearSeasonOpen DaysTrip LimitsMinimum Size
WeirsYear RoundAll days10,000 lbs set-aside12 inches
All Gears Except WeirsJanuary 1 - March 31All days100 lbs per day12 inches
All Gears Except WeirsApril - August 5Closed0 lbs per dayN/A
Fish PotsAugust 6 - QuotaSun/Tue/Wed300 lbs per day12 inches
Hook and LineAugust 6 - QuotaSun/Tue/Wed150 lbs per day12 inches
Mobile GearAugust 6 - QuotaSun/Tue/Wed150 lbs per day12 inches

 

Scup
The most recent stock assessment declared that scup is not over-fished and that over-fishing is not occurring; the biomass has been rebuilt to 170% of its target. Accordingly the state’s summer inshore quota will remain at about 2 million pounds. In recent years, the state’s inshore commercial scup fishery has not landed more than 80% of its seasonal quota. To accommodate greater harvest opportunities, the commercial scup fishing days, seasons and trip limits have been liberalized for pot and hook and line fishermen. These adjustments are described in the table below:

Commercial Scup Fishery Limits

GearSeasonOpen DaysTrip LimitsMinimum Size
WeirsMay 1 - October 31All days275,000 lbs set-aside9 inches
Mobile GearMay 1 - June 9All days800 lbs9 inches
June 10 - QuotaSun - Thurs800%
Fish PotsMay 1 - May 31Sun - Thurs800 lbs9 inches
June 1 - June 30Sun/Tue/Wed400 lbs
July 1 - QuotaSun - Thurs1,500 lbs
Hook and LineMay 1 - May 31Sun - Thurs800 lbs9 inches
June 1 - June 30Sun/Tue/Wed400 lbs
July 1 - QuotaSun - Thurs1,500 lbs

Details pertaining to black sea bass and scup limits can be found at 322 CMR 6.28. For further information contact DMF at 617-626-1520 or please visit our website at www.mass.gov/marinefisheries.