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Sea Bass anyone?

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Bigger catch for black sea bass recommended


By KIRK MOORE "¢ STAFF WRITER "¢ January 11, 2010

(function(){ GEL.thepage.initializer.addInitRoutine({name: "YahooBuzz",namespace: "remoting",callback: loadcontent,priority: 100}); GEL.thepage.initializer.addInitRoutine({name: "sharelinks",namespace: "widget.ArticleTools",callback: initShareThis,priority: 91});function initShareThis(){var _w= GEL.thepage.shareThis= new GEL.widget.ShareThis("sharelinks");_w.init(); }function loadcontent(){var _jscntr= GEL.ement("YahooBuzz"), _u= "";window.yahooBuzzBadgeType= 'text';_jscntr.setContentUrl(_u);_jscntr.updat eRemoteContent();return; }})(); In the midst of a six-month shutdown of the black sea bass recreational fishery, science advisors to the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council have concluded that they underestimated the size of the black sea bass population, and now say 2010 catch limits can safely be increased by about 50 percent,



"It's not final, but it's a big hurdle," said Chris Zeman, a New Jersey representative on the council. "I was very happy. I remember looking at those (earlier) numbers back in October and thinking, 'This can't be right.' "


Black sea bass is the latest issue to divide government managers and the recreational angling community which is banned through March from fishing for the species in federal waters outside three miles. Several New Jersey and New York party boat operators could face civil fines over trips in November when customers kept the bass they caught.


National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials imposed the emergency ban in October, based on survey results that indicated the recreational sector would overshoot its share of the catch in 2009. Meanwhile, the Mid-Atlantic council lowered catch limits for 2010 at the recommendation of its science and statistical committee, despite a reassessment of black sea bass that showed the stock was not overfished as previously thought.


Last Friday that group and the council's monitoring committee met jointly to review the quota recommendation.


"They determined that when they had previously met on this issue in July, they did not fully understand that the 2009 quota was already highly precautionary, and reflected the results of a no-longer-valid stock assessment methodology that had previously indicated sea bass stocks were in precipitous decline," wrote Adam Nowalsky, a charter captain who tracks black sea bass issues for the Recreational Fishing Alliance member, in an e-mail summary.


The Friday "meeting with the monitoring committee helped them understand that," Nowalsky said. The science panel then decided "that the 2008 landings were the best baseline to use for setting the quota for 2010, because landings at that level have not caused a decline in the stock and the stock is now considered rebuilt, and no overfishing is occurring."


The new recommendation calls for a 2010 allowable biological catch of 4.5 million pounds, the same as 2008, Nowalsky said. After routine adjustments that will probably work out to around 3.25 million pounds, although the council staff must develop that number, Zeman said.


To implement a higher catch, Zeman said the council will ask Patricia Kurkul, NOAA's northeast regional fisheries director, to issue another emergency order - this time, to allow anglers to catch more black sea bass.

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