The state Division of Marine Fisheries is looking to add more open fishing days to the 2021 commercial black sea bass schedule, as well as increase trip catch limits.
The in-season adjustments, for which DMF is seeking public comment, are designed to provide fishermen with more access to the coveted stock and guard against fishing days lost to inclement fall weather.
Under current 2021 regulations, the commercial black sea bass schedule calls for three open fishing days per week — Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday.
Under the new proposals, open fishing would be allowed five days per week, Sunday through Thursday, effective Aug. 30.
Then, effective Oct. 1, the state would eliminate all closed fishing days and allow commercial harvesting of black sea bass seven days per week until the end of the season.
“This will provide the commercial fishery with additional access to the quota during the fall period to account for potential days lost to weather, as this small boat fishery is frequently limited by worsening fall weather,” DMF stated in the solicitation for public comment.
The DMF measures also would increase trip catch limits by 25% for both black sea bass pot fishermen and those utilizing hook and line.
Effective Aug. 30, the trip limits for pot fishermen would increase to 500 pounds from the current 400 pounds, while the limits for hook and line fishermen would go to 250 pounds per trip from the current 200 pounds.
“This will allow commercial fishermen to retain and land additional fish on a daily basis to achieve the annual quota,” DMF stated.
The commercial black sea bass fishery is managed regionally by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which allocates quota to the individual coastal states engaged in the fishery.
For the 2021 season, Massachusetts received a black sea bass quota of 791,000 pounds. That represented a 32% increase in the state's black sea bass quota since 2017, reflecting “improving stock conditions.”
As of July 25, Bay State commercial fishermen had utilized only 128,000 pounds, or about 16%, of the 2021 quota.
If approved, the proposals would mark the second consecutive season in which the state fisheries regulator enacted an in-season adjustment in the face of plentiful remaining quota.
At this point in 2020, with only about 14% of the state quota exhausted, DMF increased the number of open fishing days on Aug. 31 and Oct. 2. The 2020 season ultimately closed last Nov. 6.
“DMF is seeking to take a similar action this year,” the agency stated.
The agency stated it is particularly keen to hear public comment on “whether these proposed adjustments should occur earlier or later in the season or whether additional adjustments and trip limit measures are necessary.”
The deadline for submitting comment is Aug. 13. Comment should be addressed to DMF Director Dan McKiernan at firstname.lastname@example.org or by traditional post to 251 Causeway St., Suite 400, Boston, MA 02114.
DMF said it expects to make its final recommendation to the state Marine Fisheries Advisory Commission at the commission's Aug. 19 meeting.
If approved, the new measures would be announced Aug. 20.
Contact Sean Horgan at 978-675-2714, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT