State looks to extend season for some species

NOAA/Courtesy photoThe state Division of Marine Fisheries wants to extend the seasons for the commercial harvest of striped bass, black sea bass and summer flounder, pictured.

The unrelenting COVID-19 pandemic has dampened commercial fishing in state waters for striped bass, black sea bass and summer flounder and state fishery regulators are trying to help fishermen make up for the slow start.

The state Division of Marine Fisheries wants to extend the seasons for the commercial harvest of the three species — and give commercial fishermen wider access to remaining quotas — by adding open fishing days to the late summer and fall portions of this fishing season.

“The purpose is to provide active commercial fishermen with additional access to these quota-managed fisheries during the fall,” DMF said in its announcement seeking public comment on the proposed in-season adjustments. “This will let these businesses fish around worsening seasonal weather, which typically has a limiting impact on commercial fishing quotas.”

The state agency said that as of Aug. 1, 75% of the state’s 735,240-pound striped bass quota remains available, as does 80% of the state’s 728,565-pound black sea bass allocation and 52% of the 786,399-pound summer flounder quota.

Here are the proposed measures:

Striped bass: Beginning Sept. 1, DMF would like to add Tuesday and Thursday fishing to the current calendar, which would allow a four-day fishing week of Monday through Thursday. On Oct. 2, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays will be added to create a seven-day fishing week.

Black sea bass: Beginning Aug. 31, DMF would add Mondays and Wednesdays to the commercial fishery to bring it to a full five-day fishing week of Sunday through Thursday. On Oct. 2, Fridays and Saturdays would be added to comprise a seven-day fishing week.

Additionally, DMF wants to increase the daily trip limit for pot fishermen to 500 pounds from the current 400 pounds. The increase would go into effect Aug. 30.

Summer flounder: DMF wants to increase the commercial summer flounder trip limit for trawlers to 600 pounds from the current 400 pounds, effective Aug. 23. On Oct. 4, DMF wants to increase the commercial summer flounder trip limit to 1,000 pounds and eliminate the closed fishing days of Fridays and Saturdays to create a seven-day fishing week.

The state Marine Fisheries Advisory Commission is expected to vote on the proposals at its Aug. 20 meeting. If approved, the in-season adjustments will be announced Aug. 21 “and will be in effect for the remainder of 2020 or until 100% of the relevant 2020 commercial quotas have been taken.”

Contact Sean Horgan at 978-675-2714, or shorgan@gloucestertimes.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT

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