Sea bass catch limits increased

The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council last month more than doubled the annual catch limit for the commercial and recreational black sea bass fisheries, increasing the total allowable weight to 1.8 million pounds, up from 847,000. That decision followed a review of scientific data showing that population numbers had increased while overfishing plummeted, resulting in a healthy stock.

The increase should ensure a full-length fishing season, putting an end to the early closures that have plagued fishermen for years. Those seasons, truncated after previous catch limits were exceeded, were cautionary measures meant to prevent overfishing of fledging sea bass populations. Throughout that process, fishermen reported seeing large numbers of black sea bass in waters off the coast, observations confirmed by the most recent data update.

“There are bigger fish and more fish,” said Kim Iverson, a spokeswoman for the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council. “The fishermen have paid the price by having shortened seasons and restrictions, and now the stock is recovering and those fishermen will also reap that reward.”

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