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North Carolina Department of Environment Quality

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Marine Fisheries - 01 Black Sea Bass North of Cape Hatteras 2016

Marine Fisheries

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black seabass

Black Sea Bass - North of Cape Hatteras - 2016

Stock Status – ConcernThe stock was declared rebuilt in 2009 based on the 2008 stock assessment for U.S. waters north of Cape Hatteras. However, due to unique life history characteristics (e.g., the species changes sex from female to male) and other data concerns, the 2011 and 2012 assessments were not formally accepted for stock status determination. From 2010 to 2015, black sea bass have been managed under a constant catch approach.  In a departure from this strategy, the ASMFC and Council recently approved a 21% increase in the Acceptable Biological Catch for 2016 and 2017. The increase is based on updated catch and survey information.  Although the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) considers the stock to be rebuilt, concerns remain due to uncertainty in recent stock assessments. A new benchmark stock assessment if scheduled for late 2016.

Average Commercial Landings and Value 2006-2015 – 172,497 lbs./ $505,847

2015 Commercial Landings and Value – 241,538 lbs./ $764,650 (quota managed)       

Average Recreational Landings 2006-2015 – 15,453 lbs., 2015 – 3,887 lbs. (harvest was split north and south of Hatteras based on county of landing)

Average Number of Award Citations (4 lbs.) 2006-2015 118, 2015 – 54 (includes citations statewide)

Status of Fishery Management Plan (FMP) – The stock north of Cape Hatteras and south of the United States/Canada border is managed under the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC)/Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council (MAFMC) Interjurisdictional Fisheries Management Plan (FMP), adopted in 1988, and defers to ASMFC FMP compliance requirements. Amendment 13 to the FMP established the implementation of a state specific allocation of the coastwide quota.  North Carolina’s allocation of the commercial quota is 11% of 2.24 million pounds (increasing to 2.71 million pounds in 2016). Amendment 15 (2011) formalized the process of addressing the scientific and management uncertainty when setting catch limits.  Addendum XXV (February 2014) allowed for the temporary use of regional measures to manage the black sea bass recreational fishery in 2014.  Those measures were extended to include the 2015 and 2016 fishing year. The stock has been managed through a constant catch-based strategy from 2010 to 2015.  For 2016 and 2017, a 21% increase in the Acceptable Biological Catch has been approved.  The increase is based on updated catch and survey information presented to the MAFMC and ASMFC.   A new benchmark stock assessment is scheduled for 2016.

Research and Data Needs – A consistent fishery-independent survey of black sea bass adults (e.g. fish pot or hook and line surveys) and juveniles (e.g. ocean trawl surveys), fishery-dependent age and sex data from the fisheries, adult migration patterns. 

2015 Regulations Commercial: 11 inches total length (TL) minimum size limit. Recreational: 12 ½ inches TL minimum size limit, 15-fish bag limit.

Harvest Season – Commercial: Year round with variable harvest limits by gear and time-period. Recreational: May 19 - September 21 and October 22 - December 31.

Size and Age at Maturity – 7.7 inches TL / 2-3 years

Historical and Current Maximum Age – females 8 years, males 12 years

Juvenile Abundance 2006-2015 Index – Not available

Habits and Habitats – Juvenile black sea bass may use coastal ocean or higher salinity estuarine habitats.  Adults change from female to male when they reach 9-13 inches. They migrate to spawn on the inner continental shelf between Virginia and Cape Cod in the winter and spring, moving to nearshore areas in the summer, possibly returning to the same coastal areas year after year. Adults tend to be structure oriented.

For more information, contact Lee Paramore at Lee.Paramore@ncdenr.gov or 252-473-5734

N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries • 3441 Arendell Street • Morehead City, NC 28557 • 252-726-7021 or 800-682-2632

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