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North Carolina Department of Environment Quality

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Marine Fisheries - 02 Black Sea Bass South of Cape Hatteras 2016

Marine Fisheries

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Black seabass

Black Sea Bass - South of Cape Hatteras - 2016

Stock Status Viable – Based on the 2013 update to the South Atlantic stock assessment, SEDAR 25, the spawning stock biomass is rebuilt to the target set forth in the 2006 assessment and overfishing is not occurring. The South Atlantic stock met its rebuilding target prior to the 2016 deadline.  Quotas were increased for the 2013/2014 fishing season for both the recreational and commercial fisheries.   

Average Commercial Landings and Value 2006-2015 – 288,019 lbs./$630,812 (quota managed)

2015 Commercial Landings and Value – 226,319 lbs./$589,362 (quota managed)

Average Recreational Landings 2006-2015 – 112,180 lbs., 2015 –96,260 lbs. (quota managed)

Average Number of Award Citations (4 lbs.) 2006-2015 118, 2015– 54
(Includes black sea bass landed north of Cape Hatteras)

Status of Fishery Management Plan (FMP) - In North Carolina, the stock of black sea bass south of Cape Hatteras are currently included in the Interjurisdictional FMP, which defers to the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC) FMP requirements. Amendment 13C (2006) established a commercial quota and set additional pot restrictions. It also as well established a recreational allocation, increased the recreational minimum size limit, and a reduced the bag limit. For both commercial and recreational sectors, the fishing year was changed from June 1-May 31. Amendment 15A (2008) established a rebuilding plan and status determination criteria for black sea bass. Accountability measures (AMs) and annual catch limits (ACLs) were developed in Amendment 17B (2010). Regulatory Amendment 9 (2011) reduced the recreational bag limit. Amendment 18A (2012) revised the rebuilding strategy, including ACLs and AMs, increased size limits for black sea bass for both fisheries, and established an sea bass pot endorsement program for the commercial fishery with a trip limit. Regulatory Amendment 19 (2013) adjusted the ACL for both the commercial and recreational fisheries, as well as implemented an annual sea bass pot closure from November 1-April 30. Regulatory Amendment 14 (2014) modified the recreational fishing year for black sea bass to April 1-March 31, modified the commercial fishing year to January 1-December 31 with a reduced trip limit of 300 lbs. (gutted weight) for the hook-and-line sector January 1-April 30, and modified the accountability measures for the recreational fishery.

Research and Data Needs – Continue monitoring of catches, continue federal tagging projects, develop age information, alternative biological reference points, develop juvenile abundance index, and determine if stock structure exists.

2015 Regulations –The recreational fishery has a minimum size limit of 13 inches total length (TL), with a 5 fish bag limit. The commercial fishery has a minimum size limit of 11 inches TL. Trip limits vary dependent on gear and time of year. For the hook-and-line sector, the trip limit is 1,000 lbs. (gutted weight) or 1,180 lbs. (whole weight) from May 1 to December 31, and 300 lbs. (gutted weight) or 354 lbs. (whole weight) trip limit for January 1 to April 30. For sea bass pots, the trip limit is 1,000 lbs. (gutted weight) or 1,180 lbs. (whole weight) from May 1 to October 31; pots must be out of the water November 1 to April 30. Pots must have a 2-inch mesh back panel, there is a maximum of 35 pots allowed onboard the vessel, and all pots must be removed from water when vessel returns to port. Recreational and commercial ACLs for the South Atlantic were 1,033,980 lbs. and 780,020 lbs. whole weight, respectively.  When fishing for black sea bass dehooking tools are required, as is the use of non-stainless steel circle hooks (offset or non-offset) when using hook-and-line gear with natural baits. For updated information and regulations, see the NCDMF and SAFMC websites.

Harvest Season – The recreational fishing season opens April 1 and remains open until March 31, or until the quota is projected to be met. The commercial hook and line fishing season opens January 1 and remains open until December 31, or until the quota is projected to be met. The commercial pot fishery opens May 1 and closes October 31 annually to minimize right whale interactions during the winter and spring months.

Size and Age at Maturity – 7.7 inches TL/1 year

Maximum Age – 11 years

Juvenile Abundance Index – Not Available

Habits and Habitats – Black sea bass north and south of Cape Hatteras are recognized as different stocks. South Atlantic black sea bass spawn throughout the spring and summer with a peak spawn from March through May. Also, black sea bass change sex from female to male between the ages of 2 years and 5 years old. Black sea bass spawn offshore and the eggs and larvae recruit into the estuaries and nearshore reefs. As the fish get older they tend to migrate to deeper water where they inhabit irregular hard-bottom areas such as wrecks, artificial reefs, reef and rock outcroppings. Unlike the northern stock, seasonal migration of black sea bass has not been documented in tagging studies.

For more information, contact Anne Markwith at Anne.Markwith@ncdenr.gov (800-248-4536 or 910-796-7292).

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

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