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SOUTHEAST RECREATIONAL: NOAA fisheries considering black sea bass closure
Federal fisheries managers are set to close another popular recreational fishery in the South Atlantic in the latest example of how chronic lapses in science and data-collection are wreaking havoc on the recreational angling sector. Less than two months after narrowly avoiding a massive closure of all bottom fishing in the South Atlantic to recover red snapper, federal managers have announced that black sea bass are set to become off-limits from February to June due to circumstances that sounds frustratingly familiar to anglers.

"When Congress strengthened the Magnuson-Stevens Act in 2006 in an effort to end overfishing, it did not intend NOAA Fisheries to achieve that goal simply by ending all fishing," said Chester Brewer, chairman of Coastal Conservation Association's National Government Relations Committee. "We need to end overfishing, but we have to have better data and more timely assessments before such harsh restrictions are imposed."

The last full benchmark assessment for black sea bass was conducted in 2001, and was simply updated in 2005. Based on those reports, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council adopted a management plan in 2006 that used a constant catch strategy despite strong objections from CCA. The strategy allows for a slightly higher catch limit for the first three years of the plan, but locks in a lower limit until at least 2015. As the stock rebuilds, anglers are encountering black sea bass more often and, according to the government's notoriously suspect recreational catch data, anglers are over their quota by up to 30 percent.

Managers are once again left with using the most draconian management measure available to fix a problem that may not even exist anymore. Black sea bass were scheduled to undergo another full benchmark assessment in 2010, but the furor over red snapper delayed it until 2011.

Read the complete story from Sport Fishing.







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