On May 31, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC)announced that when the season opened, the expected daily creel limit of five fish would stand, but the minimum size would be 12 inches, not 13 as expected. In the same announcement, the SAFMC said that the minimum size would increase to 13 inches on July 1, as originally published in the Federal Register.
That caught the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries by surprise, and it had to do some last-minute scrambling, as it had updated its regulations with the 13-inch size minimum.
"We published what the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) had been telling us for months," said Dr. Louis Daniel, director of NCDMF. "This caught us from the blind side, too. The first notice we had of anything different was the same as everybody else; it was when we received the Fishery Bulletin from SAFMC."
Daniel said he immediately contacted the chairman of the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission for directions on how to handle the matter.
"We are working to correct this as quickly as possible," Daniel said. "I was directed to issue a proclamation that matched the SAFMC announcement. I am hoping that proclamation will be published shortly. Marine Patrol will not be enforcing the 13-inch minimum; however, they will be checking for fish less than 12 inches."
The proclamation was published by NCDMF late on Friday afternoon, June 1. It said the creel limit for black sea bass will continue to be five fish, but until June 30, the minimum size will decrease to 12 inches. On July 1, the minimum size will increase to 13 inches. These regulations are to become effective at 3 p.m. on Sunday, June 3.