NOAA Fisheries Service announced on Friday, Aug. 24, that the recreational season for black sea bass in the South Atlantic Region would close at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 4, and remain closed until June 1, 2013.

This includes all federal waters from Cape Hatteras, N.C. southward to Key West, Fla. Federal waters are those waters from 3 to 200 miles offshore. For vessels with a valid federal charter vessel/headboat permit for South Atlantic Snapper-grouper, the closure applies to state and federal waters. All vessels operating under a federal for-hire permit for snapper-grouper must land any black sea bass before 12:01 a.m. on Sept. 4, 2012.

The 2012-2013 black sea bass season opened on June 1, 2012, with a limit of five fish per person per day. The season was open for 95 days.


The season closure has been directed because NOAA Fisheries Service has determined that the recreational annual catch limit of 409,000 pounds has been reached. 


The states of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina are expected to follow the federal lead and also close the black sea bass season in state waters, which include all inland waters and the ocean waters from the beach out to 3 miles offshore.


NOAA Fisheries Service said black sea bass are experiencing overfishing. They have determined the harvest levels must be kept below 309,000 pounds commercial harvest and 409,000 pounds recreational harvest to prevent fish from being removed too quickly, and to rebuild the black sea bass population.


In contrast, the reports from fishermen are of an abundance of black sea bass.


Capt. Keith Logan of Feeding Frenzy Charters, who operates out of Little River, S.C., and Holden Beach, N.C., said, "Fishermen are actually a victim of a successful rebuilding program where there are more and larger sea bass each year, causing the fixed annual catch limit to be caught sooner each year. The annual catch limit needs to be increased ASAP or a lot of coastal businesses are going to be severely impacted by these early closures during tourism season."


Capt. Mike Webb of Pelagic Sportfishing in Atlantic Beach, N.C. said, "There are more black sea bass than I have ever seen. They have been in good enough numbers all year they were occasionally a nuisance when fishing for other fish. I had a grouper charter last week, and had to move five times to get away from black sea bass that were in such a feeding frenzy they were attacking grouper baits that sometimes were almost as large as them."