The upcoming black sea bass season will likely be at least twice as long as it's been in recent years, thanks to a May 13 decision by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council.

The federal fisheries managers announced at a special "webinar" meeting that the latest stock status report from April shows that black sea bass in the South Atlantic are no longer being overfished and the stock is rebuilt, and recommended an increase in the quota that will be more than double what fishermen have had to catch in recent years.

 

Fishermen in both Carolinas have been complaining for several years that black sea bass have recovered to normal population levels and that strict catch limits that closed the past two seasons after less than three months were not needed.

 

Finally, the SAFMC agreed.

 

The 2013 season for black sea bass will open June 1 and will not close until the annual Allowable Catch Limit (ACL) of 1,814,000 pounds has been reached – if the SAFMC's recommendation is reviewed favorably by NOAA Fisheries and approved by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce is approved, as is expected.

 

At its previous ACL of 847,000 pounds, the season was expected to last only through mid-August.'

 

The ACL will not change through the 2015 season. In 2016, it will be reduced to 1,756,450 pounds and will remain at that level until reviewed and changed. An update to the black sea bass stock assessment is expected that year.

    

Recreational fishermen are allocated 57 percent of the ACL, with commercial fishermen getting 43 percent.

 

The SAFMC also approved a Nov. 1-April 30 closure of the commercial pot fishery for black sea bass to reduce potential gear interactions with a large whale migration and right whales during calving season.

 

The SAFMC's next scheduled meeting is June 10-14 in Stuart, Fla. At that time, council members will receive an update on the status the black sea bass fishery and the review by the office of the U.S. Secretary of Commerce.