Black sea bass fishery to see new rules in Maine
PORTLAND, Maine -- Maine fishery officials on Friday proposed regulations to manage black sea bass, a species that is increasing in abundance in the state's waters.
The regulations would govern recreational and commercial fishing of the species, said Maine Department of Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher. He called black sea bass a "new commercially viable species" for the state.
Commercial fishermen would face a quota of 10,850 pounds of black sea bass in 2014. The proposed regulations also include a daily catch limit of ten fish for recreational fishermen. The method of fishing for recreational and commercial is to be hook-and-line.
Scientists say black sea bass are increasing in Maine's waters because of accelerated water temperature increase over the past ten years. Water temperature in the Gulf of Maine has increased about a half degree per year since 2004, according to scientists at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute.
Maine fishermen welcome the new fishery, but the state should take a conservative approach to avoid overfishing black sea bass before they become more firmly established in the local waters, said Ben Martens, executive director of the Maine Coast Fishermen's Association. He said the state's proposed rules are appropriately cautious.
"It's great to have some of these smaller fisheries that new fishermen who are getting started can fish for," Martens said. "And more established fishermen can diversify."
The proposed rules are subject to public comments until Sept. 8. The rules also set a catch limit of 50 pounds of black sea bass per calendar day. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission will set Maine's commercial sea bass quota every year by May 1, Keliher said.
Fishermen in 11 states caught more than 2.6 million pounds of black sea bass in 2012, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data says. Florida and Virginia were the most productive states. The fishery was valued at nearly $7 million.
Federal regulators established state-specific catch limits for commercial black sea bass fishing in 2004, said Tina Berger, a spokeswoman for the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. New Hampshire also recently declared an interest in the fishery, she said.
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