The wait wasn’t easy but it’s over. NOAA Fisheries has declared the southern stock of black sea bass successfully rebuilt. With that, the combined commercial and recreational catch limit for this popular species has more than doubled, to 1.8 million pounds.
The southern stock of black sea bass ranges from Cape Hatteras, NC to the Florida Keys. For the communities along that stretch of coast, the higher catch limit is extremely good news.
According to the latest Fisheries Economics of the U.S. report, in 2011 recreational fishing in this region supported more than 52,000 jobs and added just short of $3 billion of value to the nation’s GDP.
Among recreational anglers, black sea bass is one of the most popular fish throughout its range. Those anglers will now be chasing black sea bass for about 6 months each summer and fall. In recent years, the season lasted about half that long.
Black sea bass is also an important commercial species. Although the economic impact from commercial fishing is less overall, it will be felt strongly in the Carolinas, where the commercial black sea bass fleet is concentrated.
“This shows that catch limits work,” said Jack McGovern, the South Atlantic Branch Chief for NOAA Fisheries.
Catch limits are required by the 2006 reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Management and Conservation Act. Without them, and the accountability measures that give them force, black sea bass would probably still be overfished.
Instead, the stock is rebuilt, which means it’s now large enough to produce its maximum sustainable yield—the largest annual catch that won’t cause the stock to diminish over time.
The southern stock of black sea bass is only the latest to cross the rebuilding finish line. Nationwide, a total of 34 stocks have now been rebuilt since 2000.