The South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council held public scoping meetings earlier this month on February 12th and 13th to discuss ways to modify the current South Atlantic black seabass fishery management plan to accommodate an expanded use of on-demand gear in the fishery.  The black seabass fishery is an economically important pot and trap fishery of the southern US eastern seaboard, however, like the northern Atlantic lobster and crab fisheries, creates an elevated risk of entanglement for endangered North Atlantic right whales (NARW) during their seasonal migration.

Motivated by seasonal closures from November 1st – April 30th, black seabass fishers have tested the use of on-demand gear in the fishery through an exempted fishing permit (EFP) to assess the effectiveness of the systems in real-life fishing conditions.  The hope is that their use will eventually provide access to area closures.  Over the last three years, the fishers have shown that on-demand gear can be used to successfully catch black seabass while minimizing entanglement risk to NARW, and have expressed interest in permitting the use of the systems outside of the EFP.

These scoping meetings are the first steps to adopting Snapper Grouper Regulatory Amendment 36 that will among other things, accommodate the adoption of on-demand gear into the grouper snapper fishery management plan, thereby removing the requirement of fishing under an EFP.  Amendment 36 will need to be drafted to appropriately address concerns of wide-scale adoption of on-demand gear in the fishery, including what types of systems will be permitted and regulations on how to store the equipment when transiting through fishery closures, with the objective of enacting regulatory changes by early 2025.

Next steps will be a public hearing and public comment period this summer for the draft of Regulatory Amendment 36.

Read more at the links below.