New Jersey council sets summer flounder, black sea bass regulations

New Jersey council sets summer flounder, black sea bass regulations

The New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council met Thursday and set summer flounder and black sea bass regulations in front of an overflow crowd at the Bay Avenue Community Center in Stafford Township.

Although black sea bass regulations were set, they may change after the upcoming Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Council meeting April 30 to May 3, said Bob Rush, a council member and owner of the Starfish fleet out of Sea Isle City.

That’s where states unhappy with their reduced quota — such as New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island — will make their case that New Jersey should share some of its increased quota with them.

Unlike last year, when flounder regulations were controversial, this year it was sea bass regulations that generated more discussion, Rush said.

Rush said limits on flounder size are the same as last year’s, over which the council fought and won against ASMFC.

But other rules are more liberal this year.

“We are actually getting extra fish and days at sea,” said Rush. “Last year the season ended the beginning of September. This year we are getting an extra week or two out of it.”

But black sea bass rules remain uncertain, said NJMFC acting Chairman Dick Herb, captain of charter boats out of Avalon.

“The bottom line for Jersey fishermen is, we don’t know what’s happening,” Herb said, because the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Council at the last minute backed down from an agreement to increase New Jersey’s black sea bass quota, said Herb.

“We had gotten great news that ASMFC had upped our quota dramatically — 47 percent, way up. Everything was fine,” said Herb.

But the morning of the NJMFC meeting, an ASMFC adviser called Herb saying the rules were changing.

In his 16 years serving on various councils, something similar has happened only once or twice, Herb said.

“But I’ve never seen anything as bizarre as this,” he said.

New Jersey was the only state due to get an increase in its black sea bass quota this year, and other states were taking quite a reduction.

They weren’t happy about that, and some states are threatening to go out of compliance over it, Herb said.

With other species, if one state refuses to follow ASMFC rules, only that state risks having its fishery shut down.

But for some reason with black sea bass, if one state goes out of compliance, the whole Atlantic Coast fishery is severely limited.

“Nobody wins,” said Rush.

New Jersey may have to consider swapping some of its quota to another state in order to keep that from happening, said Herb.

But it’s late in the game for making such basic changes, he said.