There is good news on the Vineyard waterfront for those who love to eat fresh-caught fish. This summer, for the first time in many years, black sea bass will be available in restaurants and fish markets.
Sea bass are abundant in surrounding waters and easily caught recreational rod and reel fishermen. But a commercial quota system that has been in place has meant that the quota would be landed early in the fishing season, usually in May, leaving no fish available for the summer season. That's about to change.
Yesterday the Massachusetts Marine Fisheries Advisory Commission voted to increase the catch limit and to begin black sea bass fishing season on August 6. The change will allow local pot fishermen to catch the fish and sell to local markets when the need is highest.This year's quota is 282,000 pounds, up from 225,000 pounds in 2012. Local fishermen reached that quota on May 22. The decision is the result of a state public hearing held in February.
“Every black sea bass pot fisherman, not just me, feels this is overdue and great,” said Tubby Medeiros, an Edgartown fisherman.
The changing of the season is not just a matter of convenience; it's also intended to improve the sustainability of the black sea bass fishery.
Under the previous rules, fishermen were allowed to catch sea bass when they came to Nantucket Sound to spawn. As a result, many fishermen would unwittingly land egg-carrying females.
“This [decision] is a no-brainer. Instead of letting the fishermen catch the fish when they are spawning off Hyannis, now it gives the fish a chance to spawn and spread out,” Mr. Medeiros said. “This is a win-win for the fishermen and a win-win for the fish markets and the restaurants,” he said.
Louis S. Larsen of the Net Result fish market said Friday the change was the best news he has heard in a long time.
“Finally they did something that makes sense," he said of the Massachusetts Marine Fisheries Advisory Commission. "It is nice, too. With the striped bass season running out [usually in late August], it is good to have another bass to sell."
Part of the impetus to move the season goes back to the late Tom Osmers of West Tisbury, who petitioned state officials to make the change more than five years ago. Mr. Osmers was strongly opposed to harvesting fish before they had a chance to spawn and argued that the season was unnecessarily harming the fishery.
Dan McKiernan, deputy director of the state Division of Marine Fisheries, said he remembered seeing Mr. Osmers make that appeal. “He was begging us to move the quota later in the year, after the fish had spawned. We did our very best,” Mr. McKiernan said.