A fisheries petition that began on the Vineyard last summer to throttle back the commercial season for black sea bass and scup is gaining favor among state fisheries managers.
The petition from Island recreational and commercial fishermen asks the state to end the spring commercial season for black sea bass and scup and postpone the opening until later in the summer and early fall. The action would not affect recreational fishing for both species.
Tom Osmers, West Tisbury shellfish constable, said the petition is aimed at restoring the stocks by protecting adult egg bearing fish from being harvested prior to spawning.
“We believe that the harvest should occur long enough after spawning to allow the fish to grow, fatten and recover from the energy loss that they experience during migration and spawning,” the petition said.
Black sea bass and scup come into Vineyard waters during the spring to spawn and they stay through the summer, feeding. More than 20 commercial fishermen working out of Edgartown and Oak Bluffs fish for sea bass and scup, using pots, similar to lobster fishing. Most of the fishing is done in Nantucket Sound.
By protecting the adults through the spawning season, there is a better chance there will be future juvenile fish, Mr. Osmers said. The petition collected several hundred signatures before it was turned over to the state.
Cooper A. Gilkes 3rd, who runs a tackle shop in Edgartown, said he favors the petition. “Anything we can do to enhance the fishing is a good thing. That is the way I look at it. It only makes sense. Just picture the story of how salmon make a run up the river to spawn. If we catch them before they get up the river to spawn, we lose. We get no juveniles. You would think that biologists would climb all over this fact,” he said.
Dan McKiernan, deputy director for the state Division of Marine Fisheries, said a staff report issued recently from his agency supports a delay in the opening for the scup and black sea bass fisheries.
“We are recommending that this petition go to public hearing. It is just common sense. The catches for these fish are so high in the early part of the year. We can’t monitor it close enough. When the fish arrive from mid-May to mid-June, fishermen are landing between 20,000 and 25,000 pounds a day throughout the state, from Chatham down to the Island,” Mr. McKiernan said. He said a later season would allow better management. “Catch rates for these fish are lower in the fall,” Mr. McKiernan said.
Russell Cleary, acting executive director of the Commercial Anglers Association, said his members are not happy about the prospect of completely eliminating the spring scup fishery. His group submitted its own petition, with one signature, asking that the fishery be reduced but not eliminated. “It is already a highly regulated fishery,” Mr. Cleary said. He said without a spring fishery there would be hardship. Mr. Cleary lives in Maynard but fishes out of Menemsha during the summer as a hook and line angler.
On Jan. 15 the state fisheries commission met and agreed to bring the petition to a public hearing: a date has not been set yet.
Mr. McKiernan said if there is a hearing on the petition it will likely be held later in the winter at a location near the Vineyard. There will also be a comment period.
In other local fisheries news state Division of Marine Fisheries director Paul Diodati received another petition from the Vineyard requesting the state change its regulations for commercial gill net fishing. Written by Warren Doty, a fisheries advocate and Chilmark selectman, the letter asks the state to require that all gill nets be tended while they fish. Far too often the nets have been left offshore while the fishermen are at the dock, harming other sea life and wasting the resource, the letter said,
“When gill nets are left untended for any reason, the chances of mammals (whales, porpoises, seals), reptiles (turtles), and large pelagics (sharks of all kinds) getting caught in the nets or tangled in the buoy lines, increase by the number of days the net is left untended,” Mr. Doty wrote.
The letter is published on the Commentary Page in today’s edition.
Mr. Doty said the division has received the petition and will talk to the petitioners about it on Monday.