Last week, fishery managers approved new regulations for the 2020 recreational bluefish fishery. These measures, which include a 3-fish bag limit for private anglers and a 5-fish bag limit for for-hire fishermen, represent a substantial reduction compared to the federal 15-fish bag limit that has been in place since 2000.
The most recent assessment of the Atlantic bluefish stock concluded that the stock is overfished. In October, managers called for an 18% decrease compared to 2019 and considered several combinations of bag limits and minimum size limits. Although the Bluefish Monitoring Committee recommended a coastwide 3-fish bag limit, the majority of comments from the public and Bluefish Advisory Panel (AP) members expressed opposition to this option, noting that it would have severe economic consequences for the for-hire sector, which was only responsible for 3.6% of coastwide landings from 2016 to 2018. Additionally, AP members and the public emphasized that these proposed reductions come at a challenging time for for-hire stakeholders as they are also facing new restrictions on striped bass, black sea bass, summer flounder, and scup.
After an extensive discussion and thorough consideration of public comments, the Council recommended and Commission approved a 3-fish bag limit for private and shore modes and a 5-fish bag limit for the for-hire mode. No restrictions were made to minimum fish size or seasons.
“For many years, bluefish has been one of our most abundant recreational fisheries,” said Council Chairman and ASMFC Board member Mike Luisi. “The Council and Commission are fully committed to the effective conservation and management of this stock, but we also recognize that a sudden change in regulations could have severe socioeconomic consequences for some stakeholders. After evaluating a wide range of options and considering numerous comments from the public, we feel that this approach is the most fair and effective way to achieve the necessary reduction in harvest next year.”