Framework Adjustment 14 establishes the following measures:
Black Sea Bass Recreational Conservation Equivalency
This action adds conservation equivalency as an annual management consideration for the black sea bass recreational fishery. The conservation equivalency process, which allows federal measures to be annually waived in lieu of appropriate state measures, is identical to what is currently in place for the summer flounder recreational fishery. Under conservation equivalency, the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission will decide each year, beginning in 2020, whether to use a combination of federal and state coastwide measures or conservation equivalency to manage the recreational black sea bass fishery. Conservation equivalency waives federal measures so long as the states implement appropriate measures.
Block Island Sound Transit Zone
This action also creates a transit area for state-only permitted vessels fishing for summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass around Block Island to address issues when federal and state management measures differ. The transit zone mirrors the current transit area for striped bass and allows for transit for state-only permitted commercial and party/charter vessels and private recreational anglers with summer flounder, scup, and/or black sea bass on board that were legally harvested in state waters (see map below). These vessels may transit between the Rhode Island state waters surrounding Block Island and the coastal state waters of Rhode Island, New York, Connecticut, or Massachusetts while complying with the state waters measures for those species. Transit through the defined area is allowed, provided that fishermen and harvest are compliant with all applicable state regulations, gear is stowed in accordance with federal regulations, no fishing takes place from the vessel while in federal waters, and the vessel is in continuous transit.
This transit provision does not apply to federally permitted vessels. There is no change to current federal regulations requiring all federally permitted vessels to abide by the measures of the state(s) in which they harvest or land their catch, or the federal waters measures, whichever are more restrictive.
Inclusion of Maximum Size Limit
A maximum size limit can now be set through specifications for the summer flounder and black sea bass recreational fisheries. By including a maximum size, the Council can recommend both a minimum and maximum recreational size limit to allow for consideration of regular slot limits, split slot limits, and trophy fish when setting recreational measures each year. This action does not change any current Federal recreational measures, but adds flexibility in specifying future recreational management measures.