Black sea bass are common in mid-Atlantic waters. But as the climate warms, they’re increasingly found farther north.
“Fishermen see this change on the water before the management and science community can really adapt to that and react to that,” says David Bethoney of the Commercial Fisheries Research Foundation.
He says as a result, fishermen often catch more black sea bass off the coast of Rhode Island than regulations allow them to keep.
“The catch limits are so low — because the science hasn’t caught up with this movement of fish north — that they’re being forced to throw them back,” he says.
In hopes of changing that, Bethoney’s group has been helping fishermen document the distribution of black sea bass.
His team created an app that records a vessel’s location and prompts fishermen to answer questions about the black sea bass they catch.
“They measure each fish and they type in that fish’s size into the app, and then they say did they discard it or keep it,” he says. “And through almost seven years of that project, we found at least half of the fish are being thrown back.”
So Bethoney’s group is sharing the data with scientists and fishery managers to help ensure that black sea bass allocations are adjusted to reflect the species’ expanding range.
Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media