Amendment 4 Approved for Weakfish

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission approvedAmendment 4 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan (FMP) forWeakfish. This amendment aims to ensure a healthy spawning stockbiomass, restore the age structure of the population and expand thegeographic range of weakfish. To achieve these goals, Amendment 4includes a new overfishing definition with fishing, mortalitytargets and thresholds, as well as a spawning stock biomassthreshold.

Amendment 4 includes minimum-size/bag-limit options for thestates to manage their recreational fisheries. States may choose arange of minimum sizes and corresponding bag limits from thefollowing options: 12-inch minimum-size/seven-fish bag limit,13-inch minimum-size/eight-fish bag limit, 14-inchminimum-size/nine-fish bag limit or a 15-inch and higherminimum-size/l0-fish bag limit.

Most of the commercial fishery management measures fromAmendment 3 are maintained in Amendment 4, including closed areasand seasons, and mesh size regulations. The primary changes to thecommercial management program under Amendment 4 address bycatchissues. Specifically, the amendment increases the bycatch allowanceduring closed seasons to 300 pounds, provided there is at least anequal poundage of other species on board the vessel. Additionally,it encourages states to provide incentives for the use of escapepanels in commercial pound nets.

Amendment 4 also makes strides to ensure that the necessaryinformation is being collected for future weakfish stockassessments. States that land at least 2.5 percent of the coastwideweakfish landings will be required to collect age and lengthinformation of their weakfish commercial and recreationallandings.

Copies of the amendment can be obtained by contacting thecommission at 202-289-6400 or at www.asmfc.org.