SMITH RIVER, California — A stock assessment of white sea bass shows the fishery is not in danger of exceeding its catch quota and the species is not being overfished.
California’s Fish and Game Commission endorsed an annual review of the white sea bass fishery during its two-day June meetings at Smith River, California. The annual review – submitted to the commission by the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) – was formally endorsed June 22.
DFW recommend the state take no action in the management plan’s five areas of concern as an analysis of the fishery demonstrated the fishery was not in threat of exceeding quotas or being overfished.
The 2015-16 total catch for the white sea bas fishery was 343,439 pounds, significantly short of the 1.2 million pounds total optimum yield for the species. The reported total catch represented 29 percent of the mandated catch limit.
DFW’s analysis also reported there was “no new information on age composition, age at maturity, or age at recruitment” and the “recreational and commercial fishery length-frequencies showed no significant change that would indicate a problem in the fishery.”
The recreational white sea bass fishery appears to be maintaining a steady catch rate without jeopardizing the species, according to DFW staff and the White Sea Bass Scientific and Constituent Advisory Panel, or WSSCAP.
“In the recreational fishery, the number of fish caught in the 2015-2016 season increased 21 percent when compared to the previous season,” DFW staff stated in its annual review. “The average weight of fish caught in the 2015-2016 season increased 22 percent when compared to the previous season. The WSSCAP and the Department agreed that the overfishing criterion for the recreational fishery was not met.”
DFW also reviewed whether white sea bass catches were reported in or from Mexico. Commercial and recreational fishers face a different set of regulations when fishing for white sea bass south of the border.
“California commercial fishermen are prohibited by Mexican law to fish in the territorial seas of Mexico, and no landings of white sea bass from Mexico by California commercial fishermen were reported in 2015-2016,” DFW stated in its annual review. “Recreational anglers may fish in Mexico under the authority of a Mexican sportfishing license. During the 2015-2016 season, Commercial Passenger Fishing Vessel log book data reported 145 white sea bass taken in Mexico, a decrease of 25 fish from the reported 170 taken in the prior season.”
The white sea bass fishery has slowed down in recent years. The fishery reached a peak of more than 827,000 total pounds reeled in during the 2010-11 season. Numbers steadily declined each year, however, reaching a low of 259,646 in 2014-15.
Commissioners accepted the DFW annual review as part of its consent calendar.
Parimal M. Rohit photo