A new federal fisheries decision will ease strict limits on recreational fishing of black sea bass this year.
Now, instead of two months, anglers may get nearly four months to fish for black sea bass, a relief to Long Island party and charter boat captains who had said the tighter rules set last month could put them out of business.
Based on an emergency rule issued last week by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, regional fisheries managers are expected to set new dates for the recreational season in coming weeks.
Black sea bass frequent local waters from May through November. Captains say they rely more on black sea bass these days because of restrictions on summer flounder, a longtime staple of Long Island's recreational fishing industry.
"Any extension of the season is going to help everybody - charter boats, recreational fishermen, the tackle shops," said Dennis Kanyuk, a Point Lookout party boat captain and president of the industry group United Boatmen of New York.
Once open year-round, the black sea bass season was limited to two months under measures announced by state officials in January. That was in part because anglers were thought to have caught more than their share last year, according to federal fishing surveys whose accuracy was questioned by fishermen and some environmental officials.
The latest change came after regional fisheries managers revised their recommendations upward on how much could be caught without overfishing this year.
In response, the NOAA issued the emergency rule on Wednesday that increased the 2010 coastwide landings from 2.3 million pounds to 3.7 million pounds.
"This is an opportunity to open the fishery and provide access to the resource more quickly," said Maggie Mooney-Seus, a regional spokeswoman for NOAA's fisheries service.
In a letter to the agency, Sen. Charles Schumer praised the decision but said anglers were still suffering from flawed methods used to estimate their annual catch. Schumer and recreational fishing advocates say NOAA should disregard those numbers - which have also led to tight restrictions on summer flounder - until a more accurate system is put in place.
Mooney-Seus said Friday the agency could not comment because it had yet to receive Schumer's letter.