(CN) – A coalition of fishing interests challenged the emergency closure of East Coast black sea bass fishing, saying the species is no longer overfished and there is no “emergency.” United Boatmen, The Recreational Fishing Alliance and 10 charter boat owners and bait companies say the 6-month federal closure was based on a faulty survey of anglers.
Record rainfall made this a bad year for fishing black sea bass, and the emergency closure will devastate the fishing community from North Carolina to Maine, the plaintiffs claim in New Jersey Federal Court.
Black sea bass stocks have been characterized as overfished since the first federal black sea bass management plan in 1996, but the plaintiffs say that in 2008 the stocks exceeded rebuilding benchmarks, largely due to “sacrifices by fishermen.”
Plaintiffs say recreational black sea bass fishing nets $1.3 million for the State of New Jersey alone. And although the rule applies only to federal offshore waters, that’s where black sea bass are during the winter.
A “much criticized” angler survey forms the basis of the closure decision, though it was never intended to be used for that purpose, the fishermen claim.
They say the rule violates the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Act and other laws because it provides no alternatives, didn’t follow the rule-making process and failed to assess all impacts. The National Marine Fisheries Service allegedly implemented the closure despite a fishery commission vote against it.
The fishing groups, represented by Raymond Bogan of Sinn, Fitzsimmons, Cantoli, Bogan & West in Point Pleasant Beach, N.J., seek declaratory and injunctive relief.