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Weakfish Regulation Changes Announced

January 22, 2008

The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announces the implementation of new regulations for the harvest of weakfish. These regulations were adopted to remain in compliance with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s (ASMFC) Interstate Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for Weakfish.

In January, 2007, the ASMFC Weakfish Management Board (Board) approved Addendum II to Amendment 4 of the FMP in an attempt to control expansion of weakfish fisheries. Under Addendum II, the states of Massachusetts through North Carolina were required to implement a six fish creel limit at their current size limit for the recreational fishery.

For New Jersey, effective immediately, the possession limit will be reduced from the current eight (8) fish to six (6) fish while the size limit will remain at 13 inches. The Addendum also establishes a coastwide commercial landings limit of approximately 3.7 million pounds (based on the average landings for 2000-2004) and reduces the allowable bycatch limit for commercial fisheries from 300 pounds to 150 pounds per day or trip. New Jersey’s bycatch limit has been 150 pounds since 1996.

The Board’s action was taken in response to a significant decline in stock abundance and increasing total mortality since 1999. The FMP requires the Board to adjust the management program to help rebuild spawning stock biomass. This issue is compounded by the fact that natural mortality, rather than fishing mortality, has been indicated as the lead cause for stock decline. In order to provide a greater probability of the stock rebounding, the Board has implemented a more conservative recreational creel limit, a commercial bycatch limit, and an annual commercial landings limit.

These management measures will be re-evaluated when either the coastwide commercial landings equal or exceed 80% of the commercial landings limit or any single state’s landings exceed its five-year mean by more than 25% in any single year.

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Department of Environmental Protection
P. O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Updated: January 22, 2008