Plans are in motion to remove Atlantic cobia from management at the federal level, and turn over management of the fish in federal waters, from Georgia to New York, to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, a cooperative effort of East Coast states.
The ASMFC generally helps regulate the first three miles from shore — that which is under state control — and provides a framework so that recreational and commercial fishermen deal with relatively consistent state regulations along the East Coast, rather than a hodgepodge.
The National Marine Fisheries Service announced the opening of a public comment period Nov. 9, that’s slated to run through Dec. 10. Presently, Atlantic cobia in the federal waters off Georgia are managed through the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, which also deals with other fisheries in federal waters in this region.
A period of public hearings nearly a year ago led to the conclusion, according to the SAFMC’s summary, that removing “Atlantic cobia from federal management as soon as possible” would be best for the fishery.
At the SAFMC meeting on Jekyll Island in March, the topic received a fair bit of discussion, with the plan to move management from the SAFMC to the ASMFC winning approval in committee by a vote of 6-5-1. The council ended up delaying a decision until its June meeting, in which it was approved for formal review.
According to the NMFS bulletin announcing the public comment period, “most existing management measures in federal waters for commercial and recreational harvest of Atlantic cobia from Georgia through New York would not change through this amendment.”
Most Atlantic cobia are harvested in state waters already. Going forward, if this change is approved, in federal waters, for commercial harvesting the minimum size limit would be 33 inches fork length and the trip limit would be whatever is most restrictive between two fish per person per day or six fish per vessel per day.
For recreational anglers, the minimum size would be 36 inches fork length and the bag and vessel limits would be the most restrictive between one fish per person per day or six fish per vessel per day.
To comment, people can go to regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2018-0114 and follow the instructions, or send written comments to Karla Gore, Southeast Regional Office, NMFS, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, Fla., 33701.