FISHERY PROFILE

Black Sea Bass by Bottom Trawl (USA)

Northeast Atlantic — Multi-Species Groundfish Area

PRIMARY SPECIES:

Black Sea Bass

FISHERY OPENINGS:

Jan 01 - Dec 31

Bottom Trawl

Fish harvesters drag a large cone-shaped net along the seafloor to catch groundfish such as black sea bass, flounder, cod and pollock. The net is sunk and held open by two “otter boards” that look like large, heavy steel or wooden doors. As the net is towed at low speed, hydrodynamic forces push the boards outwards opening the mouth of the net and capturing fish in its path. The net is then hauled to the surface using hydraulic winches and a drum. A single tow can net thousands of fish along with incidental catch.

Harvesting Method

Bottom Trawl

Also known as “dragging,” bottom trawling uses a large net made of polyethylene to catch fish. Steel or wooden doors spread the net open. Floats are attached to the upper mouth of the net to keep it open vertically and weighted “bobbins” are attached to the lower mouth to sink the net. The bobbins’ design depends on the terrain, varying from small rubber discs for smooth sandy seafloors to large metal balls for rough ground. Known as “rock hoppers,” bobbins lift the net over obstacles on the seafloor.

Bottom Trawl

In New England, many different species are caught in bottom trawls. These include black sea bass, Atlantic cod, haddock, pollock, yellowtail flounder, witch flounder, winter flounder, windowpane flounder, American plaice, Atlantic halibut, redfish, ocean pout and white hake. Most trawlers are federally permitted to catch multiple groundfish species. Some trawlers also have state permits to catch allocations in state waters.

Conservation Measures

Bottom trawls disturb habitat when dragged along the seabed, and impacts vary by sediment type and the trawl gear used. Undersized and unwanted species (bycatch) are also unintentionally caught.


The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission jointly manage the black sea bass fishery. Individual states may set different regulations for the commercial fishery than those in place for federal waters. The total quota is allocated to each of the 11 coastal states from Maine to North Carolina, based upon fixed percentages. A number of federal and state measures address conservation in this fishery, including:

  • annual catch limits
  • limitation on the number and size of licensed fishing vessels in the fishery
  • limitation on amount of black sea bass that can be caught on each trip and seasonal possession limits
  • requirement for a vessel monitoring system or interactive voice response system to monitor fishing vessels
  • restrictions on roller and mesh sizes for nets to prevent the capture of small fish
  • requirement to maintain on board and submit vessel trip reports for all fishing trips, regardless of species caught
  • closure of some fishing areas for conservation purposes
  • regulation of the storage of black sea bass aboard vessels

In this lobster fishing area, fish harvesters actively participate in scientific data collection and research such as:

  • a comprehensive data collection system on catches
  • scientific sampling of lobsters at sea
  • maintaining catch logbooks and scientific field notebooks
FISHERY DETAILS

Northeast Atlantic

MAP
ECO-RATINGS / CERTIFICATIONS

Seafood Watch - Avoid

FishWatch - Click for status

FISHERY OPENINGS

Jan 01 - Dec 31

RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission jointly manage this fishery. Individual states may set different regulations for the commercial fishery than those in place for Federal waters. Visit NOAA’s Fisheries Service for the most recent management plan.

FISH STOCK STATUS

For stock status, visit the Northeast Regional Office of NOAA’s Fisheries Service.

Quality and Handling

Black sea bass caught by bottom trawls are hauled aboard and stored in ice or a mixture of ice and seawater. A group of trawlers operate as day-boats out of Point Judith, Rhode Island, although vessels can stay at sea for about a week.

Harvesting Area

Black sea bass are managed as part of the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Area extending from Maine to North Carolina. 

Members

Food Info Black Sea Bass


TASTING NOTES

  • Colour: translucent and sparkling white
  • Texture: lean and tender yet firm
  • Flavour: mild, fresh and delicate
  • Perfect serve: One of the best small fish to bake or grill whole, due to its relatively simple bone structure, Black sea bass is frequently used in Chinese cooking. Try it with a ginger-and-soy-sauce dip. The flesh holds together well and can also be used in chowders and soups. 
HOW TO CHOOSE A QUALITY BLACK SEA BASS