The most effective way to limit the number of fish taken is to close the season. While many fish, such as bluefish and tarpon, can be taken year-round, other species have limited seasons. Winter flounder stocks are far below the minimum level, so the 2009 winter flounder season was limited to eight weeks. Seasonal closures can also protect fish like blackfish during their spawning season.
Size limits are used by fisheries managers to ensure that individual fish have the opportunity to spawn at least once or twice during their lifetimes. When the sustainability of a species of fish is at risk, a maximum size limit can be used. By enacting regulations that require the release of all fish above the maximum size, the breeding stock is protected and can continue contributing millions of viable eggs to help rebuild the population.
Bag limits put a cap on the total number of fish legally allowed. Typically applied to the individual angler, bag limits vary by species. In certain cases, like bluefin tuna, bag limits apply to the entire boat. For example, in 2009, offshore anglers were allowed one bluefin tuna over 47 inches and one bluefin tuna over 27 inches but less than 47 inches, for the entire boat.
Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act
Commonly known as MSA or simply Magnuson, the MSA was enacted in 1976 to clarify federal waters and establish federal control over those waters from three to 200 miles offshore. Before this legislation was enacted, foreign fishing fleets were decimating fish stocks. States control waters from the shore out to three miles, but state regulations must be in compliance with federal regulations.
Saltwater Fishing License
The Saltwater Fishing License was the subject of intense debate among fishermen for many years. Although several states already had a license program in place, many did not. President Bush pushed legislation that was approved by Congress in 2007, requiring the establishment of a Federal Registry of Saltwater Anglers.
Saltwater fishing licenses are required in all coastal states. Anglers can purchase their license by visiting their state's fishery's Department of Environmental Conservation or Protection website.