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Changes in black bass regulations

SPRINGVILLE — According to New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens, new regulations for hatchery-reared smallmouth and largemouth bass have been adopted. The new regulations will lighten the process for hatchery-raised largemouth bass to be sold for food in New York state, by allowing those who purchase fish from a licensed hatchery to resell the fish in New York.

Under the former regulations, only licensed hatchery operators could sell black bass in New York. Hatchery-reared smallmouth and largemouth bass could still be sold for stocking purposes, but smallmouth bass could not be sold for food.

“The regulations will make it easier for aquaculturists and fish markets within and outside the state to sell hatchery-reared largemouth bass for food, while continuing to protect wild bass populations that are the foundation of our popular and economically important bass fisheries,” Martens said. “New York provides excellent fishing opportunities for largemouth bass and smallmouth bass. DEC recognized the need to include measures in the regulations to safeguard the state’s black bass sport fishery.”

The DEC worked with representatives from the aquaculture industry and the New York Farm Bureau to establish procedures for record-keeping, to ensure that black bass being sold commercially originated from licensed aquaculture operations and not from wild sources.

Aquaculturists supported the regulations, which do not provide for the sale of smallmouth bass for food purposes.

“This proposal is the victory New York’s black bass hatcheries have been fishing for,” said Dean Norton, president of the New York Farm Bureau, who thanked the DEC for moving forward with this initiative, which he said “helps farmers, while still protecting wild fish populations.

“This is also a win for consumers, because it allows our fish farmers to meet a strong and growing demand for black bass in New York and not be forced to export their products to Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, simply to stay in business,” Norton added.

The adopted regulations address the sale of bass for human consumption, including labeling largemouth bass containers used for transportation, retaining purchase and sale records by distributors and requiring that largemouth bass being sold live in retail markets be killed, before being transferred to retail customers.

Largemouth and smallmouth bass being sold for stocking into waters within the state must come from sources that have been inspected for, and found free of, harmful fish pathogens, a requirement that has been in effect since 2006.
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