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For Release: Wednesday, May 2, 2012

DEC Announces Proposed Changes to Commercial Black Bass Regulations

Public Comments Accepted through June 18

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today proposed changes to regulations for commercially sold black bass requiring that the fish be hatchery-raised, DEC Commissioner Joe Martens announced today. The proposed regulations will make it easier for farm-raised black bass to be sold in New York state by allowing anyone who purchases the fish from a licensed hatchery, such as fish markets, to resell the fish in New York. Under current regulations, only licensed hatchery operators can sell black bass in New York state. DEC will accept formal public comments on the proposals through June 18.

"The proposed regulations will make it easier for aquaculturists and fish markets within and outside of New York state to sell hatchery-reared bass for food, while continuing to protect wild bass populations that are the foundation of our popular and economically important bass fisheries," said DEC Commissioner Joe Martens. "New York provides excellent fishing opportunities for largemouth bass and smallmouth bass, and DEC has included measures in this proposal to safeguard the state's black bass sport fishery."

DEC worked with representatives of the aquaculture industry and the New York Farm Bureau to establish procedures requiring adequate record keeping ensuring bass being sold commercially originate from licensed aquaculture operations and not from wild sources.

"This proposal is the victory New York's black bass hatcheries have been fishing for!" said Dean Norton, president of New York Farm Bureau. "On behalf of our members I would like to thank Commissioner Martens and DEC for moving forward with this balanced initiative that helps farmers, while still protecting wild fish populations. Opening up the New York state market for New York fish growers is an important step in helping these businesses grow and support new farm jobs. 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."

The proposed regulations address food sales including labeling bass containers used for transportation, retaining purchase and sale records by distributors, and requiring that bass being sold live in retail markets must be killed before being transferred to retail customers. 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.

The full text of the regulation change and instructions for submitting comments can be found on DEC's website.

Comments on the proposed regulations can be sent via e-mail to Fisheries, or mailed to Phil Hulbert, New York State DEC, Bureau of Fisheries, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4753. Hard copies of the full text may be requested from Phil Hulbert at the same address listed above.

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