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For Release: Wednesday, January 2, 2013

DEC Announces Changes to Commercial Black Bass Regulations

Regulations for hatchery-reared smallmouth bass and largemouth bass (collectively, black bass), were adopted, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joe Martens announced today. The new regulations will ease 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, such as fish markets, to resell the fish in New York. Under current regulations, only licensed hatchery operators can sell black bass in the state. Hatchery-reared smallmouth bass and largemouth bass may still be sold for stocking purposes, as presently provided for, but smallmouth bass may not be sold for food purposes.

"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," said DEC Commissioner Martens. "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."

DEC worked with representatives of the aquaculture industry and the New York Farm Bureau to establish procedures requiring adequate record keeping to ensure that black bass being sold commercially originate from licensed aquaculture operations and not from wild sources. Aquaculturists were supportive of the regulations which do not provide for the sale of smallmouth bass for food purposes, a measure that was the subject of a number of comments DEC received from bass fishing enthusiasts.

"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. "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 adopted regulations address 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 must 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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