Time-area closures have been widely used in fisheries management to prevent overfishing and reduce the bycatch of protected species. Due to quota overages and concerns about entanglement of federally protected North Atlantic right whales Eubalaena glacialis, the commercial harvest of Black Sea Bass Centropristis striata using pot gear has been prohibited in the southeastern United States in winter since 2009. Following the rebuilding of the Black Sea Bass stock and a change to the start date of the fishing year, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC) increased the commercial annual catch limit (ACL) and is considering twelve alternatives to the pot gear closure that would revise the timing and/or spatial extent of the closure. Changes to this closure could affect the annual catch of Black Sea Bass and increase the risk of right whale entanglement in pot gear. Using historical fishing effort, landings, and right whale sightings data, we projected Black Sea Bass landings and the relative risk of right whale entanglement for each closure alternative, expressed in relative risk units (RRU). We predict that the ACL would be caught, resulting in an in-season closure for most of the proposed SAFMC closure alternatives. The relative risk of entanglement, estimated from the spatial and temporal overlap of Black Sea Bass pot gear fishing effort and right whale relative abundance, was lower for some alternatives than for others, and the relative differences between alternatives were consistent among uncertainty scenarios. The SAFMC's preferred alternative is projected to result in a relatively low increase in risk to North Atlantic right whales (3–15 RRU off North Carolina and 1–12 RRU off Florida—South Carolina). This framework demonstrates the use of temporally dynamic spatial overlays in assessing the impacts of time—area closures with multiple objectives.
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Vol. 8 • No. 8