Fish markets in New York soon might be able to sell largemouth bass, which would allow north country fish farms to satisfy increasing demand from hungry customers but may dissatisfy some sport fishermen.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation is considering a change in regulation that would allow just that. The move would open the large New York City market to black bass producers, who can offer their fish only outside of the state.
Thats the preferred fish of the market right now, said Donald J. Sadue, the owner of Laurellea Farms in Gouverneur.
But some sport fishermen are concerned about DECs definition and its reluctance to require tagging the fish, pitting agricultural interests against recreation activists.
The Jefferson County Sport Fish Advisory Board doesnt object to the sale of largemouth bass, just smallmouth bass. But the way the regulation is written does not differentiate between the two.
Mr. Sadue said he would not object to separating the fish into two categories and continuing the ban on smallmouth bass, which are in decline in Lake Ontario.
I think youll see the DEC will probably separate that out so the smallmouth bass population isnt included in that, he said.
The countys advisory board, whose recommendations were passed by a county committee Tuesday night despite coming after the closure of comment period for the regulation, also would like the state to increase oversight by requiring fish tagging. That would help separate legitimate largemouth bass raised on farms from bass that have been poached from the wild.
The state doesnt sell officially sanctioned fish tags.
If youre poaching fish, you can tag the fish and say you raised them, said Mitchell L. Franz, a Sport Fish Advisory Board official. The department didnt want to do that.
Steve Ammerman, a spokesman for the New York Farm Bureau, said the agribusiness group was opposed to requiring fish tags, which would be cumbersome and expensive and would harm the fish.
We dont feel its necessary for a number of reasons, Mr. Ammerman said.
Mr. Sadue currently stocks streams and private ponds with rainbow trout. If hes allowed to sell largemouth bass to fish markets in the state, his business will expand. But even if the regulation doesnt go through, he plans to expand anyway. With the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico driving demand for species such as bass, and an uptick in fish demand in general, the opportunity is irresistible.
Were ramping up for it, Mr. Sadue said. If the regulation doesnt pass, were still going to raise them and sell them outside New York state. Its no different from telling a maple syrup producer that they have to go somewhere else.