State halting flounder fishing Sept. 4; denies shrimping petition from wildlife federation

Shrimp boat file photo

The N.C. Fisheries Commission last week voted to deny a petition for rulemaking that, if implemented, would impact the state’s shrimp trawl fishery.

The petition, filed by the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of the N.C. Wildlife Federation, asks the commission to designate all internal coastal waters not otherwise designated as nursery areas as Shrimp Trawl Management Areas and for additional gear and time restrictions within these new areas. The aim of the request is to protect juvenile fish caught in bycatch.

A previous petition on similar issues, which included the ocean, was rejected based on fiscal feasibility.

As a result, the Marine Fisheries Commission directed the division to consider elements of the petition in an upcoming amendment to the N.C. Shrimp Fishery Management Plan.

Additionally, new management measures were recently put in place to reduce bycatch in the shrimp trawl fishery. In July of this year, the Division of Marine Fisheries implemented measures from the latest amendment to the shrimp plan that require gear modifications in shrimp trawls for internal coastal waters. Testing has shown the required gear configurations reduce finfish bycatch 40 percent or greater.

Moreover, the Division of Marine Fisheries, along with the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuarine Program and other agencies, is finalizing mapping of submerged aquatic vegetation in the sound to accurately identify these essential fish habitats.

In other business at the meeting, the recreational and commercial southern flounder seasons will close Sept. 4 in North Carolina waters. The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission made the decision at its meeting last week, adopting the Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan Amendment 2 as proposed by the Division of Marine Fisheries.

The commission did give the director of the Division of Marine Fisheries flexibility to change the dates of proposed commercial and recreational seasons so long as they still meet required harvest reductions. The division plans to issue proclamations this week that close the commercial and recreational season on Sept. 4. Changes to the allowable gears in the commercial ocean flounder fishery will also be implemented Sept. 4.

Since all species of flounder are managed under the same recreational regulations, the recreational season closure will apply to all flounder fishing. The recreational season will not reopen this year, as the peak recreational flounder fishing season has already passed. As a result, the estimated level of recreational harvest so far in 2019 is greater than that allowed under Amendment 2, thus reducing the expected catch reductions for this sector.

The commercial sector landings do not peak until September and October, so the current commercial harvest combined with the projected harvest during an upcoming open season is projected to equate to a slightly greater reduction than in the recreational fishery.

The commercial flounder season will reopen on Sept. 15 in waters north of Pamlico Sound and on Oct. 1 in Pamlico Sound and all other waters. Other regulations specific to the commercial fishery will be issued by proclamation at a later date. Fishermen should check the Division of Marine Fisheries’ Proclamations Page for updates.

Analysis of Division of Marine Fisheries data indicates that from 2000 to 2018, as much as 50% or more of ocean-caught recreational flounder were southern flounder, as opposed to other flounder species (this includes beach and pier fishing). Since statistical data on the for-hire charter fleet is limited and has high margins of error, the division needs more time to consider whether to separate the for-hire seasons from other recreational fishing seasons.

Additionally, to encourage conservation, the N.C. Saltwater Fishing Tournament (Citation Program) will not issue citations for flounder during the recreational season closure.

17 Comments

  1. This so-called species protection closure is ridiculous. Commercial floundering will essentially continue its indiscriminate harvest killing juveniles and other species while recreational is completely halted? How about some reporting here on the amount of rec vs commercial catches? If the state really cares about depleting flounder stocks it would ban both rec and commercial. The new edict is a koke

  2. This is so sad to see. I guess my founder rod out fishes the nets of commercial fisherman. If you wanted to get them to replenish put restrictions on commercial and not recreational. One of the most stupid things our state has done. We are continuing to go to the fed. Gov and have this vetoed. Talk to Tom Tellis’s office today. More myrtle need to continue to do the same.

  3. Kenneth Simpson, you are throwing out a bunch of BS. First, number of rec vs commercial fishermen avoids the truth of people who aren’t fishing every day vs those who do it constantly, and the bigger truth of a fisherman who catches 4 fish when they do go out vs those few who constantly pull in massive numbers. And you say trawlers don’t work the sounds but ignore the fact of fixed nets. And don’t even bring up how commercial guys are working to feed their families. The rec fishermen are helping retail, hospitality and other vacation industry people feed their families

  4. Why don’t you stop all fishing in the state. It should be against the law to fish in your pond in your own backyard!!.we have to save the fish for our great,great,great,great grandkids. Close everything for the next 75 years!!!!!!!!!!

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