Reminder: Black Sea Bass to Re-open in the South Atlantic
Commercial and recreational fishing for black sea bass will open at 12:01 a.m. June 1, 2011. Both sectors will remain open until May 31, 2012, or until the commercial quota or recreational annual catch limit is met.
Marine Fisheries Columbia Office to Close
MOREHEAD CITY – The Columbia Field Office of the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries will close June 27, and it is not scheduled to reopen.
The office is slated for closure in all versions of the proposed state budget, and the division does not anticipate this line item will change once a final budget is approved.
Staff that works out of the Columbia office will transfer to other division offices.
Recreational fishermen may purchase licenses online at the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission website at http://www.ncwildlife.org/License/ or from a N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission service agent. A list of agents can be found on the Wildlife Commission website at https://www.ncwildlife.org/Apps/WildlifeServiceAgent/Search.asp. Many bait and tackle shops sell recreational licenses.
The closest division offices to Columbia are:
The toll-free telephone number from the Columbia office will be transferred to the Manteo Field Office June 27.
Public Input Sought on Commercial Use of Hook and Line in Ocean Striped Bass Fishery
MOREHEAD CITY – The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission has scheduled five meetings to receive public input on allowing the commercial use of hook-and-line for the ocean striped bass fishery.
N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries staff will present a variety of potential management options for allowing this fishery. The commission is seeking any other ideas from the public.
The commission has not yet decided if it wants to allow the commercial use of hook-and-line for ocean-caught striped bass, but will consider public comments at its August meeting in deciding whether to move forward with a proposal.
Currently, North Carolina’s share of the coast-wide commercial ocean striped bass annual quota is split evenly between three commercial gear types: trawls, gill nets and beach seines. The commercial use of hook-and-line in the striped bass fishery has been prohibited since 1985.
Potential management options range from keeping the fishery at status quo, to adding hook-and-line as a fourth gear under the current permit system, to replacing the use of trawl gear with the use of hook-and-line gear. Some of the options include the possibility of establishing a limited entry system for this fishery.
The meetings will be held in conjunction with advisory committee meetings at the below dates, times and locations:
Written comments will be accepted until July 18 and should be addressed to Michelle Duval, N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, P.O. Box 769, Morehead City, N.C. 28557 or sent by email to Michelle.Duval@ncdenr.gov.For more information, contact Duval at (252) 808-8011 or by email or call the commission office at (252) 808-8021.
Reminder: Recreational Measures for Snowy Grouper,
Fisheries Commission Wants Public Input on Ocean Striped Bass Hook-and-Line Fishery
MOREHEAD CITY – The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission will ask the public what it thinks about a commercial hook and line fishery for ocean-caught striped bass.
The commission voted Thursday to take the issue to its four regional advisory committees and its Finfish Advisory Committee to receive input from the fishing public and to consider that input at the commission’s August meeting. Committee meeting dates and locations will be announced later.
The commission has not yet decided if it wants to create this fishery.
Currently, North Carolina’s share of the coast-wide commercial ocean striped bass annual quota is split evenly between three commercial fisheries: the trawl fishery, the gill net fishery and the beach seine fishery. A commercial striped bass hook-and-line fishery has been prohibited since 1985.
At its February meeting, the commission directed the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries to examine a commercial hook-and-line fishery for ocean-caught striped bass to help avoid waste. The directive came after the commission reviewed incidents of dead discards of striped bass in the ocean trawl fishery this winter.
Division staff presented several options to the commission last week. The options ranged from keeping the status quo to adding hook-and-line as a fourth gear under the current permit system to replacing the trawl fishery with a hook-and-line fishery.
Division staff also alerted the commission that simply adding a commercial hook-and-line fishery, with no other limitations, could result in an influx of fishermen into the fishery because of the relative inexpensiveness of hook-and-line gear.
Currently, anyone holding a standard commercial fishing license or retired standard commercial fishing license can receive an ocean striped bass permit for specified gears. There are about 6,700 of these license holders. In the 2010-2011season, the division issued 844 commercial ocean striped bass permits, and only 207 of these permit holders actually participated in one of the fisheries.
One option to avoid such an influx would be to establish a limited entry system for this fishery.
Also at Thursday’s meeting, the commission voted to go on record opposing a bill in the N.C. General Assembly that would designate spotted seatrout, red drum and striped bass as coastal game fish. The bill would prohibit the sale of these fish by commercial fishermen. The commission’s stated reason for opposing the bill is that it circumvents the process provided for in the Fisheries Reform Act, which is the standing law for marine fisheries management in North Carolina.
A new law passed last year requires all fishery management plans to end overfishing within two years of final adoption. A draft Spotted Seatrout Fishery Management Plan, which was tentatively approved in November, does not meet this criteria. A bill in the N.C. General Assembly to clarify that the Spotted Seatrout Fishery Management Plan is exempt from this law has not been heard in committee.
Division Director Louis Daniel clarified for the commission that even if the game fish bill passes, there would still need to be reductions in the recreational fishery to end overfishing in two years.
Finally, the commission voted to ask division staff to explore what would be needed to implement mandatory electronic reporting for commercial dealers who deal with 50,000 pounds of finfish or greater per year. The decision followed a presentation in which division staff laid out pros and cons of such a requirement.
For more information on the meeting, contact the Marine Fisheries Commission office at (252) 808-8021. Many of the reports and presentations given at the meeting can be found on the division’s website at http://www.ncfisheries.net/mfc/presentations.html. A full audio recording of the meeting can be found at http://www.ncfisheries.net/mfc/audio_presentations.html.
2010 Commercial and Recreational Landings Inch Back Up
ATLANTIC BEACH – North Carolina commercial seafood harvests rose slightly, by 4 percent, in 2010 to the highest level since 2005.
The same was true for recreational harvests, which inched up 6 percent after a 15 percent decline in 2009.
“The increase is a surprise considering increased regulations, including many seasonal closures, imposed by the federal councils and the National Marine Fisheries Service, as well as restrictions from the sea turtle lawsuit settlement,” said N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries Director Louis Daniel. “Additional increases in fuel and commodity prices might have been expected to actually cause the numbers to decline.”
The increased harvest came with a 3 percent decrease in the number of commercial fishing trips. Commercial fishermen took 152,084 fishing trips in 2010.
Oystermen sold more than 1 million pounds of oyster meats (196,661 bushels), with a dockside value of about $5 million, to North Carolina seafood dealers in 2010. The landings were 125 percent higher than the previous five-year average and corresponded to a 139-percent increase in the use of oyster dredges.
Division sampling indicates that disease-related oyster mortalities have been significantly reduced, compared to the past 20 years, and spat fall has been good, said division Central District Manager Mike Marshall.
“The oyster resource in western Pamlico Sound has rebounded at an amazing rate,” Marshall said. “Oysters are being caught in areas where they have not been found in thirty years. Every fisherman you talk to goes on about how fast the oysters are growing, which is key to getting the type of production we are seeing.”
Blue crab landings increased in 2010, as well. Fishermen sold 30.7 million pounds of blue crabs at the docks, a 2 percent increase from 2009. The landings had a dockside value of $26.5 million.
Blue crabs remained the state’s top commercial seafood in both pounds harvested and dockside value, followed by Atlantic croaker (7.3 million pounds), shrimp (6 million pounds), summer flounder (3.3 million pounds) and bluefish (3.2 million pounds).
While overall commercial finfish harvests remained consistent, with a slight 0.5 percent increase from 2009, Atlantic croaker and bluefish harvests increased by 19 percent and 36 percent, respectively.
Southern flounder landings decreased by 29 percent. Much of this decrease can be attributed to a 45 percent reduction in flounder landings from gill nets. Regulations from a settlement in the sea turtle lawsuit may have contributed to the reduced gill net landings.
An overall 61 percent reduction in commercial dolphin landings corresponds to fewer dolphin-targeted trips made with longline and trolling gears last year. King mackerel landings decreased by 58 percent, corresponding to 65 percent fewer trips targeting king mackerel with trolling gear.
Tuna landings decreased, as well – yellowfin by 33 percent, bigeye by 43 percent and bluefin by 65 percent.
Recreational harvests rose from 13.6 million pounds in 2009 to 14.4 million pounds in 2010, according to the division’s Coastal Angling Program. The increased harvest corresponds to a 7 percent rise in the overall number of recreational fishing trips. However, fishing trips into federal waters (beyond three miles from shore) dropped by 18 percent.
“The recreational rise was due mainly to the poundage associated with the striped bass catches and the increase in bluefish landings,” said division Recreational Statistics Coordinator Doug Mumford. “The bluefish increase resulted from the increase in beach, bank and pier trips.”
The jump in ocean striped bass harvests likely resulted from more fish migrating into North Carolina waters during the past winter than in previous years, Mumford said.
“There was an overall shift in recreational fishing effort in North Carolina to trips that were less expensive,” he said.
Dolphin landings decreased by nearly 15 percent to 3.3 million pounds. Even so, dolphin remained the top recreational catch, followed by yellowfin tuna, up 48 percent to 1.2 million pounds; bluefish up 21 percent to 1.2 million pounds; ocean striped bass, up 239 percent to 711,184 pounds; and Spanish mackerel, down 35 percent to 579,638 pounds.
Recreational angler fishing trips rose by about 4 percent from piers and other man-made structures; by about 8 percent from the beach or bank; nearly 10 percent from guide and charter boats; and 9 percent from private vessels. Party boat trips decreased by 15 percent.
A full report of 2010 commercial and recreational landings statistics can be found on the division website at:
Fishermen Should Strive to Avoid Interactions with Sea Turtles
MOREHEAD CITY – The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries is reminding fishermen that as temperatures warm, sea turtles return to North Carolina waters, and both commercial and recreational fishermen should avoid interaction with them.
Division staff has sighted sea turtles in the ocean off Cape Lookout, Beaufort Inlet, Topsail Island, Oak Island and Long Beach. In addition, sea turtles have been observed in inside waters of the Intracoastal Waterway near Oak Island and in Core Sound.
“It is likely that sea turtles are moving into other waters,” said Louis Daniel, director of the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries. “Commercial fishermen setting nets and recreational anglers bottom fishing should be aware of this.”
All sea turtles found in North Carolina waters are listed as either threatened or endangered species. Therefore, it is illegal to harm them in any way.
Information on how recreational anglers can skillfully release a turtle to reduce sea turtle injury and to promote post-release survival can be found on the division’s website at http://www.ncfisheries.net/fisheye/2010FishEyeNews/2010_SeaturtlesBiteHook.html.
Commercial fishermen should adhere to sea turtle release protocols from the National Marine Fisheries Service Southeast Fisheries Science Center, which can be found at http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sf/pdfs/2008%20Updated%20Sea%20Turtle%20Release%20Protocols.pdf
Outer Banks Area Only
The Division of Marine Fisheries is continuing regulatory restrictions and observer coverage of large-mesh gill nets, in accordance with a sea turtle lawsuit settlement.
For more information, contact the division’s Protected Resources section chief Red Munden at (252) 808-8009 or Red.Munden@ncdenr.gov, or Protected Resources biologist Brian Conrad (252) 808-8061 or Brian.Conrad@ncdenr.gov
Kathy Rawls Promoted to Northern District Manager
MOREHEAD CITY – Kathy Rawls of Elizabeth City is the new Northern District manager for the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries.
She officially began her new duties May 1, though she had actually been in charge on an interim basis since former District Manager Sara Winslow retired Jan. 31.
“My goal will be to try to bring fisheries resource conservation and its importance to the public forefront,” Rawls said. She hopes to accomplish this through greater interaction with the fishing public.
“It is important for all users to recognize how valuable our fisheries resources are,” she added.
The Northern District is the largest Fisheries Management district in the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries. It encompasses coastal waters from the Virginia line to Ocracoke, including the Albemarle Sound and portions of the Pamlico Sound. It also includes three division offices, in Elizabeth City, Columbia and Manteo.
The district manager supervises all the biologists and technicians and oversees all fisheries management programs for the area. She also serves as a conduit between the Fisheries Management Section and other sections in the division. She advises the Fisheries Management section chief, the division director and the Marine Fisheries Commission on matters pertaining to the Northern District.
Rawls, 43, was born and raised in Windsor, giving her an intimate knowledge of the waters in the district.
“I spent a lot of my time growing up on the Chowan River because my grandparents had a place there,” Rawls said.
In the summers, she would travel to her grandparent’s summer home in Kill Devil Hills or her parent’s beach house in Hatteras Village. It was on those shores that Rawls watched her mother interact with marine life, instilling in her daughter a love for marine biology.
“She would go out and pick up a jellyfish and all the people would run over, amazed that she wasn’t being stung, but she just knew how to do it,” Rawls said. “She was probably the reason I chose to do what I do.”
Rawls began with the division in 1990 as a river herring technician, where she stayed for three years.
She left the division in 1993 and worked for several years on her family’s farm and ran a private inshore charter business before returning to the division in 1999 as a gill net technician on a striped bass project. She worked her way up to biologist supervisor, the position she has held for the past eight years. Rawls has a bachelor’s degree in marine biology from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.
Twyne Promoted to Marine Patrol Captain
MOREHEAD CITY – Donovan Twyne already knows a good deal about his new job as District 1 captain of the N.C. Marine Patrol.
The district encompasses all state coastal waters from Ocracoke to the Virginia state line, and Twyne has worked in it since he came to the Marine Patrol in 1994.
He started as a patrol officer, working the Manteo/Wanchese area. For the past seven years, he has served as the district’s lieutenant. But he has more than just work experience in the area.
Twyne grew up in Dare County, graduating from Manteo High School in 1984.
“His knowledge of the area, his rapport with the local residents and his extensive knowledge of marine fisheries regulations impacting his area of responsibility made him the right man for the job,” said Marine Patrol Col. Rex Lanier.
Twyne, 45, received his captain’s bars Monday in a pinning ceremony at his parents’ home in Manteo, making him first in command in the district. His duties as captain officially began Sunday.
“I want to continue the service for the people and try to make District 1 the best district it can be,” Twyne said.
Twyne lives in Manteo with his wife, Beverly, and three children, Paige, 14, Donovan III, 11 and Lillie Claire, 4.
He is a member of Manteo Baptist Church and he volunteers with the athletics programs at his children’s schools. He also coaches basketball and baseball for Dare County Parks and Recreation.
The N.C. Marine Patrol is the law enforcement branch of the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries.