MOREHEAD CITY – North Carolina commercial and recreational fish and shellfish harvests decreased slightly in 2011.
The commercial harvest decreased by about 6 percent to 67.5 million pounds, according to landings reports collected by the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries’ Trip Ticket Program. This harvest had an estimated dockside value of $72.8 million.
Recreational landings dropped about 3 percent to 13.2 million pounds, according to division Marine Recreational Information Program estimates.
“The decrease in landings corresponds to a decrease in effort,” said Louis Daniel, director of the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries. “Commercial trips were down by 11 percent and recreational trips were down by 17 percent in 2011.”
As usual, blue crab topped the state’s commercial harvest, both in pounds and value. Fishermen landed 30 million pounds of blue crab, with a dockside value of $21 million in 2011.
Shrimp took the No. 2 spot, followed by Atlantic croaker at No. 3. Commercial fishermen landed 5.1 million pounds of shrimp, which had an estimated dockside value of $11 million. Fishermen landed 5 million pounds of croaker, valued at $3.1 million.
Commercial fishermen landed 3.5 million pounds of menhaden in 2011, a 172 percent jump from 2010, pushing menhaden to No. 4 in the top commercial species list. The increase was due to a demand for bait in the crab pot fishery. Menhaden dropped out of the list of top five commercial species after the last menhaden reduction factory in the state closed in 2005. The 2011 menhaden landings had an estimated dockside value of $334,299.
Summer flounder rounded out the top five commercial species landed in 2011. Commercial fishermen landed 2.9 million pounds of summer flounder valued at $6 million.
Dolphinfish continued to top the list of recreational fish harvested. Anglers landed 3.5 million pounds of dolphinfish in 2011, a 7.6 percent increase from the previous year.
Striped bass jumped from the No. 4 slot in 2010 to No. 2 last year, due to high landings in the ocean fishery in January and February 2011. Cooler water temperatures caused the fished to migrate into North Carolina waters in 2011, something that does not happen in warmer winters. Anglers caught 2 million pounds of striped bass in 2011, up 350 percent from 2010.
Bluefish, yellowfin tuna and Spanish mackerel rounded out the top five recreational species landed in 2011. Anglers landed 993,543 pounds of bluefish (up 4.4 percent), 811,673 pounds of yellowfin tuna (down 1.5 percent) and 470,647 pounds of Spanish mackerel (down 17 percent).
Catches of cobia were down 70 percent, as were porgies and amberjacks landings.
For more information about commercial landings statistics, contact Alan Bianchi, Commercial Statistics Program manager, at 252-808-8092 or Alan.Bianchi@ncdenr.gov. For information about recreational landings, contact Doug Mumford, Recreational Statistics Program manager, at 252-948-3876 or Doug.Mumford@ncdner.gov.
A full landings report can be found on the division website at http://portal.ncdenr.org/c/document_library/get_file?uuid=4ab51737-3cfa-4e90-b3c8-e7886c9fcb2c&groupId=38337.