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Marine Fisheries - 08 2019 News Releases

Marine Fisheries

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News Release Archives: August 2019
8-point rule

 

Release: Immediate
Contact: Patricia Smith
Date: Aug. 28, 2019
Phone: 252-726-7021

Marine Fisheries Commission approves flounder season closure,
denies petition for rulemaking

MOREHEAD CITY — 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.

Other Business
The Marine Fisheries Commission voted to:

  • Send Draft Amendment 3 to the Blue Crab Fishery Management Plan out for public comment and advisory committee review. A 2018 stock assessment determined that North Carolina’s blue crab stock is overfished and overfishing is occurring. At least a 0.4% reduction in the number of crabs harvested (in 2016) is needed to end overfishing within two years, as required by law. At least a 2.2% reduction in the number of crabs harvested (in 2016) is needed to achieve sustainable harvest within 10 years, as required by law. The draft amendment includes several options for achieving these harvest reductions. The Division of Marine Fisheries is proposing management measures that are estimated to result in a 6.3% reduction in the number of crabs harvested (from 2016).
  • Set the Eligibility Pool cap at 500 Standard Commercial Fishing Licenses for the 2019-2020 license year.
  • Approve notice of text for rulemaking and the fiscal analysis to readopt existing rules under a state-mandated periodic review schedule; to modify 15A NCAC 03M .0509 making tarpon no spear, no gaff and no possession fish; and to modify 15A NCAC 03O .0108 clarifying the circumstances under which transfers of commercial fishing licenses are allowed.

On another issue, the commission 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. 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. The fishery management plan process includes input from stakeholder advisory committees and a public comment period. Work on the Shrimp Fishery Management Plan, scheduled to begin this year, will now proceed.

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.

nr-59-2019


Release: Immediate
Contact: Patricia Smith
Date: Aug. 20, 2019
Phone: 252-726-7021

Commercial Spanish mackerel harvest closes Saturday

MOREHEAD CITY — Commercial harvest of Spanish mackerel will close at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 24, in state and federal waters. The fishery is closing because the regional commercial quota has been met.

The National Marine Fisheries Service projects that commercial landings have reached the 662,670-pound quota for the Atlantic Migratory Group Spanish Mackerel Northern Zone, which runs from North Carolina to New York. Federal accountability measures require harvest of Spanish mackerel to close to prevent exceeding the quota, and under the N.C. Interjurisdictional Fishery Management Plan, Spanish mackerel seasons in North Carolina waters complement those in federal waters.

The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries requested, but was denied, a 100,000-pound quota transfer from the Southern Zone (South Carolina to Florida) to extend the Northern Zone fishery.

During the commercial closure, possession of Spanish mackerel is limited to the recreational bag limit of 15 fish per person per day so long as the recreational season remains open. Those fish may not be sold. This provision applies to charter/head boats and those holding a Fishing Tournament License to Sell Fish, as well as to those holding a Standard Commercial Fishing License or a Retired Standard Commercial Fishing License.

For more specific information about the North Carolina closure, see Proclamation FF-29-2019 on the Division of Marine Fisheries’ proclamations webpage.

See the NOAA Fisheries Bulletin for more information about the closure in federal waters.

nr-58-2019


Release: Immediate
Contact: Patricia Smith
Date: Aug. 12, 2019
Phone: 252-726-7021

MEDIA ADVISORY: Public hearing scheduled
on Pamlico County shellfish lease proposal

MOREHEAD CITY — The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries will hold a public hearing on a proposed shellfish lease in Pamlico County at 6 p.m. Sept. 11 at the Pamlico County Courthouse, Commissioners’ Room, 202 Main St., Bayboro.

I & M Oyster Company, LLC (Robbie J. Mercer, agent) has applied to lease approximately 9.36 acres of water bottom and water column in Long Creek, near the Pamlico River.

A map of the proposed lease, with corresponding coordinates and lease numbers, can be found here.

The public may comment on the proposed lease at the hearing or in writing. Written comments will be accepted until 5 p.m. Sept. 10 and should be submitted to the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, Shellfish Leases, P.O. Box 769, Morehead City, N.C. 28557.

The application file and biologist report for the proposed leases are available for inspection during office hours at the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries’ Headquarters Office at 3441 Arendell St. in Morehead City.

For more information, contact Michael Graven, with the division’s Habitat and Enhancement Section, at 252-808-8061 or Michael.Graven@ncdenr.gov.

WHO: N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries
WHAT: Public hearing on proposed shellfish lease in Pamlico County
WHEN: Sept. 11 at 6 p.m.
WHERE:
Pamlico County Courthouse
Commissioners’ Room, 202 Main St., Bayboro

nr-57-2019


Release: Immediate
Contact: Patricia Smith
Date: Aug. 13, 2019
Phone: 252-726-7021

Marine Fisheries schedules public informational meeting
about artificial reef near Roanoke Island

MOREHEAD CITY — The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries’ Artificial Reef Program will hold a public informational meeting about an upcoming artificial reef project at AR-197, off Dare County. The meeting will be held Aug. 29 at 6 p.m. at the Dare County Board of Commissioners Meeting Room in the Dare County Administration Building, 954 Marshall C. Collins Drive in Manteo.

AR-197 is located approximately 1.5 nautical miles north of Roanoke Island. The Artificial Reef Program plans to use about 1,600 tons of rock to create low-relief ridges and mounds that will be home to inshore species such as speckled trout and striped bass.

An artificial reef is a manmade underwater structure, typically built to promote marine life in areas with a generally featureless bottom. In North Carolina, they serve as crucial spawning and foraging habitat for many commercially and recreationally important fish species.

The Division maintains 43 ocean artificial reefs, which are located from one-half mile to 38 miles from shore and are situated so that they can be reached from every maintained inlet in the state.

For more information about AR-197 or other artificial reefs in North Carolina, see the Division of Marine Fisheries’ Artificial Reef Program webpages or contact Jordan Byrum at 252-808-8036.

WHO: N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries’ Artificial Reef Program
WHAT: Information Meeting about enhancement at AR-197
WHEN: Aug. 29 at 6 p.m.
WHERE:
Dare County Board of Commissioners Meeting Room
Dare County Administration Building
954 Marshall C. Collins Drive, Manteo

nr-56-2019


Release: Immediate
Contact: Patricia Smith
Date: Aug. 9, 2019
Phone: 252-726-7021

MEDIA ADVISORY: Marine Fisheries Commission
to meet Aug. 21-23 in Raleigh

8-point rule

 

 

MOREHEAD CITY — The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission will meet Aug. 21-23 at the Doubletree by Hilton University Brownstone, 1707 Hillsborough St., Raleigh.

The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. Aug. 21, at 9 a.m. Aug. 22, and at 8:30 a.m. Aug. 23.

Public comment periods will be held at 6 p.m. Aug. 21 and at 9:30 a.m. Aug. 22. Members of the public may speak to the commission on any fisheries-related topic. The chairman will allow each speaker to comment for three minutes. More time may be allotted, at the chairman’s discretion, depending on the number who sign up to speak. Those making comments will be asked to speak only once, either at the Aug. 21 or the Aug. 22 session, but not during both public comment periods.

The deadline for submitting written comments to the commission, including email, through the Marine Fisheries Commission Office, is at 5 p.m. Aug. 16. Those who wish to forego this process and give handouts to the commission during the public comment period should bring at least 12 copies of the handout.

The public may listen to the meeting online. Up to 200 participants may listen to audio and view presentations in real-time on a first-come, first-served basis. Directions for participating in the webcast, including information on system requirements and testing, can be found here. Following the meeting, an audio recording will be posted online.

The commission is scheduled to:

  • Vote on final approval of Amendment 2 to the Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan. The commission voted in June to select its preferred management options. The specific Marine Fisheries Commission preferred management options and other related information is available on the southern flounder information page on the division’s website.
  • Receive a new petition for rulemaking from the N.C. Wildlife Federation and vote on whether to initiate the rulemaking process. The petition asks the commission to designate all internal coastal waters not otherwise designated as nursery areas as Shrimp Trawl Management Areas. The petition also asks for gear and time restrictions within these new areas.
  • Vote to send Draft Amendment 3 to the Blue Crab Fishery Management Plan out for public comment and advisory committee review. A 2018 stock assessment determined that North Carolina’s blue crab stock is overfished and overfishing is occurring. At least a 0.4% reduction in the number of crabs harvested is needed to end overfishing within two years, as required by law. At least a 2.2% reduction in the number of crabs harvested is needed to achieve sustainable harvest within 10 years, as required by law. The draft amendment includes several options for achieving these harvest reductions.
  • Receive a presentation from Division of Marine Fisheries staff on this year’s stock overview and on the 2018 landings summary.

A full meeting agenda and briefing book materials are posted online here.

WHO: N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission
WHAT: Quarterly Business Meeting
WHEN: Aug. 21 at 6 p.m.
Aug. 22 at 9 a.m.
Aug. 23 at 8:30 a.m.
WHERE:
Doubletree by Hilton University Brownstone
1707 Hillsborough St., Raleigh
LIVE STREAM: http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/listen-online

nr-55-2019


Release: Immediate
Contact: Patricia Smith
Date: Aug. 7, 2019
Phone: 252-726-7021

State completes construction of Swan Island Oyster Sanctuary

MOREHEAD CITY — A few weeks ago, the last barge load of marl was placed on the Swan Island Oyster Sanctuary, completing a three-year project to build one of the largest oyster sanctuaries in North Carolina waters.

The 60 new acres of oyster habitat at the mouth of the Neuse River brings the total to 357 acres of oyster sanctuaries in the state.

An oyster sanctuary is an area where oyster restoration activities have occurred, and the harvest of oysters is prohibited. The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries builds oyster sanctuaries to encourage the growth of large, healthy oyster populations that act as a brood stock for the rest of North Carolina's coastal waters. In addition to attracting oyster larvae, manmade oyster reefs function as a complex habitat for juvenile finfish, crabs, and other marine species.

Construction of Swan Island Oyster Sanctuary was a $3 million project in partnership the N.C. Coastal Federation, and jointly funded with state and federal money. The project involved deployment of 25,000 tons of granite and 55,000 tons of limestone marl over a three-year period.

The material was deployed in ridges that are visible on a side scan sonar image. The ridges measure about 200 feet long, 25 feet wide, and four feet tall. The reef was constructed this way to provide vertical complexity and increase the likelihood of larval settlement and survival of oysters.

Swan Island Oyster Sanctuary is already home to healthy oyster populations. Monitoring of the site shows that oysters are growing on the material placed in the first two years, and the material on the sanctuary is providing habitat for fish, such as speckled trout, sheepshead, and bluefish.

The division has been permitting, constructing, and monitoring oyster sanctuaries since the late 1990s following a recommendation from the 1995 Blue Ribbon Advisory Council on Oysters to rehabilitate oyster populations in North Carolina. Since then, the division has constructed 15 oyster sanctuaries in Pamlico Sound, using a variety of materials, including concrete, reef balls, limestone marl and granite to create large, complex areas where oyster larvae can settle and mature.

Historically, oyster sanctuary site selection was largely dependent upon where historic oyster reefs once existed. Today, the division chooses sanctuary sites using a more modern habitat suitability index which incorporates the best available scientific data to rate areas based on salinity gradient, bottom type, tidal flow, larval transport, wave action, and prevailing wind data as well as historic oyster presence data and stakeholder input.

For more information the Swan Island Oyster Sanctuary or other oyster sanctuaries in North Carolina, see the Division of Marine Fisheries’ Artificial Reef Program webpages or contact Jordan Byrum at 252-808-8036.

Download photos of construction materials and deployment.

nr-54-2019

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N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries • 3441 Arendell Street • Morehead City, NC 28557 • 252-726-7021 or 800-682-2632

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