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N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Marine Fisheries - Southern Flounder - stock status report

Marine Fisheries

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Southern Flounder

Southern Flounder

Stock Status – Depleted – Based on the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) 2009 stock assessment, the southern flounder stock is overfished and overfishing is occurring.

Average Commercial Landings and Value 2001–2010 – 2,454,160 lbs./$4,563,675

2010 Commercial Landings and Value – 1,689,493 lbs./$3,695,756

Average Recreational Landings 2001–2010 – 342,900 lbs., 2010 – 512,389 lbs.

Average Number of Award Citations (5 lbs.) 2001–2010* – 385, 2010* – 295

Status of Fisheries Management Plan (FMP) – A FMP for southern flounder was developed by the DMF in February 2005. Development of Amendment 1 of the Southern Flounder FMP is currently underway. Supplement A to the Southern Flounder FMP was implemented in February 2011 to achieve sustainable harvest in the recreational fishery while Amendment 1 is being developed. The federal FMP for summer flounder also affects the harvest of this species.

Research and Data Needs – Effort and harvest estimates for the recreational gig fishery, reproductive ecology, continued at–sea observer coverage of the estuarine gill net fishery, bycatch mortality estimates from all fisheries, verification of escapement of older southern flounder from the fishery, factors impacting release mortality in the hook and line fishery, and species composition of recreationally released flounder.

Current Regulations – Commercial: 14–inches total length (TL) minimum size limit in internal and ocean waters, closed season in internal waters from December 1–31; no trip limits in internal waters and a 100-lbs. trip limit in ocean waters unless the individual has a License to Land Flounder from the Atlantic Ocean. There were various gear regulations to minimize undersized southern flounder bycatch implemented in the fall of 2005. Further regulations to the large mesh gill net fishery to minimize sea turtle interactions in 2010 also impacted the commercial southern flounder fishery. Recreational: 15–inches TL minimum size limit/6 fish creel limit for all joint and coastal waters.

Harvest Season — Commercial: January through November (closed season in December) with peak catches from September to November. Recreational: Year–round with peak catches from July through October.

Size and Age at Maturity – Females: 13–inches TL/1 year; Males: 10–inches TL/1 year

Historical and Current Maximum Age – 9 years/7 years

Juvenile Abundance Index 2001–2010** – 1.4, 2010** – 1.9 (not validated)

Habits and Habitats – Southern flounder are estuarine dependent members of the left–eyed flounder family that include summer flounder and Gulf flounder. Southern flounder migrate offshore and south during late fall and winter and inshore and north during late spring and summer. Southern flounder spawn in near shore continental shelf waters from November through March. Young fish enter inlets and settle on muddy bottoms in lower–salinity areas of estuaries.

*Includes southern, summer and Gulf flounders, but the majority are southern flounder.
**Geometric mean from Juvenile Estuarine Trawl Survey

For more information, contact Chris Batsavage at Chris.Batsavage@ncdenr.gov or 1-800-682-2632 or (252) 808–8088.

N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries • 3441 Arendell Street • Morehead City, NC 28557 • (252) 726-7021 or 1-800-682-2632

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