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North Carolina Department of Environment Quality

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Marine Fisheries - 13 Summer Flounder SSR 2015

Marine Fisheries

Summer Flounder

Summer Flounder — 2015

Stock Status – Viable The 2013 National Marine Fisheries Service’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center benchmark stock assessment for U.S. waters north of Cape Hatteras indicated the stock was not overfished and overfishing was not occurring. The annual fishing mortality rate declined greatly since 1995 and has been fairly consistent since 2006. Spawning stock biomass greatly increased during the late-1990s and has been fairly consistent since 2003. The summer flounder stock reached the biomass target and was considered rebuilt in 2010.

Average Commercial Landings and Value 2005-2014 – 2,668,541 lbs./$5,897,967

2014 Commercial Landings and Value – 2,906,789 lbs./ $8,211,281 (quota–managed)

Average Recreational Landings 2005-2014 114,128 lbs., 2014 – 67,783 lbs.

Average Number of Award Citations (5 lbs.) 2005–2014* 339, 2014* 407

Status of Fishery Management Plan (FMP) – In North Carolina, summer flounder are managed under the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC)/Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council (MAFMC) Interjurisdictional Fisheries Management Plan (FMP), adopted in 1988, and defers to ASMFC FMP compliance requirements. Several amendments to the FMP have impacted management of summer flounder, most recently Amendment 15, part of the 2011 Omnibus Amendment. Management measures include commercial state by state quotas, with North Carolina allocated 27.4% of total quota. Other commercial measures include minimum mesh sizes for trawls and a moratorium on new entrants. Minimum fish size limits exist for both recreational and commercial sectors, and bag limits are used for the recreational fishery. In February 2014, in accordance with Addendum XXV, the Board approved regional management measures for the 2014 summer flounder fishery. The Board and MAFMC have initiated the development of a Comprehensive Summer Flounder Amendment to reconsider all aspects of summer flounder management (scheduled for completion in 2017). The North Carolina Southern Flounder FMP also affects the harvest of this species.

Research and Data Needs – Discard mortality estimates from commercial fishery, collection of otoliths from the commercial fishery, species composition of recreationally released flounder, stock structure of adult summer flounder coastwide, stock structure (i.e. genetics) of summer flounder caught in Pamlico Sound Survey.

2014 Regulations – Commercial: 14 inches total length (TL) minimum size limit; harvest seasons and minimum mesh size for the flounder trawl fishery; bycatch trip limit of 100 lbs. during closed trawl season. A license to land flounder from the Atlantic Ocean is required to land more than 100 lbs. per trip. Recreational: 15 inches TL minimum size limit/6 fish creel limit for all joint and coastal waters.

Harvest Season – Commercial: ocean trawl season typically in winter and early spring with openings based on quota and other factors (see most recent summer flounder proclamation for current information). There is a bycatch trip limit of 100 lbs. of flounder in ocean waters during the closed trawl season. Recreational: year-round with peak catches from June through August.

Size and Age at Maturity – females: 11 inches TL/1 year; males: 10 inches TL/1 year

Historical and Current Maximum Age – 16 years/16 years

Juvenile Abundance Index 2005- 2014^ 8.1, 2014^ 6.6

Habits and Habitats – Summer flounder are estuarine dependent members of the left-eyed flounder family that includes southern flounder and Gulf flounder. They are found in the Atlantic Ocean from Nova Scotia to the east coast of Florida. In U.S. waters, summer flounder is most common in the Mid-Atlantic region from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, to Cape Fear, North Carolina. Separate stocks of summer flounder are believed to exist north and south of Cape Hatteras based on tagging and meristics data. Migratory patterns and spawning areas differ for the two stocks but both stocks likely spawn in November through March. Larvae, potentially from both stocks, enter North Carolina inlets in winter and spring and settle in higher–salinity areas of estuaries. Juveniles are believed to generally reside in estuaries for one year prior to reaching maturity. North of Hatteras, summer flounder are found along the outer edge of the continental shelf in the winter and early spring. In late spring and early summer, they move inshore into shallow coastal waters and estuaries, migrating back offshore in the fall. South of Hatteras, migration patterns are less certain.

*Includes southern, summer, and gulf flounders
^ Arithmetic mean from Pamlico Sound Survey (June only)

For more information, contact Tom Wadsworth at Tom.Wadsworth@ncdenr.gov or 252-808-8193.

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

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