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North Carolina Department of Environment Quality

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

Marine Fisheries

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SUMMER FLOUNDER, Paralichthys dentatus

8-point rule

Summer flounder

Life History

Summer flounder (Paralichthys dentatus) are estuarine dependent members of the left eyed flounder family that includes southern flounder (Paralichthys lethostigma) and gulf flounder (Paralichthys albigutta), all of which occur in North Carolina waters. Summer flounder are found in both inshore and offshore waters from Nova Scotia, Canada to Florida but are most abundant from Cape Cod, Massachusetts to Cape Fear, North Carolina. Spawning typically occurs at age 2 to 3 during the months of November to March as they move offshore. Juveniles move inshore to coastal and estuarine areas for about one year and later begin to join adults offshore. Summer flounder typically mature by age 1 with females maturing at 11 inches in total length and males maturing at 10 inches in total length. Summer flounder have a maximum age of 18 years. They like to burrow into sandy substrates and ambush prey such as small fish, crabs, shrimp, squid and worms.

Fisheries

Summer flounder are popular commercial and recreational fisheries in the mid-Atlantic region. Commercial fisheries landed 2,066,026 pounds of summer flounder in North Carolina which valued $8,218,728 dollars in 2016. Commercial landings for summer flounder were consistent since 2007 with the exception of 2012 to 2013 where low landings were due to excessive shoaling of Oregon Inlet limiting the number of trawl boats able to land in North Carolina. Annual commercial landings in North Carolina averaged 2,358,915 pounds of summer flounder since 2007 (Figure 1). The winter trawl fishery is the primary commercial fishery for summer flounder in North Carolina and occurs from winter (December) to early spring (April) making up nearly 99 percent of the total annual landings since 2007. Other commercial fisheries that landed summer flounder include cast net, dredge, gig, gill net, long line, pot, rod and reel, seine and spear (Figure 2).

Figure 1

Figure 2

Recreational fisheries harvested 17,887 summer flounder (30,355 pounds) in North Carolina in 2016. Summer flounder recreational harvest has declined during the 2007 to 2016 timespan. They are fished year round, but fishing typically peaks during the summer months (June to August). Annual summer flounder recreational harvest in North Carolina averaged 60,695 fish and 93,369 pounds from 2007 to 2016. Released numbers were much higher and averaged 370,758 fish in the timespan (Figure 3).

Figure 3

Management

In North Carolina, summer flounder are included in the North Carolina Interjurisdictional Fishery Management Plan. This plan defers to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Fishery Management Plan for compliance requirements. Management measures include commercial state by state quotas, with North Carolina allocated 27.4 percent of the total quota. Other commercial measures include minimum mesh sizes for trawls and a moratorium on new entrants to the fishery. 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 Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Management Board approved the use of regional management for the 2014 summer flounder recreational fishery. Addendum XXVI (February 2015) extended this management tool into 2016. Addendum XXVIII (February 2017) implemented adaptive management, including regional approaches, for the 2017 summer flounder recreational fishery. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council are developing a Summer Flounder Amendment to update the goals and objectives and address commercial summer flounder management measures. The North Carolina Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan also effects the harvest of this species.

Stock Status Overview

The 2016 summer flounder stock assessment update included data through 2015 and indicated overfishing was occurring in 2015 relative to the biological reference points established in a 2013 benchmark stock assessment. Fishing mortality estimates were higher in recent years than previously projected, and poor recruitment (the number of juvenile fish that will be able to reproduce that year) persisted from 2010 to 2015. However, spawning stock biomass (the amount of spawning females in the stock) was above the threshold biomass reference point so the stock was not overfished in 2015. In addition, the summer flounder juvenile abundance index from the Pamlico Sound Trawl Survey is one of the recruitment indices provided for the annual coastwide stock assessment of summer flounder and was used in the 2016 stock assessment update. The summer flounder juvenile abundance index value was 2.76 fish per tow in 2016, which was less than the 10 year average of 7.25 fish per tow since 2007. This value fluctuated from 2007 to 2013 but declined and was lowest in 2016 (Figure 4).
Figure 4

Research Needs

Research needs include collection of otoliths (ear bones) from the commercial fishery; discard mortality estimates from commercial fishery; information on predator prey interactions; study of species composition of recreationally released flounder; study of stock structure of adult summer flounder coastwide; stock structure research (genetics) of summer flounder caught in Pamlico Sound Survey and sex specific modeling.

Links

Management Agencies

North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries

Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission

Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council

Fishery Management Plans Amendments, Revisions and Supplements

Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission

Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council

Stock Assessment Reports

Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission

Contacts

For more information,
contact Todd Daniel
VanMiddlesworth at
Todd.VanMiddlesworth
@ncdenr.gov
or 252-473-5734
Summer flounder
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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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