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Marine Fisheries - News Release Archives - May 2013

Marine Fisheries

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News Release Archives - May 2013

Release: Immediate
Date: May 31, 2013
Contact: Kim Iverson
Phone: 843-571-4366

Reminder: Black Sea Bass Season Opens June 1st

No changes to current regulations

The black sea bass fishery opens for both commercial and recreational fishermen in South Atlantic federal waters on June 1, 2013. Fishermen are reminded that the current regulations are:

Bag Limit - 5 fish per person per day
Minimum Size Limit - 13" Total Length

Trip Limit - 1,000 Pounds (gutted weight)
Minimum Size Limit - 11" Total Length
Permit Requirements - Federal Commercial Snapper Grouper Permit and Black Sea Bass Pot Endorsements required. Additional requirements are in place for the pot fishery. Visit for details.

All Fishermen:
Circle Hooks Required - The use of non-stainless steel circle hooks (offset or non-offset) is required when fishing for all species in the snapper grouper complex (including black sea bass) when using hook-and-line gear with natural baits in waters north of 28 degrees N. latitude.
Dehooking Tools Required - both recreational and commercial fishermen are required to use dehooking tools when fishing for species in the snapper grouper management complex.
Bag Limit Sale Prohibited - the sale of bag limit caught snapper grouper species is prohibited.

The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council has proposed to more than double the current annual catch limit of 847,000 pounds (whole weight) to 1,814,000 pounds. NOAA Fisheries is reviewing this request and expects to publish a proposed rule for public comment this summer. The Council is requesting the increase be implemented in 2013 based on the latest stock assessment showing the black sea bass stock in the South Atlantic has recovered and is not longer overfished or undergoing overfishing. If approved, the increase will extend both the recreational and commercial fishing seasons.

Read the complete news release regarding the proposed changes to black sea bass catch limits.

SA Fishing Regulations App Now Available - stay up-to-date with all of the federal fishing regulations when heading offshore by downloading the Council's SA Fish Regulations App. (See below for details.)

Additional regulation information is available from the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council at and NOAA Fisheries Southeast Regional Office at

Release: Immediate
Date: May 31, 2013
Contact: Patricia Smith
Phone: 252-726-7021

2012 Commercial and Recreational Fish and Shellfish Harvests Released

MOREHEAD CITY — North Carolina commercial and recreational seafood harvests dropped in 2012, likely due to a combination of environmental, economic and regulatory factors, including the shoaling of Oregon Inlet.

Commercial fishermen harvested 56.7 million pounds of finfish and shellfish from North Carolina coastal waters in 2012, a 16 percent drop from the previous year, according to the N.C. Trip Ticket Program. However, the value of commercial landings increased by 2.6 percent in 2012 to $73 million.

Recreational anglers harvested an estimated 12 million pounds of finfish (8.1 million fish) in 2012, a 9 percent decrease from 2011, according to the N.C. Coastal Angling Program. However, anglers released an estimated 18.5 million fish, 16.8 percent more than in 2011.


Blue crabs remained at the top the state’s commercial harvest, both in pounds and value. Commercial fishermen harvested 26.8 million pounds of crab in 2012, with an ex-vessel value (amount paid to the fishermen) of $22.8 million.

Shrimp took the No. 2 spot with landings of 6.1 million pounds with an ex-vessel value of $13.3 million, followed by Atlantic croaker (3.1 million pounds and $2.1 million), spiny dogfish (2.7 million pounds and $640,820) and striped mullet (1.9 million pounds and $1 million).

2012 blue crab landings were down nearly 11 percent from 2011, continuing a downward trend in landings since the late 1990s. Environmental influences, market conditions and infrastructure loss due to hurricanes have all significantly impacted the crab fishery.

The decline in crab landings contributed to a reduction in overall commercial shellfish landings, which was 34 million pounds in 2012. Commercial shellfish landings were down 10 percent from 2011.

Oyster landings also decreased to 83,193 bushels in 2012, down 45 percent from 2011 and 34 percent from the latest five-year average. This largely was due to damage to oyster beds from Hurricane Irene in 2011.

Commercial finfish harvests dropped to 22.7 million pounds in 2012, a 24 percent reduction from 2011 and 22 percent less than the latest five-year average. High fuel prices, stricter federal regulations and the shoaling of Oregon Inlet likely impacted finfish landings.

There was a 90 percent reduction in the number of fishing trips using flounder trawls and flynets, gears predominantly used by boats that use Oregon Inlet. These two gears account for the majority of the Atlantic menhaden, squid and summer flounder landings in North Carolina. Atlantic menhaden landings were 85 percent lower, squid landings were 99 percent lower and summer flounder landings 62 percent lower than in 2011. Also, decreased flynet trips likely impacted Atlantic croaker landings, which were down 39 percent from 2011.

On the other hand, spiny dogfish landings have steadily gone up from 158,727 pounds in 2008 to 2.8 million pounds in 2012 due to quota increases. And striped mullet landings increased by14 percent from 2011, part of a 5-year upward trend.


Dolphinfish remained at the top of the list of recreationally harvested fish. Anglers harvested 2.6 million pounds of dolphinfish (327,042 fish) in 2012, a 27.8 percent decrease from 2011.

Yellowfin tuna took the No. 2 spot with landings of 1.6 million pounds (57,085 fish), followed by bluefish at 1 million pounds (888,852 fish), wahoo at 854,361 million pounds (30,877 fish) and spotted seatrout at 817,445 pounds (500,518 fish).

The number of spotted seatrout landed in 2012 was 131 percent higher than in 2011, likely due to a mild winter that did not cause any cold stun events and provided for a winter fishing season that extended well into the spring.

Additionally, the number of red drum releases hit 1.5 million in 2012, three times higher than the highest ever seen in North Carolina. This further supports data from N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries monitoring programs that have noted record numbers of juvenile red drum over the past several years. Many of the released fish will grow into the slot size limit this year, which allow them to be harvested.

While the number of recreational fishing trips increased by 11.9 percent to 5.3 million in 2012, recreational fishing effort is still well below the nearly 7 million fishing trips made in 2008, prior to the nation’s economic downturn.

For-hire fishing trips have fallen from a high of 300,000 in 1996 to 140,648 in 2012.

For a full landings report, click on the 2012 Annual Fisheries Bulletin link at

For more information, contact division License and Statistics Section Chief Don Hesselman at 252-808-8099 or


Release: Immediate
Date: May 29, 2013

Cape Fear River Partnership Contacts:

Cape Fear River Watch
Kemp Burdette

N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries
Anne Deaton

N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission
Bennett Wynne

Final Cape Fear River Basin Action Plan Released Tomorrow

WILMINGTON, N.C. (May 29, 2013) — The Cape Fear River Partnership, a coalition of state and federal natural resources agencies, academic entities and private and non-governmental organizations, will release tomorrow the final version of the “Cape Fear River Basin Action Plan for Migratory Fish”— a blueprint that provides long-term, habitat-based solutions for the most pressing challenges to migratory fish in the Cape Fear River basin.

The plan will be unveiled during a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Bladen County to celebrate the completed construction of a rock arch ramp — or “fish passage way” — at the Cape Fear River Lock and Dam No. 1, which is located 32 miles upriver from Wilmington.

Members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which constructed the rock arch ramp, will cut the ceremonial red ribbon at 10 a.m. to mark the official opening of the rock arch ramp.

The rock arch ramp is expected to improve passage of anadromous fish such as striped bass, American shad, river herring and sturgeon, during their spring migrations to reach historical spawning grounds. An evaluation will follow the rock arch ramp construction, assessing fishes’ use of the ramp over a two-year period.

At more than 9,000 square miles, the Cape Fear River basin is the largest watershed in North Carolina. Poor habitat quality in rivers and streams threatens fish, such as American shad, striped bass, river herring, American eel, and endangered Atlantic and shortnose sturgeon populations. Dams and other blockages prevent or delay many migratory fish from swimming upstream to spawn.

While completion of the rock arch ramp at Lock and Dam No. 1 is the first step in restoring access to historic migratory fish habitat, passage past two additional lock and dams on the river in Bladen County will have to be provided before these species will have unimpeded access to their historical spawning grounds located at Smiley Falls near Erwin in Harnett County. Providing fish passage beyond these two barriers is critical to re-building migratory fish populations in the Cape Fear River and is a top priority of the action plan.

In addition to providing a blueprint for restoring fish access and improving habitat and water quality, the action plan will assess the community and economic benefits of improved migratory fish populations on tourism, recreation, fishing and other commercial uses.
“A strong migratory fish population could have immense environmental, economic and recreational benefits for local communities,” said Anne Deaton, Habitat Protection Section Chief for the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries. “For example, in 2011, North Carolina anglers spent more than $1.5 billion on fishing related activities. This number emphasizes the economic importance of restoring aquatic habitat connectivity to support sustainable fish populations in North Carolina.”

Read the final version of the “Cape Fear River Basin Action Plan for Migratory Fish”or visit the Cape Fear River Partnership page ( for more information.

About the Cape River Fear Partnership
The Cape Fear River Partnership was established in 2012 to help improve the health of the Cape Fear River for migratory fish. Signatory partners, or organizations that played a role in developing the action plan, are: American Rivers, Atlantic Coastal Fish Habitat Partnership, , Cape Fear Public Utility Authority, Cape Fear River Assembly, Cape Fear River Watch, the City of Wilmington, Dial Cordy and Associates Inc., Fayetteville Public Works Commission, the Lower Cape Fear River Program, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Natural Resources Conservation Service, New Hanover County, N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (Division of Soil & Water Conservation and North Carolina Forest Service), N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (Divisions of Coastal Management, Marine Fisheries, Water Quality, and Water Resources and the N.C. Natural Heritage Program), North Carolina Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit N.C. State University’s Cooperative Extension, N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, Duke Energy, The Nature Conservancy, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the University of North Carolina Wilmington.

Find out more about the Cape Fear River Partnership and how it’s working to improve the river’s habitat conditions for the benefit of fish and wildlife and the communities that depend on the river for water supply and rich recreational opportunities.

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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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