Date: Mar. 4, 2013
Contact: Patricia Smith
Fisheries Commission Takes Action to Help Fishermen Land
More Summer Flounder
MOREHEAD CITY — The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission took action this week that could help commercial fishermen land more of the state’s summer flounder quota.
The commission agreed to allow N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries Director Louis Daniel to transfer some of the state’s summer flounder quota reserved for fall fishing to the current fishing season. The move will add a portion of about 600,000 pounds of quota reserved for the fall to the approximately 250,000 pounds remaining of the winter fishing season allocation.
“This will provide more flexibility to ensure the summer flounder quota is harvested,” Daniel said. “Last year, North Carolina left about half a million pounds of summer flounder quota unharvested.”
Under Marine Fisheries Commission rule, 20 percent of the state’s commercial summer flounder quota each year is reserved for the fall fishery. The regulation reserving a percentage of the quota for fall fishing was put in place in the early 1990s to ensure quota would be available for the smaller fishing operations that operated off the coast of North Carolina in the fall.
Since then, the distribution and migration patterns of the fish have shifted much farther north, and the majority of fishing now occurs off New Jersey, New York and southern New England. While North Carolina’s larger commercial fishing fleet travels to these waters to fish, it is not profitable for the smaller vessels to do so.
As a consequence, North Carolina fishermen have not used the state’s entire commercial fishing quota since 2007.
Additionally, for the past several years, North Carolina has allowed vessels to land summer flounder at Virginia fish houses because shoaling of Oregon Inlet has made those waters impassible for larger vessels. This requires the state to transfer some of its quota to Virginia.
The combination of not using all of the quota and transferring much of what is used to other states, could result in other states seeking a reallocation of the coast-wide commercial quota.
Summer flounder is a migratory fish that is jointly managed by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, a federally-authorized board that coordinates fishery management in state waters between the East Coast states, and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, one of eight federal regional councils that manage fisheries in federal waters.
In other business, the commission:
- Adopted management measures to address conflicts between net fishermen and residents who live along Deer Creek and Schoolhouse Creek (Rocky Run Creek) in Cape Carteret. Cape Carteret residents asked the commission to close these creeks to the use of gill nets and seines at night, complaining that the fishermen were beating oars on docks, shining spotlights into houses, threatening residents and causing a hazard to navigation. Fishermen said they need to fish for mullet, spotted seatrout and flounder at night and want to avoid increased conflict with daytime boat traffic and recreational fishing.
The parties were unable to agree on a solution through a mediation process. The commission instructed Daniel to issue a proclamation pertaining to these creeks that:
- Prohibits gillnets and seines from 8:30 p.m. to sunrise from Oct. 1 to March 31;
- Requires reflectors to be placed on every 50 yards of net;
- Requires that nets be set down the middle of the creeks (parallel to shore);
- Limits net lengths to 200 yards; and
- Requires fishermen to attend their nets at all times and move them as necessary to allow reasonable navigation.
The division will hold a public meeting to explain these regulations at 5:30 p.m. March 7 at the division’s Central District Office, 5285 Highway 70 West, Morehead City.
- Approved a rule change that replaces the harvest limit of 100 shrimp per person per day for shrimp taken with a cast net from a closed area with a volume harvest limit of two quarts of shrimp per person per day. The rule could go into effect as early as May 1.
- Approved a rule to require electronic reporting of landings from all fish dealers that report an annual average of greater than 50,000 pounds of finfish for the previous three calendar years. The rule could go into effect as early as May 1.
- Approved an amendment to the Estuarine Striped Bass Fishery Management Plan and accompanying rules that will:
— Remove the prohibition on the sale and purchase of striped bass taken by hook-and-line gear. This will not automatically authorize the use of hook-and-line gear in the commercial striped bass fishery, but it will permit issuance of a proclamation to allow the use of this gear at some future date. It is the intent that such a proclamation would follow discussions by the commission and its advisory committees in association with review of fishery management plans.
— Shift the existing joint/coastal boundary line between the Albemarle Sound Management Area and the Roanoke River Management Area for easier public identification and adherence to striped bass regulations.
— Re-establish a coordinate point on land for Roanoke Marshes Point, which is the western point of the southern boundary for the Albemarle Sound Management Area. The point is used to mark the boundaries for the Albemarle Sound/Chowan River Herring Management Areas, Attended Gill Net Areas and Striped Bass Management Areas.
— Clarify that it will remain unlawful for a commercial fishing operation to possess striped bass taken from waters of the Roanoke River Management Area, which are under the jurisdiction of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.
The rules could go into effect as early as May 1.