Date: May 22, 2013
Contact: Patricia Smith
Fisheries Managers Seek Public Input on Issues Impacting
Commercial Summer Flounder Fishery
MOREHEAD CITY — The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries will hold a meeting June 4 to discuss possible management strategies to address issue impacting the state’s commercial summer flounder fishery.
The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. at the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources Regional Office, 943 Washington Square Mall, Washington.
At this meeting, the division will seek stakeholder feedback on how to best use the state’s summer flounder quota, including:
What trip limits and landing windows best meet fishermen’s market needs.
How much quota should be reserved for the fall fishery.
Under what circumstances the state should allow North Carolina’s quota to be landed at fish houses in other states.
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.
An annual commercial quota is allocated to the states from Maine to North Carolina based on historical landings. North Carolina receives 27.4 percent of the coast-wide commercial quota, the highest percentage of any state.
The ocean flounder trawl fishery accounts for most of North Carolina’s commercial summer flounder landings. The fishing season opens by proclamation, typically with a two- or four-week fishing window during which fishing operations are allowed to harvest a pre-determined poundage of summer flounder. The poundage limit is established with intent to allow the most profitable fishing trips while remaining within the allowable quota. Once the fishing window ends, the division tabulates the landings, and if enough quota remains uncaught, reopens for another window. Overshooting the quota will result in deductions from the state’s quota the next fishing year.
Additionally, a Marine Fisheries Commission rule provides that 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 the 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. This prompted the commission in February to allow the division to transfer some of the state’s summer flounder quota reserved for fall fishing to the winter fishing season.
Another issue impacting the summer flounder fishery is the shoaling of Oregon Inlet.
For the past several years, North Carolina has allowed vessels to land summer flounder at Virginia fish houses when Oregon Inlet becomes impassible for larger vessels. This requires the state to transfer some of its quota to Virginia.
This saves fishermen the fuel costs involved with steaming farther south and using the better-maintained Beaufort Inlet to land their catch in Morehead City. But North Carolina also loses the revenue generated by these fish.
Eventually, the combination of North Carolina not using all of its summer flounder 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.
The meeting will begin with a slideshow presentation outlining the above issues. Afterward, members of the public will be allowed to give their ideas.
For more information, contact Chris Batsavage with the division at 252-808-8009 or Chris.Batsavage@ncdenr.gov.