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North Carolina Department of Environment Quality

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Marine Fisheries - nr-65-2016 MFC Reviews

Marine Fisheries

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Release: Immediate
Contact: Patricia Smith
Date: Aug. 25, 2016
Phone: 252-726-7021

Fisheries commission accelerates review of blue crab,
estuarine striped bass plans

MOREHEAD CITY — The North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission has fast-tracked the review schedule for two state fishery management plans.

The commission voted last week to proceed this fiscal year with a review of the state’s Blue Crab Fishery Management Plan, which had been slated for fiscal year 2018-2019, to give the commission more management flexibility. The commission also voted to accelerate the review of the state’s Estuarine Striped Bass Plan by one year to 2017-2018 due to possible problems with reproduction in the Tar/Pamlico, Neuse and Cape Fear rivers.

State law requires the Division of Marine Fisheries to review state fishery management plans once every five years and revise them as needed. The commission sets this review schedule in August each year.

Amendment 2 to the North Carolina Blue Crab Fishery Management Plan, adopted in November 2013, uses an adaptive management framework that requires annual evaluation of three biological indicators of the state of the fishery. Management changes are required if the indicators meet pre-determined thresholds for three consecutive years. The evaluation this year found that a management threshold was exceeded, and the commission adopted stricter blue crab regulations in May. Commission Chairman Sammy Corbett said that several commission members would like more flexibility in management actions than is allowed under the current plan.

The Estuarine Striped Bass Fishery Management Plan, is a joint plan between the Division of Marine Fisheries and the Wildlife Resources Commission. Both agencies recommended initiating the plan review earlier after recent DNA testing of fin clips taken from striped bass in the Cape Fear, Neuse and Tar/Pamlico rivers showed that a majority of the fish tested are of hatchery origin, which could indicate that very little natural reproduction is occurring.

However, the majority of samples tested so far came only from spawning grounds or the middle river in each system. More samples, including some from the lower portions of the rivers, have been sent to a South Carolina genetics lab for analysis. The commission approved $21,412 from its Conservation Fund to pay for this study. Results are expected to be available for the commission’s November meeting.

In addition, the commission slated the review of the Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan to begin as soon as a valid stock assessment is available. The results of a coast-wide stock assessment are expected to be available in the second half of 2017.

In other business, the commission:

  • Elected Joe Shute as vice chairman of the commission.
  • Set the number of Standard Commercial Fishing Licenses available through an Eligibility Pool for the 2016-2017 fiscal year at 100.
  • Approved the Coastal Habitat Protection Plan 2016 Annual Report.
  • Asked the chairman to send a letter to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Weakfish Management Board asking it to address weakfish bycatch mortality in the shrimp trawl fishery in its next stock assessment.
  • Asked the division to evaluate the need for state management of false albacore.
  • Approved notice of text and associated fiscal analysis for a slate of proposed rules, including rules to implement amendments to the Oyster and Hard Clam fishery management plans, to take to public hearing in October.

nr-65-2016

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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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