A lower king mackerel quota would hurt Dare commercial fishermen
By SUSAN WEST
Waugh, South Atlantic Fishery Management Council deputy executive
director, told fishermen during a meeting in New Bern that the council
expects new, lower harvest limits for king mackerel.
not saying there are problems with king mackerel, but there’s
still a limit on what it can produce without overfishing,” Waugh
said during the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC)
scoping meeting on Feb. 7.
said the council’s Science and Statistical Committee could lower
the current 10 million pound limit to around 7 million pounds at their
Under a 7.1 million pound total allowable catch, the commercial quota for the South Atlantic would fall to 2.6 million pounds.
Recent landing trends indicate that the lower quota could be reached as
early as the end of October. Harvest would then be prohibited until the
start of the new fishing season in March.
And, that would spell big trouble for North Carolina, where landings
from November through the winter account for 60 percent of the king
mackerel catch in the state.
The SAFMC has identified three new allocation methods that might reduce
that disproportionate impact on North Carolina – state-by-state
quotas, semi-annual quotas, or regional quotas.
Many fishermen at the New Bern meeting said state-by-state quotas would
work best, a position supported by the North Carolina Division of
SAFMC deputy executive director Waugh said some members of the council are interested in that option.
He cautioned, however, that the South Atlantic council hasn’t
assigned separate quotas to each of the four states under its
jurisdiction for other fisheries.
“And, NMFS (National Marine Fisheries Service) has expressed
concern that there would be four quotas to be tracked,” he said.
But Louis Daniel, director of the North Carolina Division of Marine
Fisheries, said quota monitoring shouldn’t be a huge issue.
“I don’t understand why the South Atlantic is so reluctant
to use state-by-state quotas when the Mid-Atlantic (council) uses them
all the time,” Daniel said in a telephone interview.
He noted that states from North Carolina all the way north to Maine
track quotas in the Mid-Atlantic summer flounder fishery, while only
four South Atlantic states would have to monitor the mackerel quota.
At the meeting in New Bern, Buxton commercial fisherman Paul Dunn said
an early closure to the king mackerel fishery would not be an issue if
the South Atlantic council prohibited the sale of mackerel caught by
Fish that are sold are counted towards filling commercial quotas.
“The council is plugging that gap for snapper-grouper right now,’ said Waugh.
Commercial fisherman Kelly Schoolcraft of Frisco questioned how the
data used in the mackerel stock assessment is collected. He said
he never saw scientists measuring king mackerel on his boat or at fish
“Dare County is one of the highest producers of king mackerel, so
it seems it would be important to sample fish from Hatteras and
Wanchese,” said Schoolcraft.
The state does sample fish during recreational fishing tournaments, but
does not have a king mackerel sampling program because the federal
council manages the species, according to DMF director Daniel.
“There are federal port agents, but I don’t know how often or whether they sample in Hatteras,” Daniel said.
Waugh said sampling is supposed to be representative of all areas, but that federal funds were becoming more and more limited.
Depending on when a new mackerel stock assessment is completed, the SAFMC could have new regulations in place by January, 2010.