May 15, 2008

Dare stays in top spot in North Carolina for seafood landings


Dare County maintained its status as the top seafood producing county in North Carolina in 2007.

Commercial fishermen landed more than 21.8 million pounds of finfish and shellfish in the county last year.  That figure compares to landings of 25.5 million pounds in 2006 and 26.6 million pounds in 2005.

Dare County has lead the state in seafood landings since 2005 when it outpaced Carteret County for the first time.  Last year Carteret County ranked second in landings with 6.5 million pounds. 

The number of participants who had a standard commercial fishing license and landed fish or shellfish in Dare County in 2007 was 643.  Not all of the participants were Dare County residents, said Alan Bianchi, trip ticket coordinator at the NC Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF).

Statewide commercial landings fell to a record low in 2007.

Fishermen landed 62.9 million pounds of fish and shellfish, an 8.5 percent drop from 2006, according to DMF harvest data.

Landings of many top commercial species declined from 2006 levels.

Hard crab landings fell 16 percent to 20.5 million pounds, croaker fell 30 percent to 7.3 million pounds, summer flounder fell 33 percent to 2.6 million, and bluefish fell 16.5 percent to 2.3 million pounds.

“In some cases, small quotas combined with high fuel prices account for decreased landings,” said Mikey Daniels at Wanchese Fish Company.

Daniels, a commercial fisherman and state fisheries commissioner, said some of his family’s summer flounder boats stayed tied to the dock because the economics of fishing didn’t add up.

In Hatteras, fisherman Jeff Oden said a 100-pound snowy grouper trip limit discouraged some fishermen from heading out to sea.

Oden also said spiny dogfish and shark regulations have taken a huge bite out of landings in the state.

Total finfish landings fell by 5.2 million pounds in weight and $1.5 million in dockside value.

Still, the overall dockside value of landings rose to $82.3 million in 2007, higher than any year since 2003.

Fueled largely by a 66 percent increase in shrimp landings, the value of shellfish increased by $13 million. 

“It was a banner year for white shrimp, and brown shrimp catches were about average,” said Daniels.

White shrimp, also called greentails, landings in Pamlico Sound were higher than any year since 1999.

Daniels said a mild winter combined with extremely low rainfall pushed up salinity levels.

“That makes environmental conditions ripe for a good shrimping season,” he said.


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