State MFC narrowly votes to comply with weakfish limits
By SUSAN WEST
North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission decided by the slimmest of
margins on Friday morning, May 15, that bucking a regional weakfish
management plan wasn’t in the best interest of the state.
bring the state into compliance with the Atlantic States Marine
Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) weakfish plan, rules limiting commercial
fishermen to a 100-pound trip limit and recreational fishermen to a
one-fish bag limit went into effect Sunday, May 16.
the state Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC) had voted to not implement
Bizzell, MFC chairman, said the commission originally opposed adopting
the rules because of concerns that the rules missed the mark as
conservation measures and would impact North Carolina fishermen more
than other fishermen.
after the ASMFC formally voted North Carolina out of compliance with
the plan and sent the issue to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of
Commerce for review on May 10, the state board reconsidered the issue.
motion to implement the rules was made by Mac Currin, and passed in a 5
to 4 vote with chairman Bizzell casting the deciding vote.
started ticking with the out-of-compliance finding,” Bizzell said in a
receiving notification of North Carolina’s non-compliance status, the
Commerce Secretary would have had 30 days to determine whether failure
to implement the ASMFC rules jeopardized conservation efforts and if
warranted, could close all commercial and recreational weakfish fishing
in the state.
idea that the Secretary could shut down fishing frightened people, but
the state would have had the opportunity to make our case before the
Secretary,” said MFC member Bradley Styron, a commercial fisherman and
seafood dealer in Cedar Island who voted against adopting the new
said North Carolina would be perceived as a “rogue state, and that
would have put us in a bad negotiating position.”
the state would have been able to convince the Secretary that the
state’s inaction did not jeopardize conservation won’t be known, but
Louis Daniel, director of the state Division of Marine Fisheries, had
no success convincing the ASMFC.
the ASMFC meeting, Daniel addressed the potential for large regulatory
discards – that is, fish that must be thrown back to the sea even if
dead – under the 100-pound trip limit.
proposed an alternative measure that would have allowed commercial
fishermen to keep weakfish incidentally caught on trips targeting other
species, as long as weakfish made up less than 25 percent of the total
was a very good argument, backed up by impeccable data, but it was
never seriously considered by the other states, and it was apparent to
me that that was a foregone conclusion before the meeting even
started,” said Mike Johnson, Dare County commissioner who also serves
as proxy for William Wainwright, the North Carolina legislative
appointee on the ASMFC.
expects to address the bycatch of weakfish in other fisheries later
ASMFC weakfish management has hurt North Carolina more than other
1994, we gave up more than 300,000 square miles of fishing grounds
south of Hatteras that were closed to flynetting. We were
that time just to wait two years and we’d see more weakfish than ever,”
that rule eventually took 28 Carteret County trawlers out of the
business, and this county lost a complete fishery,” Styron continued.
weakfish stock is considered depleted, with spawning stock biomass well
below levels biologists say are necessary to sustain the
population. Data shows a sharp decline in the biomass after
managers don’t believe fishing restrictions alone will bring the stock
back to a healthy size. Research points to insufficient
and increased predation by striped bass and dogfish as the explanation
for the decline in weakfish.
he has seen weakfish, sea mullet, and jumping mullet in spiny dogfish
brought to his fish house.
significant amount of dogfish are being taken out of the system,
resulting in a tremendous predation problem. They are
havoc on everything,” he said.