landings inch back up
North Carolina commercial seafood harvests rose
by 4 percent, in 2010 to the highest level since 2005.
The same was true for recreational harvests, which inched up 6 percent
after a 15 percent decline in 2009.
“The increase is a surprise considering increased regulations,
including many seasonal closures, imposed by the federal councils and
the National Marine Fisheries Service, as well as restrictions from the
sea turtle lawsuit settlement,” said North Carolina Division of Marine
Fisheries Director Louis Daniel. “Additional increases in fuel and
commodity prices might have been expected to actually cause the numbers
Commercial fishermen brought in 72 million pounds of fish and
shellfish, with a dockside value of $80 million in 2010, according to
the division’s Commercial Trip Ticket Program. That was a 3 percent
increase from the previous five-year landings average of 70 million
The increased harvest came with a 3 percent decrease in the number of
commercial fishing trips. Commercial fishermen took 152,084 fishing
trips in 2010.
Included in the commercial gains was an 8 percent increase in
shellfish, shrimp and crab landings, bolstered by an 81 percent jump in
Oystermen sold more than 1 million pounds of oyster meats (196,661
bushels), with a dockside value of about $5 million, to North Carolina
seafood dealers in 2010. The landings were 125 percent higher than the
previous five-year average and corresponded to a 139-percent increase
in the use of oyster dredges.
Division sampling indicates that disease-related oyster mortalities
have been significantly reduced, compared to the past 20 years, and
spat fall has been good, said division Central District Manager Mike
“The oyster resource in western Pamlico Sound has rebounded at an
amazing rate,” Marshall said. “Oysters are being caught in areas where
they have not been found in 30 years. Every fisherman you talk to goes
on about how fast the oysters are growing, which is key to getting the
type of production we are seeing.”
Blue crab landings increased in 2010, as well. Fishermen sold 30.7
million pounds of blue crabs at the docks, a 2 percent increase from
2009. The landings had a dockside value of $26.5 million.
Blue crabs remained the state’s top commercial seafood in both pounds
harvested and dockside value, followed by Atlantic croaker (7.3 million
pounds), shrimp (6 million pounds), summer flounder (3.3 million
pounds) and bluefish (3.2 million pounds).
While overall commercial finfish harvests remained consistent, with a
slight 0.5 percent increase from 2009, Atlantic croaker and bluefish
harvests increased by 19 percent and 36 percent, respectively.
Southern flounder landings decreased by 29 percent. Much of this
decrease can be attributed to a 45 percent reduction in flounder
landings from gill nets. Regulations from a settlement in the sea
turtle lawsuit may have contributed to the reduced gill net landings.
An overall 61 percent reduction in commercial dolphin landings
corresponds to fewer dolphin-targeted trips made with longline and
trolling gear last year. King mackerel landings decreased by 58
percent, corresponding to 65 percent fewer trips targeting king
mackerel with trolling gear.
Tuna landings decreased, as well – yellowfin by 33 percent, bigeye by
43 percent, and bluefin by 65 percent.
Recreational harvests rose from 13.6 million pounds in 2009 to 14.4
million pounds in 2010, according to the division’s Coastal Angling
Program. The increased harvest corresponds to a 7 percent rise in the
overall number of recreational fishing trips.
However, fishing trips into federal waters (beyond three miles from
shore) dropped by 18 percent.
“The recreational rise was due mainly to the poundage associated with
the striped bass catches and the increase in bluefish landings,” said
division Recreational Statistics Coordinator Doug Mumford. “The
bluefish increase resulted from the increase in beach, bank, and pier
The jump in ocean striped bass harvests likely resulted from more fish
migrating into North Carolina waters during the past winter than in
previous years, Mumford said.
“There was an overall shift in recreational fishing effort in North
Carolina to trips that were less expensive,” he said.
Dolphin landings decreased by nearly 15 percent to 3.3 million pounds.
Even so, dolphin remained the top recreational catch, followed by
yellowfin tuna, up 48 percent to 1.2 million pounds; bluefish up 21
percent to 1.2 million pounds; ocean striped bass, up 239 percent to
711,184 pounds; and Spanish mackerel, down 35 percent to 579,638 pounds.
Recreational angler fishing trips rose by about 4 percent from piers
and other man-made structures, by about 8 percent from the beach or
bank, nearly 10 percent from guide and charter boats, and 9 percent
from private vessels. Party boat trips decreased by 15 percent.
A full report of 2010 commercial and recreational landings statistics
can be found on the division website at http://www.ncfisheries.net/download/2010_Annual_NC_Fisheries_Bulletin.pdf.
For more information, contact License and Statistics Section Chief Don
Hesselman at (252) 808-8099 or [email protected].