February 25, 2016

Fisheries Commission lowers cobia
bag limit for recreational anglers

Recreational fishermen should expect to see a reduced cobia bag limit starting Saturday, Feb. 27, and a season closure this summer.

The Marine Fisheries Commission voted at its meeting last week to lower the cobia daily recreational bag limit to one fish per person. The current recreational bag limit for cobia is two fish per person.

The commission's vote is intended to extend the recreational cobia season by a few days this summer and to keep the recreational harvest below the federal annual catch limit this year, in an effort to avoid a closure next summer.

Recreational fishermen exceeded the annual catch limit of 630,000 pounds for cobia in 2015. The preliminary estimate of harvest for 2015 is 1.54 million pounds. Under the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council's accountability measures, when the annual catch limit is exceeded in one year, the length of the following year’s season must be reduced to ensure that the recreational harvest does not exceed that year’s annual catch limit.

N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries staff has informed the National Marine Fisheries Service staff about the action the commission took. The National Marine Fisheries Service is responsible for determining the length of the cobia season and has agreed to consider the reduced bag limit in calculating the length of the season closure.

For more information on the new cobia size limit, see Proclamation FF-09-2016 at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/proclamations.

The commission also proposed lowering the daily harvest limit of oysters for those fishing under a commercial shellfish license. The proposal would lower the daily harvest limit statewide to two bushels per person, with a maximum of four bushels per vessel. The proposed changes would not apply to oyster leases or to those who hold standard commercial fishing licenses.

The commission made the proposal as part of a draft amendment to the Oyster Fishery Management Plan and postponed preliminary approval of the plan to allow public comment, which be accepted at regional advisory committee meetings in April.

In other business, the commission voted to:

  • Nominate Joseph Andrew High and Randy McKinley for the obligatory seat on the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council.
  • Adopt the 2015 Coastal Habitat Protection Plan and source document to send to the secretary of the Department of Environmental Quality and to the N.C. General Assembly for approval.
  • Proceed with a declaratory ruling to allow American Eel Farm to harvest, possess and sell undersized eel in North Carolina for grow out under the North Carolina Aquaculture Plan for American Eel.
  • Convene a sub-committee consisting of at least four commissioners to discuss the issues associated with defining commercial fishermen and report its findings to the full commission in August.
  • Delegate authority to the commission’s Commercial Fishing Resource Fund Committee to develop and implement a memorandum of understanding with the North Carolina Commercial Fishing Resource Fund Funding Committee that sets procedures for agreeing to and authorizing disbursements from the fund.

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