March 10, 2016

UPDATE: Recreational harvest
of cobia will close June 20

NOAA Fisheries announced this week that the recreational harvest of Atlantic migratory group cobia will close at 12:01 a.m. on June 20, 2016. Recreational harvest of cobia will reopen on January 1, 2017.
The Atlantic migratory group includes cobia from Georgia through New York. Cobia off the east coast of Florida are part of the Gulf of Mexico migratory group. 

There are separate annual catch limits for the recreational and commercial sectors of Atlantic migratory group cobia. If the annual catch limits are exceeded, accountability measures are in place to ensure overfishing does not occur. 

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.

In 2015, both the recreational and the total annual catch limits of Atlantic migratory group cobia were exceeded. Thus, the accountability measure is triggered for 2016. 

Because the commercial annual catch limit -- which is 60,000 pounds -- was not exceeded, this closure is only for the recreational sector. During the closure, recreational harvest or possession of cobia is prohibited.

This closure is required by regulations implemented under the Fishery Management Plan for Coastal Migratory Pelagic Resources of the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Region and is necessary to protect the cobia resource.

The NOAA proclamation applies only to federal waters.  However, Patricia Smith, public information officer for the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, said that typically North Carolina implements the same regulations in this fishery, so that would mean that the recreational harvest of cobia in state waters would also close on June 20.

Smith added that the Marine Fisheries Commission will be discussing cobia at its May meeting.
Full regulations can be found in the Federal Register. 

Click here for frequently asked questions about the cobia closure.

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