The North Carolina Marine Fisheries
Commission voted last week to impose restrictions on the recreational
cobia fishery to try to avoid a closing of the fishery on June 20 by
a federal agency.
The new restriction are effective today
-- Monday, May 23.
On Thursday, the commission voted to
impose the following restrictions on recreational cobia:
A 37-inch fork length (measured
from the tip of the snout to the fork in the tail) minimum size
limit for all recreational fisheries.
Anglers fishing from private boats
may only fish on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays under daily
possession limit of two fish per vessel or one fish per person if
only one person is on board.
Those fishing from the shore or
shore-based structures (pier or surf) may fish seven days a week
with a daily possession limit of one fish per person.
Those fishing on a for-hire boat
(charter or guide) may fish seven days a week with a daily
possession limit of four fish per vessel or one fish per person if
fewer than four people are on board.
Those practicing catch-and-release
may fish seven days a week.
The commission’s decision was in
response to a federal announcement that, because the annual
recreational catch limit was exceeded last year, the South Atlantic
Fisheries Management Council (SAFMC) intends to close the
recreational cobia season in federal waters north of the
Georgia-Florida border on June 20.
In order to remain consistent with the
federal fishery management plan, the federal government encouraged
states to close state waters for recreational cobia season on June
20. The commission did not approve the division’s recommendation to
either close state waters on June 20 or select one of eight size and
vessel limit combinations already analyzed by federal government that
would have resulted in a lengthened season if adopted by both North
Carolina and Virginia.
The commission’s decision to impose
these additional restrictions is an effort to extend the recreational
cobia season in state waters. The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries
will submit these new restrictions to the federal government and
request an expedited review to determine whether these actions will
be sufficient to allow the season to be extended in state waters
beyond June 20.
If the federal government determines
that these restrictions are not sufficient to remain consistent with
the federal fishery management plan for the Gulf of Mexico and
Atlantic regions, additional restrictions may be necessary.
For more specifics on the regulations,
see Proclamation FF-25-2016 at
In addition, on Friday, U.S. Rep.
Walter B. Jones, R-N.C., urged the SAFMC to consider several changes
to management of Atlantic cobia.
In a letter to the South Atlantic
Council, Jones argued that the closure is based on suspect science
and discriminates against fishermen in North Carolina and Virginia.
“Unless the South Atlantic Council
takes action to improve the management of cobia, fishermen in North
Carolina and Virginia, as well as the businesses and communities that
support them, will be subject to lost fishing opportunities and undue
economic harm,” said Congressman Jones.
To improve the situation, the
congressman asked the Council to consider the following actions:
the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for an emergency
measure to provide additional 2016 recreational fishing
opportunities for Atlantic cobia in federal waters;
a Framework Amendment to the existing cobia management plan to,
among other things, eliminate discriminatory impacts to North
Carolina and Virginia fishermen in 2017 and beyond; and,
with NMFS to improve the science used in the management of all
fisheries, including cobia.
Council is scheduled to review cobia management at its upcoming June
13-17 summer meeting
in Cocoa Beach, Fla. A copy of Congressman Jones’ letter to
the Council can be found here.