Mild weather allowed North Carolina’s commercial fishermen to work into late autumn and early winter in 2015, resulting in more seafood caught and sold for the second year in a row.
Commercial fishermen sold 66 million pounds of finfish and shellfish to seafood dealers last year, 6.8 percent more than in 2014 and higher than the five-year average of 60.5 million pounds. The dockside value of these landings rose 10.7 percent to an estimated $104 million, topping the five-year average annual value of $84.2 million.
Most notable among 2015 commercial fishing statistics were increases in shrimp and hard crab landings during the latter months of the year.
Shrimp landings increased by 94 percent in 2015 to 9.1 million pounds, the highest since 2008. Shrimp landings in 2015 had an estimated ex-vessel value (fisherman sale to fish house) of $16.8 million, a 19 percent increase over 2014.
The effects of milder weather can be seen in late-season landings and in fishing effort. November 2015 shrimp landings increased by 307 percent from November 2014, and December 2015 shrimp landings were 10 times the amount of the previous year. The number of shrimp trawl fishing trips taken in December 2015 increased by 642 percent compared to 2014.
Hard blue crab landings increased by 23 percent to 31 million pounds. With an estimated ex-vessel value of $29.5 million, hard blue crab remained at the top of the list of the state’s commercial marine fisheries annual rankings in both pounds caught and sold and dockside value.
Milder weather also had an impact on late season landings and fishing effort for crab. November 2015 crab landings increased by 198 percent from 2014, and December 2015 landings were 387 percent higher than in 2014. The number of crab pot fishing trips taken in December 2015 increased by 150 percent and resulted in December landings 386.5 percent higher than in 2014.
With the exception of shrimp and crabs, the remaining species in the top five species landed were lower in 2015 than in 2014. Spiny dogfish landings dropped 25 percent to 4.2 million pounds. Summer flounder dropped 1 percent to 2.9 million pounds, and Atlantic croaker dropped 31 percent to 1.8 million pounds.
The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries collects commercial fishing landings statistics through legislatively-mandated reporting of all fisherman to dealer transactions. The Trip Ticket Program began in 1994.
For a full landings report, click on the 2015 Annual Fisheries Bulletin link at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/marine-fisheries-catch-statistics.2