The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission this week adopted a new schedule for changes to sector allocations for allowable harvest under Draft Amendment 3 to the Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan. Otherwise, the commission tentatively adopted the Division of Marine Fisheries’ recommendations as its preferred management options for the draft amendment.
The draft flounder plan amendment will be forwarded to the secretary of the Department of Environmental Quality and legislative committees for review before coming back before the commission for final approval, which is scheduled for May.
The commission voted to delay the transition to a 50/50 commercial/recreational allocation by two years so that it will remain at 70% commercial and 30% recreational in 2023 and in 2024, then adjust to 60% commercial and 40% recreational 2025, and to 50% commercial and 50% recreational 2026. The delay was proposed to allow time for the fishery to stabilize before additional management changes are implemented.
The commission had voted in March 2021 to gradually equalize allocations between the commercial and recreational fisheries beginning with changes in 2023. The 70% commercial and 30% recreational allocation is similar to the harvest landed by each sector in 2017, the terminal year of the stock assessment on which draft management measures in Amendment 3 are based.
Division of Marine Fisheries Draft Amendment 3 recommendations tentatively approved by the commission include:
- Annual harvest quotas for the commercial fisheries divided by gear categories and by harvest areas.
- Commercial trip limits.
- A one-fish per person per day recreational flounder bag limit.
- An Aug. 16 to Sept 30 recreational flounder season window (may be shortened depending on available quota).
- A March 1 to April 15 recreational Gulf and summer flounder season for hook-and-line in the ocean (will not begin until at least 2023)
- Prohibited harvest of flounder with a Recreational Commercial Gear License.
- An adaptive management framework with accountability measures to implement paybacks if the total allowable landings is exceeded
- Maintaining the current commercial gear requirements, including limitations on the use of large mesh gill nets outside of the commercial flounder season.
The division’s recommendations did not include the option to phase out gill nets, and it was not selected as a preferred management option by the commission.
In a final southern flounder vote, the commission adopted a resolution recognizing that there may be a need to consider a moratorium in the future if there are continued overages in the allowable catch of flounder in the commercial and recreational fisheries. Both sectors overshot their allowable catch in 2021.
In other business, the commission:
- Gave final approval of the Shrimp Fishery Management Plan Amendment 2.
- Sent the draft Estuarine Striped Bass Fishery Management Plan Amendment 2 for review by the public and advisory committees; however, the commission deleted proposed options to allow the limited use of gill nets in the Neuse and Pamlico rivers, upstream of the ferry travel lines during shad season. The public comment period will occur in March.
- Approved a management option and associated proposed rule language to begin the process of amending the Mutilated Finfish Rule.
- Gave final approval for the adoption, readoption, repeal, and amendment of a slate of rules under a state mandated periodic review (G.S. 150B-21.3A).
A recording of the meeting and meeting briefing information is available on the Marine Fisheries Commission Meetings webpage.