Decline of NC Fishing….New Amendment Just a Shuffle of Numbers
N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission recently amended the previously adopted sector allocations for Amendment 3 to the Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan to gradually equalize allocations between the commercial and recreational fisheries.
The commission voted to change the allocation to 70% commercial and 30% recreational in 2021 and 2022, 60% commercial and 40% recreational in 2023, and 50% commercial and 50% recreational in 2024.
In February, the commission had selected sector harvest allocations of 70% commercial and 30% recreational for the duration of Amendment 3. That allocation was 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.
The restrictions placed on recreational anglers over the past several months have continued to be an emotional topic. The 2020 statics reflect numbers that fell well below the goals and projections set by the state’s commission. This shortfall was especially significant considering the recreational fishermen were only allowed 45 days of Flounder fishing, thus reflecting that the commission 2020 recovery plan was underestimated.
The North Carolina Flounder recreational fishing restrictions have also seen an impact on other states such as neighboring South Carolina. Sources report that the growing concern with South Carolina anglers is a result of the increased number of North Carolina fishermen crossing state lines to Flounder fish. This has created concerns over additional pressure on South Carolina flounder and other species. Reports reveal that North Carolina residents are crossing the state lines in increasing numbers, purchasing fishing licenses to access the less restricted Flounder fishing. The limitation of North Carolina recreational fisherman’s Flounder has continued to see a negative impact in the state itself with anglers placing increased pressure on other species such as Speckled Trout. This causes a ripple effect on the entire North Carolina fishery.
The future holds more and more questions and fewer answers. The North Carolina Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan has failed miserably with recovery quotas nowhere close to the goals for success and yet the plan moving forward is simply shifting who is allowed to catch the Founder with no increased regulations on how or where those fish are caught. There is no increased focus on the Flounder mortality rate when caught with commercial fishing gear, and no consideration of the impact of that gear on the Flounder spawning process. What the recent amendment means is this year commercial fisherman can boat 70% of a declining fishery and recreational anglers can boat 30%.
Based on what we see, the North Carolina Division of Marine Fishery plans to continue with this failing program for the next 3 years, thus continuing the further decline in the fishery while incurring long-term damage to both commercial and recreational fishing for North Carolina and now other states. The biggest question is WHY!