Sarah Gagliardo

Releases – October 27, 2016

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North Carolina will remain open for flounder fishing this fall.

The state did not close flounder season on Oct. 16 for the recreational hook-and-line and gig fisheries, as was planned. The recreational flounder season will remain open with the current 15-inch minimum size limit and six-fish bag limit.

Flounder season will remain open for the anchored, large-mesh gill net fisheries, as well. However, there will still be a Dec. 1-31 commercial flounder season closure, as in previous years.

The changes are due to a recent court order whereby a judge issued a temporary injunction against these and other regulations adopted by the Marine Fisheries Commission. The commission adopted the changes in November 2015 as part of a supplement to the Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan.

The temporary injunction will remain in effect until a full hearing on a lawsuit filed by the North Carolina Fisheries Association against the state and the commission. No court date has been set for this hearing.

The judge also struck down a pound net quota and closure established under the flounder plan supplement.

Other provisions of the flounder plan supplement remain in place, including: (1) a 15-inch minimum size limit for the commercial fisheries; (2) a 6-inch minimum mesh size for anchored large-mesh gill nets; and (3) a 5 ¾-inch escape panel for flounder pound nets.


CCA NC reports that many places along the coast are seeing more menhaden than they have in years, and it’s a wonderful sight.

After decades of managing this important forage base as simply a feedstock for a single industrial harvester, managers cut harvest by 20 percent and agreed to manage menhaden as a critical forage base for the entire marine ecosystem. Anglers depend on a healthy forage base, so CCA NC believes this sea-change in attitude was a true victory for conservation.

However, the tools to properly manage menhaden properly are still under development, and already there is serious talk of an increase in commercial harvest.

After failing to reach a consensus on the setting of the Total Allowable Harvest (TAC) for Atlantic menhaden in August, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission will address the issue at their Oct. 26 meeting in Maine. Some Board members have been discussing a possible “compromise” to increase the harvest 6.5 percent, to an even 200,000 metric tons of menhaden. Others will be seeking even larger increases.

Those states on the outskirts of menhaden’s geographical range have only just begun to see the return of a healthy forage base. However, those gains will be jeopardized so that just two states can reap the vast majority of the increase in commercial harvest.

The top state was Virginia with a 2015-16 quota of 349,873,884 lbs., and an increase of 6.5 percent would allow the state an additional 22,741,802 lbs. The second state was New Jersey with 45,893,335 lbs. for their 2015-16 quota, with a 6.5 percent increase allowing an additional 2,983,067 lbs. In comparison, North Carolina’s 2015-16 quota was 2,020,645 lbs., and their 6.5 percent increase would allow an additional 131,342 lbs.

Instead of awarding the states with the old allocations based on poor data, CCA recommends managers should work through reallocation in Amendment 3, and find a proper ecosystem-based management plan before awarding more quota on bad information, especially when the largest level of harvest is concentrated at the entrance to the largest estuary on the Atlantic coast, the Chesapeake Bay.


The North Carolina Coastal Federation is currently accepting applications for “on-water” cleanup assistance related to its annual Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project. This project is open to commercial watermen in North Carolina.

Watermen are selected to participate in this program annually to help the federation and the North Carolina Marine Patrol remove lost fishing gear from coastal waters during the “no-potting” period, typically from Jan. 15 – Feb. 7. In January 2016, 11 crews, in partnership with Marine Patrol officers, removed 753 pots from select areas in District 1. Combined with a shoreline cleanup, this project removed over 7.5 tons of fishing gear and various marine debris from northeastern North Carolina waters. The 2017 project will take place in select areas within all three Marine Patrol Districts, statewide.

To qualify, watermen must have a valid Standard Commercial Fishing License (SCFL) and guarantee availability for work during the period of Jan. 18 through Feb. 7, 2017. They must attend a mandatory training session to learn general project protocol and how to use project equipment (data collection tablets, and for a subset of watermen, side-scan sonars).

Compensation is $400 per boat, per day. Each boat is required to have two people onboard for safety reasons. In some locations, greater than one week of work could be possible for those accepted to this program. This project is funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Marine Debris Program and is intended to improve habitat and water quality, as well as support coastal economies.

Applications are due Friday, Jan. 13, 2017, and are downloadable at www.nccoast.org/crab. Completed applications can be mailed to P.O. Box 276, Wanchese, NC 27981 or faxed to (252) 473-2402. For more information, contact Ladd Bayliss at (252) 473-1607 or laddb@nccoast.org.


NOAA Fisheries is seeking public comment on Amendment 37 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region (Amendment 37).

NOAA Fisheries is proposing to manage hogfish in the South Atlantic as two populations: Georgia through North Carolina, and Florida Keys/East Florida. A population assessment determined that the Florida Keys/East Florida population is undergoing overfishing (rate of removal is too high) and is overfished (population abundance is too low) and, therefore, in need of a rebuilding plan. The overfishing and overfished status of the Georgia/North Carolina population is unknown.

Actions in Amendment 37 would: (1) Modify the management unit for hogfish; (92) Establish a rebuilding plan for the Florida Keys/East Florida population to increase hogfish biomass to sustainable levels; (3) Specify commercial and recreational annual catch limits and accountability measures for the Georgia/North Carolina and Florida Keys/East Florida populations of hogfish; (4) Modify or establish minimum size limits, commercial trip limits, and recreational bag limits for both populations of hogfish; and (5) Establish a recreational fishing season for the Florida Keys/East Florida population.

For more information, please see the frequently asked questions section at:

http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sustainable_fisheries/s_atl/sg/2015/am37/index.html.

The comment period on Amendment 37 ends on December 6, 2016.

You may submit comments on this document, identified by NOAA-NMFS-2016-0068, by either of the following methods:

Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal.

  1. Go to: https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=NOAA-NMFS-2016-0068.
  2. Click the “Comment Now!” icon, complete the required fields.
  3. Enter or attach your comments.

Submit written comments to Nikhil Mehta, Southeast Regional Office, NMFS, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.