Fish Post

Releases – July 20, 2017

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The North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries has changed its annual Stock Status Overview Report to make it more user friendly and better correspond to stock status determinations at the federal and interstate management levels.

A new webpage design separates state-managed species from those cooperatively managed through a federal or interstate entity. The Division of Marine Fisheries assigned a stock status only to the 14 state-managed marine fisheries stocks. For the remaining 23 stocks, the state defers to the stock status assigned by the principal management agency, including the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council.

Additionally, the Division of Marine Fisheries has redesigned the individual species pages, making them more visual with photographs and color graphics showing fishery landings and abundance trends. The new pages also give life history and updated management summaries.

The Division of Marine Fisheries classifies the status of important marine finfish, shellfish, shrimp, and crabs as viable, recovering, concern, depleted, or unknown. Definitions of these categories can be found at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/stock-status-categories-and-definitions.

The annual classifications are based on biological and statistical data from the prior year and describe the overall condition of North Carolina’s state-managed fishery resources.

This year’s Stock Status Overview Report reclassifies one state-managed species. Striped mullet moved from “viable” to “concern” because monitoring triggers established in Amendment 1 to the North Carolina Striped Mullet Fishery Management Plan were met. The 2016 commercial landings fell below the minimum landings threshold established in the plan. Also, Division of Marine Fisheries sampling surveys showed low striped mullet abundance.

Under the striped mullet plan’s guidelines, the division will review striped mullet data in more detail to determine what factors are responsible for this decline and to decide if management action is needed.

No other state-managed species were reclassified, but the status of red drum, currently listed as “recovering,” is now based on a new regional stock assessment which indicates that the stock continues to meet or exceed the management targets set forth in Amendment 1 to the North Carolina Red Drum Fishery Management Plan.

The complete 2016 Stock Status Overview Report can be found at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/stock-status-overview. The stock condition of overfished and overfishing, if known for a state-managed species, is highlighted in the comments column of the state-managed species table. A stock is overfished when the population size is too small. Overfishing occurs when the removal rate of fish is too high.

For more information, contact division Fisheries Management Section Chief Kathy Rawls at (252) 808-8074 or Kathy.Rawls@ncdenr.gov.

 

The NC General Assembly 2017 long-session recessed last week with the House failing to take any action on House Bill 867, the Coastal Fisheries Conservation and Economic Development Act. HB867 enjoyed bipartisan support in the House and among a coalition under the NC Sound Economy banner that included the Coastal Conservation Association NC, American Sportfishing Association, National Marine Manufacturers, NC Wildlife Federation, and the North Carolina Chamber.

Despite an economic study that showed the potential for a multi-billion dollar economic impact for North Carolina from the adoption of the conservation management principles in HB867, promised support from House Republican leadership never materialized. Instead, Republican leaders allowed a small but vocal faction of the party, including Representatives Beverly Boswell, Michael Speciale, and Larry Pittman, to disrupt the Republican Caucus with claims that the passage of the bill would destroy the commercial fishing industry.

When pressed for specifics from HB867 that would harm the commercial fishing industry, none were ever identified. CCA NC made numerous attempts to sit down with opposition Representatives to discuss their concerns, but the offers were never accepted.

Representatives Larry Yarborough, Jay Adams, and Ted Davis championed Republican efforts to move HB867 forward, but as the session entered its final weeks, no support came from Speaker Tim Moore or Majority Leader John Bell to even move the bill out of committee. Instead, a half-hearted “compromise bill” was floated that contained none of the progressive management principles from HB867.

The “compromise bill” focused on reinstatement of the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Seafood and Aquaculture and reforming the Marine Fisheries Commission by replacing two of the At-Large seats on the Commission with additional recreational and commercial fishing representatives. Nothing in the “compromise bill” would have done anything to help improve our coastal fish stocks or grow our total fishing economy.

So, in the end, the same old rhetoric regarding an attack on commercial fishing was accepted and the only objective facts in the debate were ignored: the Division of Marine Fisheries stock status reports that show only 5 of the 22 state-managed finfish and shellfish are considered viable, and an economic study that supported a $4.2 billion economic impact to our fishing economy from a more conservative management approach.

Other legislative activity intensified last week as both chambers attempted to complete their work before the Fourth of July holiday, meaning efforts by CCA NC were also intensified to identify and head-off any harmful legislation hidden in other environmental and regulatory reform bills.

Of particular concern was a Senate amendment to HB56 that would have effectively rendered the Marine Fisheries Commission powerless. The amendment proposes reducing the 9-member Commission down to a 7-member board by eliminating two of the At-Large seats, and then requiring a 5-person supermajority vote to pass any Commission action.

Certain Legislators are still upset with the current pro-resource majority on the Commission and are calling for new rules to reign in this “rogue” commission. HB56 passed in both the House and Senate, and currently awaits a conference committee to try to work out differences in the Senate and House versions. The MFC provisions are just one of the contentious issues in HB56.

The General Assembly will reconvene first on August 3rd and again on September 6th to take up unfinished bills, consider any bills vetoed by Governor Cooper, and start the redistricting process.

 

Potential and established shellfish growers, as well as folks interested in learning about shellfish farming, can sign up for a free workshop on Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

This is a new date for the event, to be held at the University of North Carolina Coastal Studies Institute at 850 N.C. 345 in Wanchese.

With a focus on oyster farming, the workshop is being offered by North Carolina Sea Grant, in cooperation with CSI, the N.C. Shellfish Growers Association, and Carteret Community College. The meeting is funded through a grant from the NOAA Sea Grant Extension and Technology Transfer Program.

“Information will be provided on a number of oyster and clam farming topics, including site selection, leasing procedures, culture gear and techniques, harvest and storage regulations, farm budgets, marketing strategies, and USDA programs available to producers,” says Chuck Weirich, Sea Grant marine aquaculture specialist.

“Environmental and economic benefits of shellfish farming also will be discussed, and attendees will receive an update on legislative actions relevant to the developing industry.”

Lunch will be provided. There is no cost to attend, but registration is required and will be limited to 100 attendees. To sign up, contact Vanda Lewis at (252) 222-6307 or vanda_lewis@ncsu.edu, or Weirich at (252) 222-6314 or chuck_weirich@ncsu.edu, by Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017.

Go to www.coastalstudiesinstitute.org/about/contact-us for directions. Signs will direct you to parking and the meeting site.

For more information on shellfish farming, go to ncseagrant.ncsu.edu/aquaculture.