Fish Post

Releases- August 1, 2019

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The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries is continuing efforts to make its annual stock overview both easier to navigate and more informative for the public.

In this year’s overview, the division no longer includes a one-page summary on each species, but alternatively links directly to the more thorough report for each species in the annual Fishery Management Plan Update.

“We are making this change to provide the public with a more in-depth review of both the management and stock status for each species,” said Lee Paramore, who leads the division’s Biological Review Team.

The Fishery Management Plan Updates include all the information that was given in the one-pagers in the past, but they also provide a more comprehensive view of long-term trends in catch, biological data, and management.

Last year, the division began using the stock assessment determination terms of overfishing and overfished/depleted in lieu of the more subjective categories of viable, recovering, depleted, concern, and unknown. In 2017, the division altered the format of the report to clarify the role the state plays in management of each species by separating state-managed species from those cooperatively managed through a federal or interstate entity.

In this year’s report, data for all recreational fishing activity monitored through the Marine Recreational Information Program has been updated based on the program’s new methodology.

Highlights of this year’s stock overview for state managed species include:

(1) Striped Mullet: After near historic low landings in 2017 triggered a review of this stock, striped mullet landings rebounded, and no management triggers were met in 2018. The most recent stock assessment, completed in 2018, indicates that overfishing is not occurring on this stock.

(2) Blue Crab: The Division of Marine Fisheries continues the development of Amendment 3 to the Blue Crab Fishery Management Plan following results of the 2018 benchmark stock assessment that indicated the stock is overfished and overfishing is occurring. Amendment 3 is scheduled to be adopted in early 2020.

(3) Striped Bass (Central Southern Management Area): Research has shown that striped bass in the Central Southern Management Area are not a self-sustaining population and that fishermen are mainly catching hatchery-raised fish; however, in 2018, agency data suggested there have been two recent naturally-spawned year classes. To provide additional protection for these non-hatchery fish and to increase natural spawning stock biomass, the Division of Marine Fisheries and Wildlife Resources Commission implemented a year-round commercial and recreational season closure in coastal and joint waters of the Central Southern Management Area.

(4) Spotted Seatrout: A benchmark stock assessment for spotted seatrout is underway in 2019 coinciding with the scheduled fishery management plan review. The prior stock assessment, from 2014, indicated that this stock is not overfished and is not experiencing overfishing.

(5) Southern Flounder: The 2019 stock assessment of southern flounder in the south Atlantic indicated that the stock is overfished and overfishing is occurring. This assessment passed peer review and the model was accepted for use in management. Adoption of Amendment 2 to the Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan is scheduled for August 2019. Development of Amendment 3 is scheduled to begin upon adoption of Amendment 2.

For more information, contact Lee Paramore at (252) 473-5734.

 

Over the course of three years, the North Carolina Coastal Federation and state Division of Marine Fisheries have been building the Swan Island Oyster Sanctuary in Pamlico Sound.

The project is expected to wrap up in July with the final deployment of material to add to the new, 40-acre oyster reef.

The division and contractor Stevens Towing Co. Inc. have each spring and early summer since 2017 placed thousands of tons of limestone marl and granite in the sound to build new oyster reef, which provides habitat for baby oysters, known as spat.

With the conclusion of the Swan Island Sanctuary, the division, the federation, and partners are to identify areas in need of restoration efforts.

In addition to being one of 15 oyster sanctuaries in the Sen. Jean Preston Oyster Sanctuary Network, the Swan Island Oyster Sanctuary is a part of the federation’s 50 Million Oyster Initiative that aims to build, by 2020, 50 acres of oyster reef, with each acre supporting about 1 million oysters, according to a news release from the federation. The federation said 50 million oysters filter 2.5 billion gallons of water per day.

Statewide, the division has built nearly 145 acres of cultch planted reefs, with some close to the sanctuary where they can receive spat. These cultch reefs will be open to harvest when oysters reach the legal size of 3 inches.

The reefs in the Sen. Jean Preston Oyster Sanctuary Network, which are not open to harvest, are part of the plan to regrow the state’s oyster population.

“We recently completed a comprehensive survey of reefs in Pamlico Sound, including reefs that are harvested, natural, intertidal, and subtidal. And what we found is that while subtidal sanctuary oyster reefs in Pamlico Sound only occupy about 6% of the total footprint of oysters, they account for an estimated 40% of the oyster population in Pamlico Sound,” Dave Eggleston, North Carolina State University’s Center for Marine Science and Technology director, said in a statement. “Furthermore, these sanctuaries are hosting oysters at densities nearly ten times higher than the other reef types that we monitored.”

Erin Fleckenstein, coastal scientist in the federation’s Wanchese office and project manager for the restoration project, explained that the success of the sanctuaries is encouraging.

“They provide insurance for our oyster population in Pamlico Sound. They host adult oysters that help to repopulate our harvested reefs while also filtering the sound and providing habitat for other fish,” she said.

The three-year Swan Island Oyster Sanctuary Project was funded by $3 million in state appropriations and nearly $3.3 million in grant funds from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s community-based restoration program with additional funding by Grady White Boats and federation members.

“The effort to restore our oyster populations is especially important after the critical blow that oysters got last fall. With two major hurricanes, Florence and Michael, the oyster population was hit hard. Impacts associated with stormwater runoff, low oxygen water, and sediments, decimated oyster populations across the state. It was an impact that was felt by many harvesters during oyster season,” according to the federation.

Following the storms, a preliminary survey indicates that Swan Island Oyster Sanctuary had very high spatfall counts, “indicating recent oyster settlement. While this may have been a stress response to the storm, recruitment and survivorship were strong on this reef. The sanctuary will help to reseed nearby cultch planting sites.”

 

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced the 2019 Regional Fishery Management Council (RFMC) appointments. The strong showing from this year’s class of appointments makes it clear that recreational fishing and boating remain key priorities for the Trump Administration.

The appointments of Scott Lenox, Tim Griner, Dr. Tom Frazer, Troy Williamson, Peter Hassemer, Marc Gorelnik, Cora Campbell, and Nicole Kimball all affirm that the Administration remains focused on selecting RFMC appointees who have a proven ability to balance all factors in complicated fishery management decisions.

The decisions made by RFMC members significantly impact the nation’s 10 million saltwater recreational fishermen, who support 472,000 jobs and generate $68 billion in annual sales impacts, according to NOAA Fisheries. The appointees chosen for this year’s class continue a trend of the Department of Commerce balancing these important economic considerations while also prioritizing resource conservation first and foremost.

“These appointments are an important step forward for America’s recreational fishing and boating community, and we’re grateful that the Department of Commerce continues to move in the right direction on this issue,” said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Sportfishing Policy. “We appreciate the continued leadership of President Trump and Commerce Secretary Ross on this issue as they ensure that America’s public resources remain a part of our national heritage current and future anglers alike can enjoy.”

“The Regional Fishery Management Councils are where the rubber meets the road for federal marine fisheries management, so it’s critically important that the recreational fishing community be well represented,” said Mike Leonard, vice president of Government Affairs for the American Sportfishing Association. “While the overall balance of the Councils still skews toward commercial fishing despite the two sectors being on par with each other economically, we appreciate Secretary Ross making continued progress in addressing this historic inequity.”

“Recreational boating and fishing is a cherished pastime for millions of Americans and generates significant economic activity for our country each year,” said Thom Dammrich, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association. “We applaud the Administration for providing anglers with appropriate representation on Regional Fishery Management Councils and look forward to working with the Councils to advance our community’s priorities.”

“The Regional Fishery Management Councils can only be effective, as Congress intended under the Magnuson-Stevens Act, if they accurately reflect the interests of the region being managed,” said Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation President Jeff Crane. “We very much appreciate Secretary Wilbur Ross for selecting council members who are well suited to represent both the recreational and commercial fisheries of their respective states.”

“We appreciate the Secretary’s ongoing efforts to establish a more balanced representation for recreational angling throughout the Council system,” said Patrick Murray, president of the Coastal Conservation Association. “This Administration has made it a priority to understand the challenges anglers have faced in the federal fisheries management system and is working to address them. These appointments are another step in the right direction.”