Commercial vessels

A row of commercial vessels are tied up in a harbor on Harkers Island. New regulations could impact the commercial flounder market. (Cheryl Burke photo)

BEAUFORT — The Carteret County Marine Fisheries Advisory Board convened for the first time since February of last year to discuss what they feel is a misguided attempt to save the southern flounder population.

At the end of the Wednesday meeting at the county administration building, board members decided to send a letter to Gov. Roy Cooper and other state figures.

At issue is a portion of the Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan.

Amendment 2 of the plan recommends a 62% reduction in catch of southern flounder the first year, followed by a 72% reduction the following year.

The first year begins this fall.

Members of the county advisory board feel the proposed reduction is too stringent and would place an undue burden on commercial fishermen in the county and throughout the state.

The letter mentions the importance of southern flounder fishing to the area’s economy.

“These proposed reductions will have devastating impacts to the fishing economies of Carteret County,” reads a portion of the letter the panel plans to send to the governor’s office. “The Division of Marine Fisheries and the (Marine Fisheries Commission) have decided to pursue an accelerated timeline for adoption of Amendment 2 to adopt substantial reductions in commercial and recreational harvest and have chosen fishing reduction goals that are not practicable or reasonable when considering the economic impacts, biology of southern flounder, management history and possibly environmental conditions.”

Southern flounder is a popular commercial fish indigenous to the country’s eastern shores, as well as the Gulf Coast. Overfishing in these areas became an issue that threatens the fish’s population. Board member Allyn Powell said experts believe overfishing has been happening since 1989.

While overfishing has been a concern since the late 80s, the state based the figures in the amendment on 2017 data. This is according to N.C. Fisheries Association Executive Director Glenn Skinner.  

Attempts to save the fish aren’t exclusive to North Carolina. Georgia, South Carolina and Florida are all expected to pass their own regulatory efforts. Some members of the county advisory board are unsure, however, if South Carolina and Georgia will participate and are certain Florida will do nothing.

The letter mentions this.

“The proposed measures are problematic in that the estimated reductions in fishing mortality must be obtained from all the southeastern Atlantic states where southern flounder occur,” the letter reads. “North Carolina is planning on implementing significant reductions this fall, while it will be some time before (other) states can implement similar measures or if they even choose to do so. North Carolina already has some of the most restrictive recreational fishing measures among the southeastern states.”

Mr. Skinner underscored the importance of other states participating in similar initiatives.

“We don’t know if they’re interested in doing something, we don’t know how much,” Mr. Skinner said. “We don’t have a timeline, but unfortunately (the state) is moving ahead on rebuilding the stock on our own. The only problem with that is … if the other states don’t, you can’t accomplish what you are trying to accomplish.”

County advisory board members also talked about the effect on recreational fishing.

“I think you have to look at the recreational fishing,” Mr. Powell said.

While the board isn’t keen on the state’s proposed 62% and 72% reduction, they do admit overfishing is a problem. In the letter they put forth a 31% compromise, but Mr. Powell said he doesn’t believe a 31% reduction will have a significant enough impact.

“Thirty-one percent will not stabilize it, OK,” Mr. Powell said. “The stocks have to be sustainable in 10 years, they can’t be overfished in 10 years.”

County advisory board members spoke about slightly higher reductions, including a 52% reduction, which member Bradley Styron said would require luck to convince the state to adhere to.

Mr. Skinner agreed, saying “52% is the minimum you will get the (DMF) to agree to.”

Board members hope the letter will be the luck they need.

County Commissioner and board Chairperson Jonathan Robinson plans to have the letter on the county commissioners’ agenda Monday. He hopes county support will impart more weight to the letter.

Contact Dean-Paul Stephens at 252-726-7081, ext. 232; email Dean@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @DeanPEStephens.

(14) comments

Core Sounder

Would like to know why the DMF keeps moving the goal post as to their definition of overfished not to mention their estimates on min size to reach 50% maturity. Back in 2005 when the first management plan for southern flounder was developed many added restrictions were imposed but evidently not enough. The 2009 stock assessment showed that even though the numbers of flounder were improving, overfishing was still occurring. Then another plan was developed which added even more restrictions along with all of the restrictions that were added due to the Sea turtle lawsuit. The stock assessment in 2014 was not done in an approved method and was rejected by the review board. So another stock assessment was carried out in 2017 which more or less indicated that southern flounder were about to become extinct. Wish someone could explain why we doing so well since 2005 and then in 2017 to be told we were not doing so well after all. Fishing effort is way down over the years especially from commercial. Gotta wonder if the so called experts really have any idea at all as to what is really going on with flounder since flounder restrictions added during the last 15 years have not helped at all according to their studies. Besides why does the DMF experts expect NC recs and commercial to pay the entire cost in order to allow those in Florida, SC and Georgia to keep more flounder.

DeadBolt

Its a HOAX.

Like the witch hunt on Trump.

The whole reason behind regulations is to gain more in fee's and fine's for the agency whom profits. (in this case, it's the state, not the company's that actually have commercial interest's , or rather had, much less all the resident's of the state that now HAVE to buy a license to catch a fin fish).


They used the guise of the robber baron myth , ie: they saw the potential of an industry, that was basically not taxed alot, and completely monopolized it.
Flipped the script, and not you have a dead industry for the most part, and hopefully they will die out like the people they ran off, or out.

Osprey

The State will do whatever they choose like it or not. Decisions are made inland not on the coast.

(Edited by staff.)

John

Even Back in 200 this was a problem. And one of the thing that would have help to stop or reduce the reduction of Flounder was to put a limit on ALL fishermen not just Rec, but Commercial fishermen as well. And the Commercial fishermen fought it tooth and nail and it never passed. So it only was applied to the Rec fishermen, It had very little effect on the flounder stocks. Now 19 years we are still at the same place and the numbers are not improving, The rec fishermen has a 4 fish limit and could be dropped to a 2 fish limit. But that to will have little to no impact on the stock. Until the commercial fishermen are put on a daily limit it is not going to change. it does no good to put limits on one fishermen and the other has no limits! The amount of baby flounder killed in shrimp nets in the inland water is staggering. There is a lot of factors but allowing the nets to kill the baby flounder is one major problem and the D.M.F knows this well but they are sworn to help the commercial fishermen and keep them fishing. If they where not allowing these things to happen the stocks would be Viable and not be Depleted. It is time to do what is right to get our fisheries stocks back to where they need to be, and stop allowing the special groups to line the pockets of officials so they can keep destroying our fisheries.

SEABASS

Well as long as the netting and shrimping go on in the sounds. The flounder will never regain a healthy stock level. There is just way to many juvenile flounder killed by shrimping and netting to sustain a healthy stock. But this has been going on Since the late 90's and all the restrictions placed had been mostly on the backs of rec fishermen and as you can see it has done little to no good. The problem is there should be a daily limit on all fishermen. One group did not do all the damage so one group cant fix the problem.

Osprey

Bycatch reduction. By turning a blind eye on excessive bycatch and overfishing for so many years has placed commercial fishing industry in the situation it is in now. Not putting blame on commercial, recs are just as guilty. It's time to stop pointing fingers and accept that either methods have to change or stocks will never recover.

John

Osprey you are right but you will never get a commercial fishermen to admit to that. And for one have seen all the issues with the stock been put on the backs of rec fishermen. When in reality not all rec fishermen fish for the same things. I know some who do not like flounder at all and all they fish for is spots or corker. And i know some who only fish for Trout. But a shrimp net kills everything that gets in it. Just like 93% of the fish that get in a gill nets dies. And yes sometimes you do have to point a finger. When only one group is being hammered with limit and size regulations and the other has not limit at all. That is like putting air in a good tire and leaving the flat one alone expecting it to even out! It don't work that way. If you have 3 children and one is acting up do you punish all 3 for what the one is doing? No you punish the one doing the wrong. And that has not been happening to the commercial fishermen for a long long time. There bycatch triples the rec fisherman's. But the rec fishermen has more restrictions. Why because they don't buy a $200 license every year ?

Core Sounder

You know John, I really hate to confuse you with some facts but will make an attempt anyways. Your statement that 93% of all fish that get caught in a gill net will die is nothing but BS if you meant to imply that most fish are dead when removed from those nets. Now if you intended to implied that 93% of the fish that are caught in a gill net will die may be about right since most of the fish are sold and very few thrown back. However I have a feeling that you meant to imply that most fish are dead by the time the fisherman gets to their nets. If that were even remotely true then please answer me this, Why do biologist often use gill nets to tag fish? Some work recently by a researcher out of UNC Wilmington doing a southern flounder survival study near Wilmington. Notice that the scientist used commercial gill netters to catch the flounder so they could be tagged and did not fish those nets until 24 hours after being set. Now do you still believe that any scientist would use gill nets if they thought that the death rates would be as high as 93% for a tagging study? That would be like a wildlife biologist trying to capture birds in order to put bands on their legs using a 12 gauge shotgun.

John

You are right they they did use gill nets but how often did they check the nets? First i know you know how a gill net works but some of the people reading this has no clue. so lets help them out. A gill net allows a fish to swim in and it holds its gills OPEN in witch case the fish drowns. And no flounder on this earth can go a 24hours with out breathing! So BS on your 24hour clam. Do more research like normal you are wrong Again. The net is designed to hold the fish so it can not escape so it drowns due to not being able to use it gills. and everyone just google and read and you will see he is using smoke and morrows. As good as a politician, ( Should run for a office has that part down good) But the study was done with gill nets and the nets was checked continuously to make sure the fish was not harmed and released healthy. And the study was done if a fish in a gill net for 3o minutes he is dead. He drowns. But yes they do use them to tag fish but they are constantly checking the net for fish to get them out as soon as possible. If you think they left them in the net for 24 hours before they checked them you may think the wildlife biologist trying to capture birds in order to put bands on their legs using a 12 gauge shotgun. I do like how you state they where observed using them so in short not sure just hear say and don't know what they where doing or anything. Great info! ( Not !) Next time read how often they checked the nets, how often they look in the nets for fish, how many non targeted fish did they land, You know the facts not what you think they where doing.

surfeinc88

John I think you should get educated before you speak ...I just set flounder nets a bit ago ....cant set them till 720 in the evening an they have too be up a hour after sunrise so do the math buddy???You reallt don't have a clue what you are talking about. Anyways I havejt head a dead flounder in the net this year not a dead drum not anything so really get a life....an quit trying too ruin hard working commercial fishermans! I am proud of what I do an enjoy it.

John

surfeinc88 If you will have someone read what Core Sounder posted on June 5 2019 at 2:34pm. ... He stated ( Notice that the scientist used commercial gill nets to catch the flounder so they could be tagged and did not fish those nets until 24 hours after being set.) So now who needs to read ? I think you jumped the gun way to fast before you even seen or read what was being debated. So sir it is you who has no clue what they are talking about. And i am sure you have never had a dead fish in your magic gill net or have one to die from being in your magic gill net. But i have worked with gill nets also! And yes they are BY FAR one of the most destructive fishing gear in our waters. ( I did say one of the most ) Oops hate to be honest but it is true. See you guys careless about bycatch it is just part of fishing to you. But that's why our fisheries it in the shape they are in. And our fisheries will never get better as long as you are allowed to destroy the fisheries the way you do. So in short i guess you are happy for not being held accountable for the destruction to our fisheries you have caused. But then again most commercial fishermen are too that's why they could care less what they do to them.

(Edited by staff.)

Mythendril

Way back when, (early 1960's), we'd fish half day charters around the Inlet and were one of the first to use live bait for the kings. There were always a dozen or more of the big shrimp trawlers working and they'd been there all night, their decks piled high with bycatch and crew members shoveling it overboard. We'd fall in behind and slow troll live hairy backs in their wake and the action was hot. It wasn't uncommon to hook the blackfins, bulls, and hammerheads as well and you could see their fins cutting the water behind the trawlers. Mornings now there might be 2 or 3 of the smaller boats trawling, you seldom see anything over 30' or so. We hunted Core Sound back then as well and looking up the Sound towards the rich feeding grounds off Davis Shore and Atlantic the immense flocks of Redheads and Blackheads looked like smoke from a fire until they flared suddenly and in perfect sync., tens of thousands of birds. Those days are gone as well and as testament these days some of the numerous duck blinds down there are close to being in range of each other. My point being there has and will ever be more and more pressure on the resources of our natural world as our populations soar and their habitats decline. If there's a solution to that equation it's beyond our horizon as things will likely and largely go on as they have despite all the heightened awareness. Though some of them are misguided without the regs & restrictions there'd be naught from naught

Core Sounder

anyone that is familiar with gill nets know that a gill net does not keep a fishes gills open. It will however keep a fish's gill from opening especially when the fish are too large for the mesh size. Flounder for the most part is one of the most likely fish to be able to stay gilled in a net for 24 hours or longer without dying depending on water temps. In the cooler weather very few will die in a gill net overnight. During the dog days in July and August the flounder do not do nearly as well. The study by the scientist in the Wilmington area indicate that over 50% of the flounder were alive and well in the nets that soaked for 24 hours. Around 30% were alive during the hot summer months. That number seems a little high compared with my 40 plus years flounder gill netting but is not even remotely close to the 97 % kill rate that John was trying to have us believe. Think that John has been reading far too much NC CCA hype and should know better than to believe any literature they put out.

Osprey

What is an acceptable rate of bycatch kill ? 30% ? 40 % ? 80 % ? Arguments to how much or how little are victim of bycatch ridiculous. If methods and equipment do not change fish populations will remain pressured and never be able to recover to what they once were. We learn from history and some of us have ignored what the history of the fishing industry has been telling us for years. Problem is so many are short sighted to make a buck now without any regard to the future. . When the oysters were depleted they moved on to scallops, then clams, and so on. It wasn't so long ago mollusks were plentiful everywhere in the sounds. Now thanks to dredging, removal of seagrass and overfishing we are where we are today. Keep on blaming each other and MFC. A lot of good that is doing right?

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