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.