Southern flounder. Photo: Division of Marine Fisheries

MOREHEAD CITY — Flounder season will end at 6 p.m. today in North Carolina, according to a proclamation issued this week by the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries.

The commercial flounder season for gigs and hook-and-line gear in the mobile gear northern management area was the last flounder fishery still open in the state. The division said Wednesday it was closing because the harvest quota under the state’s flounder management was nearly caught.

The commercial flounder season in the mobile gear southern management area closed Oct. 13. The commercial flounder season for pound nets in both the northern and southern pound net management areas closed Oct. 6. The commercial flounder season for pound nets in the central pound net management areas closed Oct. 21. Flounder pound nets, statewide, must be rendered inoperable, the division said.

The recreational flounder season closed Sept. 30.

North Carolina’s southern flounder fisheries are managed under Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan Amendment 3.

The 2019 South Atlantic Southern Flounder Stock Assessment found that southern flounder is overfished, and overfishing is occurring throughout the region (North Carolina through the eastern coast of Florida). Overfished means the population is too small. Overfishing means the removal rate is too high.

North Carolina law mandates that fishery management plans include measures to end overfishing within two years of adoption and rebuild the stock to achieve sustainable harvest within 10 years of adoption of a fishery management plan.

Flounder have long been a staple of the state’s commercial fishing industry, worth millions of dollars annually.

Glenn Skinner, executive director of the N.C. Fisheries Association, a trade and lobbying group for North Carolina commercial fishermen, called the closure “frustrating,” but added, “there’s nothing we can say or do about it. It’s just one of those things.”

Most commercial fishermen don’t believe the flounder stock is in bad enough shape to warrant the 72 percent reduction in the quota this year and the reductions in the two previous years, Skinner said. “They’ve pretty much cut it down to nothing.”

“The numbers of fish being caught have remained relatively constant for decades,” he added. “It’s a shame.”

Until the last three years, Skinner said, the commercial flounder had been open every month except December.

It will be hard for the flounder fishermen to find anything to catch to pay the bills, he added. 

Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email brad@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.

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