New report released

Fishermen are overfishing southern flounder according to state fisheries managers, who are proposing a large reduction in the harvest. (N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries photo)

MOREHEAD CITY — State fisheries managers have released a new overview of commercially important fish stocks, and a commercial fishing advocacy group and the state branch of a recreational fishing conservation nonprofit seem supportive of its results.  

The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries released its 2018 fisheries stock overview Monday. According to the DMF website, the data is used to prioritize development of fishery management plans and subsequent plan amendments.

One highlight of the overview is a finding that, according to the most recent stock assessment completed earlier this year, the southern flounder stock is overfished, meaning its stock has dropped below a certain threshold and is undergoing overfishing, which means the fishing effort is more than the spawning stock can sustain.

As a result, fisheries managers are working on Amendment 2 to the Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan. This amendment, if the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission adopts it at its meeting Wednesday through Friday, Aug. 21-23 in Raleigh, would implement measures to reduce both the commercial and recreational harvest by 62-72%.

According to division statistics, commercial watermen landed about 903,000 pounds of the fish in 2018, worth about $3.8 million. It’s long been one of the most valuable fisheries in the state.

N.C. Fisheries Association President and commercial fisherman Glenn Skinner said his statewide seafood industry advocacy nonprofit has been working with the DMF and the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission, the rulemaking body that develops commercial fishing regulations, on this amendment.

“Hopefully they (the management measures) will work better at rebuilding the stocks than previous management measures have,” Mr. Skinner said.

Meanwhile, Coastal Conservation Association N.C. Executive Director David Sneed said it will be interesting to see what develops from the proposed management measures.

“We’re hearing a lot of anecdotal reports people have been catching a lot of flounder this summer,” he said, “so they’re questioning the stock assessment methods. But what they need to remember is we recently had a hurricane.”

Mr. Sneed was referring to Hurricane Florence, which made landfall in North Carolina in September 2018. Due to the storm, commercial fishermen were unable to get out on the water for some time, and the flounder were temporarily driven away until the storm passed.  

Another highlight of the 2018 stock overview is the report on the blue crab stock. Mr. Skinner said blue crabs are “North Carolina’s most important commercial fishery.”

According to DMF, the stock is overfished and undergoing overfishing. The DMF is developing Amendment 3 for the Blue Crab FMP, which may be adopted in early 2020.

“We support efforts to make it (the blue crab fishery) sustainable again,” Mr. Skinner said.

Mr. Sneed, meanwhile, said blue crabs are primarily a commercial fishery, so his recreational fishing-based nonprofit didn’t have as strong an opinion on it.

“It’s certainly a concern (the state of the crab stock),” he said, “and we support efforts to get that under control.”

The DMF said a benchmark stock assessment for spotted sea trout is underway. This assessment coincides 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. Meanwhile, Mr. Skinner said he hasn’t seen any of the results from the new, ongoing assessment.

“We’ve seen increased pressure from recreational harvest (on spotted sea trout),” he said. “We hope that won’t push it (the fish stock) to overfished (status).”

Mr. Sneed had no comment on the sea trout stock.

The DMF said research shows the striped bass fish stock in the Central Southern Management area, which includes stocks in the Tar/Pamlico, Neuse and Cape Fear rivers, isn’t a self-sustaining population. It said landings have consisted largely of hatchery-raised striped bass; 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 DMF and the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission implemented a year-round commercial and recreational season closure in coastal and joint waters of the Central Southern Management Area. Mr. Skinner said the fisheries association supports these measures.

“It’s our understanding the closures were to give them (the natural year classes) time to spawn a couple times, so we hope they’ll do that again,” he said.  

Mr. Sneed, meanwhile, said CCA-NC has been pushing for several years for action on estuarine striped bass management.

“We’re going to try and see if we can get the natural stock to return,” he said.

The final highlight from the overview was the status of striped mullet. According to the DMF, 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 the striped mullet stock. Mr. Sneed and Mr. Skinner think this is a good sign.

“They (DMF) looked at it (the stock) last year and decided to give it another year to see if it would rebound,” Mr. Skinner said. “So we’re glad it did.”

The DMF said in its overview announcement it’s continuing efforts to make its annual stock overview 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 FMP 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 DMF Biological Review Team lead Lee Paramore.

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

Last year, the DMF 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 the 2018 report, data for all recreational fishing activity monitored through the Marine Recreational Information Program has been updated based on the program’s new methodology.

Contact Mike Shutak at 252-726-7081 ext. 206, email; or follow on Twitter at @mikesccnt.

(23) comments


It is obvious that keeping female blue crabs with sponges significantly reduces the population. Female crabs mate only once and hold their eggs for 2 weeks. The average sponge contains 2 million eggs. Restricting possession of blue crabs with sponge is not science it is common sense.

Core Sounder

Lots of fishermen are telling us that flounder catches are the best is years this year but the DMF is still telling us that flounder are in serious trouble and are still being overfished. Back in 2005 the first southern flounder plan was designed to help stop overfishing. Goal was to reach a SPR (spawning potential ratio) of 20% threshold with a target of 25%. At the end of 2010 we had only reached 19% spr which was a little short. Then the DMF decided to change the requirements to 25% threshold with a 35% target for some reason. Seems like they don't want to reach our goal since they keep making it harder to achieve. Their newest proposed rules on southern flounder will put many commercials out of work and will also be a disaster for many recreational fishermen. Folks if they take it away then we aint getting it back. Look at what they have done to red drum as an example. Most everyone agrees that red drum have been recovered for years now but still allowed 1 per day.


So, your disputing these great (insert your own name here) , BS artists ???????? Makes one ponder their existence. However, at this point, the industry as a whole is done in so, i suppose its a non starter. [wink] DO GOODERS, WHERE WOULD WE BE WITHOUT THEM??????? (40 YEARS ADVANCED, THATS WHERE).


WOW this is a shocker. The Flounder has been over fished and on the depleted list for more than ten years. Funny how it is just being seen!! Oh and the biggest reason the flounder is being caught so good now is because Florence stoped just about all the fall fishing last year. Or have you forgot that quick. But no fear the netter will catch up on lost ground. The rec fishermen can only keep 4 flounder a day! How many can a Commercial fishermen keep a day? Oh that's right the commercial fishermen does not have a catch limit ! So they can catch all they want and it is all legal. But the stock is so bad the rec fishermen cant keep but 4!! Hummmm Sounds like money is changing hands here. But the DMF knows that the depletion of our fish stocks is the commercial fishermen. Do the math if 5,000 commercial fishermen catch and land more then 600,000 rec fishermen do who is catching the most??


The government owns the seas and all within.


Yep the recreational fishermen will be regulated more and more , and nothing done to the commercial fishermen like always.

Core Sounder

Hey Seabass, The article says that the NCDMF will be cutting flounder catches by 60 to 70% with their proposed rules which applies to both commercial and recs. Tell us what is it about that statement that indicates to you that it only applies to recreational fishermen? As a rule recs catch most of their flounder during the summer and is why rec season will close earlier. Commercials normally catch the bulk of their flounder during the fall of the years and they will have to stop before Nov rolls around. This way both recs and commercials are expected to see another 60 % plus deduction for their 2019 fishing years. Think that most flounder fishermen are starting to see a lot better number of flounder this year which indicates past restrictions are working. As to why the DMF has decided to place even more drastic cuts is utterly ridiculous since its pretty obvious to those of us that actually spend time on the water fishing for flounder that major surgery is not needed. Then again the gov likes to take things away but are slow to give it back.


It went over their heads core, the entire point in the regulation theory is ultimately to eventually have complete control of the entire target, regardless how good it feels to one group today, and another group tomorrow. Mos of you folks have completely missed the boat on government monopoly's That would be an F in economic growth, start the class over again, sorry. ps..... next class you may actually want to ask yourself why exactly the great wizard's divided you into 2 classes as targets in the beginning. Kind of funny to watch folks figure things out. [wink]


Well Core Sounder my info came from the past 20 years of failing stocks and the rec fishermen always have there limits dropped more and more! Remember it was a few years ago the rec fishermen could keep 12 then 6 now 4 !! And how was the limit adjusted for the commercial fishermen? So tell me how many can they keep?? You cant they have no limit. You info you posted is bad enough for years and years the stocks has been depleted and over fished but only the rec fishermen has there limits reduced and the commercial fishermen HAS NO LIMIT!! Can you say bias!! Now we had a small storm here last year i think they even named it Florence that stopped most of the fall fishing so do you think that may be why the flounder harvest is so good? And as John pointed out if 5,000 commercial fishermen catch and land more then 600,000 rec fishermen do who is catching the most?? You and i know who is the commercial fishermen are! Oh and remember all the youtube videos of all the commercial fishermen who is hired out for flounder gigging? I watched a video just the other night where the commercial fishermen went out and they gigged 70 flounder, He gigged 20 then went back out and got 60! So remember most of the charter fishermen are what ?? That's right Commercial fishermen!!!! The weak fish or grey trout was cut to one fish per person for rec fishermen how long ago ?? And still no changes in the stock!! Could it be because they are not putting the limits on the group of fishermen? I know it is. And that why groups like CCA is growing so fast people are getting tired of the rec fishermen holding all the blame and limits!!

Core Sounder

..... I assume it makes you angry to hear that commercials are also allowed to catch and keep more shrimp each day than are recreational shrimpers. Recs are fishing for the entertainment along with looking to catch a mess to eat while commercials fish to supply fresh seafood for the seafood lovers that do not have access to this resource. That's why commercials are allowed to keep more in possession. Since that offends you and your types then take it up with the ones that makes the rules and regulations.

(Edited by staff.)


Well Core Sounder there again you are wrong, I fish to EAT! I dont fish for fun i fish for food. Commercial fishermen do it for money only! WELL most rec fishermen are seafood lovers too and they are being limited so they cant catch a mess as you put it! So now where are we? No the commercial fishermen are allowed to keep more just because they buy a license to buy and sell that is it. Just like charters!! Who are the one they sell fish too? No my point is this why limit one group when both are doing just as much damage? If you are going to limit one limit both. If a stock is so bad that one group can only keep one or two fish, why is it ok for the other group to have no limits?? Like i stated in my first post the rec fishermen will be regulated more and limits cut and nothing done to the commercial fishermen. Happens every time. And here is a surprise for the commercial fishermen a lot of rec fishermen fish to feed there family too. Lord knows you cant buy a good mess of fish now days at a good price, well unless you are at the boat ramp when the commercial fishermen comes in he will sell you some cheap then. But i heard that was illegal. But happens all the time. But if you go to the fish house you will need a loan to buy a mess of fish. So yes i have a problem with only one group having limits. My family is more important to me that a commercial fishermen wallet! Sorry that just being real with you.


Also, please remember, get your commercial fishing license! (good in this state)


Core Sounder

Seabass, do I really need to explain to you why most regulatory bodies that manage our fisheries usually allow each commercial fishermen a little more to catch and sell than they allow rec fishermen? Do you really believe the average commercial could eek out a modest living if they could only sell 1 of this or 2 of those? Its true that commercials fish to make a living but they also harvest a product for those of us in NC that are not able to catch our own and at an affordable price. But fear not because when the smoke clear, between the CCA directed NC Marine Fisheries Commission along with support from some of the so called scientist over at the DMF, the recs will likely end up with exclusive rights to all of our marine resources at the expense of commercial fishermen and the average NC seafood consumer.


Well good point but if the stock is collapsing or in such bad shape why not put both groups on a daily limits ? And why allow them to keep destroying with little to no limits? When only one group is put on a limit. And i half to work two jobs to make ends meet where is it written in a stone tablet that they just put a gill net out smoke a joint or four and a few beers and then pull it in and sell the catch? And no you are wrong the rec fishermen are now starting to buy commercial license so they can catch all the fish they want too! It is crazy but i understand if i pay 2000 and then pay the 200 a year i can catch all the fish i want and have little to no catch limits. As for the fish i have 3 children and a wife and her elderly mother at my home i feed. And i give some of the fish i catch away to family's around me. I dont sell them ! I give them away to the ones who need them. And every thing that has ever been commercially harvested was had to be stopped to keep the resource from being completely wiped out!!


Its so hilarious to watch the general public try to explain their point as if its better then someone else's point! Have you 2 figured out that all the regulations are going to choke both of you equally? Why not agree and remove the entire governing body which seems to be the flashpoint of the conversation? ....

(Edited by staff.)

Core Sounder

SeaBass, commercials have different rules to follow that sort of places limits on them. The DMF is supposed to be able to determine how much of a given species can be removed from our waters each year and thus implement rules that keep commercials from exceeding hose numbers. Sort like a quota I guess. Commercials and recs have been removing too many flounder over the years and the DMF started increasing restrictions back in 2005 to correct this problem. The restrictions did not work as fast as some had hoped and now the DMF has proposed to place severe restrictions starting this month and more next year. Funny thing is; this years looks like it will be the best year for flounder in quite some time. One would think that what we have done since 2005 is starting to accomplish our goal of ending overfishing on flounder. So why all of a sudden is the DMF deciding to add drastic restrictions now that the numbers are showing significant improvements? That is what concerns me and should concern everyone that likes to fish for flounder. We all know that red drum have not been overfished in years in NC waters but guess what. The DMF still allows us just 1 red drum and only a certain size at that . must be between 18 and 27 inches in length. Further proof to me and should be to all of us that once the gov takes it away, we aint getting it back.


DeadBolt The commercial fishermen gets way more support from rec fishermen, Than the commercial fishermen supports the rec fishermen! By that i mean every rec fishermen buys the shrimp, blood worms, squid, And all the other frozen and fresh baits sold all around the place. If the rec fishermen decided to stop supporting them they would dry up in a year or two tops. They support them and the thanks they get is most not all constantly blame the rec fishermen for all the stock problems! Not wanting to even accept any of the blame! They do no harm at all it is all the rec fisherman's fault. And the so called Hilarious part is having people to tell us to remove government from telling us what to do! Like you tell them you are not paying taxes or you will drive as fast as you want on the road and they cant tell you how to buy a gun, Or any of the other laws set for everyone! That is the funny part hearing someone telling others they need to stop all the things they think is wrong. While they sit quietly like little mice and say and do nothing them selves! But tell other to do it for them . In our post we where not being rude or calling each names or even getting mad. We where doing what men do have a conversation. We may not agree with what each other thinks or believes but we respect each other just the same. Not like some who put there 2 cents and thats all they got is 2 cents worth!


If these are your true beliefs then put your money where your mouth is, and buy a commercial license, to support your love of recreation, its a win win for you and all! Wouldn't you agree? Then you can also catch all those flounder's too!


I hate to be late on this but DeadBolt One commercial gigger or netter lands more fish a night than 20 rec fishermen do if they all limit out! I have two friends that net and they get anywhere from 100 to 150 flounder a night. On most night with there nets, And the commercial shrimpers kills hundreds or even thousands of juvenile flounder every night pulling shrimp nets! No i has seen this in person hundreds of hand size baby flounder killed on pulls! Yes i know rec fishermen do harvest a lot of flounder but the commercial fishermen lands millions of pounds a year too ! So i am with Seabass they need a number limit of fish per day! Not per trip! Just like a few years back with the Stripers. The commercial fishermen went out and netted a school of stripers and then a few mile a way they found another school that had bigger fish so they through all the smaller dead fish over and netted the larger fish! Such pride they have, This is just a few there are many more. I have seen Netters use the method called stomping to get unwanted fish out of gill nets. You and i know what this is but some dont so i will tell them ( stomping is where a net is pulled on a sandy shore and you just walk on the fish to make the net cut there heads off of mash them out of the nets killing all that is in the net.) How is this care for the fisheries? See the commercial fishermen are doing just as much, i think way more damage but not being held accountable for it at all. The get a fee check just do what you want and we will blame the rec fishermen for it all. Benn like that for years and it is getting old fast.


Seabass Reread his post the answer is there in his words! (The commercial fishermen fish to supply fresh seafood for the seafood lovers that do not have access to this resource) In short if the DMF will keep cutting your and my limits we will have to but from them because we will not have access to the fisheries thats what the commercial fishermen are pushing for that. To limit the rec fishermen out. And the DMF is in there pocket and helping them slowly, That's why the commercial fishermen do not have any limits! Not the smoke and mirror bs he fed you, but the truth is they are slowly limiting the rec fishermen out. So they have all the fishing rights. They want you to believe it is all the government but the input the government (AKA DMF) uses is the commercial fishermens. So you are .... To think they are going to talk to you or even listen to you.

(Edited by staff.)


Its nice to see the flounder in local waters had an election, and made some of you their leaders, or maybe you compensating for something you yearn for, i cannot figure out which? Tell ya what, please name the few commercial outfits left, if you can for Carteret county. After you find them, remember this at the great seafood festival this october, when their doing their flounder fling!


We live on the ICW between Wrightsville and Carolina Beach. Prior to them lifting the gill netting ban, on any given afternoon you could catch 3-5 keeper Flounder off our dock. Last couple years we've caught 3-5 keepers per season. This year so far, zero keepers. I understand folks need to make a living, but it's a sad situation...


Did my post get deleted?

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