NEW BERN  The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission will meet Wednesday through Friday, Feb. 22-24 and is scheduled to vote on a plan that would close the commercial and recreational mullet harvest season no sooner than Oct. 29 and no later than Nov. 7 and continue through Dec. 31

The session will be in the Double Tree by Hilton Hotel at 100 Middle St. in New Bern and will be available online at

The striped mullet plan discussion and vote is scheduled for a meeting segment that will begin at 2:30 p.m. Thursday. The meeting will kick off with a public comment period Wednesday at 6 p.m. There will be another public comment Thursday at 9 a.m. 

The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, parent agency of the policy-making commission, has been accepting public comment on the proposal since December. In the commission’s November meeting, it opted to go with the Nov. 7 through Dec. 31 closure but did not vote to approve the plan, which is known as a supplement to Amendment 1 of that state’s striped mullet plan. 

The idea is that the fall closure – fall is the peak season for mullet in North Carolina – would likely rebuild the stock quickly while Amendment 2 of the plan is being developed. Amendment 2 is likely to include measures intended to maintain and improve the stock without a fall closure in the future.

Closure of the fall season from Nov. 7 through Dec. 31 this year is expected to result in at least a 22.1 percent reduction in the annual harvest of the fish. Starting the closure earlier on Oct. 29 would be expected to result in a 33.7 percent harvest reduction this year.

Generally, the management measure up for a vote this week was supported by conservation and recreational fishing organizations and opposed by commercial fishermen who depend on mullet for a significant portion of their incomes.

Any closure of the mullet fishery would be the first time in state history that neither commercial nor recreational fishermen would be allowed to go mullet fishing. Many do it part-time, either commercially or to catch bait to sell or use to catch other fish.

Fisheries commissioners in November said they were particularly concerned because striped mullet is in large part a “roe” fishery in the fall when effort peaks, meaning mature females bearing eggs are caught, endangering the sustainability of the species. Mullet roe is particularly popular in Carteret County.

There is no size limit for striped mullet, as many recreational fishermen use them to catch other fish, meaning many females are caught before they reproduce.

Under the proposal, fishermen would still be able to possess striped mullet during the closure if they can prove they were caught and bought out of state. There are also significant mullet fisheries in South Carolina and Virginia.

In 2017, according to DMF statistics, landings in North Carolina totaled 1.36 million pounds, and they have been 1.31 million, 1.36 million and 1.29 million in 2018, 2019 and 2020, respectively. In 2021, the total was 2.1 million pounds, worth $1.33 million. The peak year since 1972 was 1993 when landings totaled 3.06 million pounds, worth $1.94 million.

The division staff is working concurrently on the management plan update, and the goal is to have a draft ready by May 2023 and to release the document for review by the public and the fisheries commission’s advisory panels in August 2023.

In a briefing paper for the commission meeting this week, division staff recommended the commission adopt either of options.

“This reduction level increases the probability of, at a minimum, ending overfishing even if there is variability in fishing effort, market demand, striped mullet availability to the fishery, or recruitment fluctuations,” the paper states.

To view the entire agenda for the meeting, go to:


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


(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

As a privately owned web site, we reserve the right to edit or remove comments that contain spam, advertising, vulgarity, threats of violence, racism, anti-Semitism, or personal/abusive/condescending attacks on other users or goading them. The same applies to trolling, the use of multiple aliases, or just generally being a jerk. Enforcement of this policy is at the sole discretion of the site administrators and repeat offenders may be blocked or permanently banned without warning.