BEAUFORT — Carteret County will join fisheries groups in fighting the state Marine Fisheries Commission’s southern flounder supplement changes to reduce catch, which local fishermen say will kill the flounder industry here and cause a ripple effect in other local economic sectors.  

“I fished for a living, I know what the implications would’ve meant for my family if you’d have taken half of my income from the fall,” Commissioner Jonathan Robinson told the county board. “It means somebody’s not going to have Christmas. It means somebody’s going to have to decide whether to be cold this winter or have something to eat.”

On his recommendation, county commissioners unanimously agreed to a resolution supporting a potential lawsuit from state and regional fishermen’s associations, primarily the N.C. Fisheries Association, against the MFC during their Monday meeting in the administration building.

Consideration of the complaint follows the November 2015 adoption of a supplement to southern flounder management regulations, a process which critics say circumvented standard amendment procedures after stopgap reassurances in the form of stock assessments failed to pass peer review. 

“It didn’t pass the smell test. The science was flawed. It couldn’t pass independent peer review – the chief criteria for the development of any new regulations,” Mr. Robinson said. 

The supplement increases the minimum flounder size to 15 inches, closes the fishery to large mesh gill nets and trommel nets from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, closes recreational hook-and-line and flounder gig fishing from Oct. 16 to Dec. 31 and enforces a mesh size of 6 inches for anchored gill nets, among other changes. 

“We’re trying to eliminate our commercial fisheries and hamper our recreational fisheries for the benefit of our southern neighbors,” attorney Steve Weeks, who has represented the N.C. Fisheries Association in other suits, told the county of the MFC’s action. 

Mr. Weeks did not return a call seeking comment on what parties could be named in the lawsuit and when it might be filed. 

A number of other states including Florida and South Carolina have less regulation on southern flounder, allowing fishermen to land more and smaller fish, officials said.

MFC Chairman Sammy Corbett told the News-Times Tuesday he had few comments on any potential litigation, and he didn’t condone the state panel’s action on the supplement in the first place. 

“I didn’t vote for it and I don’t agree with it, it’s a mess,” he said of the 2015 flounder supplement. “It’s very poorly thought out.”

 He did however, wonder why the association has delayed in taking action against the MFC until nearly a year later. 

“If they had a problem, they should’ve (filed suit) a long time (ago). Everybody’s just now figuring out what the supplement means (for them,)” Mr. Corbett said.

Now approved, the supplement measures will close the flounder fishery next month. 

“The closures begin on Oct. 16, that is the heart of flounder season. Most of the flounders are caught from October through Thanksgiving,” Mr. Weeks told county commissioners. 

MFC officials said in November that in approving the supplement they aimed to protect the stock by decreasing harvest by 25 to 60 percent. 

Advocacy groups are arguing the MFC canned their own procedures after stock assessments came back unfavorably.

“Certain individuals kind of directed this movement … I think they had some ulterior motives,” Mr. Weeks said.

The ramifications of such a drastic cut to flounder catch impact more than the seafood business, however, according to Mr. Robinson. 

The additional hardship of the supplement will not only critically hamper area commercial flounder fishermen, he said, but dip into the wealth recreational fishermen bring to the area with their sport. 

“Those that come down here to fish recreationally they’re not going to be able to catch a flounder. That’s vacant motel rooms, lost sales of gas and all other kind of economic implications,” he noted. 

Two local fishermen spoke in favor of the county joining any future lawsuit on the southern flounder supplement during Monday’s public comment. 

“I see it as being very detrimental … had true science justified these measures to reduce harvest, I wouldn’t be here asking for you support,” Adam Tyler, a commercial fisherman from Smyrna told commissioners. 

Hyde County has already agreed to support the complaint against the regulatory agency, according to Mr. Weeks, and Dare County will consider similar action tonight. 

“It’s the only hope we’ve got of rectifying the situation,” Mr. Robinson said.

Reporter Mike Shutak contributed to this report.

Contact Jackie Starkey at 252-726-7081, ext. 232; email jackie@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @jackieccnt.   

(25) comments

Crystal Coaster

"A number of other states including Florida and South Carolina have less regulation on southern flounder, allowing fishermen to land more and smaller fish, officials said."

That is fact. However, look at the types of fishing and locations that are banned in Florida and South Carolina that contribute to a healthier young fish stock.

Gill nets are banned in Florida. Gill nets are limited in South Carolina inshore and backwater estuaries as to the species of fish targeted; non-game fish only.

Inshore trawling in South Carolina is largely banned. There are some partial sound areas allowed.

Florida limits inshore and nearshore shrimp trawling to nets with less than 500 sq. ft of mesh. That's 3 within miles of shore on the gulf, and 1 mile of shore on the Atlantic.

Point being is that the two states referenced for comparison have starkly different approaches and allowances to inshore, nearshore treatment of estuaries and habitats that are conducive to producing fish and shellfish.

If NC would take the similar approaches to protecting the wetlands and sounds, the flounder population would likely get healthier allowing for higher takes at smaller sizes.

Unfortunately, the commercial fishing industry in NC has the NC legislature by the throat. None of the regulations will change dramatically until fisheries begin to collapse.


NC-Native-Son

I am a recreational angler and over the years I have seen size limits increase and catches get more and more rare. I don't know what is happening. Either commercial fishing has gotten way more efficient or spawning areas are more polluted, but there ain't as many flounder out there now.

Bogue Sounder

crystal coaster- "None of the regulations will change dramatically until fisheries begin to collapse." Relatively speaking, most all of the fisheries have already collapsed. The number of comm. boats / fishermen as well as "effort" is a small fraction of what it was yesteryear. Typical knee-jerk reaction; just "parrot" blame on inshore trawling, nets & blar blar blar.

HenryB

The people we depend upon to measure and report the abundance of fish available for harvesting also dictate the harvesting procedures.

Methods for measuring abundance are available, but are not used. Instead the harvest is used to determine abundance.

When the people we depend on impose arbitrary restrictions on the harvest and the harvest declines, to them that indicates a decline in abundance, which leads them to impose more restrictions on the harvest.

It should be clear that the people we depend on to manage our fisheries are boneheads.

If fish abundance is ignored our industry will whither even more.

Abundance charts can be provided if demands are made.

The basis for a legal claim should be ...Show me the charts.

David Collins

Every year it is the same old thing. Would think someone would notice. Plenty of flounder off shore in 35 to 40 ft of water around structure.

Osprey

Are the attorneys doing this pro bono?
Or is this another expense put on the County taxpayers?

justrite

I believe pollution is the culprit for inshore stock reduction causing fisheries to impose further restrictions not bringing the pollution issue to surface! We are in fact being led around by politics. Today as we all have seen another lawn service company flagrantly spraying a green grass chemical on a salt water creek bed! Septic treatment plants throughout the county are no way properly maintained! All of those next to salt water access to reduce spills on land and not reported dumps in the creeks. No wonder flounder restrictions are increased, our coastal environment is in fact polluted! CMAST and all the other self serving intrests are in a vacationland to study why the menhaden now no longer live in the oceans!

HenryB

We pay workers to control the inventory without counting the inventory.

justrite

and how the federal parking service has taken over access to the outer banks is icing on the cake how the local, state and federal government has taken our freedom because they know best is nonsense.

justrite

after rains our beaches are closed for swimming, why...pollution from runoff and septic sytems. We didn't know this was going to happen? We residents we're subjected so many stringent regs to now be overlooked and relaxed on the backs of locals!

HenryB

About the disappearance of the menhaden, as soon as the menhaden boats pulled out so did the menhaden. All the while we groused about the boats taking out too many. A good argument can be made that menhaden boats kept the population going. All fish populations have cyclic periods of expansion. Mother Nature always has the last laugh.

The cobia are presently experiencing an expansion. Our fish whizzes imposed a limit on the take over five years ago with no stock abundance measurement since. When we exceeded that limit the whizzes cut the season in half. They get paid big bucks and we get screwed.

dc

When HRC gets elected HB will call her and straighten this mess out.

Sheepshead

First to all the people saying it is POLLUTION ! You are dead wrong. Why i say that, The Chesapeake bay in the 70's 80's and into the early 90's was known as being one of the most polluted places in the world. It's nickname was the chemical capital of the world back then. It is still so bad they don't want anything now touching or dragging the bottom because it will disturb the chemicals on the bottoms of the bay. And you can go there now and catch a cooler full of pound and a half to two pound spot and croaker's. When was the last time you have heard of someone catching a cooler full of spots or croaker's in NC that size? (Never) Next if the water is as POLLUTED as every commercial fishermen wants us to believe it is. Then how is the fish we are getting from them SAFE TO EAT?? The definition of pollution is POISONED or CONTAMINATED! So are the commercial fishermen intentionally selling contaminated fish? That they know is poisoned? You cant have it both way. If the water is the problem then you are selling contaminated fish that could cause cancer or other health risk and even death Especially FOR CHILDREN AND OLDER ADULTS. And if it was the water the DMF would have stopped the rec fishermen from fishing years ago. Because they are liable for the public's safety. As for the swimming advisories we have from time to time is to protect you. Not saying it is a danger to the marine life. Again the DMF is keeping you safe. So if the problem was pollution they would stop the rec fishermen from fishing also.

HenryB

If so, it would be a snap. I'd fire the Division Director and all of his scientific staff and start reestablishing the procedures of 2007 before Daniel was put in charge...a republican.

HenryB

Fecal contamination closes beaches. Half of the cr..ap is from wild animals the other half is from dogs.

dc

Pollution? Aren't pregnant women advised not to eat some species more than twice a week? How about signs about consuming raw seafood? Seems we have to make choices based on the info presented and the chances we're willing to take. Don't know about crocker and spot from the Chesapeake. Had a family member die from oysters from the White Oak circa 1918. Not smart then or now.

SEABASS

Crystal Coaster You have a great point. I have stated for year's the DMF should ban ALL nets and trawl's , within 3 miles of shore. It would turn all of our fisheries around in 3 to 4 years! But the other fishermen dont want that to happen so we are stuck with a collapsing fisheries.

clammerhead

Hahahahahahaha

Clammerhead

HenryB

Another case for keeping your eye on the donut and not the hole.

For the last twenty five years the commercial harvest has averaged 14 million pounds and the average recreational harvest has been 8 million pounds.

Over the same period the amount available for harvest has grown from 20 million pounds to over forty million pounds.

HenryB

The harvest numbers are in pounds of adult fish. The amount available is in adult female fish.

Bogue Sounder

SHEEPSHEAD- USING ALL CAPS DOESN'T STRENGTHEN YOUR ARGUMENT.

Bogue Sounder

Hey dc, what are you hinting at with the HRC comment? A flounder summit in the Rose Garden? That would be nice, we could transcend into a post- flounder America. You, I and the others in this comments section could be the best of friends.

dc

According to Woods Hole humans contribute the most pollution so start with yourself. Don't you live on the beach strand?

dc

That's a good plan sounder. With the support and pull HB has in his party he should be able to arrange a summit. And, they can even meet without HRC having to instigate a racial problem like BO to pull off the dog and pony show. Only problem is there needs to be some kind of professor there with somebody asked to apologize for doing their job. Don't know how that would work.

Sheepshead

Bogue Sounder The cap's was not to make my point any stronger. It was just pointing out the famous words people love to use to defend there actions. Like saying the biggest problem we have with our fisheries is pollution in our waters. Or if you limit the commercial fishermen our children cant continue our heritage. Or we should be allowed to catch all the fish we can to feed the people that cant get fresh seafood like the older adults. But you knew this!

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