We urge attendance in a 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday public hearing in the New Bern River Convention Center that the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission will hold to discuss southern flounder, the state’s most requested finfish.

Representing the state’s commercial fishermen who serve the public, the N.C. Fisheries Association, is asking the Fisheries Commission to manage southern flounder in a fair and equitable manner, and it’s seeking fishermen’s participation in the hearing.

Although scientists can’t determine the status of the southern flounder and the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries isn’t recommending any action, the Marine Fisheries Commission is considering restrictions that could reduce southern flounder harvest 60% by Sept. 1.

 On May 21, Tom Wadsworth, the Division of Marine Fisheries’ southern flounder biologist, told the commission that the 2014 stock assessment “was not approved for determining stock status, which means that we’re not able to tell if the stock is overfished or overfishing is occurring.”

Why the rush to judgment?

A 60% reduction for North Carolina would mean drastic cuts for recreational and commercial fishermen.  

According to the draft supplement, “An Oct. 1-Dec. 31 (commercial and recreational season) closure with a 16-inch minimum size limit and a one-fish recreational bag limit resulted in an estimated 60% reduction.” 

The commission has also approved six proposals for public comment that include a gill net ban, total season closures, an increased size limit that would cripple the northern commercial fishery, gear modifications that would be hard to comply with this late in the year and severe restrictions on the commercial gig fishery.  

Economic impacts to local economies would also be significant.  

If more restrictions are set in place, seafood markets would struggle to meet demand, meaning sharp price increases for consumers and less dollars for the families and communities of fishermen. 

In 2013, when fishermen landed roughly 2.2 million pounds, the Rural Center said flounder prices were $3.99-$17.99 per pound in 48 markets it surveyed. Had the fishery been cut 60% that year with the price of flounder averaging just $7 per pound, North Carolina retailers would have lost almost $9.2 million. That doesn’t include the value added by tourism dollars from anglers and visitors who come to eat fresh caught, local seafood.  

With no confirmed emergency, why is the commission considering a fast-track emergency process that would allow it to act with little stakeholder input free of legislative review? Is it politics?

Without a valid stock assessment or recommendation from the Division of Marine Fisheries, the argument that this is an urgent issue “impossible to address through the FMP amendment process” (as outlined in the commission’s guidelines) is, at best, fragile. 

This push for emergency action, which is not in North Carolina’s best interest, is an end run around the established management process that could effectively eliminate commercial gear and tremendously limit the availability of southern flounder for consumers.  

With the power to destroy fishermen’s livelihoods and rob the public of access to fresh local flounder without requisite data, without oversight and without delay, fishermen, whose livelihoods and families’ well being are on the line, must be heard. Please go to Wednesday’s public hearing.

(11) comments

HenryB

I cannot for the life of me understand how the Association can profess to be persecuted by Marine Fisheries yet be so timid about it?

Nancy Rawls is the Commissions “Fisheries Management Chief”; ask her to produce the data showing that the summer flounder are being harmed. A simple question, how many flounder were available at the start of last year and how many were available at the start of this year. It’s her job. That’s all she has to do to collect her paycheck (money that comes out of our pockets).

The NCDMF, since the present Director took the helm has reduced the harvest by more than 50% by proclamations, the reasons for which he has taken out of thin air. A 50% reduction in take, in itself, should show up as a population improvement , where are the charts showing the improved status. The way things are going the fishery is doomed unless things change big time.

HenryB

Correction, change Nancy Rawls to Kathy Rawls

HenryB

The amount of North Carolina summer flounder large enough to be caught in nets increased from under 50,000 metric tons to over 50,000 metric tons during the last ten years. I’d like to know the bonehead that thinks the southern flounder is over fished. Sustainability is the goal and the species cannot be more sustained than that.

HenryB

Ten years ago when the amount of summer flounder large enough to be caught in nets was in the low 40,000 metric ton range the minimum size requirement was set at 50,000 metric tons. Come ten years later when the amount reached the 50,000 metric ton range the minimum requirement is now 60,000 metric tons. What this illustrates is that we have a very stable summer flounder fishery and a very unstable management group.

HenryB

A couple of hundred commercial fishermen there. For the most part it was sad, like watching sheep go to slaughter.

They had their nemesis right in front of them and not a one asked him why they all did a 180 in a year.

http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/13-summer-flounder-ssr-2014

Someone has to swing a bat for the fishermen. They are too timid to get anywhere.

The gimmic they use to justify their stand is SPR (spawning potential ratio) instead of the fish that are available to harvest..

If a population is growing, which it has by 20% in ten years, the SPR has never gone below 100%. It is simple math, it should be driven down their throat.

SaltyCaptn

The science and statistics show flounder in trouble. NCFA spouts about 1 comment of 1 scientist but the other 2 scientists in that study disagree. About 40 commercials spoke and 27 recreational fishermen spoke. As the meeting was intentionally set in the back yard of the commercial industry that indicates many agree. As the commercials pick one statement by DMF that fits they do not mention DMF states flounder have been overfished for 23 years and the stock is listed as DEPLETED. No one has a problem with commercial fishing in NC, just destructive gear. It is proven pound nets and gigging can take enough cleanly. The large mesh gillnets that capture everything including endangered turtles and sturgeon are the problem. The fishery belongs to all citizens of NC not a commercial industry. NC supplies 96% of flounder to markets in the entire US. Other states conserve flounder for a better return to the state.

HenryB

The Marine Fisheries admitted that they have no clear data showing there has been a reduction in abundance since the last assessment in 2005. In my book, it is criminal what they are doingand especially what they are not doing, which is their job.

HenryB

I was not able to hear a darn word and I sat just a few chairs from the podium.

Between those that spoke were most against the amendment?

RECESS

Henry B. You might wish to take a Marine Biology Class. This issue is SOUTHERN flounder, not SUMMER flounder (also called fluke). If SOUTHERN flounder were managed like SUMMER flounder, we would not be having this discussion.

Summer flounder are managed jointly by ASMFC and the MAFMC. Southern flounder are managed by the NC MFC.

HenryB

Yes, I got my flounders mixed up. I am better at fourth grade math, though

No stock assessments for Southern Flounder (or any other fish for that matter) have been produced by our NCDMF since 2007.

No stock assessment equals no legitimate reason for making policy changes.

Please refer to this example, which shows an end of assessments, the same end of assessments for all fisheries in the charge of the NCDMF:

See,

http://00de17f.netsolhost.com/fmps/downloads/souflounderSA.pdf, (Table 29)

At the beginning of the assessment period,1991 the amount of harvestable Southern Flounders was 4 million pounds.

The Division is required to review harvest status every five years.

In the year 1995 the amount available was 3 million pounds

Steps were taken to stop the decline.

In 2000 the amount available was 2 million pounds

More steps were taken.

In 2005 the amount was 4 million pounds.

The stock had rebuilt itself.

No further steps should have taken place, but unnecessary steps to reduce the harvest did take place.

Without comparison data in 2010 no steps should have been taken.

And without comparison data in 2015 no reason to do so either.

Yes I did get my flounders mixed up but the Summer Flounder does have regular stock assessments and as a result is not considered over fished.

No one knows if the Southern Flounder is in trouble.

It is criminal to guess and push hundreds of people, already living on the edge, over the edge.

HenryB

Hey,

http://www.dailyclimate.org/tdc-newsroom/2014/06/summer-flounder-moves-north/

It would seem I am not the only one calling the Summer Flounder a Fluke.

An interesting chart though. The law requires that the biomass and the harvest be a flat line.

Apparently the Flukes have no place in the Glossary for underfished.

It is against the law to underfish a stock.

It was a King Fluke that ruled the N.C. be allowed 30% of an illegal quota and everyone else less.

There are Flukes managing Flukes.

Welcome to the discussion.

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