The News And Observer reports new rules go into effect on Friday that cut the number and size of flounder caught off North Carolina’s coast, and limit the type of gear used to catch them. The regulations have been applauded by recreational fishers and conservationists who worry the state’s stock of flounder is decreasing. Commercial fishers, on the other hand, have decried the limits as unnecessary.
Craig Jarvis writes:
Concerns have emerged in recent years about whether the southern flounder stock is depleted in North Carolina, which supplies 96 percent of the commercial markets in the United States. There has been a decline in the numbers, most of the fish caught are immature, and there is concern that an assessment of the stock should reach beyond North Carolina flounder to neighboring states.
After months of delay, the Marine Fisheries Commission, a nine-member board appointed by the governor, voted 6-3 to impose the new restrictions, which increase the limit on the size of fish that are caught, modify the gear that can be used, decrease the number of fish that can be taken to dealers, and shorten the seasons.
The process to decide the new rules has been arduous and, at times, bitter.
A long-postponed meeting of the state Marine Fisheries Commission in late November ended with the commercial interests losing in a split vote, resulting in new restrictions but doing nothing to calm the emotional waters.
In a meeting that lasted nine hours over two days, one member of the audience was ejected and a state legislator got into a shouting match with another. A newly appointed commissioner resigned amid threats and racist remarks that were posted online. The State Bureau of Investigation launched an inquiry into the threats, and the commercial industry is considering filing a lawsuit.
You can read the full N&O story here.
For more background on the flounder fight, WRAL’s documentary Net Effect examines what’s at stake:
Southern Flounder makes up only a small portion of the finned fish harvested in North Carolina, but it is the most commercially valuable catch aside from shellfish.
However, the size of the state’s annual harvest of Southern Flounder has been in decline for the past two decades. In 1994, 4.9 million pounds of the fish were caught by commercial fishermen, with a market value of $8 million. In 2004, 2.5 million pounds were caught by commercial fishermen, worth $3.9 million. And in 2014, 1.7 million pounds were caught by commercial fishermen, worth $4.8 million.
Read and watch more here.