Angler's Form Group To Oppose Flounder Restrictions; Logbooks

Angler's Form Group To Oppose Flounder Restrictions; Logbooks Featured

By / Local News / Wednesday, 29 April 2015 04:00

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH -  Local commercial and recreational fishermen attended a meeting April 27th at the American Legion Hall in Carolina Beach to learn about local efforts to stop a push by the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries to implement a mandatory log-book requirement that "for-hire" recreational fishermen would have to fill out weekly reporting catches to the NCDMF.
Also of concern, a proposal by the NCDMF to further limit recreational flounder fishing by 25 to 60 percent annually.
The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission delayed action on the proposed for-hire logbook during their February 2015 meeting but indicated they would take temporary management measures for southern flounder later this year.
According to NCDMF, the Marine Fisheries Commission voted in February to delay voting on a proposed rule regarding a for-hire logbook requirement until the August meeting in order to get more stakeholder input before the decision. The delay came after a large group of people from the for-hire industry at the meeting expressed concerns about the for-hire logbook requirement.
The proposed rule would implement a recent change in state law and require charter and guide captains to submit a logbook detailing their for-hire fishing activity for the previous week.
According to the NCDMF, "Logbook reporting is needed to provide more timely catch information to the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries for management purposes."
The commission also voted to pursue a supplement to the N.C. Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan to reduce the catch of southern flounder by between 25 percent and 60 percent. The division will present options to the commission on ways to do this at its May meeting. That meeting will be held May 20 to the 22 at the Double Tree Hilton at 100 Middle Street in New Bern, NC.
According to NCDMF, "The action followed a report on a draft 2014 N.C. Southern Flounder Stock Assessment. The division did not accept the stock assessment for management purposes after three peer reviewers noted the same concerns the division has. Some of the concerns are about recent studies showing that the North Carolina stock of southern flounder mixes with stocks in other South Atlantic states. These concerns can only be addressed with a regional stock assessment that includes data from other states. On the other hand, while the stock assessment cannot be used for management, the North Carolina data show declining recruitment, the number of young fish entering into the stock, since the 1990s that is evidence of the need for further management measures. A supplement will allow the commission to adopt temporary management measures without going through the full fishery management plan process."
During Monday's meeting local charter boat captain Robert Schoonmaker explained they are creating a North Carolina chapter of the nonprofit Recreational Fishing Alliance to have a voice on issues affecting the fishing industry. They also hired The Policy Group - a Raleigh based lobbying group - to work on issues with state legislators.
The audience at the meeting was mostly local fishermen, but some traveled from Ocean Isle, Topsail Beach and even South Carolina.
Schoonmaker explained, "We are 100% recreational. Whether you are fishing on your own or a charter fisherman like myself. We have to abide recreational guidelines. We want to have a political voice. We want to be able to have a seat at the table with fisheries management. That's something that for the past twenty years we haven't had."
Schoonmaker said, "We are 100% pro resource. To sum it up, we want what's best for the fish."
The NC-RFA will be funded by donations. All money will be collected and used locally.
Schoonmaker said, "The North Carolina Fishing Association is a group operated by Jerry Schill and have been lobbying on behalf of the commercial fishermen for the past twenty years. This is where it gets huge. 1% of all fish sales in North Carolina go to fund his organization. Half a percent comes from the fish house. Half a percent comes from the fishermen after expenses and then they donate to his group so he can lobby for them up there in Raleigh. That's why the commercial fishing industry has had a strong voice all these years and it's something that we have been lacking. I'm hoping to get this group off the ground, get everybody on board and then we can have a voice in Raleigh to as well as in Washington D.C."
Schoonmaker talked about the logbook issue saying, "The Cape Fear Captains Association... we and lots of captains along the coast were upset with the way the proposed for-hire logbook was going to be implemented. There was very little input from the captains and the NCDMF was forcing the logbook on our industry."
He explained, "This is why we were against it. They wanted to know how many minnows we caught in a cast net.
How many hooks we had in the water. What kind of fish we were catching. How many. They even wanted to know if we were catching pin fish, lizard fish, oyster toad fish, it was just really ridiculous. They were saying, we need this data."
Schoonmaker said many times when fishing a charter for a day offshore there's no way to keep track of the tally of the various fish species that are caught.
He explained, "We were just concerned they were going to get bad data and they were going to use that data to manage us. In February 2015 NCDMF held a meeting in Wilmington. The fore-hire captains from across the state packed that meeting. We stood up for ourselves and the resource. We found out that we had been lied to the entire time and so had the NCDMF commission. The logbook was made without Marine Fisheries Commission knowledge. Basically this logbook was slid in on a budget deal, not a whole lot of press to it, and bam we are going to get stuck with a logbook we didn't even know was law."
He explained, "The commission learned that they were not voting on whether or not the logbook was going to become law, they were just voting on the frequency that we had to report."
He explained, "It was more than just collecting data. It was the first step in implementing catch-shares on the federal level. People holding state jobs were lining themselves
up for federal jobs and it was going to go in line with some  Joint Enforcement Agreement (JEA) monies and if accepted by the state was going to give the federal government more control over our state waters."
For example, there's a  Joint Enforcement Agreement (JEA) between the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department's Law Enforcement Division and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)'s Office of Law Enforcement provides federal funding and resources for enforcement patrols, equipment, training and public outreach that help New Hampshire Conservation Officers enforce federal marine fisheries regulations.
For North Carolina is would mean additional funding from the federal government upwards of $600,000 a year for NCDMF. North Carolina is the only east coast state that hasn't joined the JEA.
Local fishermen are weary of the logbook because they view it as a step towards "catch-shares" where the logbook data would be used to help set overall catch limits for certain species of fish. Once that limit is set, it's divided up among fishermen as a quota limit. The overall goal is that as fish stocks grow, the percentage of quotas, or "shares", will also grow for fishermen.
Currently there are bills proposed in the North Carolina House and Senate. One serves to make logbooks voluntary while the other seeks to repeal the logbook requirement entirely. However, the bill to repeal the requirement is packed into a larger reform bill containing many other parts related to other varying topics.
The Policy Group is communicating with legislators on behalf of the NC-RFA to promote each piece of legislation on behalf of fishermen.
For Flounder, according to the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) 2009 stock assessment, the southern flounder stock is over fished and overfishing is occurring.
However, in 2013 Commercial fishing operations landed  2,175,518 lbs. at a value of $5,646,185.
Recreational fishing such as Charter Boat trips landed 409,086 lbs. with Average Number of Award Citations (5 lbs.) in 2013 at 411.
For Commercial fishing operations: 14–inches total length (TL) minimum size limit in internal and ocean waters, closed season in internal waters from December 1–31; no trip limits in internal waters and a 100-lbs. trip limit in ocean waters unless the individual has a License to Land Flounder from the Atlantic Ocean.
For Recreational fishing such as charter fishing trips and individuals: 15–inches TL minimum size limit/6 fish creel limit for all joint and coastal waters.
The Harvest Season:
For Commercial: January through November (closed season in December) with peak catches from September to November.
For Recreational: Year–round with peak catches from June through October.
Capt. Charlie Schoonmaker, Back Bay Fishing Charters, Carolina Beach, explained, "Right now, the N C state's Division of Marine Fisheries in Morehead City is contemplating a possible closure on our recreational flounder fishing this year due to
their inability to reform and correct their past mistakes over the last twenty year period. Recent scientific reports which had good reviews from other peer study groups even told them they were correct in their flounder plan, but it was rejected on the basis of one man's opinion! Do you want to be told you cannot recreationally fish for flounder this year because of one man's failure to do his duties?"
To learn more about the NC-RFA visit them online at their Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/RFANC

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