State Announces Short 2020 Recreational Flounder Season

State Announces Short 2020 Recreational Flounder Season

State Announces Short 2020 Recreational Flounder Season Featured

By / Local News / Monday, 24 February 2020 03:30

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH - Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) Director Steve Murphey announced last week  that the 2020 recreational flounder season will be August 16th through September 30th. The minimum size limit will remain at a 15 inches total length and the creel limit will remain at  four fish per person per day in  internal and ocean waters of the state.

In August 2019, DMF announced flounder fishing  would be off-limits starting September 4th. On August 23rd, the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission adopted the Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan Amendment Two as proposed by the Division of Marine Fisheries, giving the director of the Division of Marine Fisheries flexibility with the commercial and recreational seasons so long as they meet the statutorily required harvest reductions.

The DMF explained on August 28th, "The commercial sector landings do not peak until September and October, so the current commercial harvest combined with the projected harvest during an upcoming open season is projected to equate to a slightly greater reduction than in the recreational fishery. The commercial flounder season will reopen on Sept. 15 in waters north of Pamlico Sound and on Oct. 1 in Pamlico Sound and all other waters. Other regulations specific to the commercial fishery will be issued by proclamation at a later date."

According to the DMF, "The Division of Marine Fisheries anticipates issuing a proclamation next week that closes the commercial and recreational season around Sept. 4. The most recent coast-wide (North Carolina to the east coast of Florida) stock assessment for Southern Flounder determined the stock is overfished and overfishing is occurring. Reductions in total removals of southern flounder are required by state law to achieve a sustainable harvest, end overfishing within two years and recover the stock from an overfished condition within a 10-year period. Management measures to meet these requirements have been developed for consideration by the Marine Fisheries Commission for implementation before fall 2019 and are found in draft Amendment 2."

According to the DMF, the implementation of the management strategy recommend in the amendment is, "... critical to successful rebuilding of the southern flounder stock, so management actions can be implemented during the 2019 calendar year and reducing harvest is not delayed while more comprehensive strategies are developed for Amendment 3. Management measures such as quotas, slot limits, changes in the size limit, additional gear changes and species-specific management can all be examined in Amendment 3, scheduled for completion in 2021. These are not considered feasible options to address sustainable harvest in draft Amendment 2 due to the accelerated timeline."

The commission did give the director of the Division of Marine Fisheries flexibility to change the dates of proposed commercial and recreational seasons so long as they still meet required harvest reductions. The division plans to issue proclamations this week that close the commercial and recreational season on Sept. 4. Changes to the allowable gears in the commercial ocean flounder fishery will also be implemented Sept. 4.

Since all species of flounder are managed under the same recreational regulations, the recreational season closure will apply to all flounder fishing. The recreational season will not reopen this year, as the peak recreational flounder fishing season has already passed. As a result, the estimated level of recreational harvest so far in 2019 is greater than that allowed under Amendment 2, thus reducing the expected catch reductions for this sector.

The commercial sector landings do not peak until September and October, so the current commercial harvest combined with the projected harvest during an upcoming open season is projected to equate to a slightly greater reduction than in the recreational fishery.

Analysis of Division of Marine Fisheries data indicates that from 2000 to 2018, as much as 50% or more of ocean-caught recreational flounder were southern flounder, as opposed to other flounder species (this includes beach and pier fishing). Since statistical data on the for-hire charter fleet is limited and has high margins of error, the division needs more time to consider whether to separate the for-hire seasons from other recreational fishing seasons.

Additionally, to encourage conservation, the N.C. Saltwater Fishing Tournament (Citation Program) will not issue citations for flounder during the recreational season closure.

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