The North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries has proposed a new amendment to the Southern Flounder Fisheries Management Plan. If approved, it will dramatically reduce availability of southern flounder, sheepshead, speckled trout, and red drum for our customers. It has the potential to put some commercial fishermen and fish houses out of business. Read on to learn what you can do.
EDIT: There will be a public comment period on Wednesday, August 21 at 6pm and Thursday, August 22 at 9:30am at the Doubletree by Hilton University Brownstone Hotel on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh. Please attend and voice your opinion.
North Carolina’s Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) has recently added an amendment to the Southern Flounder Fisheries Management Plan. This amendment is in response to a 2019 South Atlantic Southern Flounder Stock Assessment that found populations of southern flounder declining from North Carolina to Florida.
We strongly believe that our state needs to manage fisheries in a sustainable way so that our citizens can enjoy this resource now and for future generations. That said, we have concerns with the timeline of the proposed amendment and the resulting impact on commercial fishermen and North Carolina taxpayers.
WHAT IS AMENDMENT 2?
Amendment 2 is an effort to rebuild the population of southern flounder in North Carolina and very likely will be approved on August 21, 2019 at a Marine Fisheries Commission meeting in Raleigh.
DMF will be enforcing a reduction in southern flounder landings (poundage of fish caught) over the next year in an effort to improve stocks of southern flounder. This reduction applies to both commercial and recreational fishermen. You can read the amendment in its current form here.
To implement the reductions, DMF will only allow fishermen to harvest southern flounder for a very short period of the year, using specific gear. Once the Amendment is approved on August 21 the recreational season for southern flounder will end for 2019. The commercial season will close and reopen for 4-6 weeks in the fall. Next year brings the reopening of the recreational season and an even tighter restriction on commercial season. View the proposed reduction timeline here.
The reductions of Amendment 2 will stay in place until a 10-year plan to rebuild the population is finalized in Amendment 3.
HOW THIS IMPACTS YOU
This reduction will have the biggest impact on you, the consumer. Seafood retailers, including Locals Seafood, will see a decline in supply for inshore species this fall. This is because fishermen targeting southern flounder often catch other species like sheepshead, speckled trout, and red drum. We expect to see a similar reduction in these species alongside a reduction in southern flounder landings.
The smaller the supply of inshore species, the less fish we can source for our customers. Prices for those species will go up as the supply goes down. This could dramatically decrease your access to inshore species this fall.
We support the state’s efforts to improve stocks and create a sustainable southern flounder fishery. However, the reduction timeline is too drastic for North Carolina’s seafood industry to withstand. We feel the reduction timeline should be expanded to alleviate the burden on commercial fishermen.
Such a short harvest season will lead to a much smaller income compared to previous years. The potential profit may not outweigh the cost of setting nets for some fishermen. This may lead these fishermen to question the long term viability of commercial fishing and they may choose to stop fishing altogether. In an industry already experiencing a decline in labor, the loss of more commercial fishermen would have ripple effects for years.
The dramatic decrease in supply may even put some North Carolina fish houses out of business. Some fish houses make the bulk of their annual income in the fall from the pound net fishery. If fishermen are catching substantially less, the fish house will have less to sell.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
If you oppose these dramatic measures, please let your elected officials know. Use the list below to call decision makers and voice your opposition. We’ve put together a script to use when you call.
- Governor Roy Cooper’s Office: (919) 814-2000, email here
- Department of Environmental Quality, Secretary Michael S. Regan: (919) 707-8600
- Marine Fisheries Commission, Administrative Specialist Dana Gillikin: (252) 808-8022, email Dana.Gillikin@ncdenr.gov
Use this script when you call or email:
My name is _______ and I am a consumer of North Carolina seafood and a customer of Locals Seafood here in Raleigh, NC.
I am concerned about the drastic measures being recommended in Amendment 2 of the Southern Flounder Fisheries Management Plan. The sharp reduction in landings over two years will impact my access to North Carolina seafood and I’m concerned about the long term viability of the industry itself if these reductions go into place.
Please consider an expanded timeline for implementing the reductions. I fear a 62% reduction in 2019 and a 72% reduction in 2020 may put some in the seafood industry out of business. Thank you.