May 28, 2024

CSF Weighs in on Mandatory Fish Harvest Reporting Requirements in North Carolina

Article Contact: Conner Barker,

Why It Matters: With marine fisheries management highly variable by state along the Atlantic Coast, it is imperative that any harvest reporting requirements be carefully developed to provide credible data. If a mandatory reporting program is developed correctly, reliable catch information could enhance the sustainability of North Carolina’s marine resources and provide additional access for the state’s recreational anglers.


  • In 2023, the North Carolina General Assembly passed House Bill 600, which required the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) to develop commercial and non-commercial reporting requirements of certain fish harvests.
  • The recreational harvest of the following finfish species shall be reported under the proposed rule: red drum, flounder, spotted seatrout, striped bass, and weakfish.
  • The proposed reporting requirements specify that recreational anglers include angler identification information, date of harvest, species identification, number of each species, species length, area of harvest, and type of gear used.
  • Additionally, commercial fisherman are to report all fish harvested to DMF, regardless of sale, under a separate proposed rule.

Following the 2023 legislative session, DMF was tasked with developing commercial and non-commercial harvest reporting requirements for certain fish species. Additionally, DMF was allocated $5 million in the 2023 state budget to develop the reporting system.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has struggled in recent years to produce reliable angler catch information provided by the federal Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP). This data is critical to successful marine fisheries management, both in state and federally managed fisheries. MRIP data is used in stock assessments and to monitor landings and discards for management purposes. The highly variable MRIP data has led to shorter seasons and a loss of recreational fishing access across the South Atlantic for some federally managed species.

With the new proposed rule, North Carolina can craft mandatory reporting requirements that could provide more accurate data that would lead to additional access for recreational anglers if developed and implemented correctly. In the Gulf of Mexico, state developed angler harvest information programs have led to more angling opportunities for recreational anglers. Driven by poor angler and harvest estimates using MRIP, anglers were once limited to a three-day red snapper season in the Gulf of Mexico. However, all five Gulf States developed their own data collection programs and now enjoy months long seasons for red snapper.

On May 20, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) and the American Sportfishing Association submitted comments to DMF underscoring the importance of reliable catch information in successful marine fisheries management. The letter recommended DMF to develop a task force to coordinate with agencies, anglers, academia, and regional fisheries management bodies to ensure data generated from the proposed rule will best serve the marine fisheries resource and enhance recreational angler access. Angler compliance and accuracy of reporting is critical to a successful state-based data collection program. Specifically, CSF and ASA suggested the following:

  • Add a simple-to-use smart phone application for quick and easy reporting;
  • The requirement should include the number of each species harvested and released rather than harvested only, to be able to estimate discards;
  • Do not include species length since the measurement would not be valid for science purposes as it is unlikely that most anglers would have a reliable measuring device or know how to effectively measure fish;
  • Report the county where the fish were landed to offer more consistent general location data; and
  • Provide a simple selection box or drop-down menu for the type of gear used.

CSF looks forward to tracking the rule development process and will continue to support efforts to improve marine fisheries management in the Tar Heel State.

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