December 23, 2019

North Carolina: CSF Makes Recommendations to Rebuild the Southern Flounder Fishery

Contact: John Culclasure, Southeastern States Assistant Director

On December 18, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) submitted comments to the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries’ (DMF) regarding the scoping stage of a draft Amendment 3 to the Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan (FMP). 

Southern flounder is an important recreational and commercial fishery in North Carolina, but the recent stock assessment found that the stock is overfished and that overfishing continues.

Chris Horton, CSF’s Senior Director of Fisheries Policy, stated, “The last year of data in the stock assessment (2017) indicated that the southern flounder spawning stock biomass was at its lowest point in the assessment period, highlighting the urgency to end overfishing and implement a new long-term management strategy for rebuilding as soon as possible.”

After Amendment 2 to the Southern Flounder FMP was adopted by the Marine Fisheries Commission earlier this year, the DMF closed recreational and commercial seasons on September 4 to comply with statutory requirements to end overfishing within two years and recover the overfished stock condition within ten years. Amendment 2 called for a 62% reduction in total removals in 2019 and a 72% reduction starting next year until Amendment 3 is adopted. The commercial fishing seasons were reopened this fall, but the recreational fishery remains closed. 

Adoption of Amendment 2 to the Southern Flounder FMP hinged on the development of Amendment 3 to assess management strategies to achieve a 52% reduction in total removals beginning in 2021 to rebuild the spawning stock biomass within ten years. 

Horton wrote, “The current management strategies for the southern flounder have failed to maintain a sustainable population and acceptable levels of fishing-related mortality. Contention surrounding management decisions to address problems with this fishery have historically been difficult to overcome. However, in order to ensure the future of commercial and recreational southern flounder fishing in North Carolina, difficult decisions are now necessary, and all sectors must shoulder the burden equally.” 

In 2017, North Carolina recreational flounder anglers spent $362 million in trip expenditures and supported 2,574 jobs. 

CSF has been involved in related coastal fishery management issues in North Carolina and will continue to be engaged in the development process for Amendment 3 moving forward.

Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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