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  • Writer's pictureTopsail Times

No Recreational Flounder Fishing This Year

As we celebrate Freedom on the 4th of July, should we, in fact, be looking at all the freedoms we have lost or are losing?

On Thursday, May 23, 2024, the North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission put out a press release that has caused shock and outrage among recreational fishermen. Basing their decision on information obtained from 2023 studies, the Commission decided to prohibit any recreational fishing for southern flounder during the 2024 season.

To preserve the resource, recreational flounder season will not open in 2024.

MOREHEAD CITY

In order to preserve the southern flounder resource, the North Carolina recreational flounder season will not open for harvest in 2024. Estimates from 2023 indicate the recreational catch exceeded the quota allowed under a stock rebuilding plan that was included in Amendment 3 to the Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan and adopted by the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission.

Southern flounder are overfished and overfishing is occurring. Amendment 3 to the Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan, adopted by the Commission in 2022, set quotas for the recreational and commercial fisheries, based on scientific data, to end overfishing and rebuild the stock. There is a pound-for-pound payback if either sector goes over its quota.

During today’s quarterly business meeting, the Marine Fisheries Commission received an update on the recreational quota available for the recreational flounder season. After subtracting the recreational overage from 2023, the recreational quota for 2024 is not large enough to allow for a season opening. The leftover quota will be used to account for the anticipated dead discards that will occur due to incidental catch and release. The Commission discussed holding a special meeting to consider alternatives to not holding a 2024 recreation season but ultimately did not move forward with that approach.

Recreational fishermen take approximately 2.1 million fishing trips that target or catch flounder every year. While individual fishermen may not harvest many fish per trip, once this number is multiplied by the number of trips taken each year the harvest adds up quickly.

During the one month-long 2022 flounder season, recreational fishermen removed 226,995 pounds of southern flounder. This number is primarily harvest, but also includes the fish that die after being released. This was over the approved removals of 170,665 pounds.

So how do they know what recreational fishermen catch?

Recreational fishermen are interviewed at boat ramps, beaches and piers. They are asked where they fished, what they caught and what was thrown back into the water and what type of fishing gear they used. Holders of Coastal Recreational Fishing Licenses are surveyed during the year by mail, phone or online.

If you have questions you may email anne.markwith@ncdenr.gov or holly.white@ncdenr.gov.

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