Dare commissioners tackle fishing issues
Published 11:08 pm Tuesday, September 24, 2019
On Monday night, September 16 Dare County commissioners took unanimous action in two hot commercial fishing issues.
In the Spanish mackerel fishery, the commissioners called on the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council to add two seats for North Carolina commercial watermen on the council’s Mackerel Cobia Advisory Panel and to conduct 2020 update of the Spanish mackerel stock assessment.
The resolution was presented by commissioner Danny Couch, who attended a meeting Thursday, Sept. 12 in Hatteras village where commercial fishermen discussed issues requiring long-term solutions.
Another fishery action came at the behest of commissioner Wally Overman.
Recent rules for fall flounder fishing were published for three different areas of the internal coastal waters. The northern district flounder season started Sept. 15 but storm-related weather has delayed the set of poles and nets.
The resolution asks that the Division of Marine Fisheries extend the season for the northern district for one week to Oct. 20.
The commercial Spanish mackerel fishery was closed down Aug. 24, prior to the September peak landings. North Carolina is at a disadvantage because the director of Marine Fisheries has proclamation authority and can move quickly. Virginia, for example, requires a meeting of its fisheries commission to close down a fishery. The delay leads to more fishing and possibly exceeding the quota.
The resolution states that an “inequitable quota allocation system imposes a greater regulatory burden on North Carolina commercial fishermen than fishermen in other states.”
The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council created a quota zone distribution system in 2016. Two zones were set up and the total allowable catch was divided. The northern zone – North Carolina to New York – was allocated 662,670 pounds. The southern zone – South Carolina, Georgia and Florida – was allocated 2,417,330 pounds.
The last stock assessment for Spanish mackerel was conducted in 2012. Initially, an update was set for 2020, but the council changed the schedule. An update is anticipated for 2022, which would mean no increase in total allowable catch for the northern district until around 2024, which provides no relief for Spanish mackerel fishermen in North Carolina.
An updated stock assessment is an avenue to redistribute the quota.
The demand for two North Carolina seats on the advisory panel stems from the fact that no commercial fishermen from the state sits on the panel.
Another action talked about at the Sept. 12 meeting included cutting the allowable trip limit from 3,500 pounds to 1,000 pounds with a provision allowing the trip limit to be increased if landings indicate that the quota has not been reached.
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