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Marine Fisheries Commission selects sector allocations for southern flounder plan amendment

The North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission selected sector harvest allocations of 70% commercial and 30% recreational for the upcoming Amendment 3 to the Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan.

The commission voted on the allocations at its quarterly business meeting Feb. 26, 2021.

At its November 2020 meeting, the commission asked the Division of Marine Fisheries to consider several different options for sector harvest allocations in the draft plan amendment, including commercial/recreational splits of 70/30, 65/35, 60/30 with a 10% allotment for gigging, 60/40, and 50/50.

In previous southern flounder plans, management measures were based on historical sector landings. For Amendment 3, that would equate to approximately 73% commercial and 27% recreational.

The draft amendment includes options for commercial and recreational quotas, commercial trip limits, recreational bag limits, regulations on the recreational use of commercial gear to harvest flounder, separating southern flounder from other flounder species in recreational management, evaluating inlet corridors as a management tool, and evaluating recreational and commercial slot limits.

During the meeting, Chairman Rob Bizzell announced he will schedule a special meeting by web conference on March 18, 2021 to vote on sending the draft Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan Amendment 3 for public and advisory committee review later this spring. Specifics on the meeting time and web links will be announced later.

Final adoption of the draft amendment is scheduled for later this year.

In other business, the commission:

– Moved forward with rulemaking to protect all finfish species from highly efficient fishing gear on artificial reefs in state ocean waters.

– Gave final approval to amend and readopt a package of rules in 15A NCAC 03 and 18A under a mandatory periodic review schedule. The rules pertain to shellfish growing waters, processing of crustacea meat, special secondary nursery areas,and oyster sanctuaries. The rules also address user conflicts associated with shellfish leases while supporting a productive shellfish aquaculture industry.

– Approved the goal and objectives for Amendment 2 to the Estuarine Striped Bass Fishery Management Plan.

– Voted not to move forward with proposed rulemaking to require the use of circle hooks and barbless treble hooks when fishing with natural bait statewide. Rather, the commission voted to consider circle hook requirements on a species-by-species basis through the fishery management plan process.

– Decided by consensus not to proceed with developing additional rules to limit shellfish lease acreage in identified high-use areas, to give time for the other shellfish lease rules to take effect.

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