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Recreational and commercial flounder seasons adjusted for 2021

The North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries has adjusted the recreational and commercial flounder seasons for 2021 to ensure a sustainable fishery, the agency stated in a press release. “In 2019 the Division of Marine Fisheries recommended and the Marine Fisheries Commission approved, substantial harvest reductions in the flounder fishery to rebuild the southern flounder stock,” stated the release. “These season adjustments are necessary to meet that goal.”

The recreational flounder season will open September 1 and close September 14 in internal and ocean waters of North Carolina. The minimum size limit will remain at 15 inches total length and the creel limit will remain at four fish per person per day during the open recreational season.

The recreational season applies to all recreational flounder fishing since all species of flounder are managed under the same recreational regulations.

The commercial southern flounder harvest seasons will open on the following schedule:

– Northern Area (waters north of Pamlico Sound): September 15 through October 1.

– Central Area (Pamlico Sound and its tributaries): October 1 through October 19.

– Southern Area (waters from Core Sound to the South Carolina line): October 1 through October 21.

All commercial gears that target southern flounder, such as large mesh gill nets and flounder pound nets, must be removed from the water (or made inoperable in the case of flounder pound nets) when the season is closed. The catfish and shad fisheries, which use large mesh gill nets, will be allowed in areas where interactions with southern flounder are unlikely.

The flounder fishery is currently managed under Amendment 2 to the Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan. Amendment 2 included southern flounder harvest reductions of 62% in 2019 and 72% beginning in 2020 for both the recreational and commercial fisheries. The total removals allowed in both years under these reductions were exceeded in both the commercial and recreational sectors, resulting in the seasonal adjustments, stated the release.

“Reductions in harvest are required because the 2019 South Atlantic Southern Flounder Stock Assessment found that southern flounder is overfished and overfishing is occurring throughout the region (North Carolina through the eastern coast of Florida),” the release continued. “Overfished means the population is too small. Overfishing means the removal rate is too high. North Carolina is leading the rebuilding effort with the Marine Fisheries Commission adoption of Amendment 2.”

The Division of Marine Fisheries is developing Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan Amendment 3, which examines more robust management strategies, such as quotas, slot limits, size limit changes, gear changes and species-specific management for the recreational fishery. Draft Amendment 3 is scheduled to be reviewed and potentially approved for public and advisory committee review in November 2021.

For more information about the southern flounder fishery, see the Division of Marine Fisheries’ answers to Frequently Asked Questions or the Southern Flounder Amendment 3 Information Page.

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