MOREHEAD CITY —
Action taken by the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission last week will bring regulatory changes in the American shad and black drum fisheries in 2014.
The commission voted to shorten the American shad season in the Albemarle Sound/Roanoke River system. The commission also voted to implement recreational and commercial size and possession limits for black drum.
Thresholds adopted last year in the N.C. American Shad Sustainable Fishery Plan have been met requiring commercial harvest reductions in the Albemarle Sound/Roanoke River system. The commission voted to address this requirement by shortening the commercial American shad season in the Albemarle Sound/Roanoke River system to March 18 through April 14. The commission also adopted a statement that if the thresholds continue to be met in 2014, it will consider instituting a moratorium on American shad in the Albemarle Sound/Roanoke River system.
There are no size and possession limits on black drum in North Carolina, but an Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Interstate Fishery Management Plan requires states to implement black drum possession limits and a minimum size limit of at least 12 inches by Jan. 1, 2014 and at least 14 inches by Jan. 1, 2016. The commission voted to implement the following regulations:
- 14- to 25-inch total length slot size limit (but allow one fish longer than 25 inches total length to be kept)
- 10-fish recreational bag limit
- 500-pound commercial trip limit
In other business, the commission:
- Approved a draft supplement to the Spotted Seatrout Fishery Management Plan for a 60-day public comment period, from Nov. 18-Jan. 18. The draft supplement provides the commission with alternatives to stricter commercial and recreational spotted seatrout fishing regulations set to begin in February.
- Approved a draft amendment to the Shrimp Fishery Management Plan for public comment after adding a recommendation that expands on a Division of Marine Fisheries’ recommendation to convene a stakeholder group to initiate industry testing of different bycatch reduction devices (which are gear modifications meant to reduce unwanted finfish bycatch in shrimp trawls). The commission added a 40 percent reduction target for the study and stipulated if this target is not met, further restrictions will be placed on the shrimp trawl fishery.
- Initiated a focused amendment to the Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan to consider whether to continue a Dec. 1-31 closure in the large mesh gill net fishery, which was implemented to achieve needed harvest reductions in the southern flounder fishery. Through the amendment process, the Division of Marine Fisheries will determine if the necessary harvest reductions are now being met through temporary closures due to interactions with sea turtles, allowing the large mesh gill net fishery to open in December, when sea turtles are less abundant.
- Approved draft amendments to the bay scallop and river herring fishery management plans for public comment.
- Gave final approval to Amendment 2 to the Blue Crab Fishery Management Plan and Amendment 3 to the Oyster Fishery Management Plan and adopted rules to implement the amendments.
- Adopted a slate of other rules that include giving the division director proclamation authority to set size, recreational bag, commercial trip, gear, season and time restrictions on the taking of sheepshead if needed to maintain a sustainable harvest; and giving the division director proclamation authority to implement federal shellfish harvester and dealer requirements for the protection of public health.