Southern Flounder Fiasco

In the middle of trying to rebuild the southern flounder population in our state, the North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission (WRC) has decided this year to have a separate recreational season outside of the recreational season set by the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF). Not only do these season dates not align (the WRC season runs September 1-14 and the DMF season runs September 15-29) but the WRC has set a 4 flounder bag limit during their season while the DMF bag limit is only 1 flounder. 

Legal counsel for the Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC), Phillip Reynolds, addressed this issue with the MFC on Friday. At the meeting Mr. Reynolds said, “there is no scientific basis showing that [the WRC season and bag limit] is an appropriate measure.” Mr. Reynolds continued to say, “[WRC] have said the quiet part out loud. That the decision was not based on scientific data, was not based on the shape of the stock”.

So, while we are having to deal with the MFC changing the allocation of flounder during a rebuilding period, the DMF using a 0.21-pound average to estimate the weight of recreational dead discards, and the NOAA Fisheries’ ever changing MRIP data (which NOAA Fisheries also says is not useful for short, high harvest seasons), we also have to deal with WRC setting a season for flounder with no management plan or data whatsoever!

Any single one of these measures could spell disaster for rebuilding southern flounder in the appropriate time period, but these latest theatrics from WRC may well be the breaking point.

Thomas Newman

Fisheries Liaison