Mandatory Harvest Reporting, Why and How?



As you know, in 2023 legislation was approved that places new “mandatory reporting” requirements on both recreational anglers and commercial fishermen who participate in North Carolinas coastal fisheries.


As usual, this has led to a lot of comments, complaints, and misinformation which, quite frankly, is what started the mandatory reporting conversation in the first place. As one of the primary supporters of “mandatory reporting” we feel it’s important for the NCFA to explain exactly why and how this legislation came to be.




           For several years now, the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) of North Carolina, and others, have raised their concerns about the high percentage of inactive commercial fishing licenses, claiming that the majority of commercial license holders don’t report landings. While it’s true that a majority of commercial fishing licenses, in recent years, don’t have landings (trip tickets) associated with them, this doesn’t mean that all of these license holders aren’t “reporting”, many may not be fishing at all.


           Nonetheless, these claims of “unreported harvest” have raised concern among the general public and elected officials in Raleigh, leading to several attempts by the CCA to make changes to commercial licensing statutes, with the most recent bill, House Bill 655 (Link to HB655), being introduced in 2023.


           In response to growing concerns regarding the “unreported harvest” rhetoric, the Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) chose to make recommendations to the North Carolina General Assembly for addressing the issue.


           These recommendations were made public at the February 2022 Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC) meeting when DMF staff gave a (video and presentation) “Latent License Information”, presentation to the Commission.


           At the beginning of this presentation, DMF Director Kathy Rawls did a very good job of summing up why these recommendations were being made, when she said the following,

“In response to many comments, complaints, and misinformation that surrounds this issue, I’ve asked staff to give a short presentation on this. We at the Division support continued efforts to improve data collection in all sectors and the more information the Division has on removals from each sector, the better the data will be and the better our management should be as well.”




·       Comments, complaints and misinformation

·       Improve data collection in all sectors.

·       Better data = better management


That said, the Divisions recommendations, (below) only addressed data gaps in the commercial and for-hire fisheries and did nothing to address issues regarding recreational data concerns, such as using MRIP to monitor the Southern Flounder quota, among others.


DMF Potential Solutions/Recommendations


·       Require reporting of commercially harvested fish that are harvested for personal consumption to be reported on trip ticket through a fish dealer.

·       Make a clear delineation between commercial fishing activity and for-hire fishing activity to ensure landed/ harvested fish are being reported to one of DMF’s data collection programs.


Shortly after the February 2022 MFC meeting, the NCFA Board met and discussed the latent license issue and the DMF’s proposed solutions. At that meeting, our Board agreed that the claims of “unreported harvest” needed to be addressed through data rather than rhetoric and also felt strongly that widespread concerns with recreational data, collected through the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP), should also be addressed moving forward.


Taking to heart, the Divisions claim to “support continued efforts to improve data collection in all sectors” our Board supported mandatory reporting for all sectors as the first step towards better data and better management.


Again, better management is dependent on better data and both management and legislation should be based on data rather than rhetoric. This is why we supported mandatory reporting!




As with the why, there has been a lot of misinformation spread about how this legislation got passed and who was involved.


In early 2023, Chad Thomas from the North Carolina Marine and Estuary Foundation (NCMEF) reached out to the NCFA to see if there were any issues our groups might be able to work together on. His Board saw the value in better data and the two groups decided to push for legislation in 2023, leading to the mandatory reporting language being included in the Regulatory Reform Bill later that year.


Chad then reached out to the CCA, who also chose to support mandatory reporting, which made this a consensus effort, meaning every “fisheries group” walking the halls of the General Assembly supported mandatory reporting for both sectors.


It cannot be over emphasized how important it was to have all three groups sign on to this legislation and, despite what you may have heard, it would not have happened if any one group had opposed it.

In addition to the NCFA, NCMEF, and CCA, the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF), and the Wildlife Resource Commission (WRC) were all aware of the mandatory reporting language from the start, each suggesting language changes that were incorporated into the legislation.


In fact, despite what you may have heard, this is always the case. Any fisheries legislation is always sent to the State agencies which may be affected in order to get their input.


That’s not to say that concerns weren’t raised, or questions asked, but everyone had an opportunity to weigh in on mandatory reporting. When concerns did arise, we met in person and communicated through email until, in our opinion, a compromise had been reached.


Mandatory reporting is not an attack on anyone, as it affects both sectors.

It wasn’t hidden from anyone nor shoved down anyone’s throat.


It certainly wasn’t bought and paid for by the NCFA or anyone else.

Those members of the North Carolina General Assembly who supported mandatory reporting did so, because everyone who shows up did so, if not it wouldn’t have passed.


While this all began from a CCA talking point, there is potential for something positive to come out of all of this, if everyone would simply embrace the idea and work together towards the common goal of improving fisheries data collection in NC.


If flounder season is going to be closed, wouldn’t you rather it be closed from data you reported rather than a survey that was never intended for monitoring a quota and most anglers have never participated in?


Mandatory reporting is about closing data gaps in both sectors and, if implemented correctly, can prove to be a useful tool in the future. Unfortunately, it’s been met with more questions, complaints, and misinformation rather than optimism, but this isn’t surprising to me.


If I’m being honest, I felt the very same way, in 1994, when I was first required to report every fish, I sold on a trip ticket. I didn’t think the State had any right to know what I caught, where I caught it, or what gear I used to catch it. I was wrong, the data collected through the trip ticket program is essential for managing our fisheries.


Thirty years later, commercial data gaps have been identified as a concern and, like it or not, the recreational sector has become the dominant source of mortality in many of our coastal fisheries, but recreational data collection is not held to the same standard as commercial.


Mandatory reporting is the first step towards addressing both issues but possibly not the last. It’s hard to say exactly what will be achieved through this initial step but it’s essential that we pull our heads out of the sand and acknowledge that NC can do better.


Glenn Skinner

NCFA, INC. Executive Director

SAFMC Meets This Week


The South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council (SAFMC) meets this week in Florida. This meeting as always, has a packed agenda. The best place to find out detailed information about each agenda item is by scrolling through the meeting webpage. The meeting webpage has links to all of the meeting materials for each topic.


Location: The Shores Resort & Spa, 2637 South Atlantic Avenue, Daytona Beach, Florida


Time: 1:30pm Monday, June 10 through noon Friday, June 14th


Meeting Webpage


meeting agenda


submit public comment


webinar registration


Public comment is Wednesday at 4:00pm. If you wish to give public comment through the webinar you are asked to sign up HERE.



A Few Agenda Items of Interest 


Monday, June 10th




For Hire Limited Entry Amendment 

Attachment 3a: For Hire Limited Entry Control Date Comments 

Attachment 3b: For Hire Limited Entry Decision Document


Dolphin Management Strategy Evaluation Update

Attachment 5: Dolphin MSE Presentation



Tuesday, June 11th




Snapper Grouper Committee

Snapper Grouper AP Report

SSC and SEP Meeting Report

Attachment 1a: Red Snapper Recreational Landings

Attachment 1b: Red Snapper Management Study Presentation

Attachment 1c: Prioritized List of Management Strategies for Snapper Grouper



Wednesday, June 12th




Black Sea Bass (south of Cape Hatteras) Amendment 56

Attachment 4: Amendment 56 Decision Document


4:00pm Public Comment- Sign up HERE



Thursday, June 13th




Snapper Grouper Commercial Fishery Discussion

(No supporting documents)




Council Session II

Terms of reference for SEDAR 90 (Red Snapper) and Statement of Work for Black Sea Bass

Attachment 6a: TOR SEDAR 90

Attachment 6b: TOR SOW for Black Sea Bass



Friday, June 14th




Council Session II

Committee Reports (Meeting Summary)



As you can see there is a lot going on with fisheries management in the South Atlantic. Although no final decisions affecting NC are expected to be made at this meeting, there are multiple topics we need to keep an eye on. 


Black Sea bass south of Cape Hatteras have been declared as overfished and a decision document should be approved and sent out for public scoping this summer. The council continues to look at the Dolphin Management Strategy Evaluation (MSE) and will continue working with stakeholders through 2025. 


The council also continues to look at For-Hire limited entry as well as discussing the current commercial Snapper Grouper fishery. Red snapper management will again be discussed as well as the terms of reference (ToR) for a benchmark stock assessment (SEDAR 90) scheduled to begin in 2025. 


Lastly, although not on the agenda, it is the final council meeting before the red snapper season “usually” begins, so I am hoping we might hear whether or not we will be having a harvest season in the South Atlantic this year. 



If you have any questions, suggestions, or concerns please reach out.



Thomas Newman

Fisheries Liaison