Rulemaking for False Albacore


As mentioned in last week’s newsletter, the Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC) decided, at its February 2024 business meeting, to move forward with rulemaking for False Albacore.


 The proposed Rule, as approved by the MFC, reads as follows:


  • If the level of landings of false albacore in a calendar year exceeds 200 percent of the five-year average of North Carolinas recreational and commercial landings combined from 2018-2022, the Fisheries Director shall issue a proclamation as set forth in paragraph (b) of this Rule.


  • In accordance with paragraph (a) of this Rule and after prior consent of the Marine Fisheries Commission, the fisheries director shall, by proclamation impose the following requirements on the taking of false albacore:


  • For recreational purposes, specify a bag limit not to exceed 10 fish per person per day, not to exceed 30 fish per vessel per day.


  • For a commercial fishing operation, specify a trip limit not to exceed 3,500 pounds in any one day or trip, whichever is more restrictive.



  • A proclamation issued in accordance with paragraphs (a) and (b) of this Rule shall become effective January 1 of the year following the year when the determination is made that a proclamation shall be issued.  The proclamation shall expire when the level of landings falls below the landings level in paragraph (a) of this Rule in a subsequent calendar year and after prior consent of the Marine Fisheries Commission.


 It’s important to note that, this Rule was not proposed to address sustainability of the False Albacore fishery, as no data exist to suggest that the sustainability of the fishery is a concern.  Instead, according to those commissioners and members of the public who spoke in favor of the Rule, the justification for rulemaking seems to be that the Rule would prevent significant growth in the fishery by implementing “very liberal limits”, justification which we believe has been misrepresented.

 While the proposed rule would cap harvest, it does nothing to cap growth or even mortality in the False Albacore fishery.  Harvest is just one source of fishing mortality for this species, with dead discards from the recreational catch and release fishery being the other.  That said, the proposed rule doesn’t address, or even consider, recreational catch and release mortality, meaning that the catch and release fishery and subsequent dead discards could increase exponentially without triggering management.  Again, only harvest is limited by this rule and only in North Carolina, meaning that not only could the catch and release fishery in NC, and elsewhere, continue to grow, but coastwide harvest could also increase on this high migratory species, despite the adoption of the Rule.


 The truth is, the adoption of this Rule would not prevent significant growth from occurring in this fishery, it would only prevent significant recreational and commercial harvest from occurring in one state, North Carolina!

 So, what about those “very liberal limits” set by this Rule? 


The truth is, this rule does not set limits, liberal or otherwise.  What the Rule actually does, is allows the Fisheries Director to set recreational bag limits and commercial trip limits if a predetermined level of combined harvest is exceeded, in any given year, by issuing a proclamation and receiving MFC consent.


The “very liberal limits” talking point, refers to rule language which states that recreational bag limits are not to exceed 10 fish per person per day and commercial trip limits are not to exceed 3,500 pounds.  “Not to exceed” are the key words in this Rule, meaning that the limits can be no more liberal than 10 fish and 3,500 pounds but can be far more restrictive, with no lower limits being set by the rule.


 Simply put, if implemented, the limits can be as low as the Fisheries Director and MFC wish them to be and based on nothing but increased harvest in a single given year.

 Given much of the rhetoric surrounding this rule, it didn’t appear that many people had an accurate understanding of what this rule, if approved, will actually do and this is concerning.  Whether you view this Rule as precautionary management, government overreach, or simply a passion project, a clear understanding of what this proposed Rule does and does not do is essential for all of us as this process moves forward.


 One can only hope that future comments, whether in support or opposition for the rule, will represent a more accurate interpretation of its true purpose and limitations.


Glenn Skinner


NCFA, Executive Director



SAFMC Meeting This Week


Date: Monday, March 4th starting at 1:30pm through Friday, March 8th


Location: Villas by the Sea Resort, 1175 N. Beachview Drive Jekyll Island, GA 31527


Meeting Agenda: meeting agenda


Submit Public Comment: submit public comment


Listen Online: webinar registration


The public also has an opportunity to comment in person or online Wednesday, March 6th at 4pm.


Read Written Comments: Read public comments



Agenda Items of Interest 


Mackerel Cobia Committee: Tuesday 8:30-10:00

King mackerel tournament sales – Law Enforcement AP Report


The committee will be reviewing the Law Enforcement AP report and will be discussing how to proceed on this issue. 


Mackerel port meetings – Attachment 1: Mackerel Port Meetings Discussion Document


The committee will be voting on final approval of the mackerel port meeting dates. These are tentatively scheduled for the evenings of April 1-4 in 4 locations in North Carolina. We will remind everyone closer to the meeting dates.



SEDAR Committee: Tuesday 10:00-12:00

Update on SEDAR 89 (Tilefish) and SEDAR 92 (Blueline Tilefish)


Terms of Reference (TOR) for SEDAR 90 (Red Snapper)


Attachment 1a: TOR SEDAR 90 Red Snapper Research Track


Attachment 1b: TOR SEDAR 90 Red Snapper Benchmark Assessment



Snapper Grouper Committee: Wednesday 8:30-12:00

Black sea bass (Amendment 56)


Attachment 4a: SEDAR 76 (Black Sea Bass) Stock Assessment Projections Presentation


Attachment 4b: Black Sea Bass Management Response Options Presentation



Snapper Grouper Committee: Wednesday 1:30-3:45

Red snapper (Amendment 35)


Attachment 6a: Regulatory Amendment 35 Decision Document


Attachment 6b: Regulatory Amendment 35 Draft Amendment



Public Comment: Wednesday 4:00pm



Snapper Grouper Committee: Thursday 8:30-12:00

Management Strategy Evaluation (MSE) Update


Attachment 7: Snapper Grouper Management Strategy Evaluation Presentation


Overview of commercial permits


Attachment 8: Snapper Grouper Commercial Permits Discussion Document


This discussion looks at possible changes in the snapper grouper (SG) 1 and 2 permits. It looks like many options are still on the table, anywhere from just continuing these discussions to ending the 2 for 1 commercial permit consolidation that has been in place since 1998.



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


Thomas Newman

Fisheries Liaison