WHAT HOUSE BILL 894 COULD MEAN FOR YOU…
HB-894, if passed, would implement the following management measures for North Carolinas Commercial and Recreational Southern Flounder fisheries,
- 12–18-inch slot limit
- 532,352-pound quota to be divided between both sectors
- Require that dead discard in all fisheries that interact with Southern Flounder count towards the quota (impossible!)
- Require that quota averages in one year, for each sector, be remedied with sector reduction in the next year (payback of overages)
- Impose a full moratorium on harvest in sustainable harvest has not been achieved by 2028.
While these management measures are sure to draw the interest of both commercial fishermen and anglers, the most interesting wording in the bill will likely go unnoticed by both.
The Bill suggests that “the 80% reduction in commercial (flounder) landings from 1997 to 2019” is proof the FMP has failed but makes no mention of the reduction in recreational landings.
I find it interesting that the recreational interests responsible for this bill failed to mention how “overfishing” of Southern Flounder has devastated the recreational fishery.
After all, since 2005, the MFC has adopted multiple restrictions meant to reduce the total removals for both the recreational and commercial sectors.
It’s evident, by the 80% reduction, that the FMP has not failed to reduce commercial removals but what’s not known to most, is the fact that no recreational reduction in total removals has been achieved.
The truth is recreational removals have changed very little, since the adoption of the FMP in 2005, despite the States multiple attempts to achieve a reduction. This is most evident in 2019 and 2020 when the State adopted a seasonal approach meant to achieve a 62% reduction in 2019 and a 72% reduction in 2020, for both sectors.
It was made clear that neither sector was likely to achieve the desired reduction in 2019, due to the fact that the measures were not adopted until the fall of that year, so a 42.5% commercial reduction and a 15.4% recreational reduction in 2018 was no surprise. What was surprising to many, not me, was what happened in 2020, the first full year with a flounder season.
While the commercial sector fell just short, of the desired 72% reduction, with a 65.5% reduction, the recreational removals were only reduced by 16.3%, a 303,828-pound overage.
Of course, all of this might change if HB-894 passes.
HB-894 would require both sectors to “payback” the overages in one year, the following year or years for the recreational sector. For instance, if the bill had passed in 2019, the 303,828-pound recreational overage would have been deducted from 2021’s quota. This overage would have exceeded the recreational quota for the next 2 to 3 years meaning no harvest would be allowed during those years in order to achieve the desired reduction. To make matters worse the dead discards that occurred during these years, when harvest wasn’t allowed would count against the quota when and if the season reopened.
The total weight of dead discards would be deducted from the total allowable catch and only the remaining poundage would be available for harvest. In 2020 the recreational dead discards were nearly 65,000 pounds meaning with only a slight increase, 3 years of discards would eat up a full year’s quota, even at a 50% allocation!
If the recreational season ever reopened it would have to be much shorter that the six weeks allowed in 2020 to prevent future overages, and even then, increased effort could easily result in the same scenario seen in 2020.
With the recent decision, by the MFC, to reallocate 23% of the commercial quota to the recreational sector, flounder once harvested and consumed will now be wasted as recreational dead discards, with no benefit to the recreational sector if HB-894 passes.
Maybe the CCA should have asked for more Red Drum or Speckled Trout for NC anglers rather than misleading them with the empty promise of more flounder.
Or maybe the commercial industry should demand a 50%/50% split for Red Drum and Speckled Trout.
After all, the CCA and MFC have made equitable allocation an FMP priority by their recent actions!
NC anglers should be asking why the CCA would promise more flounder and then support legislation that would take those fish away!
NCFA -Executive Director
LEGISLATIVE UPDATE for 5/7/2021:
NORTH CAROLINA GENERAL ASSEMBLY:
Once again, this is an abbreviated list of the bills we’re watching as there was only one explanation needed on H-327, and one new bill introduced. This was a very busy week as the crossover deadline is May 13th, so next week will be another hectic one.
On a very important note, a new fish bill was introduced, H-894 which is listed below. That bill is NOT subject to crossover because it has money in it. If passed, it would establish a 12–18-inch slot limit for Southern Flounder, Total Allowable landings for Rec and Commercial combined of 532,352 pounds and a provision for a moratorium if the stock has not reached sustainable harvest by 2028.
Regardless of the provisions in the bill, NCFA is opposed to any action by the General Assembly that would interfere with the fishery management plan process as per the Fisheries Reform Act. That is a long-standing position.
H-327 UPDATE LEGISLATIVE REVIEW OF RULES PROCESS; see update below
sponsored by Moffitt, Riddell, Stevens, Yarborough, Clampitt
When originally introduced, the bill was 3 pages long and included substantial changes, which is why we listed it. However, a committee substitute was adopted which is only 1 page and changes are technical. Therefore, after today, we will not be including this bill on our list.
The PCS (link below) was passed by the House on 5/5 by a vote of 117-0; now in Senate Rules.
H-894 REBUILD SOUTHERN FLOUNDER STOCKS; introduced 5/5
Sponsored by Yarborough, Saine, Bell, Cunningham, Adams, A.Baker, Belk, Dahle, Dixon, Hawkins, Humphrey, Hunt, Hunter, Insko, Lucas, McNeely, Moffitt, Quick, Richardson, Rogers, Sauls, R. Smith, Wray, Zachary
Referred to Marine Resources