November 2022 NC Marine Fisheries Commission Meeting
The fall meeting of the North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC) will be held in Emerald Isle next week. The two big topics on the agenda are the final vote on the Striped Bass Fisheries Management Plan (FMP) and the vote on the supplement to address the overfished/overfishing status of striped mullet.
The Striped Bass FMP includes the Neuse and Pamlico River gill net closure upstream of the ferry lines. This closure was forced on then Director Murphey in March 2019 by the MFC at a special meeting with no public comment and very short public notice “to direct the Director (NC Division of Marine Fisheries Director Steven Murphey) to issue a proclamation”. Director Murphey had formally declined the MFC’s request to close these areas to gill nets because the science did not support the closure.
At the special meeting Commissioner Pete Kornegay used research from the 1972 to 2002 to support the proposed closure. Data that was 17 to 47 years old at the time! Commissioner Kornegay failed to mention the 75% average annual reduction in commercial discard achieved using a 200-yard setback from shore and tie downs required in large mesh since 2008 (page 404 of briefing documents). He also failed to mention that recreational dead discards in the Central Southern Management Area (CSMA) averaged 3,746 striped bass annually from 2012-2018 whereas annual commercial striped bass dead discards averaged 1,605 in the CSMA during the same time period (Table 3.1 on page 405 of briefing documents).
Chairman Bizzell also stated at this special March meeting that they would review the closure in two years at the next Striped Bass FMP update. But at the February 2022 MFC meeting the Commissioners voted to REMOVE ENTIRELY the option to reopen the rivers from the draft Striped Bass FMP BEFORE the public and Advisory Committees even had a chance to look at how these closures had affected the Striped Bass populations or the public user groups!
Nonetheless the public came out to support lifting the river closures by attending MFC meetings and giving public comment. The Northern and Southern Advisory Committees voted to end the area closure and the Finfish Advisory Committee had no official recommendation on the issue (page 440 of the briefing document).
This meeting will be the final vote on whether or not to include this closure in the Striped Bass FMP.
The 2022 striped mullet stock assessment has declared the stock as overfished with overfishing occurring (page 450 briefing documents). This meeting will begin the process of Amendment 2 to the Striped Mullet FMP which will have to address the overfished/overfishing status. But the immediate concern with striped mullet is Supplement A to Amendment 1 (page 466 briefing documents). NC Division of Marine Fisheries (NCDMF) is statutorily required to end overfishing.
Here is their statement from page 477 in the decision documents:
“The goal of this supplement is to reduce fishing mortality and end overfishing with simple quantifiable measures as quickly as possible. A 9.3% reduction in total removals relative to landings in 2019 is needed to reduce fishing mortality to the threshold and a 33% reduction is needed to reach the target. The Division recommends harvest reductions of 20-33% to exceed the F threshold and either reach or approach the F target. This level of reduction increases the probability of, at a minimum, ending overfishing even if there is variability in fishing effort, market demand, striped mullet availability to the fishery, or recruitment.
Non-quantifiable measures such as gear restrictions, area closures, size limits, and recreational specific measures were not considered because they may not quantifiably reduce harvest. A quota system was not considered because the infrastructure is not in place to quickly implement this type of management. Management strategies such as daily trip limits, day of the week closures, and early or mid-season closures were not considered because the risk of recouped catches would likely limit the realized reductions of these management measures. Rather than reduce harvest, measures like early season closures would likely just act to delay harvest.
End of year season closures are considered the most effective and efficient management option that can be implemented through the supplement process and be expected to successfully limit striped mullet harvest. An end of year season closure would be implemented as no possession across both commercial and recreational sectors with no additional modification or prohibition of gears. Despite the closure occurring across all sectors, reductions cannot be quantified for the recreational sector due to data limitations. Therefore, overall reduction calculations are based solely on striped mullet landings from the commercial fishery. A 9.3% overall reduction equates to a 9.9% reduction in commercial harvest, and a 20-33% overall reduction equates to a 21.3-35.4% reduction in commercial harvest. All management options are presented as percent reductions to the commercial harvest relative to commercial landings in 2019 (terminal year of the stock assessment).”
The options on page 479 that will be proposed to the MFC to reduce striped mullet harvest are:
- October 29 – December 31 closure to achieve a 33.7% harvest reduction
- November 7 – December 31 closure to achieve a 22.1% harvest reduction
- November 13 – December 31 closure to achieve a 10.9% harvest reduction
This is yet another hard pill to swallow for commercial fishermen. I have listened to the public comments during scoping and I have talked to fishermen who are on the water everyday who know striped mullet stocks are doing much better than this stock assessment is showing. Contact your Commissioners, get you public comments in, and attend the meeting.
The MFC meeting is being held in Emerald Isle, NC November 16th-18th at the Islander Hotel (102 Islander Dr, Emerald Isle, NC 28594).
The meeting agenda:
The complete briefing documents:
The meeting will be live streamed on YouTube at this link:
Public comments can be submitted online before 4:00pm November 14th at:
Public comments can also be done in person Wednesday evening on November 16th at 6:00pm and on Thursday, November 17th at 9:00.
As always if you have questions, comments, or concerns we are here to help.
LEGISLATIVE UPDATE: 11.8.2022
GENERAL ELECTION DAY: TODAY, TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 8th!
This may be the shortest yet very critical legislative update ever!
If you have not yet voted in the General Election, Tuesday is the day!
VOTE! OR SHUT UP!