MFC Meeting Recap
The North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC) met last week in Emerald Isle, NC. I am happy to report there was good turnout from fishermen giving comments and talking with commissioners and staff during and after the meeting.
As most of you know the striped mullet was the hot item on the agenda. Specifically, looking at reducing striped mullet harvest by setting seasons and trip limits. If you read the Weekly Update last week you know that the Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) has recommended the maximum harvest reduction percentage of 35.4%.
-50 pound trip limit Saturdays through Sundays year round
-50 pound trip limit November 16th through January 31st
-500 pound trip limit February 1st through October 15th
-Roe season with no trip limit October 16th through November 15th
However, our voices were heard at this meeting. The MFC had concerns and asked a lot of questions about better ways to monitor and assess the striped mullet stock and they seem to be wanting to look at options other than the one recommended above. Staff also made sure to clearly state that all options in this draft are still available to choose from and they want to hear more ideas and suggestions.
Although we expressed our concerns at this meeting, it is going to be important for everyone to continue to stay informed as we are still in the early stages of the process. We cannot do anything to change the stock assessment and we are statutorily required to reduce harvest at this point, but we do not have to accept a 35% reduction with these strict seasons and limits!
The public comment and scoping period officially begins December 18th and runs through January 17th. Public meetings and other details will be announced later. The most important thing we can all do is come together and figure out a solution that meets the needs of all commercial mullet fishermen in the state.
We need a plan that can achieve at least a 21.3% reduction while maintaining all elements of our commercial mullet fishery from bait to the roe season. For example, one such option that was recommended by the striped mullet advisory committee was a year round no commercial harvest on Saturdays and Sundays. Eliminating harvest on the weekends with no other changes to the current fishery represented a 25.7% reduction in harvest.
There are many options and combinations of options that are discussed in the striped mullet decision document. The decision document is on pages 139-149 in the briefing book link below. Let us and the DMF know what options work best to keep you fishing.
Contact NCFA or DMF staff with questions, comments, or suggestions and keep reading the Weekly Update for information and links to upcoming striped mullet meetings.