11/27/09 — Fisheries Division causes ire among conservation group

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Fisheries Division causes ire among conservation group

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on November 27, 2009 9:12 AM

A recent decision by the North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission is drawing the ire of several conservation groups including the Coastal Conservation Association.

The MFC extended the flounder season by three weeks, but the CCA laments that the state is taking chances with a popular and potentially volatile fishery.

Under state management measures adopted by the MFC in 2005, the flounder season normally closes Nov. 30. On Tuesday, the MFC voted 5-2 to instruct the Division of Marine Fisheries Director Louis Daniel, to extend the commercial pound net flounder season until Dec. 15.

"The MFC has decided to ignore NCDMF data that states flounder are being overfished," said CCA director Stephen Ammons said. "No data justifies this decision."

In 2007, the Commission decided to extend the season, which resulted in an additional 90,000 pounds of flounder being caught in a two-week period.

The MFC's reason for extending the flounder season was based primarily on warm weather that has held down the number of commercial landings due to fish staying in the upper estuaries. The DMF's closure of the Pamlico Sound Gil Net area due to accidental sea turtle catches also reduced potential flounder takes.

"We should not try to increase harvest of this valuable resource; we should be taking actions to insure its long-term health and viability," said Ammons. "If the state extends the season on one of the most popular marine resources, it is likely that drastic measures will be needed in the future."

Based on adopted management plans, the MFC has just five more years to end overfishing. The expected date to implement new Southern Flounder management regulations is April 1, 2012.

After its controversial decision regarding flounder, the Marine Fisheries Commission will meet Dec. 2 in Pine Knoll Shores to discuss other potential rule changes and review catch numbers for the year.

The MFC also recently released its meeting schedule for 2010 which includes stops in Kitty Hawk, Raleigh, New Bern and Wilmington.