Marine Fisheries Division Releases Annual Fisheries Management Plan Review

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The NC Marine Fisheries Division today released the 2021 Fisheries Management Plan Review.

The Fisheries Management Plan Review summarizes available information, such as long-term catch, biological and management trends, through 2021 for North Carolina state-managed species. It also provides links to information on federally managed and interstate species of importance to North Carolina. It is available on the Division’s website at https://deq.nc.gov/fishery-management-plans.

Highlights from this year’s review for state-managed species include:

  • Estuarine striped bass – Amendment 2 to the North Carolina Estuary Striped Bass Fishery Management Plan, developed jointly with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, is in final review and expected to be adopted at the next meeting of the Sea Fisheries Commission in August. Development of a stock assessment update is underway in 2022 to further assess the status given the continued low recruitment of juveniles. It follows a 2020 peer-reviewed reference stock assessment that indicated the Albemarle-Roanoke estuarine striped bass stock is overfished and there is overfishing. No stock status is available for the South Central management area; however, a population model indicates that the stock is depressed to a level where sustainability is unlikely. Adaptive management measures through Amendment 1 put in place stricter harvest restrictions in 2021 to address overfishing in the Albemarle Sound and Roanoke River management areas.
  • Shrimp – Work on modifying the Shrimp Fishery Management Plan 2 continued in 2021 and final approval of the plan was given in February 2022. The plan focuses on further reducing bycatch of species not targeted and minimizing impacts on the ecosystem.
  • blue crab – Blue crab landings were below average in 2020 and 2021, prompting the Division to advance a stock assessment update that was scheduled for 2023 at the earliest. management of the blue crab fishery was approved in February 2020, and management measures have been implemented to address the overfished and overfished status of the stock based on the results of the reference stock assessment of 2018 peer-reviewed.
  • Southern Flounder – In 2021, while Amendment 3 was being finalized, the commercial and recreational seasons implemented under Amendment 2 of the Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan continued, but did not fully achieved the plan’s reduction target. Amendment 3 to the Southern Plaice Fishery Management Plan, adopted in May 2022, provides more comprehensive and robust management strategies. These changes, implemented for 2022, include quotas and accountability measures to maintain a 72% reduction in catches across all fisheries.
  • striped mullet – Work on this species in 2021 included the recently completed 2022 striped mullet stock assessment in North Carolina. The results of the peer-reviewed report indicate that the stock is overfished and there is overfishing until the end of 2019. A formal review of the plan is currently underway and will address the state of overfishing and overfishing of this stock.
  • Sheep’s head – A sheep stock assessment is underway by NC State University. Due to independent sampling trends in 2022 and changes in recreational fishing behavior due to the regulation of other fisheries, sheephead management may require consideration. Currently, North Carolina does not have a fisheries management plan for sheep, but the state already has regulations in place to manage the fishery.

For more information, contact Lee Paramore at 252-473-5734.

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