Implementation of the management strategies adopted in Amendment 2 was deemed critical to successful rebuilding of the southern flounder stock. To ensure that harvest reductions are not delayed while more comprehensive strategies are developed for Amendment 3, management actions are needed for the 2019 calendar year.
The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission’s selected management strategy included that the adoption of Amendment 2 authorized concurrent development of Amendment 3 and more robust management strategies. Amendment 3 will be completed as quickly as possible with the ongoing contributions of the existing Fishery Management Plan advisory committee appointees.
These appointees will assist the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries in development of Amendment 3 by building on the knowledge, expertise, and cooperation already underway and continue the work uninterrupted from meetings that began in January 2018. The first Amendment 3 Advisory Committee meeting is scheduled for Oct. 9.
The advisory committee will explore several management tools to augment North Carolina’s contribution to sustainable harvest in the southern flounder fishery, including a static quota, a dynamic quota, slot limits, changes in size limits, gear changes related to size limit changes, species-specific management, and a possible for-hire industry allocation.
Monitoring of static quotas could not have been implemented in the short timeframe before adoption of Amendment 2 as they require the division to develop permits, evaluate the existing quota monitoring system, determine what additional staff would be necessary to monitor the quota, develop a means to verify reporting requirements, and identify the level of reporting needed.
In addition to logistics, the quota itself needs to be finalized, and accountability measures for both the commercial and recreational fisheries developed. Also, the division needs to determine what percentage of the landed quota would trigger a closure.
Likewise, changes to size limits require additional analyses and updates to the projections as they are based on 2017 regulations (minimum size limits). Selectivity estimates need to be identified for various scenarios to determine impacts due to size limit changes, including slot limits. If the minimum size limit is decreased, then conservation equivalencies need to be discussed with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to account for potential impacts to the summer flounder fishery.
Implementation of season closures in 2019 with adoption of Amendment 2 starts the time period required by statute to end overfishing within two years and rebuild spawning stock biomass within 10 years. Management strategies adopted through Amendment 3 would not restart the time requirements but will aid in meeting the mandates of the statutes.
In addition, management strategies developed through Amendment 3 will replace those currently implemented through Amendment 2. However, they will also be developed using the results from the same stock assessment as Amendment 2 (which is the most recent stock assessment) so the magnitude of the reductions will be the same.
The level of reductions or available quota will remain until a new stock assessment is completed using data that will only become available after several years of operating the fisheries under Amendment 2/Amendment 3 reductions.
At that time, if the new assessment indicates the fishery is recovered, then management strategies could allow for increased harvest. Amendment 3 is scheduled to be adopted by the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission in 2021.
North Carolina Sea Grant is collaborating on a new project to keep sharks away from commercial fishing gear. A team from NC State University, the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, and Indiana University-South Bend are partnering with the private sector to pilot test a device that deters the predators.
“Several sharks are overfished or are experiencing overfishing on the U.S. East Coast,” says Sara Mirabilio, a fisheries extension specialist with North Carolina Sea Grant, a statewide program based at NC State University. “Populations of scalloped hammerhead, dusky, sandbar, and blacknose sharks all could benefit from an effective deterrent from commercial fishing gear.” Most often, sharks are caught unintentionally in a fishery that is targeting other fish, she explains. This is referred to as bycatch.
The project is one of three announced today by the National Sea Grant College Program to better understand highly migratory species, such as sharks, along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.
Mirabilio and colleagues, including Richard Brill at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and Peter Bushnell at Indiana University-South Bend, are testing a state-of-the-art electronic device that could help conserve species of sharks whose populations fishery managers are trying to rebuild. Unlike other fish, sharks possess an electrosensory system that equips them to detect close-range movements of predators or prey.
“The objective of the project is to keep the sharks away from the fishing gear, not the fishing gear away from the sharks,” says Brill. “To an approaching shark, even a weak electrical impulse can be disorientating or physically painful.” The device will produce a small electric field around a baited hook.
According to Mirabilio, industry experts believe reducing shark-gear interactions also will bring savings to commercial fishing operations.
“Sharks eat the fishing boat’s intended catch before it can be brought aboard,” explains the commercial fishing industry partner, Capt. Charlie Locke, owner of the F/V Salvation. “Also, when sharks are going for the tuna or other fish, they often damage, or even destroy, fishing gear.” Locke adds that sharks can increase the amount of time it takes to retrieve gear, as well as the time to sort the catch on-deck.
Mirabilio says it’s no surprise that earlier surveys have shown that commercial longline fishers are motivated to use such a device. “Beyond the economics, keeping sharks away all together is more acceptable to industry than time-area closures, mandatory release, and the use of specific hook types or longline-gear configuration.”
Brill touts the team’s device as small, waterproof, and programmable. “Our prototype differs from other devices, such as magnets and electropositive metals, that have produced mixed results,” he says.
Mirabilio says their approach has shown promise in the laboratory but still needs confirmation through field trials. The team is partnering on the project with Ocean Guardian, the company that pioneered “Shark Shield®” technology, to manufacture the first field-ready prototype. The company promotes electronic shark deterrent technologies as a safe, effective, and humane solution.
Virginia’s Eastern Shore will mark the site of initial testing of a field-ready prototype. Then, the team will work with Locke to refine and deploy the device on a commercial longline off the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
“NOAA has made reducing shark bycatch a management priority,” says Mirabilio. “Positive results from our project would demonstrate that this device could help reduce shark bycatch nationally—and globally.”
North Carolina commercial seafood dealers will be invited to participate in a survey conducted by the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries in the following weeks.
The survey is a follow up to previously conducted data collection in 2010, and seeks information on the economic and social status of North Carolina’s commercial seafood dealers, as well as factors that affect their business operations.
Dealers will be asked to estimate their revenues and expenses by category, discuss the most important factors to their business’ success, and evaluate other operational and financial components of running a seafood dealership in North Carolina
All registered dealers will receive a packet in the mail containing an invitation to complete the survey, an enclosed paper survey, a pre-paid envelope to mail it back in, and a link to take the survey online if they prefer.
Individual answers to questions will be kept confidential; however, aggregate results from participants will be included in a written report that will be made available to the public.
Non-respondents will receive a reminder phone call from division staff. Dealers who receive such a call can verify that the person calling is a division employee by asking the caller to confirm any of the dealer’s contact information, the dealer’s license number, or the unique ID number provided on their survey invitation letter.
For the survey results to be truly representative of North Carolina seafood dealers, it is very important that dealers participate in the survey and answer as many questions as possible.
The survey is funded by the Atlantic Coastal Cooperative Statistics Program, which is a partnership of state, regional, and federal fisheries agencies collecting dependent data information.
This information will be used to better understand the socioeconomic status of our state’s seafood dealers, how that has changed in the past 10 years, and how the division can better support North Carolina’s dealers and fisheries into the future.
For more information, contact David Dietz, Fisheries Economics Program manager with the Division of Marine Fisheries, at (919) 808-8573, or by email at David.Dietz@ncdenr.gov.