Fish Post

Releases – October 2020

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Based on the best available landings information, NOAA Fisheries has determined that the Atlantic blue marlin, white marlin, and roundscale spearfish 250-landings limit has been met and exceeded for 2020. Under applicable regulations, only catch-and-release fishing is permitted for these species for the rest of the year.

From September 30, 2020, through December 31, 2020, NOAA Fisheries is requiring catch-and-release fishing only for Atlantic blue marlin, white marlin, and roundscale spearfish in all areas of the Atlantic Ocean.

HMS Angling and HMS Charter/Headboat category permit holders and persons aboard vessels permitted in the Atlantic tunas General category or Swordfish General Commercial that fish in registered Atlantic HMS Tournaments, may catch-and-release (or tag and release) Atlantic blue marlin, white marlin, and roundscale spearfish of all sizes. Atlantic sailfish may continue to be landed (retained) consistent with applicable regulations.

Anglers are reminded that Atlantic billfish that are released must be handled in a manner that will maximize survival, and without removing the fish from the water. For additional information on safe handling, see the “Careful Catch-and-Release” brochure

Dolphin are critically important to the recreational fishery in the South Atlantic, and yet federal fisheries managers continue to encourage development of a directed longline fishery that could have a radically negative impact on the recreational fishery going forward, and may have already.

NOAA Fisheries’ intent to commercialize dolphin isn’t new. These efforts go back to 2004, after the NOAA Southeast Fisheries Regional Administrator removed a commercial trip harvest limit provision that had been approved by the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council and was designed to prevent a directed longline dolphin fishery from developing. Ever since, NOAA and commercial representatives on the South Atlantic Council have fought efforts to prevent longlines from gaining a foothold in this predominantly recreational fishery, despite growing evidence that an intensive commercial fishery is already developing.

This issue will be up for discussion at the next South Atlantic Council meeting and CCA needs your help now in asking for safeguards to prevent a directed longline fishery for dolphin from developing once and for all.

Nurtured, encouraged, and protected by NOAA Fisheries, a directed commercial longline fishery for dolphin will inevitably have a material, negative impact on the quality and availability of this highly prized sportfish that is so crucial to recreational angling. Tell the South Atlantic Council to say “NO TO LONGLINES.”

Governor Roy Cooper offered the following comment in response to WesternGeco’s decision to withdraw its permit application for seismic testing Thursday. The withdrawal follows North Carolina’s fight to stop damaging seismic testing at the coast.

Cooper continues to fight the testing and last month appealed a federal decision allowing seismic airgun blasting that would pave the way for offshore drilling. Since WesternGeco has withdrawn its permit application, this lawsuit will now address the four other companies that have applied for permits.

“While this is great news for the protection of our environment and economy in Eastern North Carolina, we have more to do to protect our coast,” Cooper said. “I stand with local leaders, families, and businesses up and down our coast in continuing to fight the expansion of dirty and dangerous offshore oil and gas development. This fight is far from over, and our stance is clear—not off our coast, not today and not tomorrow.”

The news of the company’s withdrawal comes days after the Trump administration’s assertion that Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina will be protected from offshore drilling and the acknowledgment that drilling could harm states’ economies and the environment. Despite the science that shows little or no resources worth drilling for in North Carolina waters, the same protections have not been extended to North Carolina. Governor Cooper has asked the Trump Administration and Congress repeatedly to exempt North Carolina from any offshore oil and gas exploration and drilling.

“North Carolina is a national leader in its pursuit of clean energy solutions and gambling with our coastal economy and natural resources to pursue fossil fuel extraction would take the state backwards,” said Secretary Michael S. Regan of the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality. “DEQ stands firmly with the coastal communities in the determination that seismic testing followed by offshore drilling is not consistent with our responsibility to protect our coastal resources and economy.”

Forty-five communities in the state have adopted formal resolutions opposing the expansion of drilling.

The commercial southern flounder season opened Sept. 15 in the Northern Management Area, which includes Albemarle, Roanoke, and Croatan sounds and their tributaries, and opens Oct. 1 in other estuarine waters of the state, and the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries is reminding gill net fishermen that one of the conditions for the Estuarine Gill Net Permit (EGNP) is to allow division staff to observe gill net operations.

In response to risks associated with COVID-19, observations will occur at a safe distance from fishermen using division-owned boats. Division staff will continue to contact fishermen to schedule observations and approach fishermen on the water to observe trips.

Refusing to allow an observer to observe a gill net trip will result in revocation of the fisherman’s EGNP.

The EGNP is a critical step in meeting the requirements of the division’s sea turtle and Atlantic sturgeon Incidental Take Permits issued by NOAA Fisheries under Section 10 of the Endangered Species Act. It is required for anyone who sets an anchored gill net (large-mesh or small-mesh) in estuarine waters (commercially or recreationally).

Fishermen convicted of using anchored gill nets in internal coastal waters without holding an EGNP could be subject to a Class A1 misdemeanor.

The EGNP is available for free from the Division of Marine Fisheries. Fishermen can download an application at https://.deq.nc.gov. Completed applications may be emailed to license@ncdenr.gov or mailed to the Division of Marine Fisheries, License Office, P.O. Box 769, Morehead City, NC 28557.

Fishermen also may submit completed applications in drop boxes provided at the following division offices:

DMF Headquarters, 3441 Arendell St., Morehead City, Phone: 252-726-7021 or 800-682-2632

Manteo Field Office, 1021 Driftwood Dr., Manteo, Phone 252-473-5734 or 800-405-7774

Pamlico District Office, 943 Washington Square Mall, Highway 17, Washington, Phone: 252-946-6481 or 800-338-7804

Southern District Office, 127 Cardinal Drive Extension, Wilmington, Phone: 910-796-7215 or 800-248-4536

For more information about observer coverage, contact the Protected Resources Program supervisor Barbie Byrd at 252-808-8088 or Barbie.Byrd@ncdenr.gov.

The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries and the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission released two recently completed striped bass assessment reports.

The Albemarle Sound-Roanoke River benchmark assessment and the Central Southern Management Area Stock Report are posted on the Division of Marine Fisheries and the Wildlife Resources Commission websites. These reports represent a joint effort between the two agencies, and a working group of stock assessment modelers, university researchers, and fishery biologists, to review the best available data and develop analyses to assess the current condition of the North Carolina striped bass stocks.

The Albemarle Sound-Roanoke River benchmark assessment indicates the striped bass resource is overfished and overfishing is occurring. This is a change from the stock status for these waters in a 2014 assessment that indicated the stock was not overfished and overfishing was not occurring.

The change in stock status is likely due to a period of low recruitment (the number of age-1 fish joining the population each year from 2002 to 2017) combined with overfishing. The decline in recruitment is not solely due to fishing. Environmental factors, such as river flow, water quality, and blue catfish (an invasive species) may be impacting spawning success and need further study.

Following a rigorous external peer review process, the assessment has been approved for use for management purposes.

There is no stock status determination for the Central Southern Management Area, comprised of the Tar-Pamlico, Neuse, and Cape Fear rivers. Continuous stocking efforts and lack of natural recruitment in these waters prevent the use of traditional stock assessment techniques. The Central Southern Management Area Stock Report is a collective documentation of all the data collected, all management efforts, and all major analyses completed for these river stocks.

The report also serves as a record of completed research efforts with implications for fishery management and as a guide for future research based on results and identified data gaps. It evaluates the likelihood of successful population rebuilding under various simulations of stocking and fishery management strategies, such as different harvest levels and size limits. Tagging studies in the Cape Fear River showed a consistent decline in striped bass abundance estimates from 2012 to 2018 despite a no possession regulation since 2008.

The Division of Marine Fisheries and the Wildlife Resources Commission are reviewing the data to determine what management measures should be implemented for 2021.

Additionally, the Division of Marine Fisheries and Wildlife Resources Commission are developing Amendment 2 to the N.C. Estuarine Striped Bass Fishery Management Plan. A scoping period to solicit public comments on potential management strategies will occur later this fall.

For more information, contact Charlton Godwin, with the Division of Marine Fisheries, or Jeremy McCargo with the Wildlife Resources Commission.