The North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) is responsible for the stewardship of the state's marine and estuarine resources. The division's jurisdiction encompasses all coastal waters and extends to 3 miles offshore. Agency policies are established by the 9-member Marine Fisheries Commission and the Secretary of the Department of Environmental Quality. North Carolina is a member of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council.

The Division of Marine Fisheries is comprised of eight sections that collectively carry out this mandate. The Division of Marine Fisheries can trace its roots back as early as 1822, when the North Carolina General Assembly enacted legislation to impose gear restrictions on oyster harvest. That was later followed by separate fish and shellfish commissions, which were combined in 1915 to form a commercial regulatory body. In 1965, the scope of the commission was expanded to include regulatory authority over recreational fishing activities in coastal waters.


The Division of Marine Fisheries is dedicated to ensuring sustainable marine and estuarine fisheries and habitats for the benefit and health of the people of North Carolina.

To meet this mission, the Division of Marine Fisheries is organized into eight sections that report to the Director, Kathy Rawls. The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries is an Equal Opportunity Employer. Fisheries programs are administered for the benefit of all North Carolina residents without prejudice towards age, sex, race, religion or national origin. Violations of this pledge may be reported to the Equal Employment Officer, EEO/Foreign National Program, Administrative Services, 1601 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, N.C. 27699-1601; or call 919-715-7094.

Vision Statement

As a model fisheries management agency, the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries:

  • Ensures healthy, sustainable marine and estuarine fisheries and habitats through management decisions based on sound data and objective analyses.
  • Monitors and evaluates coastal waters for the safe harvest of molluscan shellfish and recreational uses to safeguard the public health of shellfish consumers and recreational bathers.
  • Provides excellent public service by motivated employees in an open and healthy working environment.
  • Views public participation as essential for successful management of North Carolina’s fisheries resources.
  • Enforces Marine Fisheries statutes and rules fairly and consistently.


Tab/Accordion Items

The Fisheries Management Section houses the majority of the DMF's biologists and is responsible for conducting fisheries and gear research, resource monitoring, and collection of biological information. This work is carried out in two coastal districts, which separate the state's uniquely different fisheries. This section also administers the popular N.C. Saltwater Fishing Tournament (Citation Program).

Relevant Links

Managing the Fisheries
Carcass Collection Program
Fish Tagging Program
NC Saltwater Fishing Tournament
Observer Program

The Habitat and Enhancement Section is comprised of a diverse group of scientists, managers, technical staff, and vessel captains. Staff manage a wide range of programs, including aquaculture permitting, shellfish leases, habitat mapping, the coastal habitat protection plan, oyster restoration, and artificial reefs.

Relevant Links

Shellfish Lease and Franchise
Aquaculture Permits
Habitat Information

The License and Statistics Section collects, processes, and conducts economic analyses on commercial and recreational fisheries catch statistics, and is responsible for the sale of fishing licenses and issuance of agency permits at all DMF offices. This section also administers the Marine Fisheries Commission’s license eligibility process.

Relevant Links

Recreational Fishing Licenses
Commercial Fishing Licenses
For-Hire Fishing Licenses
Coastal Angling Program
Trip Ticket Program
Fisheries Statistics

The Marine Patrol Section has officers that work in three law enforcement districts along the coast. It is their job to ensure compliance with conservation regulations and protect the state's fisheries resources. Officers also inspect seafood houses, fish dealers and restaurants that buy or sell North Carolina seafood. This mission is accomplished with boats, fixed-wing aircraft and patrol vehicles.

Learn more about the N.C. Marine Patrol

The Shellfish Sanitation and Recreational Water Quality Program protects public health by monitoring shellfish and swimming waters for pollution. They also inspect shellfish and crab processing facilities.

Learn more about Shellfish Sanitation and Recreational Water Quality

Staff from the Department of Environmental Quality's Office of Public Affairs is assigned to the Division of Marine Fisheries to assist in the the distribution of information about the division's activities. This section oversees educational outreach to user groups and the general public. Also included in this section are photography services, graphic design and the agency's web site.

Relevant Links

Ethical Angling
Recreational Fishing Reports
Fisheries Glossary

The Administrative and Maintenance Services Section oversees personnel management for approximately 280 permanent and temporary employees and manages the DMF's annual budget. This section is responsible for job recruitment, employee training and development, purchasing and procurement and administration of state policies, procedures and guidelines. Additionally, this section provides support for the day-to-day operations of DMF facilities, including property management, phone services, and boat and vehicle maintenance and repair.

Relevant Links

N.C. Boating Infrastructure Grant Program
Coastal Recreational Fishing License Grant Program
Commercial Fishing Resource Fund

Staff from the Department of Information Technology are assigned to the Division of Marine Fisheries to manage and support the DMF's technology capabilities and build customized databases and software interfaces for DMF. These interfaces have been developed for use in the office and in the field to collect data important to managing fisheries in North Carolina. Geographic Information Systems (GIS), drones, computer training, installing, and upgrading computer hardware and software, the Local and Wide Area Networks, and phone system are also part of this section's duties.