The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission adopted the Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan Amendment 3 during its May 2022 business meeting. The goal of Amendment 3 is to achieve a self-sustaining population that provides sustainable harvest. Amendment 3 maintains a 72% reduction across the fisheries and carries forward several management measures, including minimum size, from Amendment 2.
Management measures include:
- Quota management with accountability measures, including paybacks, for all fisheries
- Commercial allocation between mobile gear and pound nets divided among two mobile gear areas and three pound net areas.
- Single recreational season for hook-and-line and gigs.
- Initiate steps to parity of commercial and recreation allocations by 2026.
- Recreational bag limit of one fish per person per day.
- Prohibit use of Recreational Commercial Gear License (RCGL) gear to harvest southern flounder
- A spring ocellated flounder season for hook-and-line only in the ocean.
- The Division is working on implementing management from the plan.
DMF Listening Sessions are opportunities for engagement between the public and DMF staff on Fishery Management Plans that have been approved for public review by the Marine Fisheries Commission. The Listening Session begins with a presentation of the issue by DMF staff and is followed by a question and answer period.
The Draft Southern Flounder FMP Amendment 3 public comment period will occur from December 15, 2021 through January 14, 2022. The draft amendment focuses on implementing comprehensive, long-term measures to achieve sustainable harvest in the southern flounder fishery.
The public may comment on Draft Southern Flounder FMP Amendment 3 in three ways:
- Speak at an Advisory Committee Meeting – Public comment will be accepted at the three Marine Fisheries Commission Advisory Committee meetings in January 2022.
- Submit Online Comments – Public comments will be accepted until 5 p.m. on January 14, 2022, through an online form.
- Mail Comments – Written comments may be mailed to Draft Southern Flounder FMP Amendment 3 Comments, P.O Box 769, Morehead City, N.C. 28557. Comments must be received by the division 5 p.m. on January 14.
Emailed comments will not be accepted.
Three Marine Fisheries Commission Advisory Committee meetings will occur in January 2022. Advisory Committee Meeting information is available on the Marine Fisheries Commission Advisory Committees Website.
August 2021 Workshop
The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries held a second Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan Advisory Committee workshop in August 2021 to further review draft Amendment 3 to the plan. Following actions by the Marine Fisheries Commission in March 2021 establishing graduated sector allocations and additional management suggestions in May 2021, draft Amendment 3 required revisions. Due to the nature of the revisions, the division requested advisory committee input prior to presenting the draft plan to the Marine Fisheries Commission.
October 2020 Workshop
The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries held Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan Advisory Committee workshops over several days in October 2020 to review draft Amendment 3 to the plan. The southern flounder advisory committee assisted the division by providing input for consideration to refine management options in draft Amendment 3. Workshop-style meetings allow scientists, managers, and stakeholders to address questions, comments, and concerns more effectively and in a less formal setting. Based on the outcome of the workshops, the division revised draft Amendment 3 with the expectation that it would be presented to the Marine Fisheries Commission at the February 2021 business meeting. However, only the Recreational and Commercial Sector Allocation in the North Carolina Southern Flounder Fishery issue paper was presented. Based on Marine Fisheries Commission motions regarding allocation, draft Amendment 3 is under further revision.
The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries held a public scoping period in December 2019 to solicit public comments on potential management strategies for Amendment 3. The primary management strategy for Amendment 3 is long-term sustainable harvest in the southern flounder fishery. A scoping document outlining the potential management strategies was developed for the public. Fisheries stakeholders provided comments throughout the scoping period.
On Aug. 23, 2019, the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission adopted the Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan Amendment 2 as proposed by the Division of Marine Fisheries, giving the director of the Division of Marine Fisheries flexibility with the commercial and recreational seasons so long as they meet the statutorily required harvest reductions. Management in Amendment 2 called for a 62% reduction in 2019 and 72% reduction beginning in 2020 until Amendment 3 is adopted.
These reductions are significant but necessary to increase the probability of successfully rebuilding this important recreational and commercial resource. Amendment 2 contained short-term management measures (seasons) that meet the statutory requirements; however, the approval of Amendment 2 specified the development of Amendment 3 to begin immediately to implement more comprehensive, long-term management measures to achieve sustainable harvest.
Results from the 2019 and 2020 fishing years did not meet the required reductions approved under Amendment 2. As a result, the division is reviewing the recreational and commercial seasons based on the harvest levels observed during the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
The most recent coast-wide (North Carolina to the east coast of Florida) stock assessment for Southern Flounder determined the stock is overfished and overfishing is occurring. A minimum 31% reduction in total removals is needed to end the overfishing within two years. A minimum 52% reduction in total removals is needed to rebuild the female spawning stock biomass to sustainable levels and end the overfished status within 10 years. It is important to note that management measures for the Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan will be based on the 2019 stock assessment until an update to the coast-wide stock assessment is completed in the future. An updated stock assessment will be completed when data from the impacts of management changes are available across the biological unit stock.