The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission adopted the Estuarine Striped Bass FMP Amendment 2 during its November 2022 business meeting. The Estuarine Striped Bass FMP is a joint plan between the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries and the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. Amendment 2 to the Estuarine Striped Bass Fishery Management Plan was developed with participation from both agencies. The goal of Amendment 2 is to manage the fisheries to achieve self-sustaining populations that provide sustainable harvest. If biological and/or environmental factors prevent a self-sustaining population, alternative management strategies may be implemented to provide access to the resource.
Management measures include:
- ASMA and RRMA
- Slot limit ASMA: 18 – 25-inch total length and no harvest of fish greater than 25-inches
- Slot limit RRMA: 18 – 22-inch total length and no harvest of fish greater than 22-inches
- Single barbless hook required in RRMA April 1 – June 30
- Non-offset barbless circle hook required when fishing with live or natural bait in inland portions of the RRMA May 1 – June 30
- Pound for pound accountability from fisheries which exceed their individual TAL
- Adaptive management available to modify TAL, bag, season, and gear.
- Harvest moratorium maintained
- Gill net closure above ferry lines maintained through 2024 to assess its performance
- 3-foot tie-downs below ferry lines maintained
- Adaptive management available to determine sustainability and monitor wild reproduction.
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 issues by DMF staff and is followed by a question and answer period.
The Draft Estuarine Striped Bass FMP Amendment 2 public comment period will occur from March 4, 2022 through April 1, 2022. The draft amendment focuses on sustainable harvest in the striped bass fishery in three areas of the state.
The public may comment on Draft Estuarine Striped Bass FMP Amendment 2 in three ways:
- Speak at an Advisory Committee Meeting – Public comment will be accepted at the three Marine Fisheries Commission Advisory Committee meetings in March 2022.
- Submit Online Comments – Public comments will be accepted until 5 p.m. on April 1, 2022, through an online form.
- Mail Comments – Written comments may be mailed to Draft Estuarine Striped Bass FMP Amendment 2 Comments, P.O Box 769, Morehead City, N.C. 28557. Comments must be received by the division by 5 p.m. on April 1.
Emailed comments will not be accepted.
Three Marine Fisheries Commission Advisory Committee meetings will occur in March 2022. Advisory Committee Meeting information is available on the Marine Fisheries Commission Advisory Committees Website.
The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries held an Estuarine Striped Bass Fishery Management Plan Advisory Committee workshop over several days in September and October 2021 to review draft Amendment 2 to the plan. Workshop-style meetings provide scientists, managers, and stakeholders an opportunity to openly address questions, comments, and concerns more effectively and in a less formal setting. The advisory committee provided the division input for consideration to refine draft Amendment 2. Based on the input, the division further developed Amendment 2 to present it to the Marine Fisheries Commission in 2022.
The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries and the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission held a scoping period to solicit public comments on potential management strategies in November 2020. One of the primary management strategies for Amendment 2 is long-term sustainable harvest in the Albemarle Sound-Roanoke River and Central Southern Management Area striped bass fisheries. A scoping document outlining the potential management strategies was developed for the public. Fisheries stakeholders provided comments throughout the scoping period.
In 2013, the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission and the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission adopted the Estuarine Striped Bass Fishery Management Plan Amendment 1. There are two geographic management units included in Amendment 1.
The northern geographic management unit is comprised of two harvest management areas: the Albemarle Sound Management Area and the Roanoke River Management Area. The striped bass stocks in these two harvest management areas is referred to as the Albemarle Sound-Roanoke River stock. This stock is also included in the management unit of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Striped Bass.
The southern geographic management unit is the Central Southern Management Area (CSMA) and includes all internal coastal, joint, and contiguous inland waters of North Carolina south of the Albemarle Sound Management Area to the South Carolina state line. There are spawning stocks in each of the major river systems within the CSMA: the Tar/Pamlico, the Neuse, and the Cape Fear. These stocks are collectively referred to as the CSMA stocks. Spawning grounds are not clearly defined in these systems, as access to spawning areas may be influenced by river flows as well as impediments to migration. Management of striped bass within the CSMA is not subject to compliance with the ASMFC Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Striped Bass.
The Albemarle Sound-Roanoke River benchmark assessment indicates the striped bass resource is overfished and overfishing is occurring. The Division of Marine Fisheries and the Wildlife Resources Commission are considering management changes to lower the total allowable landings to a level that lowers fishing mortality F to the Target F computed in the terminal year (2017) of the stock assessment. Putting in place a new harvest level in January 2021 follows a directive in Amendment 1 to the North Carolina Estuarine Striped Bass FMP, and maintains compliance with ASMFC’s Addendum IV to Amendment 6 to the Interstate FMP for Atlantic Striped Bass. These management measures will be implemented as a revision to Amendment 1 authorized by adaptive management contained in the current fishery management plan.
The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries and the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission released two completed striped bass assessment reports: the Albemarle Sound-Roanoke River benchmark assessment and the Central Southern Management Area Stock Report. 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-0 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 by a revision to Amendment 1. Additionally, the Division of Marine Fisheries and Wildlife Resources Commission are developing Amendment 2 to the N.C. Estuarine Striped Bass Fishery Management Plan.