Fishery Management Plans

2022 FMP Review (August 2023)

State-Managed Species

Interjurisdictional Species

The North Carolina Fisheries Reform Act of 1997 requires the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries prepare fishery management plans for adoption by the North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission for all commercially and recreationally significant species or fisheries that comprise state marine or estuarine resources. The goal of these plans is to ensure long-term viability of the fisheries.

The division currently has 13 state-managed fishery plans. In addition to stocks managed through state fishery management plans, the commission and division fully participate in the management of interjurisdictionally managed species where North Carolina has a vested interest. Interjurisdictional species are managed regionally due to either their migration across state boundaries and/or their occurrence in federal waters. Since the commission and division are the only authorities that can regulate North Carolina marine and estuarine fisheries, the North Carolina Fishery Management Plan for Interjurisdictional Fisheries was adopted by the commission. This plan adopts, by reference, federal and Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission management plans as minimum standards. Through the state interjurisdictional plan, the division participates in and adopts management strategies for 21 additional federally-managed or Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission-managed fishery plans.

The annual North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries Fishery Management Plan Review provides information on plans and species of commercial or recreational significance to North Carolina. The information in the report is based on fisheries data available through the prior year. The Fishery Management Plan Review is an invaluable reference document and resource about the latest status of fisheries occurring in North Carolina.

The annual review includes the stock status for each species or species group to describe the current condition of the stock relative to overfishing or overfished status. Overfishing occurs when the current rate of removals (harvest and discards) is too high. Continued overfishing will lead to an overfished stock, a condition where the population size is too small. Populations that are too small are at risk of not being sustainable through natural reproduction. Not all declines in a population are due to fishing mortality. When other factors, such as excessive predation, environmental factors, or disease result in a low stock size, the stock will be classified as depleted.

If there is adequate data, stock assessments are the primary tools used to determine the status of stocks and develop appropriate management measures for the long-term viability. When an assessment concludes the stock is not overfished and overfishing is not occurring, fishery managers may find no changes to existing management strategies are needed or in a recovered stock may be able to relax prior regulations. If the stock is overfished or experiencing overfishing, fishery managers will consider actions to improve the condition of the stock. Stock condition is impacted by many physical and biological factors, not just fishing. Managers consider all available factors acting on a stock when considering the most appropriate management strategies.

 

State-Managed Species


Tab/Accordion Items

Bay Scallop Annual Update

Bay scallops are a short-lived species that are managed as an annual crop. They are sensitive to environmental change and may experience high levels of predation, which can impact annual abundance. As a result, a stock assessment is not an effective tool for management. The August 2020 Bay Scallop Fishery Management Plan update was approved as an information update to the Bay Scallop Fishery Management Plan. For more information, contact Jeff Dobbs at Jeffrey.Dobbs@deq.nc.gov.

Bay Scallop 2020 FMP Information Update
(Aug. 2020)
Bay Scallop FMP Amendment 2
(March 2015)
Bay Scallop FMP Amendment 2 Brochure
(March 2013)
Bay Scallop FMP Amendment 1
(Nov. 2010)
Bay Scallop Original FMP 
(Nov. 2007)
 

Blue Crab Annual Update

Results of the 2018 benchmark stock assessment indicate the blue crab stock is overfished and overfishing is occurring. The assessment passed peer review and the model was accepted for use in management. Amendment 3 to the Blue Crab Fishery Management Plan was approved in February 2020 to address the overfished status and end overfishing. For more information, contact Robert Corbett at Robert.Corbett@deq.nc.gov or McLean Seaward at McLean.Seward@deq.nc.gov.

Blue Crab FMP Amendment 3 2023 Revision
(May 2023)
May 2020 Revision to Amendment 3 to the North Carolina Blue Crab FMP 
(May 2020)
Blue Crab FMP Amendment 3 summary pamphlet
(April 2020)
Blue Crab FMP Amendment 3 
(May 2020)
Stock Assessment of the North Carolina Blue Crab 1995-2016 
(March 2018)
May 2016 Revision to Amendment 2 to the North Carolina Blue Crab FMP
(May 2016)
Blue Crab FMP Amendment 2
(Nov. 2013)
Blue Crab FMP Amendment 1
(Dec. 2004)
Blue Crab Original FMP 
(Dec. 1998)
 

Eastern Oyster Annual Update

A stock assessment has not been completed due to data limitations. Commercial landings of wild oysters from public bottom have been variable, and landings of farmed oysters from private bottom in the past few years have surpassed wild harvest due to increasing aquaculture production. North Carolina has extensive oyster reef enhancement and sanctuary programs. Work is underway with N.C. State University and the Nature Conservancy to develop survey methodologies to inform a future stock assessment. Amendment 4 to the Oyster Fishery Management Plan was approved in February 2017. The plan is currently under review. For more information, contact Joe Facendola at Joe.Facendola@deq.nc.gov

Oyster FMP Amendment 4
(Feb. 2017)
Oyster FMP Amendment 3
(April 2014)
Supplement A to Amendment 2 to the Oyster FMP
(Nov. 2010)
Oyster FMP Amendment 2  
(June 2008)
Oyster FMP Amendment 1
(Jan. 2003)
Oyster Original FMP
(Aug. 2001)

Estuarine Striped Bass Annual Update

Albemarle Sound/Roanoke River Management Area

Results from the 2022 stock assessment update indicate the Albemarle Sound-Roanoke River striped bass stock continues to be overfished and overfishing is still occurring. The assessment passed peer review and the model results were accepted for use in management. Amendment 2 to the North Carolina Estuarine Striped Bass FMP was approved in November 2022. Management sets Total Allowable Landings designed to limit fishing mortality and spawning stock biomass at target levels. Stocking resumed in the Albemarle Sound in 2023 to supplement multiple consecutive years (2017–2022) of very low recruitment. For more information, contact Nathaniel Hancock at Nathaniel.Hancock@deq.nc.gov.

Central/Southern Management Area

The Central Southern Management Area (CSMA) stocks include the Tar-Pamlico, Neuse, and Cape Fear rivers. A traditional stock assessment cannot be conducted due to limited data; therefore, stock status is unknown. Matrix model results indicate CSMA populations are depressed to an extent that sustainability is unlikely at any level of fishing mortality and a tagging model showed consistent decline in abundance estimates for striped bass in the Cape Fear River from 2012–2018. Based on genetic analysis, a high percentage of the fish in these systems are hatchery reared (stocked) with limited natural recruitment occurring. Amendment 2 to the Estuarine Striped Bass Fishery Management Plan maintained a recreational and commercial no-possession limit and gill net restrictions in the CSMA implemented in Supplement A to Amendment 1 to provide continued stock protection. For more information, contact Todd Mathes at Todd.Mathes@deq.nc.gov.

Assessment of the Albemarle Sound-Roanoke River Striped Bass (Morone saxatilis) Stock in North Carolina, 1991–2021  
(Nov. 2022)
Amendment 2 Flyer  
(Dec. 2022)
Estuarine Striped Bass Fishery Management Plan Amendment 2  
(Nov. 2022)
November 2020 Revision to Amendment 1 to the North Carolina Estuarine Striped Bass FMP   
(Nov. 2020)
Assessment of the Albemarle Sound-Roanoke River Striped Bass (Morone saxatilis) in North Carolina, 1991–2017  
(Aug. 2020)
Central Southern Management Area Striped Bass Stocks in North Carolina  
(Aug. 2020)
Supplement A to Amendment 1 of the North Carolina Estuarine Striped Bass Fishery Management Plan   
(March 2019)
November 2014 Revision to Amendment 1 to the North Carolina Estuarine Striped Bass FMP  
(Nov. 2014)
Estuarine Striped Bass FMP Amendment 1  
(May 2013)
Estuarine Striped Bass Original FMP  
(May 2004)

Hard Clam Annual Update

A stock assessment cannot be conducted due to limited data; therefore, population size and the rate of removals from the population are unknown. Harvest fluctuates, often in response to changes in demand, improved harvesting methods, and increases in polluted shellfish area closures. Amendment 2 to the Hard Clam Fishery Management Plan was approved in February 2017. The plan is currently under review. For more information, contact Jeff Dobbs at Jeffrey.Dobbs@deq.nc.gov.

Hard Clam FMP Amendment 2
(Feb. 2017)
Hard Clam FMP Amendment 1
(June 2008)
Hard Clam Original FMP
(Aug. 2001)
 

Kingfishes Annual Update

A stock assessment is not available due to lack of migration data, so an annual trend analysis with management triggers is used to monitor the stock. Due to impacts from Covid-19, a complete trend analysis was unavailable for 2020 and 2021. In 2022, the full trend analysis was completed, with two management triggers activated. This is the first of two consecutive years required where two or more triggers must be activated to initiate a data review and possible management action. For more information, contact Jason Rock at Jason.Rock@deq.nc.gov.

Kingfishes 2020 FMP Information Update
(Aug. 2020)
Kingfishes FMP Information Update
(Dec. 2015)
Kingfishes (Sea Mullet) Original FMP
(Dec. 2007)
 

Red Drum Annual Update

The regional benchmark stock assessment (North Carolina and all states north), conducted by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission in 2017, indicates that overfishing is not occurring and that management targets continue to be met. The size of the fish stock (overfished status), however, continues to be unknown due to limited data available for the adult population. A new benchmark stock assessment is scheduled for completion in 2024. For more information, contact Cara Kowalchyk at Cara.Kowalchyk@deq.nc.gov.

Red Drum FMP Update
(Aug. 2017)
Red Drum FMP Amendment 1
(Nov. 2008) 
Red Drum Original FMP 
(March 2001)
 

River Herring Annual Update

An Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Atlantic coastwide stock assessment update for river herring was completed in August 2017, with data through 2015. The North Carolina portion of the assessment includes the Albemarle Sound blueback herring stock only. River herring in other parts of the state are currently listed as unknown due to the lack of data. The stock assessment update indicated the North Carolina Albemarle Sound stock was not experiencing overfishing but remains overfished. The factors leading to this status remain largely unchanged since the 2012 stock assessment. The spawning stock biomass remains at 12% of the amount necessary to replace itself in the complete absence of fishing. For more information, contact Holly White at Holly.White@deq.nc.gov.

River Herring 2022 FMP Information Update
(August 2022)
River Herring FMP Amendment 2
(April 2015)
River Herring FMP Amendment 1
(Sep. 2007)
River Herring Original FMP
(Feb. 2000) 

Sheepshead Annual Update

No stock assessment is currently available for management of sheepshead. Landings trends and other biological data prompted the Marine Fisheries Commission to implement harvest restrictions in June 2015. The division continues to monitor landings and collect data on the stock. In 2022, the recreational landings increased compared to 2021, while the commercial landings decreased. Commercial landings were below the 10-year average, and the recreational landings were above. For more information, contact Anne Markwith at Anne.Markwith@deq.nc.gov.

Shrimp Annual Update

The stock is considered an annual crop that consists of three species of shrimp (brown, pink, white). Estimates of population size are not available but since shrimp are considered an annual crop and fished at near maximum levels, annual landings are a good indication of relative abundance. Amendment 2 was adopted in February 2022 and focuses on further reducing bycatch of non-target species and minimizing habitat impacts in the shrimp trawl fishery. For more information, contact Chris Stewart at Chris.Stewart@deq.nc.gov.

Shrimp FMP Amendment 2
(April 2022)
Shrimp FMP Amendment 2 Flyer
(April 2022)
Revision to Amendment 1 to the North Carolina Shrimp Fishery Management Plan
(May 2021 )
Revision to Amendment 1 to the North Carolina Shrimp Fishery Management Plan
(May 2018 )
Shrimp FMP Amendment 1
(March 2015)
Shrimp Original FMP 
(April 2006)

Southern Flounder Annual Update

The 2019 stock assessment of southern flounder in the south Atlantic indicated that the stock is overfished and overfishing is occurring. This assessment passed peer review and the model was accepted for management use. Amendment 3 to the Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan was adopted in May 2022, maintaining reductions in total removals in North Carolina of 72%. Management was implemented through proclamation and included reducing the recreational bag limit to 1 fish, developing a quota for the commercial and recreational fisheries, and changes to harvest seasons. For more information, contact Anne Markwith at Anne.Markwith@deq.nc.gov or see the Amendment 3 information page.

Southern Flounder FMP Amendment 3
(May 2022)
Southern Flounder FMP Amendment 3 Overview
(May 2022)
Southern Flounder FMP Amendment 2 
(Sept. 2019)
Stock Assessment of Southern Flounder (Paralichthys lethostigma) in the South Atlantic, 1989-2017
(Jan. 2019)
Stock Assessment of Southern Flounder (Paralichthys lethostigma) in the South Atlantic, 1989-2015
(Jan. 2018)
Supplement A to 2013 Southern Flounder FMP Amendment 1 
(Aug. 2017)
Southern Flounder FMP Amendment 1
(Feb. 2013)
Supplement A to 2005 Southern Flounder FMP
(Jan. 2011)
Southern Flounder Original FMP
(Feb. 2005)

Spotted Seatrout Annual Update

The 2022 stock assessment indicated that the spotted seatrout stock in North Carolina and Virginia was not overfished but that overfishing was occurring in the terminal year (2019). The assessment passed peer review and was accepted for management use. Additionally, recreational and commercial landings since 2020 have remained above average. Review of the fishery management plan began in November 2022 and management options will focus on ending overfishing and ensuring sustainable harvest. For more information, contact Lucas Pensinger at Lucas.Pensinger@deq.nc.gov or Melinda Lambert at Melinda.Lambert@deq.nc.gov.

Spotted Seatrout Stock Assessment
(October 2022)
Spotted Seatrout Stock Assessment 
(April 2015)
Supplement A to 2012 Spotted Seatrout FMP
(March 2014)
Spotted Seatrout Original FMP 
(March 2012)

Striped Mullet Annual Update

The 2022 stock assessment of striped mullet in North Carolina indicated the stock is overfished and overfishing is occurring. The assessment passed peer review and was accepted for management use. Review of 2022 commercial landings indicated neither the maximum (2.76 million pounds) nor minimum (1.13 million pounds) triggers had been exceeded. A review of the plan began in July 2020. In response to stock assessment results, Supplement A to Amendment 1 to the Striped Mullet FMP was adopted in May 2023 to end overfishing. Supplement A establishes season closures for the commercial and recreational fisheries that will occur from Nov. 7 through Dec. 31, 2023, north of the Highway 58 Bridge and from Nov. 10 through Dec. 31, 2023, south of the Highway 58 Bridge. Supplement A management will remain in place until adoption of Amendment 2 For more information contact, Willow Patten at Willow.Patten@deq.nc.gov or Jeff Dobbs at Jeffrey.Dobbs@deq.nc.gov.

Striped Mullet FMP Amendment 1 Supplement A Stock Assessment of Striped Mullet (Mugil cephalus) in
North Carolina Waters 2022
(April 2022)
Stock Assessment of Striped Mullet (Mugil cephalus) in North Carolina Waters 2018
(July 2018)
Striped Mullet FMP Amendment 1
(Nov. 2015)
Striped Mullet Original FMP 
(April 2006)
 

Interjurisdictional Species


In addition to the above state Fishery Management Plans, there is also a N.C. Fishery Management Plan for Interjurisdictional Fisheries. This plan is comprised of 21 species or species groups jointly managed by regional councils, NOAA Fisheries, and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. To reduce redundancy, federal plans for interjurisdictional fisheries are adopted by reference unless the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission decides to implement more restrictive or complementary management measures. An information update to the plan was adopted by the Marine Fisheries Commission in May 2022.

Interjurisdictional FMP Information Update
(June 2022)
Interjurisdictional FMP Information Update
(Nov. 2015)
Interjurisdictional FMP Amendment
(June 2008)
Interjurisdictional Original FMP
(Sept. 2002)
Tab/Accordion Items

See American Shad