The year 2020 has been challenging to say the least. In March, the COVID pandemic caused the closure of many businesses across the state and country that immediately impacted many of the important fisheries industries in North Carolina. Restaurant and out of state wholesale market closures left commercial fishermen, mariculture operations, seafood dealers and processors with greatly reduced demand, low prices and in some cases, a stockpile of unsold fresh and frozen product. Restrictions on gathering and closures of motels, and a general reluctance of the public to travel impacted charter and for-hire operators. Several assistance programs have been implemented that we will detail in future editions of Insight.

The Division of Marine Fisheries, like most state agencies, was required to quickly transition from office and field operations to a primarily at-home teleworking model. While those measures have been relaxed to some degree, for the most part the division continues a maximum telework model and like many of you, we have learned to work through many of the virtual platforms for meetings, public hearings, and conferences. So, the work goes on, perhaps in a different format, but we continue to meet the statutory requirements to prepare fishery management plans, and to license, enforce, sample and inspect to ensure sustainable marine and estuarine fisheries for the benefit and health of North Carolinians.

In this edition of Insight you will learn about one of our primary functions, the development of fishery management plans. Unlike most states on the East Coast of the U.S., North Carolina is required by statute to manage commercially or recreationally significant species or fisheries through fishery management plans or FMPs. The division prepares plans with the assistance of a plan specific advisory committee. Once the plan is developed it is presented to the Marine Fisheries Commission for their review and eventual adoption. Once adopted, the division then implements the measures in the FMP either by adopting rules or by using the director’s proclamation authority.

This process is not a short process and involves thousands of manhours by staff and the advisory committee before it is even presented to the Marine Fisheries Commission. The division has implemented streamlined methodology into the FMP process to inform the process more efficiently and timely. Read about our new process, what goes into an FMP and the new coordinator for FMP development. Enjoy and stay safe out on the water.