The Marine Fishing Association is not satisfied with the planned mullet plan in the state News

The Marine Fishing Association is not satisfied with the planned mullet plan in the state  News

Morehead City — The North Carolina Fisheries Association (NCFA) is urging its members to come to a unified position on an alternative to the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF)’s initial recommendation for a plan to reduce striped mullet harvest.

The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC), the policy arm of the Department of Fisheries, voted 9-0 Thursday during its quarterly business meeting on Emerald Isle to approve Amendment 2 to the striped mullet management plan for a public comment and review period by the commission. Advisory body.

The department’s initial recommendation includes the following:

* The trip limit is 50 pounds from January 1 to 31 and from November 16 to December 31.

*Year-round from Saturday to Sunday with a 50-pound trip limit.

* Trip limit is 500 pounds from February 1 to October 15.

* 30,000 lb net stop cover.

* Recreational single bag limit is 50 fish.

*The charter vessel’s bag limit is equal to the number of fishermen licensed to carry (including pre-cruise possession).

* Adaptive management with statements from the department director.

Together, these measures will reduce the harvest by about 35 percent, department staff said. But department spokeswoman Patricia Smith said after the meeting that the final version of the plan amendment could be different, based on public and advisory committee input during the comment period.

In an email Monday, Thomas Newman, fisheries liaison for NCFA, a private trade and lobbying group that works on the state’s commercial fishing and headquartered in Morehead City, told its members: “Although we expressed our concerns at this meeting, It will be important that everyone continues to stay informed, as we are still in the early stages of the process. We cannot do anything to change the stock valuation, and we are legally required to reduce harvest at this point, but we do not have to accept a 35% reduction in these seasons. And strict limits.

The 2022 stock assessment indicated that the striped mullet stock is overfished and overfishing is occurring, meaning that too many fish are being caught to maintain the stock.

The public comment period on Amendment 2 runs from December 18 through January 17, and public meetings and other details will be announced in the near future.

“The most important thing we can all do is come together and come up with a solution that meets the needs of all commercial mullet fishermen in the state,” Newman said in his email. “We need a plan that can achieve at least a 21.3% reduction while maintaining all elements of our commercial mullet fishery from bait to roe season. For example, one such option recommended by the Fisheries Service’s Striped Mullet Advisory Committee was It is the year-round non-commercial harvest on Saturday and Sunday. Eliminating harvest on weekends without any other changes to the existing fishery represents a 25.7% reduction in harvest.

Newman added that a number of commercial mullet harvesters spoke during public comment periods at last week’s Fisheries Commission meeting.

“Our voices were heard at this meeting,” he added. “The MFC had concerns and asked a lot of questions about the best ways to monitor and evaluate striped mullet stocks, and they seemed to want to consider options other than those recommended. Staff were also keen to clearly point out that all options in this draft were still available to choose from.” And they want to hear more ideas and suggestions.

Other options mentioned in the draft plan include:

* Size limits.

*Closing the season.

* Close the area.

*Trip limits.

* Sets of measures.

* Day of the week management.

* Roof fishing on fishing net.

* Recreational container and bag limits.

* Ship and charter baggage limits.

Newman urged his association members to: “Let us and DMF know what the best options are for continuing fishing.”

Striped mullet are highly prized in Carteret County and elsewhere for their roe, which means females are often harvested at an early age and have limited reproductive opportunities. Peak harvest months are October and November.

In addition to being used as food, many striped mullet are used as bait for other fish.

In 2021, commercial landings in the state totaled 2.1 million pounds, worth $1.33 million.

When Amendment 2 is adopted, it will replace the current management system, known as Appendix A to Amendment 1 of the Striped Mullet Fishery Management Plan. The commission adopted it in May 2023 by a vote of 6 to 3, with all commercial fishing representatives on the commission voting against it.

In the southern coastal area, the annex closed fishing this year from Nov. 10 to Dec. 31, while north of the Highway 58 bridge it closed it from Nov. 7 to Dec. 31.

The current closure is the first in North Carolina fisheries history. Most mullet are caught with gillnets, although some are still caught with beach nets.

Call Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; Email

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