Copyright © 2011 Freedom Communications, Inc.
Summer flounder are back, a National Marine Fisheries Service report shows, and the recovery is considered a fisheries management success story.
The 2011 Stock Status Report released this week declares summer flounder “viable” after, well, floundering since at the early 1990s and being listed as “recovering” since 2009.
The latest assessment shows the summer flounder stock is no longer overfished and that overfishing is not occurring.
Southern flounder landings were actually down by 29 percent in 2010, partly because of a 45 percent reduction in gill net flounder landings. New gill net restrictions resulting from a lawsuit over gill net interactions with sea turtles could have contributed to the decline.
“This is truly a fisheries management success story,” said Louis Daniel, director of the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries in Morehead City. “Both commercial and recreational fishermen did their part through regulatory restrictions to bring the stocks back to where they are today.”
Summer flounder has been managed with a joint Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission/Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council fishery management plan.
Management measures include commercial quotas, minimum mesh sizes for trawls, minimum fish size limits, recreational bag limits and a moratorium on the number of new commercial fishing license.
Each year the division grades the status of marine finfish, shellfish, shrimp and crabs as either viable, recovering, concern, depleted or unknown to serve as a barometer of the overall health of the state's fishery resources for its fishery management plans.
Other changes in the status of fisheries stock this year in the Central and Southern Management are include changing the category of striped bass from “depleted” to “concern,” bay scallops from “recovering” to “concern,” Atlantic menhaden from “viable” to “concern.”
Striped bass stock still shows signs of shrinking and an absence of older fish, but the “depleted” status was based on a 2004 stock assessment that was rejected in 2010 because it had not received peer review.
Bay scallops are more plentiful following no harvest from 2006 to 2008 and limited harvest areas since, but were still in short enough supply in 2011 that the main harvest did not open.
The Atlantic menhaden status change was based on a corrected version of a 2010 Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission stock assessment. It found the coast-wide stock is not overfished but is experiencing overfishing.
The status for Atlantic croaker from “concern” to “viable” was considered but not changed because of limited data.
“If positive trends continue, a viable status is possible in the near future for croaker,” Daniel said.