Town of Morehead, North Carolina – Wildlife advocates are suing the state of North Carolina saying it has failed to protect coastal fisheries over the years. At the heart of the matter is an argument about how much flounder professional anglers and those fishing for pleasure should bring.
South Atlantic flounder is a staple of coastal North Carolina.
For years professional and amateur anglers have flocked to the Morehead City area in hopes of bringing back the flatfish. But experts say they caught too many.
“Southern plaice stock assessments show that for at least the past 20 years the stock has been overfished,” said David Sneed, executive director of the Coastal Conservation Association NC.
CCA NC has been suing the state since 2020, accusing it of failing to sustainably manage coastal fisheries.
“The argument is that if the state is not responsible for the proper management of these resources, then who is? said Sneed.
A spokesperson for the state Department of Environmental Quality declined to comment on the lawsuit, where one of the main issues is flounder.
Sneed said that historically, commercial fishermen brought in 70% of all flounders caught in the state, with 30% coming from recreational fishermen.
As part of a plan to rebuild the fish population, the state Marine Fisheries Commission decided in February to make this 70/30 split a rule – limiting each group to contributing this proportion each year until in 2024 before splitting the harvest 50/50 from in 2026.
Sneed said the plan is unfair to recreational anglers.
“Those 20 years of overfishing that I’m referring to, the commercial industry was taking 70 to 80 percent of the harvest,” Sneed said. “They are the reason we are in this boat today. They are the ones who had the most impact on the title.
Commercial fishermen have a different approach.
“The state has just destroyed the industry,” said Rodney Rose, owner of the Rose Seafood Market in Beaufort.
Rose has been catching flounder to sell since the 1980s. He said with commercial fishermen already facing shortened fishing seasons and weight limits on their catch, a 50/50 quota could cost them any income. remaining.
“Now it’s almost impossible to think of making a living from plaice,” he said.
Until their plaice quota is lowered, Rose said all they could do was keep fishing and hope for the best.