Marine Fisheries Commission member proposes five-year ban of keeping striped bass

Striped bass, also known as rock fish, are a popular catch in local waters from mid-fall to early spring. [photo courtesy Island Free Press]

The lone member of the state Marine Fisheries Commission from northeastern North Carolina formally proposed a five-year ban on keeping striped bass, also known as rockfish, caught in local waters north of Oregon Inlet.

Pete Kornegay of Camden, who serves as the lone scientific community member of the nine-person panel that regulates commercial and recreational fishing along North Carolina’s coast, offered a “Ten-Year Prescription for the Recovery of the Albemarle Sound/Roanoke River Striped Bass Stock”.

According to a Division of Marine Fisheries news release, that included at least a five-year moratorium on all striped bass harvest in that management area that includes the sounds, coastal rivers and tributaries north of a line across the Pamlico Sound from Oregon Inlet to near Stumpy Point.

The proposal would also include a two-year phase out of gill nets, except large mesh gill nets in the Chowan River for blue catfish.

Prior to Kornegay’s proposal, the commission heard presentations from division staff on recently completed striped bass assessment reports and a resulting revision to Amendment 1 to the N.C. Estuarine Striped Bass Fishery Management Plan.

The revision will implement adaptive management contained in the current management plan that will reduce fishing mortality in the Albemarle Sound/Roanoke River Management Area by 57 percent effective Jan. 1, 2021.

The commission took no action in requesting supplemental measures, according to the news release.

During the meeting held online on Nov. 19-20, the commission approved language for a new state rule banning N.C. seafood companies from repacking foreign crab meat.

A Tyrrell County seafood processor, was prosecuted and sentenced to federal prison after selling millions of dollars in foreign crab meat that was labeled as local blue crab to major retailers.

An information paper prepared by N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries staff detailed “the negative publicity regarding fraudulent representation of foreign crab meat as ‘Product of the USA’, and the potential economic impact to N.C. crab processors that currently participate in the repacking of foreign crab meat if the practice was prohibited,” according to a NCDMF memo.

The proposal would still allow foreign crab meat that has been repacked in other states and labeled as such to continue to be marketed in North Carolina retail and grocery outlets.

The commission voted to gather input from advisory groups before moving forward with possible modifications to small mesh gill net rules.

Commissioners chose options for the Division of Marine Fisheries to explore as a first step toward amending rules pertaining to yardage limits, attendance requirements, when and where nets may be set, and allowable mesh sizes.

The commission asked that all options be brought before the Finfish, Northern, and Southern advisory committees before they are brought back to the commission for additional consideration.

The division, at the direction of the commission and the secretary of the Department of Environmental Quality, is reviewing North Carolina’s small mesh gill net rules with a focus on reducing regulatory complexity, bycatch concerns, and user conflicts and asked for the commission’s feedback.

The commission also asked the division to consider several different options for sector harvest allocations in the Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan Amendment 3.

Until now, the allocation between the commercial and recreational sectors in fishery management plans has been based on historical harvest. In Amendment 3, that would equate to about 73 percent commercial and 27 percent recreational but advocates of the recreational fishery have asked for an increased recreational allocation.

The commission voted to ask the division to include options in the amendment for commercial/recreational allocations at 70/30, 65/35, 60/30 with a 10 percent allotment for gigging, 60/40, and 50/50.

In other action, the commission voted to:

  • Begin the rulemaking process to protect all species from highly efficient gear on state ocean artificial reefs;
  • Approve nominees for at-large seats on the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council;
  • Readopt rules 15A NCAC .3401-.3407 pertaining to recreational water quality monitoring, evaluation, and noticing under a mandatory periodic review schedule;
  • Continue the suspension of portions of rule 15A NCAC 03M .0301 (b)(2) and (3)(A)(B) King Mackerel for Proclamation FF-37-2020, which increased the recreational possession limit of King Mackerel.

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