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Some recreational fishermen unhappy about North Carolina's new flounder restrictions

A southern flounder that was caught in the Doboy Sound, near McIntosh County, Georgia.
Brett Albanese | Georgia DNR
A southern flounder that was caught in the Doboy Sound, near McIntosh County, Georgia.

The North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) is limiting this year's fishing season on southern flounder. Some recreational fishermen in the state are unhappy about the new restrictions.

DMF recently limited the fishing season to only the month of September. Fishing is restricted to only one fish per person per day.

The policies are meant to help increase the population of southern flounder. Right now, the species is overfished, and overfishing is occurring. Overfished means the population is too small. Overfishing means the removal rate is too high.

"[Of course] we want... this stock to rebuild. The concern that we have is that it's been mismanaged for decades now," said David Sneed, executive director of the Coastal Conservation Association of North Carolina. "There have been opportunities to reduce the harvest [and] allow the stock to rebuild, but the state has rejected that. And now we've gotten to the point where we have to have these drastic regulations in place. Because we haven't done what needed to be done in the past."

This year's limits were approved in the N.C. Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan Amendment 3.

Restrictions vary year by year. Last year, the recreational flounder season was for two weeks. Each fishermen could catch four fish per day. In 2020, the season lasted for six weeks, and anglers could also catch four fish per day.

"Our concern is that the state has lacked the political will to do what's necessary to not only conserve our fish stocks for future generations, but to do what's necessary to rebuild the stocks to where they need to be," Sneed said.

Sneed also believes the commercial fishing industry has unfairly influenced state policies.

"There's been too much pressure from the commercial industry to keep fishing these fish until we get to the point where now we have to have these drastic measures," Sneed said. "We need a better system for our fisheries managers to follow."

This issue is the subject of an ongoing lawsuit against the state. Sneed's association is one of dozens of plaintiffs.

DMF declined a request for comment.

Celeste Gracia covers the environment for WUNC. She has been at the station since September 2019 and started off as morning producer.
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