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MOREHEAD CITY – North Carolina internal coastal waters will close Monday to large-mesh gill net fishing to avoid discards of red drum.

The closure will continue until at least June 1, after the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission discusses several issues related to this year’s overages in the commercial red drum fishery.

The division announced in April that the spring/summer commercial fishing season for red drum will not open this year because the annual harvest limit was exceeded in the fall/winter season. Final calculations from 2013 show that commercial fishermen landed 263,072 pounds of red drum between Sept. 1 and Nov. 23, exceeding the annual harvest limit by 13,072 pounds.

In North Carolina, commercial fishermen are not allowed to target red drum, but when the season is open, they are allowed to retain a certain number of red drum caught incidentally when targeting flounder or other species. Fishery management plans adopted by both the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission and Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission set an annual cap on this harvest at 250,000 pounds for a Sept. 1 to Aug. 31 season.

The commercial fishery must close once the annual harvest limit is met, and overages from one year are deducted from the subsequent year’s harvest limit.

Wednesday, the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries received a request from the N.C. Fisheries Association asking for a closure of internal waters to anchored gill nets with a mesh length of 4-inches or greater. The request also called for:

  • Limited areas to open to large-mesh gill nets June 1 with a four-fish red drum bycatch allowance;
  • All waters reopening to large mesh gill nets Aug. 1, with seven-fish red drum bycatch allowance;
  • Exemptions for run-around gill nets and drift nets; and
  • Weekly dealer reporting of red drum landings.

“While the May closure partially addresses this request, the division cannot reopen the red drum commercial fishery until Sept. 1,” said division Director Louis Daniel. “Reopening red drum before Sept. 1 would result in non-compliance with the North Carolina and Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission plans.”

The Marine Fisheries Commission will consider how to better monitor the landings of red drum and other aspects of the Fisheries Association’s request at its May 21-23 meeting. The division will present a detailed red drum landings data analysis to the commission, as well.

For more specific information on the large-mesh gill net closure, see Proclamation M-16-2014 at
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