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MOREHEAD CITY - The North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC) has approved a fishery management plan for southern flounder at a recent business meeting, charting a recovery course for one of our state’s most valuable fisheries.

MFC Chairman Jimmy Johnson was pleased with the final product. “The commission, along with the help of a dedicated group of citizen advisors, has been able to put together an innovative, long-term management strategy that should allow southern flounder stocks to rebuild within a 10-year time period,” said Johnson.

In 2000, concern over the declining status of southern flounder led the Division of Marine Fisheries to begin preparing a fishery management plan. The current population of southern flounder is comprised primarily of very young fish, with few older, more productive spawners. A healthy stock generally has fish of all ages.

An advisory committee assisted the Division of Marine Fisheries in the process of developing strategies to ensure this important fishery resource is well managed and healthy. As a result of the FMP, new management measures for southern flounder include:
Effective April 1, 2005
· 14-inch size limit, eight fish harvest limit for recreational fishermen in internal waters;
· 14-inch size limit for commercial fishermen in internal waters;
· Recreational large mesh gill nets (5 ½ inches or larger stretched mesh) must be attended at all times, south and west of the Emerald Isle Bridge in internal and ocean waters;
· Flounder pound nets must have an escape panel 5 ½ inches or greater to allow small flounder to escape; and
· Commercial fishermen cannot use more than 3000 yards of flounder gill net per vessel, in internal waters.

Effective Fall 2005
· 3-inch minimum crab trawl tailbag mesh size in eastern Pamlico Sound and 4 inches in western Pamlico Sound; and
· 5 ½-inch stretched minimum mesh size for all flounder gill nets.

Effective 2005
· 1000-yard minimum distance between old and new pound nets and a 500-yard minimum distance between pound nets and gill nets in Albemarle Sound, from August 15 – December 1; and
· Closed commercial fishing season from December 1 – December 31.

Proposed Action
· Persons using gigs recreationally must have a Recreational Commercial Gear License or other appropriate license.

The Southern Flounder FMP is available at: contact Chris Batsavage by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling 800-682-2632 or 252-726-7021.
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