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MOREHEAD CITY – State commercial harvests of several key fish and shellfish species edged up in 2006, despite an overall decrease in commercial fishing trips.

The shrimp fishery ended a three-season downward trend in 2006; oyster harvests increased for the fourth consecutive year.

“These are two important commercial fisheries to North Carolina and it is encouraging to see them doing better,” said Louis Daniel, director of the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries.

Overall landings for shellfish, shrimp and crabs jumped, as well – 9.5 percent above 2005 harvests.

A mild winter helped fishermen bring 5.7 million pounds of shrimp to the docks, more than double 2005 landings and right in line with the previous five-year average.

Fewer incidences of oyster disease and increased production from Pamlico and Topsail sounds and the North River may be the reason oyster landings have consistently risen from 46,082 bushels in 2002 to 84,585 bushels in 2006.

Hard blue crab harvests went up in 2006 by 803,684 pounds from 2005, but were 25 percent lower than the previous five-year average.

Yet the decline in fishing trips and the lack of a traditional menhaden fishery took a toll. Overall landings for fish and shellfish hit an all-time low for the second year in a row. Taking menhaden out of the equation, overall landings were up 1.2 percent in 2006.

Seafood brought to North Carolina docks in 2006 totaled 68.6 million pounds, an amount nearly 14 percent lower than in 2005.

Finfish catches (without menhaden) were down 5 percent from 2005 and 15 percent from the previous five-year average, though catches increased for some managed species like southern flounder and red drum. However, not all finfish catches were down. It was a good year for speckled trout, tilefish and yellowfin tuna.

The total value of the commercial harvest increased by $5 million to $70 million in 2006.

The number of commercial fishing trips decreased from 155,112 in 2005 to 149,721 in 2006.

Blue crabs, with a dockside value of $17 million, remained the state’s top dollar seafood, followed by shrimp in the number two spot, with a $9 million value.

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Commercial
By Pounds Landed
1. Blue crab 25,309,539
2. Atlantic Croaker 10,383,561
3. Shrimp 5,736,305
4. Summer flounder 3,966,148
5. Bluefish 2,791,100

By Value
1. Blue crab $17,065,194
2. Shrimp $9,141,172
3. Summer flounder $8,418,033
4. Southern flounder $4,870,780
5. Atlantic croaker $3,558,280

Recreational catches in North Carolina remained stable in 2006, according to the Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey. Anglers caught nearly 12 million fish in 2006, weighing a total of 25.5 million pounds.

By weight, yellowfin tuna topped the recreational catch at 7.6 million pounds. By number of fish, anglers caught more spot – 2.7 million – than any other fish.

Spot was also the most popular catch – by pounds and number of fish – of those who fish recreationally with nets and other commercial gear. Recreational Commercial Gear License holders caught 334,976 spot in 2006, according to DMF surveys.

Recreational
1. Yellowfin tuna, 7,645,118 pounds
2. Dolphins, 5,578,864 pounds
3. Striped bass, 2,112,024 pounds
4. Bluefish, 1,207,241 pounds
5. King mackerel, 1,114,458 pounds

Recreational Commercial Gear
1. Spot, 178,904 pounds
2. Blue crabs, 94,348 pounds
3. Shrimp, 49,365 pounds
4. Flounder, 45,535 pounds
5. Striped mullet, 20,201 pounds

A complete list of landings for 2006 can be found on the Division of Marine Fisheries web page at http://www.ncfisheries.net/.
 
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