The new year should be a good one for a struggling North Carolina fish stock, thanks to decisive action by the state Marine Fisheries Commission.
Starting Friday, new rules will protect the southern flounder, a fish that flourished in North Carolina but has been under pressure from overfishing. Almost all the southern flounder that goes into commercial markets in the United States – 1.7 million pounds last year – came from North Carolina waters. The fish is also prized by those who fish for recreation and helps support North Carolina’s coastal tourism industry.
Over strong objections from the commercial fishing industry, the Marine Fisheries Commission decided by a 6-3 vote to increase the size minimum for taking southern flounder, to limit the fishing gear that can be used, to cut the allowable catch and to shorten the fishing season. The relief comes just in time for a fish stock that relies on North Carolina’s sounds and estuaries as nursery areas.
Unfortunately, the new rules don’t guarantee that the southern flounder is off the hook. Thirteen mostly coastal legislators have objected to the limits and will likely try to lift them in the next session. But, for now, the commission has done a good job of protecting a North Carolina resource.