N.C. cancels 2024 recreational flounder season

MOREHEAD CITY, N.C. (WITN) – N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries has canceled recreational flounder season this year due to last year’s catch exceeding the state’s stock rebuilding plan.

Doug Benz, a fisherman with 60 years of experience, has observed issues in local fishing methods here.

“The problem is that they are fishing for shrimp in the exact same spot the juvenile fish go to breed,” Benz said.

N.C. Wildlife Federation CEO Tim Gestwicki attributes this to unsustainable fishing practices, particularly inshore trawling, which involves dragging heavy chains and nets across the seabed, damaging the environment and depleting fish populations.

“We are the only state left in the country that still allows inshore trawling in our juvenile habitat, and the by-catch from that leads to hundreds of millions of juvenile fish being killed,” Gestwicki said.

According to senior marine scientist Dr. Louis Daniel, around 100,000 pounds of the flounder catch exceeded the quota in 2023. Recreational fishermen would have been allocated 30% of the quota, or 170,000 pounds.

Dr. Daniel warns that continued depletion of the fishing population could also shut down commercial flounder fishing.

“Short-term impacts are considered more important than long-term sustainability of the fishery. As a result, recreational and commercial fishermen are suffering,” Dr. Daniel said.

He added that rebuilding fish populations this way could restore the quota for recreational and commercial fishing to a 50/50 split by 2026.