DMF gives rec’s Spanish mackerel allocation to commercial fishermen

The South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council (SAFMC) had ordered the commercial harvest of Spanish mackerel closed after commercial fishermen had reached their harvest quota in the northern zone on August 24, 2019. In a move that reallocates a portion of the unused recreational harvest, Secretary of DEQ Michael Ragan ordered Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) Director Steve Murphey to reopen the commercial harvest.

Director Murphey issued a Proclamation on Tuesday that reopened the commercial harvest on Friday, September 27 with a 500 lb. trip limit until November 15 or when the Total Annual Catch limit (Commercial + Recreational) is reached. This appears to be a move that would put North Carolina out of compliance with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) yet DMF managers are telling us that a provision used by Florida that allows commercial harvest to continue at lower trip limits until the Total Annual Catch limit is reached is being cited as precedent for other states to follow suit. CCA NC feels recreational anglers are being denied their due process with what amounts to a soft allocation shift.

This seems to be out of character for a Department that has long cited following the “FMP process” when dealing with the conservation measures associated with other species like estuarine striped bass and Southern flounder. The Secretary is under no obligation to “expend” the unused portion of the recreational quota and could have instead left those fish in the water to provide a conservation buffer and help insure a healthy stock. You can find our letter to Secretary Regan sent on behalf of recreational anglers in North Carolina on our website: www.ccanc.org/spanishmackerelquota/