MOREHEAD CITY – New rules go into effect this week that impact the commercial and recreational snapper/grouper fisheries in North Carolina.
Beginning Wednesday, the grouper aggregate bag limit for recreational fishermen will decrease from five to three fish per person per day. Only one of the three fish limit may be a gag or black grouper. The recreational bag limit for vermilion snapper, also known as beeliner, will drop from 10 to five fish per fisherman.
Additionally, all fishermen – commercial and recreational – must possess a de-hooking tool onboard the vessel when fishing for snappers and groupers.
New commercial quotas for the snapper-grouper fisheries begin Wednesday, as well.
A federal annual gag quota for waters from North Carolina to the Florida Keys is set at 352,940 pounds. Once that quota is met, there will be a commercial closure of all groupers in the shallow water grouper complex until May 1 in the following calendar year.
A commercial vermilion snapper quota is being separated into two seasons. The first season runs from Jan. 1-June 30 and allows for 315,523 pounds. The second season, which impacts North Carolina fishermen, runs from July 1-Dec. 31 and allows for 302,523 pounds. Once the quota is met, the commercial fishery will close until the beginning of the next season. Should there be quota left at the end of the season, the remaining quota will not roll over into the next season.
The director of the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries implemented these rule changes by proclamation to comply with a federal fishery management plan. Recent stock assessments of gag and vermilion snapper indicate that overfishing is occurring, and the stricter regulations are meant to protect the fish from harvest during their spawning season and to help the stocks return to a viable status.
The The proclamation can be found on the DMF Web site at http://www.ncfisheries.net/procs/procs2k9/FF-48-2009.html. Other rules implemented by this proclamation that will take place later include:
· A recreational vermilion snapper closed season from Nov. 1 through March 31 each year;
· A four-month recreational and commercial closure, from January through April each year, on shallow water groupers, including gag, black, red, scamp, rock hind, red hind, coney, grasby, yellowfin, yellowmouth and tiger groupers.
The rule changes above should not be confused with proposals for other snapper-grouper species that could go into effect this fall. The National Marine Fisheries Service is taking public comments on proposals that would require all fishermen to participate in an observer program, if selected; and prohibit fishermen from selling snapper and grouper species caught in federal waters unless they have an active federal snapper grouper permit. A copy of the federal register listing for these proposed rules and how you can comment on them can be found online at http://www.safmc.net/Portals/6/Library/FMP/SnapGroup/SNG15B_PR.pdf.
For more information about the new regulations or the proposed federal regulations, contact Jack Holland in DMF’s Wilmington office at (910) 796-7216 or Jack.Holland@ncdenr.gov.