CAROLINA BEACH, NC (WECT) - After much delay, members of the Marine Fisheries Commission are expected to vote Thursday on new rules and regulations of Southern Flounder.
Southern Flounder is one of the most popular sought after fish in our coastal waters and the population is said to be declining.
The vote was originally scheduled for August, but members received a letter from Donald van der Vaart, Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources during a Commission meeting before the scheduled vote.
In the letter, van der Vaart expressed his concern, and those raised by more than a dozen members of the General Assembly, about potential options under consideration to supplement the Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan (FMP).
Commission members voted in February to pursue a supplement to reduce the catch of Southern Flounder by 25 to 60 percent.
Among the lawmakers expressing concern in a letter to Secretary van der Vaart were Rep. Chris Millis (R-Pender), Rep. Frank Iler (R-Brunswick) and Sen. Bill Rabon (R-Brunswick).
The commission received comments this summer from the public on six proposals to preserve the population of the species. Each will make changes for both the commercial and recreational flounder fisherman.
The six proposals can be found online here http://bit.ly/1HskaJV under "Hot Topics."
Commissioners are expected to vote on which of the six plans they think will help strengthen the flounder population the most. The proposals included size and catch limits, gear modifications and even possibly seasonal closures. It is unclear as of Thursday evening whether that vote will take place.
Scientists with the Marine Fisheries Commission say the population of the flat fish has declined so much, it is being placed on their fishing stock "concerned list."
"Concerned means the fish is being stressed and is close to being over-harvested, so what they means is there are not enough big fish to replace the stock, we are down to harvesting small fish and the larger fish are not there," said Carolina Beach Charter Captain Robert Schoonmaker, who heads up the Recreational Fish Alliance of North Carolina.
Schoonmaker says the recreational fishermen have taken the most of the reductions in the past and believes the commission's actions would affect commercial fishermen the most.
"The reason behind that is those guys harvest the largest amount of flounder and any reductions made to help the species recover is going to have to be made on the commercial sector," Schoonmaker said.
The Southern Flounder is not the only coastal fish on the concerned list. Striped Bass, Atlantic Croakers and Spot are also all on the list.
The Southern Flounder, however, gets the most attention because it is the largest commercially landed fish for the state. It turns in the most revenue both commercially and recreationally.