The Marine Fisheries Commission voted to approve their preferred fishery management for striped mullet, which involves daily trip limits. Commercial fishermen in North Carolina aren’t against regulations for the mullet fishery because the sustainability and viability of stocks are the only way to keep making money.

However, fishermen in the area don’t see the mullet regulations as necessary due to the amount of Mullet in Pamlico Sound. A commercial mullet fisherman in Frisco told Island Free Press, “It’s a no-win situation for us one way, shape, or form. I’ve got to live with whatever it is they come up with.”

In 2022, commercial fishermen in North Carolina made more than $2.1 million selling mullet, according to DMF.

The data from stock assessments that ended in 2019 and recent years are not included; according to reports, fishermen don’t believe the Department of Marine Fisheries (DMF) collects independent survey data efficiently. 

At the Feb. business meeting in New Bern, MFC unanimously voted to close commercial striped mullet fishing on Saturday and Sunday from Jan. 1 to Sept 30 and on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31 as part of its preferred fishery management for mullet shared the Island Free Press.

The executive director of the North Carolina Fisheries Association, Glenn Skinner, told the press, “Nobody said don’t manage the fishery, don’t reduce it at all, but a 30-something percent reduction is a significant reduction, especially when you’re seeing a bunch of positive signs in the stock.”

The commission will hold the final vote in May. Before the final decision becomes effective, the Department of Environmental Quality’s secretary and legislative team will review the new regulations. Press reported that after the stock assessment ended in 2019, the DMF found that mullet was overfished, and overfishing was occurring. They then recommended a 33 percent reduction in total harvest to end the overfishing in two years and end the overfished status in 10 years.  

Data shared by DMF, the closure will close the mullet fishery for more than 110 days and reduce the harvest by 34.9 percent.

According to the Island Free Press, back in December, DMF recommended a 50-pound daily trip limit for commercial fishermen in January, a 500-pound daily trip limit from Feb. 1 to Oct. 15, and no daily trip limit for the roe season from Oct. 16 to Nov. 15, a 50-pound daily trip limit from Nov. 16 to the end of the year, and a 50-pound daily trip limit on Saturday and Sunday throughout the year.

However, after public comment at the Northern, Southern, and Finfish Advisory Committees earlier this year, Jeff Dobbs, a DMF biologist, shared that the DMF changed its recommendations on restrictions to day-of-the-week closures.

Tom Roller, a member of MFC, said that targeting this commercial fishing effort by reducing the number of days mullet can be harvested will only force commercial fishermen to go out more on open days and will not meet the targeted reduction.

“Effort will not be reduced at the level we hope it will to get to the necessary reductions to end overfishing,” Roller shared during the MFC meeting.

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Carli is a Content Specialist for National Fisherman. She comes from a fourth-generation fishing family off the coast of Maine. Her background consists of growing her own business within the marine community. She resides on one of the islands off the coast of Maine while also supporting the lobster community she grew up in.

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