Image from page 179 of "Coast watch" (1979)
Title: Coast watch
Authors: UNC Sea Grant College Program
Contributing Library: State Library of North Carolina
Digitizing Sponsor: North Carolina Digital Heritage Center
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Fishers display a day's catch in Manteo before limits were imposed. virtually every drainage area from Maine to Florida — was in decline. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), formed to cooperatively manage and protect interstate fisheries, approved a coastwide plan in 1978 to reverse the problem. Meanwhile, Congress gave teeth to the plan by passing the Emer- gency Striped Bass Management Act. Overfishing was identified as a major cause of the problem, so the ASMFC instituted size limits and bag limits, says Harrel Johnson, district manager of the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries in Elizabeth City. The goal was to reduce harvest to 80 percent of the average catch from 1972-79. Any state that failed to fish at or below that rate had to add restrictions on gear or fishing seasons. Maryland, however, took a different approach by placing a moratorium on striped bass fishing and starting a stocking program. As a result, Maryland rebuilt the fishery and reopened it in five years. North Carolina, using a more permissive plan, met its goals in 1997. "Maryland reached recovery faster than North Carolina, which opted not to go that far but to merely restrict commercial fishing back to a point required by the plan and to look at a longer-term rebuilding period that would result from that," Johnson says. North Carolina was one of five producer states — states whose rivers contribute to the Atlantic Coast migrat- ing stock — that were allowed to manage their fisheries in internal waters at an 18-inch minimum size limit. In the ocean, producer and nonproducer states had a 28-inch minimum size limit and creel limits. Now, after 20 years of management, fishers say more striped bass are in the Albemarle than ever before. "I agree with this assessment," says Johnson, who has worked in the Albemarle Sound area since 1974. "The popula- tion is considered to be recovered. It appears to be healthy, it is rebuilding." Under the 1978 management plan, North Carolina commercial fishers were allowed to harvest no more than 98,000 pounds of striped bass per year. Today, commercial landings are 125,000 pounds, and the recreational catch is 120,000 pounds. There are still restrictions: Fishers cannot keep striped bass smaller than 18 inches in the sound or 28 inches in the ocean. Recreational fishers can keep no more than two fish per day in the ocean, and on the sound, they can keep no more than three fish per day with a season varying from one month to six weeks in the fall and spring. Commercial fishers can harvest any day during set seasons until the quota is met — then, the fishery is closed and gear is removed from the water. The ocean and coastal striped bass fishery is managed by the Division of Marine Fisheries; however, once the fish move into inland waters, they're managed by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. □ 30 AUTUMN 1998
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