Fat fall spots...Funny you should mention those. What happened to them? What happened to those two pound red fin croakers? All of those pretty gray trout, where are they? Where are the flounder?
You may not like my statistics, but they are all real numbers straight from the Division of Marine Fisheries.
Spot landings (commercial harvest) are at historical lows, down from over 7-million pounds per year to less 500,000 pounds per year, a 93% decline. The huge recreational fall spot runs on the ocean piers are no more.
Croaker landings (commercial harvest) are at historical lows, down from 21-million pounds to 3-million pounds, an 86% decline.
Gray trout are listed as severely depleted with a spawning stock biomass so low that scientists say a recovery might not be possible. A once thriving recreational fishery in the Pamlico Sound has now been reduced to a recreational bag limit of one fish. A fish anglers would gladly give back to the resource, but managers say one fish doesn't matter.
Blue crab commercial harvest is near an all time low, down from a harvest high of 60-million pounds to a current average harvest size of about 28-million pounds.
What is the common denominator for all four of those species? They all use the Pamlico Sound as their Primary Nursery and Secondary Nursery areas.
Based on DMF data, a conservative bycatch ratio for the Pamlico Sound shrimp trawl operations is 3.4 to 4.0 pounds of bycatch per pound of landed shrimp. Using a 3.7 bycatch ratio, the five year annual average for the Pamlico Sound is 16.6-million pounds of bycatch. The 2008 high landing year produced 24.4-million pounds of Pamlico Sound bycatch.
Spot, croaker, gray trout and blue crab all are in the top number of species wasted as bycatch. Spot is #1. Croaker is #2.
Using the total averages from the Kevin Brown study, a typical shrimp trawl haul-back will contain 33% croaker, 13% spot and 7% gray trout by weight. The individual number of croaker per pound of croaker bycatch was 20-juveniles, spot was 26-juveniles and gray trout was 27-juveniles.
The five year average is 110-million croaker killed annually. In 2008, 161-million croakers were killed.
The five year average is 56-million spot killed annually. In 2008, 82-million spot were killed.
The five year average is 31-million gray trout killed annually. In 2008, 46-million gray trout were killed.
The total for those three species is 197-million juvenile finfish killed annually for five years with 289-million killed in 2008.
Let's put the gray trout numbers in perspective. Weakfish stock status is listed as depleted. Stock biomass is at an all-time record low. In 2008, the ASFMC estimated the total east coast spawning stock biomass to be 4.5-million pounds. During that 2008 shrimp season, Pamlico Sound trawlers killed 1.7-million pounds of juvenile weakfish or 46-millon individual juvenile gray trout. A gray trout becomes sexually mature at about one year of age and 3/4 of a pound in weight. If only 5% of those 46-million juveniles killed as shrimp trawl bycatch made it to sexual maturity, the spawning stock biomass would have increased by 1.7-million pounds or 38% in one year. By eliminating trawling bycatch, stock recovery potential is huge. What if 10% made it to sexual maturity versus dying as bycatch!
If a picture says a 1000 words, this video should yell at the top of its lungs a million words. This is Bycatch to be pushed back dead. This video was taken by an employee of the trawl boat and posted on his Facebook page. The still photo shots were added in to show the actual boat in the video. http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=WLl4GSZLqGU
At the February MFC meeting, based on recommendations from DMF Director Daniel and his staff, the commission voted to study the bycatch issue for the next four years, a vote of status quo. During those four years- 3/4 to 1.2 billion juvenile croaker, spot and gray trout will die as shrimp trawl bycatch.
Trawling in our critical habitat nursery areas has to stop! Please speak up, let Governor McCroy, Representative Thom Tillis, Senator Phil Berger and your local representatives know that you demand change.
As far as gamefish for Speckle Trout, Red Drum and inland Striped Bass, In 2012 anglers in North Carolina took 1.4 million trips that generated $131.4 million in total sales , $42.6 million in income and supported 1,267 jobs while fishing for those three species. Across all commercial seafood sectors, estuarine striped bass, red drum and spotted seatrout supported 67 jobs and generated $3.3 million in total sales and $1.1 million in income for the state of North Carolina. Almost half of all the jobs in the seafood sector arise out of the retail sector. Because restaurants and markets will readily substitute for other fish species, it is unlikely that gamefish status will impact retail or wholesale sectors at all. Only six fishermen caught more than $10,000 worth of these three species in 2012 indicating that very few individuals depend on these species to make their living. The highest and best use of this public trust resource is gamefish.
I support a ban on gill nets within NC waters and a ban on inshore trawling to allow our recreationally and commercially important finfish species to recover from years of unsustainable fishery practices and gear. If you support the same, please send those emails, write and call Governor McCroy, Representative Thom Tillis, Senator Phil Berger and your local representatives.