Legislators Join Fight Over Flounder

Sep 11, 2015

A southern flounder.
Credit NC DENR

The General Assembly may halt an effort by the state agency tasked with managing fisheries to limit flounder catches.

Last month, the Marine Fisheries Commission was supposed to vote on setting limits on southern flounder, a staple on restaurant menus across the state and a $4.8 million business for commercial fishermen.

Those limits included raising the minimum size limit to 15 inches, implementing a total allowable catch limit for commercial harvest, the prohibition of large-mesh gill nets and no further reductions to the recreational limits.

Years of over-harvesting have taken a toll on flounder stocks, putting the fish on the brink of depletion.  

Commercial fishermen, who by and large oppose the limits, sought support from the General Assembly.

And they got it, in the form of a letter from 13 legislators – all but one of whom represent coastal districts. They asked DENR Secretary Donald van der Vaart to direct the Marine Fisheries Commission to postpone the vote.

Legislators had previously inserted a provision into the Senate version of the budget that would prohibit the Marine Fisheries Commission from imposing any limit on flounder catches.

The budget is due any day now; the Marine Fisheries Commission is scheduled to meet next week to discuss the future of southern flounder.