MFC approves mandatory harvest reporting for commercial and recreational fishermen

During a special meeting held online on Thursday, June 6, the North Carolina Department of Marine Fisheries passed a temporary motion authored by the North Carolina General Assembly requiring commercial and recreational fishermen to report their harvests to the Department of Marine Fisheries from June 6. December 1st.

Commercial fishermen will be required to report their harvests, regardless of whether they sell the harvest. While fishmongers already report harvests from commercial fishermen through the North Carolina Trip Ticket Program, commercial fishermen will also be required to report harvests they keep for personal consumption to a fishmonger within 48 hours, according to the DMF website.

At the time of harvest, recreational anglers will be required to report red drum, spotted seatrout, striped bass, flounder and weakfish, also known as gray trout, through the DMF website or a DMF report card, which can be found on the website printed. website. Recreational anglers then have 24 hours to electronically upload the report card data.

Recreational fishermen must provide their fishing license number, date, species, size, location and equipment used.

Members of the MFC had some problems with the rules, but were unable to change them. The MFC could potentially change the rules if it votes for permanent rules in the future, said Phillip Reynolds, legal counsel for the MFC.

Recreational fishermen are not allowed to harvest flounder or striped bass, so the state is collecting “very little data” with this rule, said Alfred Hobgood, a recreation representative for the MFC.

“If you really want to really collect data, it makes sense to me to add releases to a harvest and release program,” Hobgood said.

Tom Roller, the recreational industry representative for the MFC, agreed with Hobgood and objected to the species being subject to the recreational reporting rule.

“If we want to draw an analogy to hunting, we ask people to report their squirrels, bunnies and quail, while ignoring big game species like deer, turkey and bear,” Roller said.

The DMF already collects harvest data from recreational fishermen through the Marine Recreational Information Program, which interviews fishermen in person, by telephone or by mail. These new rules will help improve the “limitations” of MRI, according to the DMF website.

The General Assembly passed a law in 2023 establishing mandatory reporting and allocated $5 million to the DMF for reporting methods, according to the DMF website.

Mandatory reporting will apply to coastal fishing waters, joint fishing waters and inland fishing waters adjacent to coastal and joint fishing waters.

This isn’t the first time the General Assembly has passed mandatory reporting laws.

In 2013, the General Assembly passed a law requiring captains of recreational charters, main boats and fishing guides to report a summary of their catches and trips to the state. But the law was repealed in 2015, Patricia Smith, the DMF’s public information officer, wrote in an email.

The DMF received 2,000 written public comments on the new mandatory reporting rules, said Jesse Bissette, MFC executive assistant for committees and boards. Eighty-three percent of public comments expressed opposition to the rules.

“Many commenters felt that the rules were unenforceable and impractical, and that there was no way to ensure compliance with the rules,” Bissette said.

The Law Enforcement Division of the DMF’s Marine Patrol and Wildlife Resource Commission will enforce these rules.

From December 1, fishermen will receive verbal warnings if they do not report their harvests. This will be upgraded to warning tickets starting December 1, 2025, and then $35 fines that will count toward license and permit suspensions starting December 1, 2026, according to the DMF website.

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