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

Commercial fishermen will be required to report their harvests regardless of if they sell the harvest. While fish dealers already report commercial fishermen’s harvests through the North Carolina Trip Ticket Program, commercial fishermen will also have to report the harvests they keep for personal consumption with a seafood dealer within 48 hours, according to the DMF website.

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

Recreational fishermen will provide their fishing license number, date, species, size, location, and gear used.

Members of the MFC had some issues with the rules, but could not amend them. The MFC may be able amend the rules when voting for permanent rules in the future, said Phillip Reynolds, the MFC’s legal counsel.

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 recreational representative for the MFC.

“Going forward, if you really want to truly collect data, having releases added to a harvest and release program makes sense to me,” Hobgood said.

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

“If we’re going to draw an analogy to hunting, we’re asking people to report their squirrels, bunnies, and quail, while ignoring the big game species, like deer, turkeys, and bear,” Roller said.

The DMF already collects data on recreational fishermen’s harvests through the Marine Recreational Information Program, which interviews fishermen in person, on the phone, or by mail. These new rules will help improve MRIP’s “limitations,” according to the DMF website.

The General Assembly passed a law in 2023 outlining 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 coast and joint fishing waters.

This is not the first time the General Assembly has passed mandatory reporting laws.

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

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

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

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

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

The post MFC approves mandatory harvest reporting for commercial and recreational fishermen appeared first on Island Free Press.

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