The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission adopted the Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan Amendment 2 as proposed by the Division of Marine Fisheries, giving the director of the Division of Marine Fisheries flexibility with the commercial and recreational seasons so long as they meet the statutorily required harvest reductions.

The Division of Marine Fisheries anticipates issuing a proclamation next week that closes the commercial and recreational season around Sept. 4.

The most recent coast-wide (North Carolina to the east coast of Florida) stock assessment for Southern Flounder determined the stock is overfished and overfishing is occurring. Reductions in total removals of southern flounder are required by state law to achieve a sustainable harvest, end overfishing within two years and recover the stock from an overfished condition within a 10-year period. Management measures to meet these requirements have been developed for consideration by the Marine Fisheries Commission for implementation before fall 2019 and are found in draft Amendment 2.

Implementation of the season closure management strategy recommended in Amendment 2 is deemed critical to successful rebuilding of the southern flounder stock, so management actions can be implemented during the 2019 calendar year and reducing harvest is not delayed while more comprehensive strategies are developed for Amendment 3.

Management measures such as quotas, slot limits, changes in the size limit, additional gear changes and species-specific management can all be examined in Amendment 3, scheduled for completion in 2021. These are not considered feasible options to address sustainable harvest in draft Amendment 2 due to the accelerated timeline.