A court injunction has stopped a planned closure of North Carolina’s flounder season that was set to begin this weekend.
The North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries announced this week that the state will not close the flounder season on Oct. 16 as was planned due to a temporary injunction issued putting several new regulations for the southern flounder fishery on hold.
The season remains open for commercial and recreational fishermen.
The recreational hook-and-line and gig fisheries continue with the current 15-inch minimum size limit and six-fish bag limit.
The season also remains open for the anchored, large-mesh gill net fisheries but the December commercial closure for the flounder season will still take place as in previous years, the division said.
The halt to the season closure is the result of legal action taken by representatives of the commercial fishing industry over last year’s action by the North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission.
The North Carolina Fisheries Association, a New Bern-based trade association representing commercial fishermen, announced that commercial fishermen have joined with several coastal counties in filing a legal complaint against the state over the process used in adopting new regulations for the southern flounder fishery.
The North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission adopted stricter management measures for the fishery in November as a supplement to the state’s Southern Flounder Management Plan.
The concern raised by the NCFA has been over the use of the supplement process rather than the amendment process, which is a longer, more-involved process that allows for greater public input.
The lawsuit seeks to stop the measures adopted by the MFC.
Carteret County Superior Court Judge John Noble issued an initial temporary restraining order on Sept. 28 to put the measures on hold until a hearing could be held in the coming week.
At the hearing on Oct. 6, Judge John Jolly, Jr., listened to two hours of testimony before issuing a temporary injunction that remains in place until a full hearing is held.
No date has been set for that hearing and the division said the injunctions remains in effect until further notice.
The judge also struck down a pound net quota.
Other provisions of the flounder plan that remain in place for the season include: a 15-inch minimum size limit for the commercial fisheries; a 6-inch minimum mesh size for anchored, large-mesh gill nets; and a 5 and one-quarter-inch escape panel for flounder pound nets.
As the legal challenge proceeds, supporters of the new rules adopted by the MFC, many recreational fishermen, have cited stock status reports and said the southern flounder fishery is depleted and action was needed.