A number of factors contributed to higher landings in 2014 and the first increase in the commercial fishing harvest in North Carolina in several years.
MOREHEAD CITY | A number of factors contributed to higher landings in 2014 and the first increase in the commercial fishing harvest in North Carolina in several years.
Commercial fishermen sold 61.7 million pounds of fish and shellfish to North Carolina fish dealers in 2014, according to the newly released seafood harvest information from the Division of Marine Fisheries Trip Ticket program.
The state’s commercial fishing harvest jumped 23 percent and the estimated dockside value was nearly that, climbing 19 percent to $93.8 million.
“It’s nice to see this uptick,” division License and Statistics Section Chief Don Hesselman said.
The 2014 numbers mark the first year commercial fisheries landings saw an increase since 2010.
Hard blue crabs remain at the top of the commercial harvest list and saw an 18 percent increase over 2013 with the number of fishing trips with crab pots rising.
Shrimp remained in the top 5 of commercial landings, but dropped a spot as spiny dogfish landings rose by 88 percent to 5.7 million pounds due to an increase in the state’s allotted quota.
One of the most notable changes may be the landings of summer flounder as commercial fishermen sold 2.9 million pounds to North Carolina dealers, five times the total in 2013. Harvest figures increased in 2014 after a policy change.
The state’s policy on allowing boats to land their harvest in Virginia and other states became more restrictive in 2014. The state had allowed more boats to do this in previous years due to the shallow waters and limited navigation at Oregon Inlet, but Hesselman said there were concerns about how it could affect federal quota allocation.
During the 2013 season, more than 2.7 million pounds of the North Carolina flounder quota were transferred to other states.
“There were some concerns the state could lose quote if it was re-allocated,” he said.
Shrimp harvests were down 4 percent from 2013 to 4.7 million pounds.
Hesselman said shrimp harvests tend to see year-to-year fluctuations.
On the recreational side, anglers harvested approximately 9.6 million fish, weighing about 9 million pounds in 2014, according to the division’s Coastal Angling program.
The catch of some of the bigger fish, such as tuna and dolphin, was down. Red drum harvests decreased 12 percent to 598,166 pounds after record landings in 2013.
Spot, a small fish, however, returned to the top five for the first time since 2007. Recreational spot harvests jumped more than 50 percent in 2014 to 704,445 pounds.
The overall recreational catch is a 25 percent decrease in pounds from 2013, which may be a reflection of a shift in fishing activity last year.
While the number of private boat and for-hire fishing trips dropped, the number of beach and bank trips increased by 37.3 percent.