Fishing Regulations

North Carolina commercial fishermen are frontline advocates for fishery management that provides for the responsible harvest of fresh, healthy seafood without damaging the viability of the resource.

What are the North Carolina fishing regulations

With the future of their livelihood hinging on thriving fish populations and a healthy marine environment, commercial fishermen work hard to improve fisheries management and the marine science that forms the basis for management decisions.  They serve on state and federal advisory committees and also work with biologists to help collect data that go into the fisheries management plans that ensure sustainable marine fisheries.

Management plans include actions to help ensure abundant levels of fish for future generations of fishermen to harvest.   Those actions are implemented by regulations that limit or control harvest.  Regulations can include quotas on the pounds of a species that can be landed, limits on the number of participants in a fishery, restrictions on the amount of fishing gear, trip or landing limits, closed seasons or areas, restrictions on the length and weight of fish that can be landed, and other measures.  The U.S. Coast Guard and the NC Marine Patrol enforce fishery laws.

The North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries prepares fishery management plans for species found in coastal waters and out to three miles offshore.   Those plans are reviewed and adopted by the NC Marine Fisheries Commission.  The Division develops plans for blue crab, shrimp, oysters, clams, southern flounder, bay scallops, spotted sea trout, red drum, estuarine striped bass, river herring, striped mullet, and sea mullet.

The Division of Marine Fisheries issues an annual Stock Status Report.  Fisheries are classified as viable, recovering, concern, depleted, or unknown.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission develops interstate management plans for species that migrate across political boundaries on the Atlantic seaboard.  Many of those plans manage popular seafood species, including bluefish, spanish mackerel, red drum, spot, striped bass, summer flounder, weakfish, spotted seatrout, croaker and black sea bass.

Species found in federal waters (three to 200 miles offshore) off the NC coast are managed by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service.  Eight regional management councils develop fishery management plans and management measures.

The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council  manages eight fisheries, including coastal migratory pelagics (king mackerel, spanish mackerel, cobia), dolphin and wahoo, snapper-grouper (73 species), and shrimp.

The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council manages tilefish, monkfish, bluefish, summer flounder, black sea bass, and other species.

The Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Management Division of the National Marine Fisheries Service manages highly migratory species, including tunas, sharks, and swordfish.  The U.S. negotiates with the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas to enhance management of tunas and tuna-like species in the Atlantic Ocean and adjacent seas.

NOAA Fisheries issues an annual Status of U.S. Fisheries Report.