The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council recently designated 30 artificial reef sites off North Carolina and four new sites off South Carolina as Special Management Zones (SMZ) that will now only allow fishing with hand-held hook and line gear or spear fishing. Anglers in the new zones will be allowed to keep a daily bag limit of fish.
The 30 sites designated off North Carolina represent all the sites currently permitted, so all artificial reefs in federal waters off the state are now SMZs reserved for those specific gears and limits. Likewise, the designation of the four new SMZs off South Carolina means that all artificial reefs in federal waters off that state can be fished only with hand-held hook and line gear or by spear fishing.
In previous years, CCA North Carolina had worked with at least two directors of the NC Division of Marine Fisheries to achieve the designations but without success due to conflicts on some of the artificial reef sites between industrial gear (black sea bass pots and gill nets) and recreational anglers. This time the initiative was spearheaded by the NC Division of Marine Fisheries and now the sites will be protected from overexploitation and provide better fishing opportunities for anglers.
“We are thankful the agency and its Director, Steve Murphey, recognizes the importance of the AR sites to recreational fishermen and spearheaded the effort to protect them,” said David Sneed, executive director of CCA North Carolina. “We also want to thank the NC delegation to the Council – Anna Beckwith, Tim Griner and Steve Poland – for their support of this effort, and particularly recognize Steve for his work in building support through the public comment process.”
South Carolina’s artificial reef program has been in place since 1973 and includes just over 40 different sites spread along the entire state’s coastline. All of the reefs off the Palmetto State are now limited to recreational size and creel limits. The program continues to be popular with the recreational angling community, with funds for many of the projects allocated each year coming from the recreational saltwater license program. With the establishment of its Topwater Action Campaign in 2010, CCA South Carolina and its partners have created 10 new reef sites offshore in depths ranging from 50 to more than 100 feet.
“South Carolina’s artificial reef program is a valuable asset to both recreational anglers and the health and sustainability of our marine resources,” said Scott Whitaker, executive director of CCA South Carolina. “We are pleased to see regional efforts implemented to support and reinforce South Carolina’s stewardship.”
Many artificial reef sites are wholly or partially funded by angler dollars, either through federal excise tax dollars, license dollars, fundraising efforts by local fishing clubs or even direct donations. These sites provide structure and relief on otherwise sandy, barren areas and ultimately provide feeding areas for some species and breeding areas for others. Learn more about the NC and SC artificial reefing programs at: http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/artificial-reefs-program and http://www.dnr.sc.gov/artificialreefs/.