The spot and croaker fisheries were once the backbone of the inshore and nearshore fishery in the southeast, reliable resources that could be accessed by all levels of angler. However, unchecked devastation by shrimp trawls and inaction by managers have allowed the catch of both species to decline almost into obscurity. Declining catches of popular species almost always signals a problem. With management plans now in the works at the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, Coastal Conservation Association is calling on managers to take decisive action to recover spot and croaker to their historical abundance.
“We have long been concerned about the status of croaker and spot, and have been dismayed by the lack of management action to restore anything resembling historic abundance,” said Bill Bird, chairman of CCA’s National Government Relations Committee. “Current management approaches are not working, and it is past time the ASMFC acted to restore these important fisheries to their past abundance.
While both the commercial and recreational sectors must accept significant reductions, the largest impact on both species comes from shrimp trawls. Over the past four years, North Carolina shrimpers landed nine million pounds of shrimp in 2015, 13 million pounds in 2016, nearly 14 million pounds in 2017 and nearly 10 million pounds in 2018. On average, shrimpers caught 11.5 million pounds of shrimp and discarded dead about 45 million pounds of dead bycatch. The majority of that wasted bycatch was spot, croaker, menhaden and weakfish.
“We all have a responsibility to do our part to recover fisheries when they are under stress, but in this case, reducing directed harvest without addressing dead discards from shrimp trawls in these fisheries would accomplish little,” said David Sneed, executive director of CCA North Carolina. “These fisheries are just another example of the hidden impacts of destructive, indiscriminate nets and trawls. That kind of gear is a massive, largely invisible drain on our marine resources, and it has to be addressed.”
The ASMFC will be working on both Draft Addenda III to the Omnibus Amendment to the Interstate Fishery Management Plans for Spanish Mackerel, Spot and Spotted Seatrout and Draft Addenda III to Amendment 1 of the Interstate Fishery Management Plan in 2020.