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COMMERCIAL LANDINGS DOWN; DOCKSIDE VALUE UP IN 2007
Monday, May 19, 2008 @ 08:45:36 EDT

COMMERCIAL LANDINGS DOWN; DOCKSIDE VALUE UP IN 2007
 
MOREHEAD CITY -- The amount of seafood commercial fishermen brought to the docks in North Carolina dropped for the fifth straight year in 2007, but the dockside value of the catch increased from 2006 figures.
 
Commercial fishermen landed 62.9 million pounds of fish and shellfish in 2007, an 8.5 percent drop from 2006, according to harvest data collected by the N.C. Trip Ticket Program.
 
The total dockside value of the 2007 harvest was estimated at $82.3 million, which was $12.2 million more than in 2006.
 
It could indicate that higher fuel prices are forcing fishermen to target the high-dollar catches, said Louis Daniel, director of the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries.
 
“In some instances, the declines that we have seen from 2006 to 2007 may be closely related to coastwide quotas and other regulations,” Daniel said.
 
Bluefish, summer flounder, snowy grouper, river herring, sharks and spiny dogfish are examples of species where regulations are significant enough to affect landings, Daniel said.
 
“Declines are also apparent in some of the higher volume, often lower valued fisheries, like croaker and spot,” Daniel said. “That may be a result of high fuel costs or a shift in fishing effort.”
 
High valued seafood, such as sea scallops, vermillion snapper, triggerfish, wahoo, red grouper and sea mullet showed significant increased landings, Daniel said.
 
The declines in croaker and spot landings could also indicate a problem with the resources, Daniel said.
 
According to the most recent Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission stock assessment, croaker are not overfished in the Mid-Atlantic region (north of Hatteras) but the stock status for croaker in the South Atlantic (south of Hatteras) is unknown.
 
Hard crabs remained the top commercial seafood harvest in North Carolina by weight and value. Fishermen landed 20.5 million pounds of crabs in 2007 worth $18.1 million. But that was still 16 percent below 2006 levels and 35 percent lower than the previous five-year average.
 
 
Landings of other top commercial species declined, as well.
 
Atlantic croaker landings were at 7.3 million pounds, down 30 percent from 2006 and 38 percent from the previous five-year average. Summer flounder landings were 2.6 million pounds, down 33 percent from 2006 and 35 percent from the previous five-year average. Bluefish landings were 2.3 million pounds, down 16 percent from 2006 and 23 percent from the previous five-year average.
 
On the other hand, harvests of shrimp were at 9.5 million pounds, up 66 percent from 2006 and 64 percent from the previous five-year average. White shrimp harvests almost doubled those of 2006 and warmer winter waters farther north contributed to the highest catch of white shrimp from Pamlico Sound since 1999.
 
Total recreational landings by pounds decreased by 7.3 percent from 2006 to 23,052,903 pounds. However, the number of fish caught and kept increased from 12 million in 2006 to 14.7 million in 2007.
 
Top recreational species harvested were dolphinfish, 5.5 million pounds; yellowfin tuna, 3.3 million pounds; king mackerel, 2 million pounds; bluefish, 1.5 million pounds; and spot, 1.4 million pounds.
 
Fishermen holding recreational commercial gear licenses harvested a total of 433,152 pounds of fish and crabs. Top species harvested were blue crabs, 98,003 pounds; spot, 97,753 pounds; flounder, 41,542 pounds; striped mullet, 37,958 pounds; and shrimp, 33,778 pounds.
 
A complete list of 2007 landings can be downloaded from the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries’ Web site at http://www.ncfisheries.net/download/index.html under the “Statistics, Reports, Bulletins, and Summaries” heading.
 
For more information, contact Don Hesselman, chief of the division’s License and Statistics Section, at (252) 808-8099 or dhesselman@ncmail.net.

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