The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries announced Friday that the state Marine Fisheries Commission had approved supplemental management measures to address overfishing of striped mullet in state waters, which will impact a popular fish used for bait by coastal anglers.
Striped mullet, also known as jumping mullet and finger mullet, are primarily used locally as bait to catch a variety of other fish including red drum, flounder and bluefish. White mullet are a different, yet similar, species that are also common in North Carolina’s coastal waters.
Their roe is considered a delicacy in the Far East, used in rice noodle soup. The plump golden yellow roe is preserved and given as a gift in Taiwan during festivals and the New Year, according to N.C. Sea Grant.
The commission, which met this week in Beaufort, adopted Supplement A to Amendment 1 of the Striped Mullet Fishery Management Plan, which closes the season Nov. 7- Dec. 31 in areas north of the N.C. Highway 58 bridge between Cape Carteret and Emerald Isle, and Nov. 10 – Dec. 31 in areas south of the bridge.
The measures are to be implemented via proclamation later this year and are estimated to result in a 20% reduction in harvest.
The closure comes as the fall fishing season is winding down, and could have a significant impact on the supply of fresh bait. Local entrepreneurs use cast nets in the sound to catch the smaller finger mullet and sell them to Outer Banks tackle shops.
Commercial fishermen usually catch the larger, jumping mullet in larger nets, including “stop nets” which use a small boat known as a dory to move a net offshore around a large school and then vehicles on the beach pull it back in.
N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries officials said that the most recent striped mullet stock assessment indicated that the stock was overfished and overfishing was occurring.
They said the supplement is needed to end overfishing while the Striped Mullet Fishery Management Plan Amendment 2 is under development. Amendment 2 is tentatively scheduled for adoption in 2024.
In other action, the commission approved the following:
- The goal and objectives for the Spotted Seatrout Fishery Management Plan Amendment 1.
- The suspension of subparagraph (4) of paragraph (e) of NCMFC Rule 15A NCAC 03O .0501 Procedures and Requirements to Obtain Permit for an indefinite period. This consents to the continuance of Proclamation M-11-2023, which allows a new Shellfish Relocation Permit established by Proclamation SF-5-2023 to be fully utilized.
- Notice of text for a number of proposed rules pertaining to the below four issues. The proposed rules will go to public comment and hearing later this year.
- Commercial shellfish sanitation and processing procedures rules under a state-mandated periodic review schedule.
- Data Collection and Harassment Prevention for the Conservation of Marine and Estuarine Resources.
- Oyster Sanctuary Rule Changes.
- Conforming Rule Changes for Shellfish Relay Program and Shellfish Leases and Franchises.
The commission also authorized the Division of Marine Fisheries to proceed with rulemaking to address identification requirements for pots that require both the gear owner’s name and vessel registration or name; and agreed by consent for the Division of Marine Fisheries to continue developing rulemaking language with management options for false albacore.