2009 Flounder RegulationsRecreational Fishing for Summer Flounder
Summer flounder are one of the most sought after recreational fish along the Atlantic coast. Anglers fish for summer flounder close to bottom by drifting or baits or jigging lures to exploit their feeding traits.
From 1980 through 2004, recreational landings varied widely from a high of 38 million pounds in 1980 to a 3 million pounds in 1989. Quotas were implemented for the recreational fishery in 1993. Fisheries scientists Used baseline data from 1980 to 1989 to develop a plan which allocates the summer flounder quota on a 60/40 percent basis to commercial and recreational fisheries, respectively. From 1993 to 2007, recreational landings have ranged from 5.4 to 16.5 million pounds. 2007 recreational landings are estimated at 9.8 million pounds, exceeding the quota by 3.13 million pounds.
In 2007, New Jersey, Virginia, and New York landed the highest number of summer flounder. Recent recreational discards have accounted for 10-15 percent of the total recreational catch, with discard mortality rate assumed to be 10 percent. Combined commercial and recreational landings were 19.97 million pounds in 2007.
Summer Flounder Biology
Summer flounder are found in inshore and offshore waters from Nova Scotia, Canada to the east coast of Florida. In the U.S., they are most abundant in the Mid-Atlantic region from Cape Cod, Massachusetts to Cape Fear, North Carolina. Summer flounder typically spawn when they reach lengths of about 10 inches and age 2-3. Spawning occurs in the fall in the ocean.
Summer flounder in northern areas spawn and move offshore (depths of 120 to 600 feet) earlier than southern fish. Larvae migrate to inshore bays and coastal areas from fall thru spring. The larvae, or fry, transform from free-swimming fish to life on the bottom waters and spend their first year in bays and other inshore areas. Juvenile flounder join adults in their offshore migration at about one year of age.
Summer Flounder spend most of their adult life on or burrowed in the sea bottom. Flounder feed by lying in ambush for their prey. They strike quickly, grasping their prey with well-developed teeth. Their diet consists of small fish, squid, sea worms, shrimp, and other crustaceans.
2009 Summer Flounder Quotas
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Board has set the 2009 total allowable landings for summer flounder at 18.45 million pounds, up 2.68 millions pounds from 2008.
The initial commercial quota is 11.07 million pounds and the recreational is 7.38 million pounds. The increase is a direct result of data reported at the 2008 June Stock Assessment Workshop (SAW) and Peer Review. As of 2008, officials have announced that summer flounder is no longer overfished and is not experiencing overfishing, but is not yet rebuilt.
The most recent peer review of the summer flounder assessment was in June 2008. Planners presented an updated benchmark assessment to the Northeast Regional Stock Assessment Review Committee. The working group proposed changing statistical models that provide a basis upon which quotas are based on. Reference points were changed for for natural mortality (M), threshold spawning stock biomass (SSB) and fishing mortality (F).
The 2007 SSB was estimated to be 95.6 million pounds or 72 percent of its target value. The stock is not considered rebuilt by regulators until the SSB is at or above the target level.
Recruitment is another factor that scientists measure. The term is defined as the number of juvenile fish that will be able to reproduce in a given year. The summer flounder recruitment estimate has varied from 12.8 million-81.6 million fish during since 1983.
Summer Flounder Management
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission approved the first Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for Summer Flounder in 1982, followed by a similar FMP approved by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council in 1988. Since then, the plan has been revised by both agencies, limiting both recreational and commercial landings. Restrictions have included increased minimum size limits across all sectors, increased mesh sizes, and decreased recreational possession limits.
While states have adopted management measures to stay within their quotas, overages have been chronic with recreational catches.
Managers are currently considering additional potential tools for summer flounder recreational management. These changes may include maximum size limits, which would allow for slot limits or trophy fish, and mandatory regions that would group specific states together to set like regulations.
For updates on summer flounder management visit www.asmfc.org and check the latest Fisheries Focus to stay abreast of upcoming activities.
Submitted by: CIN