Two shrimp trawlers are docked at Beaufort Inlet. Some are concerned that the loss of fish to the bycatch from trawlers and other fishing vessels has damaged populations of some species along North Carolina’s coast. Jack Igelman / Carolina Public Press

South Carolina: Proposal to regulate coastal fishing draws strong differences of opinion

A proposed coastal fishing regulation designed to protect species is drawing sharp differences of opinion from some of those affected. Some think the measure is necessary to prevent continued loss of important fish species. Others think the measure won’t work as intended and could prove catastrophic for coastal fishing industries.

The fish that aren’t here anymore

Tom Roller is a professional fishing guide in Beaufort who brings his clients to sounds, bays, inlets and creeks to cast for red drum, speckled sea trout, bluefish and Spanish mackerel.

But his bread and butter, he said, is Southern flounder.

“They are extremely important to my business, but we don’t catch Southerns like we used to because they aren’t here anymore,” he said. “They are an example of how to overfish something and not do anything.”

The recreational Southern flounder fishery is closed for the rest of the year since the catch exceeded its target defined by the Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan.

Commercial landings of Southern flounder, according to the N.C. Wildlife Federation, have declined 88 percent over the past two decades. A landing is the amount of fish harvested at sea and brought to land.

In addition, other saltwater species that spawn in estuaries – a partially enclosed coastal body of water with a connection to the ocean – have experienced a similar decline, such as bluefish (78 percent), spot (94 percent) and Atlantic croaker (85 percent).

Read full Carolina Public Press article . . . (it's excellent reporting)