OCEAN CITY — Despite threatened draconian cuts in the summer flounder quota by federal fisheries management officials earlier this fall, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) last week published size limit and creel limits for the state in 2017 reflecting no changes.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries in December began soliciting public comments on the proposed acceptable catch limits for summer flounder for 2017 in the mid-Atlantic states after some jurisdictions went considerably over their prescribed limits in 2016. The proposals on the table included larger keeper sizes, smaller daily creel limits and even season closures in some extreme cases for summer flounder, a staple of the recreational fishing industry in Ocean City.
The proposed changes were promulgated by several mid-Atlantic states greatly exceeding their quotas for summer flounder in 2016. In federal fisheries management, quotas and catch limits are often set for entire regions, and because Maryland was lumped in with other mid-Atlantic states that exceeded their quotas last year, many feared big changes in the minimum keeper size, creel limits and season closures could be forthcoming.
NOAA Fisheries has proposed an acceptable biological catch (ABC) for summer flounder in the mid-Atlantic states of around 11 million pounds in 2017 and 13 million pounds in 2018. If approved, the proposal would have represented a reduction in allowable catch limits in the mid-Atlantic states of nearly 30 percent in 2017, marking the lowest ABC for summer flounder in the history of the management of the species.
However, because Maryland, along with neighboring states including Delaware and Virginia, have been proactive in managing catch limits for summer flounder with self-imposed keeper sizes and creel limits, the state is somewhat immune from the drastic reductions proposed in other areas.
As a result, DNR officials last week announced its proposed regulations for summer flounder in Maryland that are essentially the same as 2016. For example, the summer flounder regulations posted by the DNR last week keep the maximum keeper size at 16 inches for 2017. Some in the industry locally predicted the maximum keeper size might be raised to 17 inches in deference to the cuts proposed by federal fisheries management officials.
In addition, the creel limit for summer flounder in Maryland is expected to remain at four keepers per person per day for recreational anglers in Maryland. The DNR also announced the summer flounder season for Maryland in 2017 would be open from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, representing no season closure as once feared.
There are subtle differences for the commercial sector in the summer flounder regulations. The commercial hook-and-line minimum size remains at 16 inches in all state waters, but the commercial minimum size for summer flounder caught by gear other than hook-and-line has been set for 14 inches.