Summer Flounder- A Fishery Management Success Story
High reproduction potential in summer flounder means they may respond to management actions more rapidly than species that reproduce slowly and in small numbers.
Summer flounder are one of the most sought after commercial and recreational fish along the Atlantic coast. The species was overfished for several decades until the first fisheries management plan (FMP) was implemented in 1983. However, the population of summer flounder continued to decline well into the 1990's as coastal managers struggled to achieve accurate stock assessments and identify appropriate catch quotas. By 1996, the mortality rate fell below 1.00 for the first time in decades and the population began its long trend to recovery. The fishery is now on schedule to be completely rebuilt by 2013.
Quotas are set for both the commercial and recreational fishing sectors. Commercial fishermen are allotted 60% of the annual catch (10.7 million pounds in 2009) and recreational fishers 40% (6.3 million pounds in 2009) (Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, 2011c). While commercial fishing quotas are fairly simple to enforce, recreational fishing landings of summer flounder have consistently been over the harvest target. This may actually be an indication of successful management, as biomass stock has consistently increased since 1993.
The graph below shows the increase in adult fish since the inception of the summer flounder management plan along with the overall decrease in landings.
For more information:
NOAA FishWatch: U.S. Seafood Facts
Fishing Communities of the United States, 2006
National Marine Fisheries Service
NOAA Essential Fish Habitat Mapper