Q: How have federal and state regulations and policies affected marine life off the coast of North Carolina?
A: Regulations are designed to impact human activities. While there are a number of different fisheries that are regulated by North Carolina, we will discuss three different groups in this response:
1. The snapper/grouper complex had its first serious regulations in 1992, which included size limits and catch or bag limits. It took approximately four years before some of these populations started recovering. While there has been some improvement, not all of the species in this group are thriving. One of the problems hindering recovery is that fishermen are required to throw back portions of the catch that are below a set size limit. Of those fish thrown back, however, only about half survive. This release mortality rate has created a dilemma for the regulators.
2. Severe bag limits and trip limits were placed on king mackerel and spanish mackerel in response to overfishing. These limits proved so successful that as the populations have increased, the severe restrictions have been lessened.
3. To aid in the recovery of weakfish or grey trout, fishermen were prohibited from using Fly Nets in an area south of Cape Hatteras. Fly Nets are used to catch large numbers of fish, particularly weakfish, spot, and croaker. Since the closure this area, the numbers of these fishes has increased significantly.
In addition to regulations for particular fish populations, Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) may be set aside to conserve entire ecosystems where many species can survive and thrive.