Flounder legislation passes House, heads to Senate for further consideration

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 18, 2021 CONTACT: Scott Whitaker 803-865-4164
Flounder legislation passes House, heads to Senate for further consideration

Columbia, S.C. – With a vote of 106 to 3, the South Carolina House of Representatives has advanced legislation that would adjust the state’s flounder regulations with an emphasis on increasing the spawning stock of the popular species. H. 3957 was introduced in late February by a bi-partisan group of legislators based on concerns from anglers, constituents, and data from the first ever regional stock assessment indicating that the fishery continues its downward spiral. The legislation comes after 18 months of meetings and discussion among fisheries managers, the angling community, and state decisions makers.

“We are thrilled by the level of engagement that has been shown and the willingness to act by both bodies of the General Assembly” said CCA SC Government Affairs Committee Chairman, Tombo Milliken. “Recreational anglers in SC have consistently asked for conservation measures to be taken over the years and yet we find ourselves at a place that further action simply must be taken, and we have willing partners throughout the state management process eager to respond.”

South Carolina is not alone in the need to take action to address declining flounder numbers. From Texas to North Carolina, states are enacting new management steps as a response to troubling stock assessments. A first of its kind regional stock assessment provided in 2019 suggested that southern flounder harvest be reduced by 72 percent across the South Atlantic region (North Carolina to Florida), with North Carolina implementing a 45-day season for recreational anglers. Florida also acted in December to reduce its harvest.

The legislation passed in the South Carolina House of Representatives would implement a 5-fish-per-person creel limit with a maximum 10 fish boat limit. It would also implement a 16”-20” slot limit on the size of flounder, with anglers being able to retain 1 fish over that slot limit per person and a maximum of 2 per boat. While utilized in the management of other species, red drum and black drum for example in South Carolina and spotted seat trout in states such as Texas, Alabama, and Florida, the SC flounder slot limit would be the first time it has been implemented in the country for flounder management. The principle behind the measure in all the cases is the same; to bolster the larger spawning stock of females.

The legislation now resides in the Senate and has been referred to the Fish, Game, and Forestry Committee, where CCA SC anticipates additional management measures will be considered and with the same enthusiasm by members to act.

“Looking back on the process, the level of engagement from state fisheries managers at the SCDNR to frame the issue, elected officials in both bodies of the House and Senate to work on bi-partisan legislation, and from the recreational community to engage the process, has been remarkable” said Scott Whitaker, executive director of CCA SC. “We’ll see where the developments take us in the coming weeks.”

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