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2013 commercial and recreational fish and shellfish harvests released

MOREHEAD CITY – The state’s commercial fishing harvest continued in a three-year decreasing trend in 2013; while the dockside value of that harvest increased for the third straight year.

Commercial fishermen sold 50 million pounds of fish and shellfish at North Carolina docks in 2013, a 12 percent decrease from 2012 and 21 percent less than the five-year average, according to the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries’ Trip Ticket Program. However, the dockside value of the catch rose to $79 million, 9 percent higher than in 2012 and 4 percent higher than the five-year average.

Recreational fishing harvest increased from 2012, but remained about the same as the five-year average and was about 47 percent below what it was 10 years ago.

Recreational fishermen landed approximately 11.6 million fish, weighing about 13.3 million pounds in 2013, a 10 percent increase in pounds over 2012, according to the division’s Coastal Angling Program.


Hard blue crabs continued to top the list of the state’s commercial fishing species, both in pounds harvested and in dockside value. Commercial fishermen landed 21 million pounds of hard blue crabs in 2013, an 18 percent decrease from 2012 and 21 percent lower than the five-year average. But the dockside value of hard blue crabs increased 31 percent to $26.4 million in 2013.

Shrimp remained in the No. 2 spot with landings of 4.9 million pounds and a dockside value of $13 million, followed by spiny dogfish (3 million pounds and $302,248), southern flounder (2.2 million pounds and $5.6 million) and Atlantic croaker (1.9 million pounds and $1.7 million).

Commercial finfish landings were at 22 million pounds in 2013, a 3 percent drop from 2012 and 21 percent lower than the five-year average.

Atlantic croaker landings in large-mesh gill nets were down by 1.2 million pounds, adding to a 38 percent reduction in the fishery from 2012. Summer flounder landings dropped by 50 percent in 2013 due to a drop in flounder trawl landings, likely attributable to navigation issues at Oregon Inlet.

Bluefish landings increased by 53 percent due to increased landings in large- and small-mesh gill nets in the ocean.

Shellfish landings were at 28 million pounds, 17 percent lower than in 2012 and 20 percent below the five-year average. Much of the drop was attributable to the decrease in blue crab and shrimp landings.

Oyster harvests increased by 33 percent, including a notable increase in landings from the Pamlico Sound.


Yellowfin tuna topped the list of recreationally-harvested fish. Anglers reeled in 2 million pounds of yellowfin tuna (62,110 fish) in 2013, a 28 percent increase from 2012.

Dolphin came in second with 2 million pounds (248,987 fish), followed by bluefish at 971,279 pounds (1.2 million fish), red drum, 682,964 pounds (166,608 fish) and spotted seatrout, 652,102 pounds (369,500).

The recreational red drum harvest was the highest on record in 2013 and was a 187 percent increase in pounds landed from 2012.

Recreational spot landings doubled to 462,884 pounds (1.5 million fish) in 2013, but still remained well below historic harvest levels.

Sheepshead harvest increased by 70 percent to 497,616 pounds (272,709 fish), and southern flounder harvest increased 37 percent to 408,642 pounds (177,742 fish).

The number of fish angler’s released back into the water grew to about 21 million in 2013, about a 13 percent increase over 2012.

Recreational harvest trends are closely related to recreational effort. The number of recreational fishing trips in 2013 dropped by 6 percent to about 5 million. This was a 4 percent decrease from the five-year average, and about 28 percent fewer trips than 10 years ago.

For a full landings report, click on the 2013 Annual Fisheries Bulletin link at

For more information, contact division License and Statistics Section Chief Don Hesselman at 252-808-8099 or

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