A bill that will increase the minimum size limit and lower the daily bag limits for South Carolina’s flounder population has been signed into law by Gov. Henry McMaster after easily moving through the S.C. Legislature.
McMaster signed the bill a week ago, on May 19, after it was approved by the Senate, and the new limits will go into effect on July 1.
The bill increases the flounder minimum size limit 1 inch to 15 inches and decreases the daily bag limits to 10 per person and 20 per boat. South Carolina’s soon-to-be-outdated flounder limits are currently a 14-inch minimum size limit and bag limits of 15 per person per day with a boat limit of 30 per day.
The bill had full support in the Legislature, passing the House of Representatives by a unanimous 108-0 vote before being passed by the Senate.
“It received no descending votes in the Senate and the vote in the house was very, very unusual, 108-0 – remarkable,” said Charles Farmer, who has served as liaison between Coastal Conservation Association South Carolina, which pushed for the bill, and the S.C. General Assembly for the past 11 years.
“It was a lot of work, a lot of effort but for all practical purposes, no one opposed the bill.”
Fishermen in the Palmetto State have a little over a month before the new flounder regulations go into effect on July 1.
“DNR (law enforcement) will educate the public for the first couple months to make sure everyone is aware,” said Farmer, “and then maybe write warning tickets.”
Farmer pointed out that flounder receive unique fishing pressure, as they are targeted both day and night.
“They are under pressure during day by hook-and-line (fishermen) and at night by giggers,” Farmer said. “(The new regulations) apply to them both. Giggers will have to be more careful when they stick a fish.
“We feel this is one of the most significant bills in marine conservation in some time.”
Farmer is optimistic the 1-inch increase in size limit in particular will help the flounder population in coming years.
Female flounder first mature at 14 inches and begin substantially contributing to the spawn at 15 inches. Raising the minimum size is designed to increase the number of females that successfully migrate into the ocean to spawn in late fall and winter.
“A 15-inch flounder is far more productive at spawning, has a much greater spawning capacity than a 14-inch flounder,” said Farmer. “The overall population is down is significantly. You want to find a way for the population to come back but at the same time not penalize the recreational fishermen anymore than necessary.
“(S.C.) DNR has determined you’re going to affect about 29-31 percent of fish taken each year. We will in effect save or protect 29-31 percent of the fish that would have been taken. In the next six years, you will begin to see a real beneficial effect for the flounder population.”
Farmer, who concluded a 36-year career as a marine biologist with S.C. DNR prior to joining CCA SC in 2006, points to the burgeoning population along South Carolina’s coast behind the need for stricter limits on popular marine fish species.
“The saltwater fishing license is the only license increasing in numbers,” said Farmer. “The hunting and freshwater fishing licenses tend to be relatively stable. Saltwater licenses continue to go up which means more anglers, more pressure, which means the need for legislation such as this on flounder.”
Gregg Holshouser: firstname.lastname@example.org