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May 7, 2009

Cobia education, protection effort underway by DNR Law Enforcement

Cobia are powerful saltwater fish popular among sport fishermen and a prized table fare. It's also the focus of ongoing public outreach and education efforts by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Law Enforcement. Cobia fishing is the focus of a growing number of anglers especially during their peak spawning season of May and June when the mature adults congregate in St Helena and Port Royal Sounds. See brief video of cobia in the wild.

DNR Law Enforcement will remind anglers through targeted patrols in the greater Beaufort area during May and June of the various regulations currently in place designed to protect and conserve cobia. Federal and state recreational and commercial laws that specify the taking of only two cobia per-angler per-day, with a 33-inch minimum fork length size limit. An additional requirement states that cobia must be landed with head and tail intact.

"Since these fish are predictable in their behavior in inshore waters each year they are certainly susceptible to heavy fishing pressure," says DNR Law Enforcement Captain Chisolm Frampton. "If anglers will heed the current laws pertaining to the cobia fishery and apply a good measure of their own, including self-discipline and sound conservation practices, this will go a long ways towards ensuring there are plenty of cobia available for years to come."

"Combined growth in the number of saltwater recreational anglers in the state with an increasing popularity of cobia fishing, most notably in the inshore waters of Beaufort County, have provided fisheries managers, conservationists and concerned anglers with sufficient motivation to ensure that we have a good understanding of the biology, life history and stock status  of this species, in addition to a clear understanding of the cobia fishery in place," says Mel Bell, director of the DNR’s Office of Fisheries Management. "We want to make sure we have healthy cobia stocks and a healthy, balanced cobia fishery well into the future." The vast majority of cobia landed in South Carolina are taken through the private boat and charterboat sectors of the recreational fishery."

Anglers can play a vital role in protecting this popular fishery by being alert to violations of the law. Reports of violations can be made anonymously through the Operation Coast Watch program, which was developed to help citizens report natural resource violations, including those of saltwater recreational and commercial fishing laws, as well as marine environmental laws. The Operation Coast Watch number (1-800-922-5431) is toll-free and available 24 hours a day.

DNR protects and manages South Carolina’s natural resources by making wise and balanced decisions for the benefit of the state’s natural resources and its people.

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