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October 2, 2009

Weakfish reduced catch Myrtle Beach public hearing on Oct. 14

Protecting the declining stocks of weakfish, a recreational species in coastal waters, will be the subject of a public hearing scheduled for Oct. 14 in Myrtle Beach. The public hearing will be held Oct. 14 at 7 p. m. at Springmaid Beach Resort and Conference Center, 3200 South Ocean Blvd., Myrtle Beach, SC. 
For more information contact Mel Bell, director of the Office of Fisheries Management for the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) at (843) 953-9007.
A recent assessment of the Atlantic Coast weakfish stocks indicated a marked decline in abundance, high mortality, and a generally depleted population. Weakfish, sometimes called gray trout or summer trout, is a close relative of the spotted seatrout.
"To be in compliance with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Weakfish Management Plan, South Carolina will most likely have to reduce the current daily bag limit of 10 fish per person in state waters," said Bell. Exactly what measures will be enacted to protect weakfish have yet to be determined and will be based in part on public input received at hearings planned from New York to Florida, Bell said.
"South Carolina has a small recreational weakfish fishery primarily in nearshore waters during the fall and winter months," Bell said.  "The state has no commercial fishery for this species."
Researchers have determined that weakfish natural mortality has risen substantially since 1995 due to predation, competition and environmental changes. Natural mortality is presently thought to have a greater influence on weakfish stocks than fishing mortality, and stocks are likely to recover slowly even under a harvest moratorium.
"Any changes in state law regulating the state’s weakfish fishery will have to be taken before the South Carolina General assembly for adoption, possibly as early as the 2010 session," Bell said.

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