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Flounder bill clears another hurdle toward becoming law

image: women catching fish

A bill to increase the minimum size limit and lower the daily bag limits for South Carolina’s flounder population was approved by a S.C. Senate sub-committee earlier this week. Submitted photo
April 21, 2017 5:50 PM

By Gregg Holshouser
For The Sun News

The bill with designs on increasing the minimum size limit and lowering the daily bag limits for South Carolina’s flounder population is another step closer to being approved by the S.C. General Assembly.
The bill was approved by a sub-committee of the Senate’s Fish, Game and Forestry Committee on Wednesday, and now will go to the full committee. If approved by the full committee, the bill would then go before the Senate.
The bill – which if put into law would up the flounder minimum size limit one inch to 15 inches and decrease the daily bag limits to 10 per person and 20 per boat – was approved by the S.C. House of Representatives in late February before moving to the Senate. South Carolina’s current flounder limits are 15 per person per day with a boat limit of 30 per day to go with a 14-inch minimum size limit.

“The Senate sub-committee asked a lot of questions on the merits of the bill,” said Charles Farmer, who has served as liaison between CCA SC and the S.C. General Assembly for the past 11 years. “It was voted in favor of by the subcommittee and will go to the full committee as early as next week. Right now we feel optimistic that the bill will be voted favorably out of the full committee.”
The bill received unanimous approval by the House in February in a 108-0 vote before heading to the Senate.

“You don’t get that (unanimous vote) very often,” said Farmer, who praised local legislators Sen. Stephen Goldfinch, R-Murrells Inlet and Rep. Lee Hewitt, R-Murrells Inlet for their work in garnering support for the bill.
“The last couple of years we’ve been really focused on flounder because flounder, red drum and seatrout are at the top of the list of fish inshore fishermen go after. They are a really important part of the marine ecosystem.”
Farmer has high hopes that, if the measure becomes law, the one-inch increase in size limit in particular will help the flounder population.
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.
“What will be accomplished, it will in effect save about 29-30 percent of the population every year and allow the population to get to a more sustainable level,” said Farmer. “A 15-inch flounder has a much more productive spawn, much more prolific than a 14-inch flounder. It would have a positive impact on the population over the next 2-4 years.”
Farmer concluded a 36-year career as a marine biologist with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources prior to joining CCA SC in 2006, and has been active in fisheries-related legislation since.
“We try to be very reasonable in what we try to do and still accomplish the conservation effort,” said Farmer. “We try to be proactive, take small steps along the way instead of having to take real draconian measures further down the road.
“In this bill we think we’ve come up with regulations to protect our flounder population and let the fishermen still enjoy the species.”
GSSWA Flounder Tournament
The 16th annual Grand Strand Saltwater Anglers Flounder Tournament will take place Saturday in Murrells Inlet.
The weigh-in for the event will be held 3:30 to 5 p.m. in the parking lot adjacent to the Murrells Inlet public boat ramp.

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