nc's fishing economy is failing. demand action.

The Study

NC Sound Economy commissioned a study to examine a conservation oriented fishery management strategy for North Carolina. The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES), in collaboration with an economist from University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW), finds the state can take a range of steps to strengthen coastal livelihoods, raise incomes and make coastal communities more resilient. 


The state is experiencing tremendous economic loss because of short-term planning. Fish populations are in decline, with 17 species considered depleted or of concern. This groundbreaking study provides an in-depth examination of benefits to our fishing economy if fish populations are able to recover and grow. 


The state utilizes harvest data collected from fish dealers, anglers, and scientists to estimate the size of an individual fish stock and set harvest goals. The research team selected eight species from the 17 that are listed as depleted or of concern. They examined multiple management scenarios for each species, which would lead to long-term resource and economic growth.


The researchers ran multiple management scenarios on each species. There is no one-size-fits-all strategy to conserve and grow fish stocks in order to increase economic benefits. Some of the analyses show deficits in the data that underlies the stock assessment. In those cases, bycatch in another fishery or some other cause may need to be addressed before benefits can be realized. Similarly, some scenarios show that cuts need to be made in current harvest levels. When cuts are made in the short term, the stock recovers to a higher level allowing more harvest and driving more economic benefits. 


If all eight of these species are managed for conservation the state could gain a 30-year economic benefit of: $829.7 million dollars; $4.2 billion in total sales; 1,493 additional jobs; and $1.6 billion in labor income. This is in addition to the current level of fisheries related economic benefits.


It is clear the state has an incredible opportunity to restore its status as a premier fishing destination. In addition to benefits to the recreational fishing economy, the struggling commercial sector can be a premier local and sustainable seafood producer.