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Stay-at-home orders cut into commercial fishermen’s catch last year

RALEIGH (AP) — Commercial fishermen sold nearly 20% less fish and shellfish to North Carolina seafood dealers in 2020, a decline from the previous year that’s being blamed on the state’s stay-at-home order brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, a state agency said Friday.

A news release from the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries says commercial fishermen sold 42.9 million pounds of fish and shellfish last year, a 19% decline from 2019 and about a 23% decrease from the previous five-year average.

The decline was linked to a 41.3% decrease in hard blue crab landings from 2019 that may have been partly due to impacts from COVID-19. The division said it heard from several fishermen who said they found it difficult to move blue crabs at the beginning of the state’s stay-at-home order when many restaurants were closed.

Still, hard blue crabs remained the state’s top commercial seafood in terms of pounds landed, while shrimp brought the most money to fishermen at the docks.

Recreational fishermen landed 53.5 million finfish weighing 24.9 million pounds from state coastal and estuarine waters in 2020, the news release says. The total harvest was about 4.6% higher than 2019 and a 4% increase over the previous five-year-average.

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