On November 2, 2016 the N.C. Wildlife Federation filed a Petition for Rulemaking with the Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC) asking for changes to rules to reduce finfish bycatch in shrimp trawling operations by implementing several rule changes that control the areas, times, gear and methods that may be used in this fishery.
This action was necessary because commercially and recreationally valuable fish, including Atlantic croaker, spot, and weakfish, are in trouble on our coast. The amount of juvenile fish caught and wasted in the shrimp trawl fishery is unsustainably high in North Carolina’s sounds and important habitat areas. It is estimated that for every pound of shrimp caught in North Carolina waters, four pounds of fish-mostly juvenile fish-and other organisms are caught in shrimp trawls and discarded as bycatch. Tens of millions of fish are killed and tossed by shrimp trawlers each year. The impact of shrimp trawl bycatch is felt coast-wide. Commercially and recreationally valuable fish stocks, including Atlantic croaker, spot, and weakfish, are declining or depleted along the east coast. North Carolina is the only state on the east coast to allow shrimp trawling in its sounds, fish nurseries, and estuaries. North Carolina’s sounds and estuaries are highly productive areas that provide essential habitat to older juvenile fish before these fish have an opportunity to spawn and contribute to the adult population. Shrimp trawling effort is highest in North Carolina sounds, which destroys fragile habitat areas and devastates large quantities of juvenile fish.
What the Petition Seeks
This petition takes a research-based, data-driven approach and if enacted would designate all of North Carolina’s undesignated inshore and ocean waters as special secondary nursery areas; establishes clear criteria for the opening of shrimp season; and limits the types of gear and how often gear may be used to harvest shrimp in special secondary nursery areas during shrimp season.
Specific requests of the petition include: (View a copy of the petition here.)
- Limiting shrimp trawling to three days a week in the daytime only in special secondary nursery areas
- Limiting the total trawl head rope to 90 feet (which will limit the size of the net) in all state waters
- Limiting tow times to 45 minutes in special secondary nursery areas
- Opening shrimp season once the shrimp count in Pamlico Sound reaches 60 shrimp per pound, heads on
- Implementing an 8-inch size limit for spot and a 10-inch size limit for American croaker
- Requiring all fishermen to use two Division of Marine Fisheries-certified bycatch reduction devices when trawling in state waters
Voices Needed in New Bern, NC January 17th
The Marine Fisheries Commission has received the Petition and has scheduled a Public Hearing to receive input into the content of the Petition and the question of adopting its recommendations. The Public Hearing will be held beginning at 12:30 pm on January 17, 2017 in New Bern, NC at the New Bern Riverfront Convention Center, 203 South Front Street, New Bern, NC.
* This is your chance to have meaningful comment into the proper management and protection of our marine fisheries resources. Attend the Hearing if you can and by all means submit your comments in support of the Petition as provided below. NC Camo has provided a supportive response for your consideration as a part of this alert.
To accommodate as many speakers as possible, those who wish to give public comment at the meeting will be limited to three minutes per person. Members of the public also may comment on the petition in writing by clicking here comments will be accepted until 5 p.m. Jan. 20.